São Paulo's Grooviest Band Ignites the Instrumental Scene
Name: Bixiga 70
Where They’re From: São Paulo, Brazil
When They Started: 2011
Genre: Instrumental, Brazilified Afro-Funk
Sounds Like: The soundtrack from an imaginary, 1970s movie about a debonair Brazilian secret agent.
It may come as a surprise that one of the hippest bands around town in São Paulo today is an instrumental funk outfit. But look at concert calendars in South America’s biggest city and you’ll see the name Bixiga 70 printed all over it. If you make it to one of those shows, you’ll hear high-octane break beats, tight afrobeat guitars, rolling congas, and, especially, an enormous horn section blasting at full-force throughout. You might be compelled to dance, just maybe.
Bixiga 70 (named for the address of a music studio where the band was formed, located in downtown São Paulo’s gritty Bixiga neighborhood) was formed by a group of ten musicians from the SP scene, many of whom had worked as sidemen in groovy bands like Funk Como Le Gusta and Projetonave, and quickly rose to become Brazil’s the top name in retro-funky goodness.
While Brazil has a long and storied tradition of funk music (see: Tim Maia, Banda Black Rio), Bixiga 70 have added elements from other countries and cultures previously missing from Brazilian bands. First and foremost is the presence of Fela-style afrobeat, which dominates the rhythm section, but there’s also some clear Ethiopian influences in the horn arrangements, and a strong Afro-Cuban presence in the percussion. These are clearly guys who have listened to Antibalas and the Ethiopiques reissues, and have a global, cosmopolitan viewpoint on music making.
The many bands working the retro/soul circuit in Brooklyn and California would be wise to take notice: in a lot of ways, Bixiga 70 are ahead of the pack. Their grooves are killer, and the arrangements are super-hip, combining brainy harmonies with cathartic energy. See for yourself, and stream their self-titled debut album below.