FIFTY years after João Gilberto took the rhythm of samba, slowed it down and made it into another thing entirely, you can hear the bewitching sound of bossa nova everywhere – on shoe shop adverts, in hotel lobbies, in lifts, in the more discerning clothing boutiques, even on dancefloors, occasionally. There almost seems to be a fully-fledged revival happening, but without anyone even realising what‘s going on. It feels very exciting.
While it’s often regarded as kitsch, slightly tacky, happy-go-lucky charity-shop fodder, bossa nova music is all about melody and melancholy and quiet, understated soul.
In its purest, simplest form, it’s about a guy or a girl playing a guitar and singing, but successive generations of musicians have appropriated and shaped bossa nova to their own design – from Stan Getz’s jazzy take and Frank Sinatra’s big band interpretation through to the much-missed Serbian producer Suba’s electronica and Nina Miranda and Chris Franck’s Zeep project, which takes the music right back to the sound of real musicians playing real instruments.
More and more people are making the music again, from Brazil to Britain and from South Korea to Morocco and beyond. And the old stuff almost seems to feel as contemporary now as it must have done when it was first created. Like I say, it’s all very exciting.
If, like me, you can’t make it to the London Bossa Nova Festival 2008 on London’s famous Southbank this weekend (with Nouvelle Vague, Zeep and loads more, for free, godammit), console yourself with this mix I did to promote me and my friend Jeanie’s early doors easy listening thing, Easy Tiger last year. Not pure bossa nova but there’s some new stuff, some old stuff and you might like.
Here’s a tracklisting:
I Need Your Love by The Torrero Band
Samba E Amor by Bebel Gilberto
Para El Dolor by Ana Laan
Agua De Beber by Astrud Gilberto
A Forest by Nouvelle Vague
I Travelled The World by Jersey Street
On The Beach by Minus 8
Sun Song 70 by Yoshinori Sunahara
Certain Shades of Limelight by Swing Out Sister
Moi Je Suis Faite (Pour L’Amour) by The Lovers
Pretty World by Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66
I Realised by Jiva
Funky Bossa by Santos
Visions Of Mars by Streetlife Originals
Felicidade by Suba
Canto De Ossanha by Astrud Gilberto
L’Aventure Fantastique by Fantastic Plastic Machine
Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66
Mas que nada.