The Best Musicians in São Paulo Right Now
São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is a sprawling metropolis of almost 20 million, known for its humid and unpredictable climate as much as it is for its numerous heliports. This financial capital of Brazil is hectic, urban, and chaotic, especially when compared to Rio de Janeiro's celebrated cosmopolitan charm.
If São Paulo can be defined by anything, it’s the city’s incomparable diversity. Sampa, as the city is affectionately nicknamed, is home to residents of Portuguese, African, Arab, Italian, German, Japanese, and Chinese descent (not to mention the enumerable other groups who immigrated to the city throughout its history). The shared history of these different communities can be felt, if not in São Paulo’s internationally-acclaimed food, art, and cinema, then most definitely in the music.
Today, São Paulo’s vibrant population is pushing the country’s rich musical history into exciting new territory, as more and more musicians gain access to the internet and recording technology. Artists like Metá Metá, Gui Boratto, and Holger take influences from international genres of music while still instinctively showcasing the soulful groove that seems intrinsic to Brazilian music. So without further ado — and with a major shout out to SP local Dago Donato, global bass DJ, co-founder of Avalanche Tropical, and all-around São Paulo cool guy — let’s take a closer look at the artists who are defining São Paulo’s vibrant music scene.
Dreamy retro-pop songstress, Mallu Magalhães’ talent belies her age. At just 21, the singer-songwriter has experienced plenty of success with her indie-folk brand of pop music. She’s released four albums since she was first discovered on Myspace as a 15-year-old bedroom singer. Her most recent album, Highly Sensitive, is her debut on a U.S. label, and showcases her ability to span genres with effortless grace that seems universally admired, not to mention something we haven’t seen an American pop star do in a long time.
Acclaimed producer, DJ, and label-owner, Gui Boratto has been a mainstay in the Brazilian electronic music scene since the early 2000’s. His brand of electronic music falls somewhere between progressive house and minimal techno, internationally accessible yet stamped with a warm Brazilian groove. While recently launching and running his own label, D.O.C. as an imprint of the Germany-based label Kompakt, Gui has kept busy with his own music, too, continuing to release singles through Kompakt and performing at Boiler Room.
One of the biggest names in Brazilian hip-hop in the past few years, Emicida’s story mirrors that of many American rappers’ rags-to-riches stories, except his took place in the gritty north side of São Paulo. Combine the stark social commentary of Tupac and the industrial staying power of Jay Z and you start to get an impression of Emicida’s presence in the São Paulo hip-hop game. With his hip-hop career established, the MC is starting to experiment with different genre’s of music, incorporating Brazilian Pop Music, samba, and rock into his repertoire.
CSS, which roughly translates to “tired of being sexy,” was Brazil’s bold answer to the post-punk dance craze that swept much of the U.S. and Western world in the mid-2000’s. Sung in both English and Portuguese, their songs usually feature matter-of-fact lyrics sung by Luísa Hanae Matsushita, better known by her stage name Lovefoxxx. After initial popularity in Brazil, the band released their debut record with American label Sub Pop, followed by massive international tours. Fast forward a few years later and the band has sometimes struggled to maintain their carefree, punk-y vibe. But their 2013 record, Planta, produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sytek, brought the band back with a revitalized sense of their mission statement while adding fresh flair to their sound.
If seminal ’60s Brazilian psych-rockers Os Mutantes were transported through a time machine found hidden in the closet of a forgotten soul-funk great, they’d probably sound a whole lot like Garotas Suecas. This tropicalia cum psych-rock and soul group have toured the US a number of times, winning over fans like Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein. If you’re looking for some Brazilian funk with a dash of out-there, Garotas Suecas are your answer.
Holger are a São Paulo band that presents a decidedly Brazilian take on indie rock. Think somewhere between Tanlines, Lemonade, and El Guincho, and you’ll get a good impression of the level of danceable tropical bliss we’re talking here. As members of the ultra-hip Avalanche Tropical crew, Holger has performed at SXSW garnering praise from NPR and BBC. They’re currently working with Lemonade's Alex Pasternak and Ficherspooner's Le Chev on their new record, so we can expect more heatwave rooftop party music from these dudes in the near future. Check out "Tonificando," on Bandcamp for a taste.
The first artists to be released on Gui Boratto’s D.O.C. imprint, Elekfantz is the the dance music project of Daniel Kuhnen and Leo Piovezani, childhood friends who grew up playing blues together, only to later come together to create catchy deep house and techno tracks. Their debut track, “Wish,” is an ode to blues great, Muddy Waters, and, if we’re not mistaken, does some clever sampling of the guitar icon’s vocals.
Expect the unexpected with Metá Metá. This São Paulo group, founded by Kiko Dinucci, Thiago França and Juçara Marçal, thrives at the intersection between Afro-samba, jazz, and noisy experimental music. Their left-field vibe is only amplified by their thematic focus on the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. We’ve never been to the Amazon, but we imagine Metá Metá’s music would act as a fitting soundtrack to the journey.
Making music since he was eight years old, Luciano Nakata Albuquerque AKA Curumin was a professional musician gigging around São Paulo by the time he was 16. After attending music school and touring the world with his band Zomba, Curumin went on to develop his own music, drawing influence from Brazilian popular music and unabashed Brazilian psych-funk-er Tim Maia, as well as American acts Run DMC, and the B-52’s. As to be expected with as disparate an array of influences as that, Curumin tackles an ambitious amount of musical styles and makes it sound effortless along the way.
Originally from Fortaleza, in northeastern Brazil, rising hip-hop star Don L is now making a name for himself in the São Paulo hip-hop community, following last year’s release of his mixtape Caro Vapor / Vida e Veneno de Don L. His dexterous MC skills allow him to rhyme over a traditional folk sample, twisted into a beat, as easily as he does over Brazilian take on trap-house.
April 08, 2014 via Pepsi