Few countries like to party like Brazil, and whether it’s time to dance or just chill out, if there’s fun involved there’s music involved. If World Cup season has given you a craving for some sweet samba or beat happy bossa nova music, we’ve got your fix right here. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil and all songs mentioned below are sung in that language unless otherwise noted. And don’t forget, Brazilian music is romantic music, so feel free to use these selections to, um, score. Gol!
Various Artists – “Studio Rio Presents: The Brazil Connection” – Here’s the perfect opportunity for those not so familiar with Brazilian music to get acquainted. The seven members of Brazilian group Studio Rio have reimagined a dozen well-known songs like Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye and The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” by stripping out the music, replacing it with a Brazilian arrangement and retaining the English vocals. So you still have Sly Stone singing lyrics you know by heart on oldie “Family Affair” even though it sounds like the family now lives in Rio. If you’ve been watching ESPN’s World Cup coverage you might have heard some of these songs already, like the sexy remake of Andy Williams’ beach-ready “Music to Watch Girls By” or the fabulous new take on Aretha Franklin’s “Walk on By” since the network has been using the album to soundtrack between-game interludes.
Flavia Coelho – “Bossa Muffin” – Coelho is a native of Rio de Janeiro and most everything here has a Brazilian groove at its core but the sassy-voiced singer has lived all over the world and she incorporates many other sounds into her work, including reggae in “Sunshine” and hip-hop in the album’s title cut. A timely favorite is “Amor e Futebol,” a song about love and football that comes complete with background chants of “gol, gol!”
Marcio Faraco – “Um Rio” – Faraco is a gentle-voiced guitar player working with downbeat rhythms and this album is definitely for chill out and cuddle time. Faraco lives in Paris these days so the occasional song, like “A Quoi Ca Sert L’amour” is sung in French. The standout track here is the quiet “Cidade Miniatura,” a duet with one of the legendary elder statesmen of Brazilian music, Milton Nascimento.
Karina – “Voce Merece Samba” – Fans of better-known Brazilian singers like Bebel Gilberto will like what they hear here as clear-voiced happy vocals and bouncy rhythms are the order of the day. But be careful; one listen to the sultry love song “Quando Falo de Amor” and you’ll likely be head-over-heels crazy for Karina. If you have a hold-me-tight dance in mind, check out “Primeiro Samba.”
Marianna Leporace and Sheila Zagury – “Sao Bonitas as Cancoes” – Here’s a completely different look at Brazilian music. Leporace is one of the country’s most famous singers of musicals and here she’s accompanied by pianist Zagury on 15 selections mostly written for several musicals including the ballet “O Grande Circo Mistico.” Standouts are many but the jazzy “Na Carreira” and the playful “Verdadeira Embolada” are quick favorites.
Sachal Studios Orchestra Lahore – “Desafinado” – This is a really cool interpretation of the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonca bossa nova classic performed by a Pakistani group featuring sitar, sarod and tabla players along with a large string section. This Brazil-meets-the-Punjab release is only a single but seven and a half minutes of heaven nevertheless.
Trio Curupira – “Janela” – Trio Curupira is a jazz outfit and the album title “Janela” translates to mean “Window” and here the three musicians look through many of them. The guys like trad jazz and you’ll hear it in songs like set opener “Conversa de Matuto” where the song is New York hot until its midpoint when Brazilian cool enters the mix. These songs are, save for a few stray uses of voice, instrumentals, so a listen can take you to Rio or wherever else you may wish to go.