DJ Betto Arcos Spins The Latest From Brazil

Jun 23, 2013

DJ Betto Arcos joins weekends on All Things Considered once again to share the music he's been spinning on Global Village, a world music program out of KPFK in Los Angeles. Picks this time are from Brazil, and include some socially conscious samba, a bilingual reggae tune, a hometown anthem and a collaboration between two composers, the name of which literally means "unplayable." Click the audio link to hear Arcos' conversation with NPR's Jacki Lyden.

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And if you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR NEWS. I'm Jackie Lyden. And it's time now for music.


LYDEN: And today, global music DJ Betto Arcos is back to play us some of his favorite new music, this time from Brazil.


LYDEN: And, as we all know, Brazil is a place that's making headlines with the protests right now. Betto, you're joining us today from our studios at NPR West. You host "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. Wow, to think that you have this music from Brazil as all this is going on.

BETTO ARCOS: Yes. I'm really, really glad that we're doing this this time, you know, because, I mean, I love Brazil. I love Brazilian music. But what's happening today in the news, you know, I thought this is a time to get people to know what the country is all about through the music.

LYDEN: OK, let's get to the music. I'm hearing a piano and a guitar, kind of almost playfully fighting in this one. What's happening here?

ARCOS: Well, this is piece called "Intocavel" - which in Portuguese means unplayable - by two amazing musicians: pianist Andre Mehmari who's from Sao Paulo and 10-string mandolin player Hamilton de Holanda who's from Rio de Janeiro. And the title, as I said, means unplayable, as in a musician cannot play this.


ARCOS: Because this is a tune by a composer, a multi-instrumentalist that is kind of offbeat. His name is Hermeto Pascoal. And this is a man who can compose and play anything you put in front of him. But in this case, of course, Andre Mehmari and Hamilton de Holanda are saying: We could play this. Here's a tune that's, you know, very complicated. But in the hands of these two musicians, it's just simply beautifully played.

LYDEN: Well, besides that, with Pascoal kind of tweaking them, I think there's some traditional elements going on here.

ARCOS: In fact, I'm glad you said that because it's a choro. It's one of Brazil's oldest musical style, say, precursor of samba. It's a kind of music that was very popular at the same time as a great time in the U.S., you know, turn of the 20th century, and then laid into the '30s and '40s. Now, keep in mind, before samba, which is, of course, the most well-known Brazilian music, there was choro. This was social music and very, very popular on the radio and on dancehalls and everywhere.

LYDEN: Let's take it to the end.


LYDEN: Betto, this next song sounds like a real samba.


LYDEN: What are we listening to? I guess it's called "Linha de Frente." What does that mean?

ARCOS: Well, this is a song that means the front line, and the chorus of this song kind of encapsulates the message.


ARCOS: He, who is on the frontline, cannot sensationalize the innocent smile of the children who live there. Now, this is a song by the singer Criolo who says that that song is about the importance of having a healthy environment for children and reclaiming childhood. When men are involved in the drug culture, he says the consequences enter their homes and reach their children. It's a song about the people that live in the poorest areas of Brazil, be that in Sao Paulo, be that in Rio de Janeiro, be that in Bahia, anywhere across the country.

In fact, I should say in the past, you know, week or so that you've seen the protests in Brazil, this is what we're talking about here. This is about the issues that are facing the poorest parts of Brazil, people who have no access to education, no access to health care. And Criolo sings that. And there - if there's a voice that really represents what's happening in Brazil today, it's probably Criolo.


LYDEN: Well all these songs from Brazil really hit it where it lays right now, but thanks for particularly bringing us the song by Criolo, "Linha de Frente." My guest is Betto Arcos, host of KPFK's "Global Village" in Los Angeles. And we're listening to some of his favorite new songs from a place in the news, Brazil.


LYDEN: Betto, this next band's album title translates to: I need a food processor? What's going on here?



ARCOS: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. This is a band that's really, you know, drawing from all of these influences and all of these instruments that they like to use. That's why the idea of I need a food processor, because they've literally push all those influences, they push all of these instruments down this sort of filter, and what you get is this incredible richness of sound that's both acid rock, funk and Brazilian music and all of this great energy. It's fantastic. Let's take a listen to it.

LYDEN: Let's.


ARCOS: Now, this is a celebratory song about the city where they come from. They come from Belo Horizonte, which is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais in central Brazil. And they also pay tribute to several Brazilian musical figures, people like Gilberto Gil, Jorge Ben Jor and so on. The band was formed at the school of philosophy, of all places. Can you imagine?

LYDEN: Sounds good. I don't know if I need a food processor, but I would like a cabarina.


ARCOS: I agree with you.



LYDEN: We've got time for just one more song, and this one has a reggae feel to it.


LYDEN: Hypnotic, yeah. Who are we listening to?

ARCOS: This is Anelis Assumpcao. She's the daughter of the avant rock singer Itamar Assumpcao, a major figure in Brazilian music, and she's following in her father's footsteps. And so in this particular tune, she invited musicians from a reggae band to collaborate with her. Obviously, reggae is a very strong influence on her, not just in this one song, but in the whole album.


LYDEN: So I notice that there's English in here?

ARCOS: Oh, yeah. She sings, you know, in English and Portuguese, mostly. It's a reggae tune where she uses her own sensibility about living in the city of Sao Paulo and comparing it to the city of Babylon, a city that swallows everyone with no mercy. Of course, she doesn't want that to happen to her. She has this kind of heightened awareness of living in such a place.

Sao Paulo is one of the most intense cities I've been to. I was there about 10 years ago, and I can tell you it is rich in just every texture on the planet. I mean, it is just a very, very intense city and chaotic, at times, but it's beautiful. Of course, the music is really what, for me, is so exciting about.


LYDEN: Betto, thank you so much for bringing us this music from Brazil at a time when I think that we're focusing on it a lot, anyway. There's always so many styles there. And you know what, they all sound, to my ears, Brazilian. Thank you.

ARCOS: Oh, my pleasure, Jacki.


ANELIS ASSUMPCAO: (Singing) And everything back to your place...

LYDEN: That's DJ Betto Arcos, host of "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. Check out more of his finds at

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOT FALLING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.