Gilles Peterson interview: Ole! It’s the sound of the World Cup summer

The BBC DJ talks about his new Brazilian music project.

With the World Cup kicking off in Brazil next month, Brazilian music will be the sound of our summer. The nation’s TVs, radios and tablets will reverberate with clattering samba rhythms – and there will doubtless be a carnival of compilation albums with Copacabana bikini girls on the cover at a petrol station near you. However, for those looking for a superior World Cup soundtrack, the standout option is Brasil Bam Bam Bam, by the Sonzeira collective, a new supergroup helmed by the venerable BBC Radio 6 DJ Gilles Peterson.

The album features a mix of covers and new songs performed by a stellar roster of Brazilian artists, young and old, and sourced and produced by Peterson with the help of the Rio-based producer Alexandre Kassin. Many of those artists are huge stars in Brazil but virtually unknown elsewhere: they include the blue-eyed bossa nova maestro Marcos Valle, dreadlocked samba superstar Seu Jorge, sultry actress-singer-poster girl Emanuelle Araujo, and septuagenarian Elza Soares,  the Brazilian Tina Turner, who pours a lifetime’s heartache into the album’s tear-jerking highlight, “Aquarela Do Brasil”.

“The song is virtually their national anthem, there are millions of versions, but most are really happy,” says Peterson over coffee in east London, looking far too relaxed and suntanned for such a drizzly day. “I wanted a voice singing it with the emotion of Brazil and the pain of Brazil. And Elza is that voice – she’s been through the whole Amy Winehouse lifestyle and beyond.”

The singers were teamed with some of Brazil’s finest musicians, such as the percussionists Nana Vasconcelos and Armando Marçal (whose grandfather was one of the founders of samba) and the accordionist Chico Chagas. “You give them a sense of what you want, let them rehearse, and then you nail it,” says Peterson, as if it’s really no big deal to fly to Rio with four song ideas and fly back just eight days later with the album’s 10 songs virtually in the bag, as he did in January.

It’s a testament not just to the dazzling skills of the Brazilians, but the ability of Peterson, a “south London soul boy”, to bring out the best in them. “It’s not just anyone who can go to another country and culture and do their music properly,” says Seu Jorge. “It’s really hard to get it right like he has.”

Peterson describes the end result as “club culture meets Buena Vista Social Club”. “There’s a bit of everything: samba, tropicalia, bossa nova, disco-boogie, afro-Brazilian, north-eastern jazz. But it’s impossible to say that this track’s a samba track, or that track’s bossa nova – it all just blends in together. I wanted to capture a wide spectrum of Brazilian music.”

Partly, Brasil is a tribute to the historic sounds and styles that Peterson has consumed obsessively since his teenage years. But when he first got the opportunity to DJ in Brazil, 20 years ago, he wrong-footed clubgoers with his old-school selection. “They were like, ‘What are you doing? This is what our grandparents are into!’ They wanted me to bring acid house over or acid jazz, which was my London thing.”

“Brazil’s like anywhere else: they’re always looking for the next big thing,” he continues. “But the weird thing is, now you’ve got Jay-Z sampling Marcos Valle [on the track “Thank You” from The Blueprint 3]. So the whole hip-hop turntablism movement means that young Brazilians have discovered their old music. At the moment there’s loads of DJs playing old Brazilian beats and rare stuff like I was 20 years ago.”

Brazil’s musical landscape is as vast as the country itself, but the current trend for going back to the future is widespread. “If you’re in Rio and you go to a party in Lapa, they will be playing old soul records and boogie records, Earth Wind and Fire, stuff like that. Then there’s another sub-genre where they’re dancing to Lisa Stansfield and swingbeat [90s urban pop] records, which as a Londoner is really weird.” This is the baile-charme scene, which dances to the beat of retro funk and soul, and Peterson’s experience of it inspired the disco-boogie cover of Valle’s song “Estrelar”. “That one’s about bodybuilding on the beach – it’s the most uncool lyric of all time. Brazilians do say to me, ‘You play really nice tunes, but the lyrics are really bad…’ I don’t know what they’re saying half the time, but I don’t care!”

But the album has only one foot in the past. There are also “hipster” touches, “weird ideas and electronics”, and a few imported influences, such as James Blake dubstep and, less predictably, the post-new romantic pop of bands like Everything But the Girl and Matt Bianco. The latter manifests itself on a cover of Freeez’s jazz-funk classic “Southern Freeez”, done “the way British post-new romantic, new wave bands would have done bossa nova – but played by a bunch of Brazilians in Portuguese”. Only in Peterson’s head, you suspect, could such offbeat ideas ferment, although his collaborators did include a quartet of non-conformist Brits: Sam Shepherd, aka DJ Floating Points, Rob Gallagher and Dilip Harris from the band Two Banks of Four, and Sean O’Hagan, of Stereolab and The High Llamas renown.

“If this album had been made by a Brazilian it wouldn’t have been the same,” says the Rio producer Alexandre Kassin. “What makes it unique is having a group of great musicians playing Brazilian music and sharing ideas with a group of Englishmen.”

Did Peterson have difficulty making himself understood? “I’m lucky that I’ve got a reputation over there as someone who champions their music,” Peterson says. “The percussionists didn’t know who the hell I was, but they soon realised I was doing something different. In Brazil they are used to being told to play for three and a half minutes – they have a very pop attitude. But I was saying, no, no, no, get some mad shit out – I want to hear the mad percussion instruments you’ve got. And they loved it.”

“Brasil Bam Bam Bam” is released on 26 May

Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links