4 experimental, indie projects to understand the music of Brazil’s Pará in 2021
These independent projects hint at the past, present, and future of the fascinating State in North of Brazil
The second biggest State in Brazil (in extension), Pará is rich in fauna, cuisine, and culture. Musically, Pará is also a profusion of rhythms. Its music combines influences from Amazonic indigenous’ music, Caribbean genres, Guyanese culture, and Brazilian takes on genres like rock’n’roll, like the Jovem Guarda movement. As a result, Pará crafted its own genres as well, such as carimbó, siriá, lambada, brega, brega-calypso, tecnobrega, and guitarrada paraense.
The music of Pará flirted with Brazil’s mainstream many times, through names like Beto Barbosa, Banda Calypso, and Gaby Amarantos. As for its international repercussion, singer Fafá de Belém gathered fame in Portugal, and lambada was exported to the world and became a fever in the 1980s.
Tecnobrega has also sparked international interest in the electronic music scene, through projects like Daniel Haaksman’s Daniel Haaksman Presents Tecno Brega (2012) and the Pet Shop Boys’ Memory Of The Future (Remixes) (2012), which featured a track produced by Pará’s DJ Waldo Squash.
Punctual episodes like these may make it seem like Pará’s music comes and goes, but the truth is that there is always something happening there.
This list features 4 musical projects from independent Pará artists, which hint at the past, present, and future of its music.
Anhangá Dance Club, by Anhangá
Genres: cumbia, tecnobrega, guitarrada paraense, lambada
Anhangá Dance Club (2021) is the first album by Anhangá, which consists of guitarists João Belém and Eduardo Barbosa. The duo name is borrowed from Brazilian indigenous culture; Anhangá represents a forest spirit that takes different animal forms. As for the album title, it is inspired by the atmosphere of “inferninhos” (little hells, small, murky dance clubs often situated in peripheral regions).
The signature guitar timbre of guitarrada paraense is the main charm of Anhangá Dance Club, but the underlying instrumentals are a world of their own; they go from house music’s electronic synthesizers (which are among the foundations of tecnobrega) to cumbia. There’s even a bit of trap music in “Tema para Guaimiaba” and tamborzão carioca (a variation of Brazilian funk) in “Lamba Funk”. It’s a dark party that rotates from emptier to more effusive sounds.
Travessia, by José Leandro Nunes
Genres: brega, tecnobrega, bedroom pop
Pará’s tecnobrega is entirely electronic and computer-made. However, it is meant for grandiose. It’s played at large parties, through catatonic speakers (there known as “aparelhagens”). Travessia (2021) is a more low-key take on the genre.
This experimental project by a researcher of brega music has the “do it yourself” approach and aesthetics of bedroom pop artists. (All four tracks in Travessia are fully produced by José Leandro Nunes.) But the foundation is true to the DNA of Pará. The beat in the first 5 seconds of the EP’s title track is basically the starter pack of brega-pop, while “Matinta” is more like techno. Tecnobrega, after all, is the fusion of techno music with brega. At the end of this 8-minute imaginary ferryboat trip (that’s what “travessia” means, in Portuguese) through the rivers of Pará, you’ll be wanting more.
Tese Brega-Soul, by Arthur da Silva
Genres: brega, brega-calypso, soul music
The roots of Pará’s brega music lie in Brazilian romantic pop music, which, for their part, are rooted in soul music, bolero, among other genres. Arthur da Silva’s Tese Brega-Soul (2021) is an invitation to dive deep into nostalgia and rediscover these sounds and moments.
Its passionate, dramatic lyrics allude to how the word “brega” used to be a euphemism for romantic music in the 1970s. As for the melodies, Silva reminisces big names of Brazilian romantic brega music, like Reginaldo Rossi, Wando, and Waldick Soriano. The instrumentals combine the traditional drum pattern of Pará’s own rendition of the genre, with soul music’s synthesizers, and a bit of guitarrada paraense.
Os Amantes, by Os Amantes
Genres: lambada, carimbó, axé
Filled with swing and sassiness, Os Amantes is a project by the indie artist Jaloo and the instrumental duo Strobo, made of guitarist Leo Chermont and drummer Arthur Kunz. The first album of the group is a colorful tour across Brazil’s tropicality, in sound and lyrical inspirations.
“Cotijuba”, for example, is a tribute to the homonym island in Pará. Its guitars and melodies, however, recall Bahia’s axé band Asa de Águia in songs like “Porto Seguro”, as well as other artists from the golden days of axé music. The music of Bahia is entirely autonomous from the other Brazilian States, but it is just as rooted in African music as many of the rhythms that influence Pará’s music (like cumbia, soca, mambo, merengue).
There’s a mix of drama and playfulness in Os Amantes. Songs like “Undererê” are festive, while the instrumental “Penúltima” is melancholic. They share guitar riffs that echo carimbó, lambada, and rock’n’roll.
It’s hard to assign one or two genres to this project: it oscillates and diversifies itself all the time. There’s never a dull moment in Os Amantes, which says a lot about the synergy and creativity of the group, but could also be said to describe the music of the fascinating State of Pará.
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I am currently a staff writer at PopMatters, an independent, digital magazine of cultural criticism and analysis. My articles and reviews have also appeared in Consequence of Sound, Dummy Magazine, Remezcla, Sounds and Colours, Kultscene, and more.
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