The Brazilian duo take us through the tracks that inspire them.
Comprising of Diogo Strausz and Rodrigo Peirao, Balako are an exciting new musical duo unlike anyone else.
First meeting in LA in 2015, the pair bonded over music and the idea of editing and remixing tracks they loved. Wanting to celebrate the sound of Brazil, Diogo and Rodrigo excel in blending genres to create a refreshing sound which combines elements from the past and the present. “Sampling, editing, remixing and re-editing shouldn’t be the only way to make Brazil sound contemporary on the dancefloor,” Diogo says. “For these tracks we headed to the studio with our musician friends and created our own retro sounding edits from scratch. It just seemed obvious to us.”
Following the release of their debut EP last week, below the duo introduce us to the brilliant Brazilian artists inspiring them today.
João Bosco – “O Ronco da Cuica”
“O Ronco da Cuica” is one of the most amazing sambas to emerge from one of Brazil’s most prolific artists, João Bosco. João attained commercial success while living in Rio de Janeiro, his distinctive guitar style was developed by the intuitive way he learnt and approached the instrument. Discovered by Vinícius de Moares while studying engineering at college in Ouro Preto, Bosco, became one of the most respected composers of our country having written massive hits for artists such as Elis Regina. “O Ronco da Cuica” is a song composed by him and his lifelong music partner Aldir Blanc, who co-wrote many of his most notorious tracks (kind of like Elton John and Bernie Taupin). The track appears in the album Briga de Galo released in 1976 and to date one of the most emblematic protest songs against the Brazilian military dictator’s regime in the 70’s. The structure of the song is very interesting as it features just one solitary open chord.
Hyldon – “Homem Pássaro”
“Homem Pássaro” is a very influential track and has been a big part of our sets since we started playing together. I think it brings a lot of what Rio’s 70s funk stands for. Firstly, Hyldon is one of the most respected soul stars of Brazil and comes from the same generation of great artists such as Tim Maia and Cassiano. The song is a partnership between Hyldon and Alex Malheiros, the bass player of legendary jazz funk group Azymuth. Deus, A Natureza E A Música, released in 1976 had a band formed by superstars of the Brazilian funk scene, with a whole host of great performers present in this masterpiece.
Emilio Santiago – “Dentro de Você”
“Dentro de Você” is a classic funk jam that we always played opening our sets at “Na Orla”, the Sunday sunset party we organised last summer on Ipanema beach. Emilio Santiago is one of the most under rated Brazilian crooners, a true legend who died prematurely but left many great jams. We loved the lyrics because it says “it’s not fun to leave the best things for Monday”. The track is featured on Emilio’s 1982 release Ensaios de Amor .
Bebeto – “Princesa Negra de Angola”
A trip down memory lane, this track stands out massively for us as one of the first tracks we ever reworked together as Balako. Bebeto is a singer born in São Paulo, considered one of the fathers of “Samba-Rock”/“Sambalanço” together with Jorge Ben Jor. The album Esperanças Mil which carries this track, was released in 1977 and is by many considered one of the most important of this sub-genre. This track is very energetic, the horn and metal sessions are outstanding, percussion is wild and the guitar riffs are extremely groovy. This track is always a key moment on our sets whenever we get to play it. Pure Brazilian groove and good vibes of county are very present on this track.
Toquinho – “Deixa Acontecer”
“Deixa Acontecer” is one of my favourite partnerships between Toquinho and Vinícius de Moraes. This version was released at Toquinho’s Doce Vida album in 1982. Firstly, the songwriting is brilliant and it’s good to state that Toquinho was one of the latest great music partners to team up with Vinícius during the end of his life. Toquinho is a guitar master and one of the best song writers, while Vinícius was one of Brazil greatest poets and probably the most gifted composer in our entire history. He invented Bossa Nova and co-wrote “Girl of Ipanema” among many other tracks together with Tom Jobim. This recording is very special and I really love how Toquinho blends samba, afro music and salsa through the course of it.
Djavan – “Asa”
Djavan is one of the biggest hitmakers of Brazil and is dubbed “the musicians of the musicians” by many. His legacy on MPB genre is unquestionable and his songwriting and guitar skills are unrivalled. Not a day goes by when a song by Djavan is not played on a Brazilian radio station. FACT. He’s collaborated with artists ranging from Caetano Veloso to Stevie Wonder and is also an amazing producer and arranger. “Asa” was released in 1986 appearing on the album Meu Lado. Nevertheless this version that we put is an extended re-work.
Carlos Dafé – “Escorpião”
Carlos Dafé is one of the most notorious voices of Rio de Janeiro’s soul scene. If Tim Maia was our James Brown, Dafé was definitely our Marvin Gaye. A multi-instrumentalist, velvet-voiced suburban carioca (Carioca is how we called people born in Rio) that emerged from his samba roots to be one of our most influential soul stars, and heart throbs! His respect quickly earned him the title of “Prince of Soul”, given to him by Nelson Motta, producer, songwriter, journalist and one of the biggest articulators on Brazil music scene over the last 50 years. Nelsinho, also co-wrote this amazing swing, soul, boogie together with Dafé that can be heard on the album Venha Matar Saudades, released in 1977.
Marcos Valle – “Velho Surfista Querendo Voar”
Vontade de Rever Você is Marcos Valle funkiest album, period. It’s perfect from all angles and a comeback statement from when he left the New York winter for the sunny beaches of Ipanema, after years living in America, working with artists such as Sarah Vaughn and Chicago. “Velho Surfista Querendo Voar” is a personal favourite and the composition was done by Valle, his brother Paulo Sergio and Leon Ware (YES!).
Arthur Verocai – “Dedicado A Ela”
Verocai’s self-titled album is a must listen to for everyone who wants to get into Brazilain music. Verocai’s is one of Brazil’s leading arranger and “Dedicado A Ela” is definitely his masterpiece. Released in 1972, it blends Brazilian pop with influences from Motown, American Funk, Prog Rock, Fusion Jazz, Folk Music, Tropicalia and Phsycadelia. The beautiful string arrangements bring some serious drama to the table and is a big influence on how we tend to score our compositions.
Pinduca – “Pai Xangô”
Pinduca is an eccentric figure and one of the most amazing musicians to emerge from Pará, an estate located in the north of Brazil. He is 80 years old and has this crazy energy – known as the “King of Carimbó,” a rhythm that emerged from indigenous roots in the Amazon. Diogo had the privilege to play bass with him and this track was put out in 2016 on his most recent record Nos Embalos de Pinduca. We always play this in our sets.