ROCK / WORLD MUSIC: If it sounds familiar . . .: Philip Sweeney on the links between roots music and advertising

Philip Sweeney
Wednesday 08 July 1992 23:02

EXOTIC ROOTS music on television is not confined to arts documentaries and late-night magazines. If you want to check out the Baca tribal music techniques of the Witwatersrand gold-miners, stay tuned during commercial breaks. A current advertisement for Ambra personal computers offsets pictures of young body- worshippers working out to a rhythmic, chanted, South African soundtrack. John Hegarty of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the man whose mid- Eighties' Levi's commercials pioneered the use of real records as opposed to jingles, explains how his agency chose the music. 'There is nothing inherently African about the idea of the ad, but we wanted something portentous, you could say something that makes a link between man and his environment, but also something that stands out. . .'

The piece in question was supplied by Gerald Berman, the South African-born producer of the commercial. 'The director of the film had the idea of using something South African, I think because the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo had been used before in an ad, and I happened to have some tapes,' Berman explains.

By such casual methods, based on instinct rather than scientific assessment, is world music being assimilated into the UK advertising scene. The creative decision- makers in the industry are, after all frequently the same thirtysomething ex-rock fans that make up a significant sector of the world music public.

Elsewhere in Europe, the possibilities are more rigorously exploited, above all in France, where soft drinks and tropical dance records boost each others' sales in increasingly close cooperation. Nescafe was one of the earliest companies, eight years ago, to use an authentic Latin-American soundtrack - the Colombian singer Rodolfo Aicardi's 'La Colegiala' - in a French commercial for its Alta Rica brand which boosted sales of the product by 60 per cent and paved the way for Rodolfo's successful tour of Europe.

Four years later, Schweppes produced a much-admired ad for its new drink Dry - dusky beauties in revealing swim-wear on Ipanema beach, a little boy beating a samba rhythm on a Schweppes can against the gentle bossa nova sound of the Brazilian singer Chico Buarque's 1970s record 'Esa moca 'ta diferente', chosen by the ad's German director Chico Bialas when he heard it in a Rio taxi having arrived to make the film. 'The idea of the ad,' explains Bruno Schwobthaler, associate brand director of Cadbury Beverages Europe, 'was to create a point of difference for the product. Our fruit carbonates are not sweet, like children's drinks, they are dry, an adult drink, and we felt that sensuality was a key concept to emphasise. . .' 'Esa Moca' was re-released on the back of the campaign and entered the French charts.

No one is more aware of the value of advertising exposure than the French-Antillean-Brazilian group Kaoma. The seven full- time performers are currently rehearsing in a Paris studio for a tour designed to promote their newly-released single 'Moco do Dende'. It was Kaoma who recorded the song 'La Lambada', which launched the sexy northern Brazilian dance craze successively on the French public, the world, and finally on Brazil itself for a second time around, selling 15 million singles and LPs worldwide in the process. This feat was made possible by a brilliantly coordinated, rather lucky and peculiarly French campaign undertaken in conjunction with the soft-drink company Orangina and the television channel TF1.

These two partners were approached by Jean Karakos, a record company proprietor and producer who was convinced that his recording of the northern Brazilian lambada rhythm could be a summer smash hit. Orangina agreed to sponsor a clip - a 60- second television fill-in film, replete with images of a sudiste life- style (a Southern feel - warm, spontaneous, sunny and, you got it, sensual) which TF1 undertook to show 300 times over the summer. The rest is showbiz history.

Following the success of 'The Lambada' in 1989, Orangina and TF1 continued their sponsorship of tropical and sudiste music. In 1990, the company went for the Trinidadian soca rhythm, and in 1992 here come Kaoma again, back with the little yellow bottle, this time in partnership with the TV channel Antenne 2, and a new would-be dance craze, the 'salsita', which an Orangina press release describes as a rhythm from the Dominican Republic, but which is nothing of the sort. Jean Karakos put the deal together but everyone is downplaying the possibility of a repeat of the Lambada phenomenon. However, Antenne 2 has 280 airings of the clip lined up for the summer . . . The ball is now in the court of the French public.

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