DJ Constantine ‘Connie’ Price’s Soul Picnic Playlist: ‘Brazilian Summer’
Hey, everybody. My name is Dan Ubick, but I go by Connie Price when I spin records or get behind the drum kit. Call me Dan or call me Connie (short for Constantine, my middle name). I’m a music producer, musician, and record collector from California.
I’m on a mission to share the songs that catch my ear every month on the Soul Picnic Playlist. Think of them as flavorful dishes from the kitchen’s of my favorite musical chefs. I love all kinds of music regardless of genre or era but, full disclosure, I do have an ongoing love affair with the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by tons of talented people who are as obsessed with music as I am. They constantly turn me on to songs that make me think, How have I never heard this before?! I created Soul Picnic so I could pass my own discoveries on to you. I hope you find a new favorite here, and it makes you smile, feel understood, or keeps you positive.
Summer is finally here and nothing sounds better on a hot day than the sensual and adventurous music of Brazil: Samba, bossa nova, and Tropicália. Born mostly in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, the singers, musicians, and artists here all felt the tyrannical reign of the militaristic dictatorship Brazil called a government in the 1960s, but they found a way to get their music heard anyway. Out of this oppressive cloud came some of the most beautifully brave and groundbreaking music ever recorded. This music is freedom, and I hope it sets you free while you’re listening! So pop on some headphones, wire yourself into a good set of speakers, and go hunt down the original copies on vinyl from your local record store for the full effect. These tracks all deserve it. Apreciar!
Waldir Calmon—“Afro Som”
Pianist and composer Waldir Calmon found much success in Brazilian nightclubs during the 1950s with pioneering dance hits featuring the Solovox keyboard, a precursor of the synthesizer. However, it was his 1970 LP Waldir Calmon E Seus Multisons that provided my generation an intro to his genius. Calmon’s exotic take on Jean Jacques Perrey’s “E.V.A.” (retitled “Afro Som”), which my good friend Eothen Alapatt played me around the time hip-hop producer Madlib was cutting it up for the track “Curls” on his collaboration with MF Doom (R.I.P.), Madvillainy, blew minds. Cinematic, primal yet polished, and filled with endless rhythmic gems, “Afro Som” was years ahead of its time.
Roberto Carlos—“Se Eu Pudesse Voltar No Tempo”
Roberto Carlos, known as “O Rei” (or “The King”) in Brazil, has influenced an astonishing number of artists and sold over 140 million records worldwide. Heavily influenced by one of America’s musical kings, Elvis Presley, and rock music in general, Carlos became a key member of Brazil’s Jovem Guarda (or “Young Guard”) in the 1960s, and has sustained a very impressive career since he began. Mr. Carlos has MANY great songs, but this funky, moody, orchestral cut from his self-titled 1970 LP about regret is one of my favorites.
Jorge Ben—“O Homem Da Gravata Florida”
Jorge Ben’s A Tábua De Esmeralda has been one of my favorite records since my friend Ben Mor first played it for me (another friend, Brian “B+” Cross kindly found me a copy on a trip to Brazil…thanks Brian!) and Rolling Stone agrees calling it “the sixth greatest Brazilian album of all time.” The lyrics paint a picture of a man in a beautiful flowered tie that brings joy wherever he goes. Ben’s lyrics translate as: “With that tie, any ugly man becomes a prince.” One of Ben’s most instantly ear-grabbing songs from an album that explores everything from theosophy and mysticism to alchemy. A masterpiece if there ever was one.
Quarteto em Cy—“Sapato Mole”
Originally composed of four sisters from Bahia (Cybele, Cylene, Cynara and Cyva), Quarteto em Cy is the definition of sublime harmony. Mentored by legendary poet/lyricist Vicinius de Moraes, Quarteto em Cy became a phenomenon from the States to Japan when they began performing in the early 1960s. “Sapato Mole,” from their 1972 self-titled LP, is the perfect soundtrack for a lazy Sunday pub crawl or a slow dance with the one you love.
Novos Baianos—“A Menina Danca”
“A girl dances” is what the title translates to, and singer Baby Consuelo creates the perfect mood for the lyrics with her melodically carefree delivery. Rhythmic strums of cavaquinho, violão, and planky rolls on tamborim pair seamlessly with tasty electric guitar licks and rock-solid Fender bass. Don’t fight it, get up and move around!
Antonio Carlos e Jocafi—“Quem Vem Lá”
Quem Vem Lá translates to “Who goes there?” and my answer to that question is: One fuzzy, funky ass guitar player, a little Farfisa organ, a tight horn arrangement, a solid foundation of drum set and electric bass all supporting the brash but soulful vocals of Antonio Carlos e Jocafi and co. This tale of menace and fear bubbling up from the shadows of Rio’s subconscious holds its own against some of James Brown’s New Super Heavy Funk or Fela’s Africa 70 Band.
Born Roberto de Melo Santos, the man known simply as Di Melo is a Brazilian musician, painter, sculptor, actor, writer, and poet whose self-titled 1975 album boasts this song. The lyrics describe a party on a farm, but this band of possible country boys sound like they’d been to the city a few times by the time they recorded this funky track with Di Melo, who looked like a Brazilian Donny Hathaway in that fly applejack hat on the cover.
Maria Bethânia—“Volta Por Cima”
To say Maria Bethânia comes from a musical family is the mother of all understatements. Her siblings by blood are Caetano and Mabel Veloso, but she has also surrounded herself with an extended family of Tropicália pioneers, such as Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Tom Ze to name a few. This gem from Bethânia’s 1973 LP Drama – Luz Da Noite (Night Light) is as infectious a riff as I’ve ever heard, and its lyrics and mood have the power to uplift: “I cried, I didn't try to hide. Get up, shake the dust.”
Os Mutantes—“Bat Macumba”
This contagious Tropicália masterpiece’s nonsense lyrics are a combination of then comic book and campy TV series-only phenomenon Batman and the Afro-Brazilian spiritualist value of macumba. A psychedelic superhero with black magic powers, Bat Macumba gets deconstructed syllable by syllable through the length of the song while fuzz guitar and vibrato keyboards swirl in stereo. I was once on the same bill as the reformed Os Mutantes at Bumbershoot in Seattle one year and got to meet guitarist/wizard (superhero?) and founding mutant Sérgio Dias Baptista who gleefully showed me the handmade guitar he created and was just about to jump onstage with. Magical powers indeed.
Arthur Verocai—“Na Boca do Sol”
After years arranging strings for legends like Jorge Ben, Gal Costa, Elis Regina, Ivan Lins, Marcos Valle, Quarteto em Cy and many others, Arthur Verocai released his self-titled debut LP in 1972. This son of bossa nova threw in his love of jazz artists like Miles Davis and Bill Evans, classical composers like Claude Debussy and Heitor Villa-Lobos and rock adventurers like Frank Zappa and Chicago. The result is a nonchalant and natural beauty that inspired everyone from Madlib, Cut Chemist, TV On The Radio, MF Doom, BadBadNotGood and many others including yours truly.
From Costa’s 1969 self-titled debut (you sensing a trend here?) comes this tale of a dancer named Sebastiana who “comes with a different dance and jumps like a howler monkey!” Inspired and sudden, wild dancing is no surprise, with the bouncy rhythm section here creating the perfect backdrop for Gal’s relaxed, free-flowing scat singing. The Tropicália queen’s output has never slowed; she released yet another offering in 2021.
Tom Zé—“Quando Eu Era Sem Ninguém”
Another key player in Bahia’s Tropicâlia movement whose art was cracked down upon by Brazil’s militaristic government of the 1960s. After creating cheeky album cover art (see the cover of 1973’s Todos Os Olhos LP, from which this track comes) that somehow evaded the dictatorship’s office of censorship, Zé fell into relative obscurity until Talking Head David Byrne offered him a record deal on his Luaka Bop label in the early ‘90s.
Caetano Veloso—“Onde Andaras”
Inspired by bossa nova master João Gilberto, Bahia-born Caetano Veloso was a born artist, with his literature, filmmaking, and music efforts all garnering attention. This lament for a lost love ponders, “Where will you walk this empty afternoon, so clear and endless, while the sea beats blue in Ipanema? In which bar, in which cinema, do you forget me?” Veloso’s delivery and willingness to convey emotion can break your heart.
Bonus cut: Check out Caetano’s version of the Mexican folk classic “Cucurrucucu Paloma” from the soundtrack to Hable Con Ella when you have a minute as well.
“Procession” sizzles along like life itself —awe-inspiring, brutal, and mysterious at times. Taken from Gil’s self-titled 1968 LP (also called Frevo Torn), the Brazilian musical kingpin is in top form here. Reverb-drenched harmony backing vocals, nimble-fingered baritone electric guitar licks, bouncy bass, and jazzy drumset grooves come courtesy of none other than Os Mutantes. The vibrant cover art by Antonio Dias and Rogério Duarte is an artistic high watermark as well. A must for any collection.
The Last Word: If you love these songs, please buy physical copies if you’re able. Spotify, YouTube, and other streaming services are great tools, but streaming doesn’t pay artists a living wage. We want these amazing folks to keep making the music we cherish.
Love music as much as we do? Then check out Dan Ubick’s production company, DanUbe Productions, and drop him a line if you’re so inclined.