B-Sides in the Bins #42 – Curumin Interview

Curumin

When presented with the opportunity to interview Curumin, I knew that it would be an education for me. I haven’t really been following the resurgence of Braziliana that has been taking place over the last few years.

It was on a trip to Brazil where Chief Xcel of the mighty Blackalicious hears Curumin’s 2005 album Achados e Perdidos and signs him to Quannum. Curumin’s latest album Japan Pop Show (Quannum, 2008) is a testament to his passion for collecting vinyl. As you might expect someone who is a music collector would bring that passion and influence to his own record and certainly a closer look at his record collection reveals the source inspiration for this great record. Curumin sat down with me following the intimate but electric show at CSPS in Cedar Rapids on January 26th.

Me: Can you tell us a bit about your record collection?

Curumin: I am a music lover, and as a music lover I am a vinyl collector, too. I focus my collection more in Brazilian stuff. I have some Jamaican stuff, too. I have some American Soul/Funk Music– but it is more Brazilian stuff. I live in downtown São Paulo and the best place to buy vinyl is there because most of the stores are there. I used to go to a shop a lot called Discos Sete— that means “Disco Seven”– it’s a really good shop the owner is a guy named Carlinhos and he knows everything about Brazilian music. He is the guy who really taught me were is the best records, who is the best artists– what they made, which records have a good song– or funky song, soul or samba good track. A very, very good store.

There are a few in São Paulo– another good store called Gordo’s Place…

“gordo?” like “fat?”

Yeah, like “fat”– exactly. Another great vinyl store– there is some hip hop there, yeah– there’s soul, there’s a lot of funk. There is, too, Brazilian music. All of that in downtown São Paulo.

On the inside cover of Japan Pop Show you have some made up cover art?

Yeah, actually, this is an idea– my brother (Christiano N.A.) did the cover art. He was trying to get this seven-inch or vinyl feeling.

So, how come there’s no vinyl pressing of this album?

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah. We’ll probably try it some day, you know but it’s very specific people that buy vinyl and we don’t have a lot of money to [promote it].– so it’s hard for us, you know. But, my dream is to record in a good studio, in an old way, in an old style and make [a vinyl release].

So, where did you record Japan Pop Show? Did you use ProTools?

Yeah, we produced a lot in computers, and sequencers– you know modern production– with a lot of edits and ProTools and stuff like that. But we play [instruments] on it, too.

Are you buying records on the road?

Yeah, this is a problem (laughs). We already have a lot of stuff to carry on, and you know in airports it’s always hard with baggage.

Are you concerned about the records getting stolen? I remember when DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist were doing the Brainfreeze tour and Cut Chemist got his vinyl stolen.

Yeah, It’s a famous story in Brazil about DJ’s like Cut Chemist and Madlib going to Brazil and São Paulo and buying four boxes of LP’s– but they found a way to ship back to the US. But, we are always carrying on and taking care of [the records] because bringing on the airplane is hard and they don’t care too much about what you’re carrying on.

Speaking of Cut Chemist, he used a Brazilian singer on his album The Audience Is Listening— Astrud Gilberto, right? On “The Garden”

The song is “Canto De Ossanha” from a very famous album– that version that he uses is not from the original album. The original album called Os Afro Samba from Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes. I don’t know where he got his version. But it’s really good, right?

[Upon research, it appears that the version Cut Chemist is using is from Astrud Gilberto‘s 1966 Verve album Look to the Rainbow arranged by Gil Evans. Although, to get around sample clearance, Cut Chemist brought in some studio musicians to create new music. -ed]

What is one of the great finds you’ve had digging through crates?

Hmmm, well I found an album once that now is very rare to find– [in the past I found it] and said “I will not buy today,” but when it started to get rare I had to get it! There’s a lot of people looking for it– an album from Erasmo Carlos called Sonhos e Memorias and it’s a great Psych-Folk-Funk-Rock album from the 70’s and it’s a really, really good album. I think this is my precious one.

[The album was released in 1972 on Polydor, and goes for over $90 at different places on the Internet. –ed]

If someone wanted to get into some of the music you are listening to, where would they start?

I like a lot of the 60’s and 70’s– there were some guys in Brazil who started to bring that soul and funk feeling into their music. They used to play samba– so you can find that on Jorge Ben and Tim Maia— they were some of the first to try to make that mix of funk, soul and samba. [As far as current acts go] you can find something in Academia da Berlinda that plays more cumbia, salsa and merengue. You can find a singer called CéU who has a great sound and is a great friend– well there is a lot of great music– I could stay here talking all night about this!

[Notably, Lucas Martins who is the co-producer for Japan Pop Show and part of Curumin’s touring band as well as DJ Marco who does turntables on Japan Pop Show are part of CéU’s band. -ed]

Do you think you have a good home at Quannum?

Yeah, yeah for sure. They started as a hip-hop label, but now they are getting into more different stuff. I’m really honored to be there because I admire a lot all of the artists there– it’s a good family and great friends so I’m really happy to be there.

What are your plans after this tour?

We are in the middle of the tour and there are four or five shows left, then we’ll be back in February.

I’m not sure what I’m doing later this year. I have lots of work to do– I work with other projects with other acts in Brazil that are all releasing new stuff this year, so I will be focusing on those projects. But, I don’t know, I want to start something new this year, too– I don’t know if we’ll have the time, but I guess we make the time, right?

How was the Daytrotter session?

Oh, wow, it was great, it was great! The studio is amazing, right? Have you been there?

No, but I’d love to some time! It’s so close to Cedar Rapids. I dig all the stuff they release.

The studio is amazing. They have only vintage equipment and it sounds good.

So you had to bring your electric cavaquinho I assume– did you have to bring your MPC’s, too?

Yes, we did four songs. It was really great.

OK, well thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, I know you guys want to get to dinner. Have a safe drive to Minneapolis and a good rest of your tour.

Thanks, Michael!

Links for Deeper Digging:

Click Here to visit Curumin’s MySpace Page

Click Here to see a YouTube clip about Disco Sete Record Shop from the “Brazil in Time” documentary.

Click Here to see a YouTube clip about Gordo & Celio’s Record Shop from the “Brazil in Time documentary.

Click Here to visit the MySpace page for Academia da Berlinda

Click Here to visit the MySpace page for CéU.

Click Here for more information about Erasmo Carlos’s Sonhos e Memorias LP.

Curumin Live at CSPS in Cedar Rapids 1/26/09 (review)

Curumin at CSPS in Cedar Rapids, IA 1-26-09

On Monday, January 26th Sherry and I went to see the Curumin show at CSPS. I was pretty interested to see this show. Curumin is part of the next generation of artists on on the seminal Bay Area Hip-Hop label Quannum. The first generation were primarily Hip Hop acts: DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, Lateef and Blackalicious, and while the label still signs Rap and Hip Hop acts they have also signed artists who don’t neatly fit into that category: ApSci is closer to an electro act and Honeycut is damn near a synth pop band. One of the labels latest signings Curumin brings a fusion of hip hop, funk, soul and Brazilian styles playing equally the parts of producer and performer.
Lucas, Curumin & Marcelo

The show was one of the more spirited shows I’ve seen at CSPS– certainly a departure from regular diet of stripped-down folk-singer songwriter shows I usually attend there. This was also the first show I’d seen that used the actual stage at CSPS. Usually the small acts are on a set of risers on the floor in front of the stage. This fact alone invited some folks to actually get out and “express themselves physically” in Mel Andringa’s words from his funny introduction to the group.

The crowd was somewhere around 40 people and was an interesting mix of people– some of them were “regulars” at CSPS and in support of the organization hit most of the shows, but there were also some new faces and some that I expect were students taking advantage of their inexpensive ticket price.

Curumin

The theme of Curumin’s latest album Japan Pop Show is his love of record collecting down to the mocked-up record art in the CD liner notes. At times Curumin would shout out “vinyl!” or “Does Cedar Rapids love the vinyl?” At least this reviewer does! Curumin brought two other guys to help reproduce the layered sound of the album. It was an interesting combo, really. Curumin took turns on the trap, the cavaquinho (the electric ukelele-type instrument) and MPC. Lucas Martins (who contributed to Japan Pop Show) played bass and MPC, and Marcelo Effori played drums, percussion and MPC. The fact that they all had MPC sampler/sequencers as an additional instrument allowed them to reproduce much of the sampled parts of Japan Pop Show.

The show centered primarily around Curumin’s two albums– Japan Pop Show and the previous Achados e Perididos, but also threw in a couple of covers including a very well-executed Roy Ayers song “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” and a Nina Simone cover “Mr. Backlash Blues” which he introduced by calling it an American standard and that “it’s good to be here in the United States and be able to play this song” which was met with audience approval. He also threw in some reggae covers for good measure and a few bars of Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” to show his American influences, although likely missed by the bluehairs that split less than a half-hour into the show.

Curumin

This tour is only Curumin’s second in the US but you wouldn’t know it based on his comfort on the stage and his ability to warm up a conservative Midwestern Monday night crowd. Halfway through the set he had folks on the floor dancing and we even got a breakdancer!

I suspect that the crowd wasn’t near what he had seen in San Francisco where he was joined on stage by other acts from Quannum with a hometown crowd for the label, but he still put on one of the best shows I’ve seen at CSPS. Talking with some of the other folks at the show they were very impressed and were new fans of Curumin and his pastiche approach to Braziliana.

Earlier that day Curumin and his band recorded a set for Daytrotter in Rock Island so I’m looking forward to that and will be posting about that as soon as they post it. I had an interview with Curumin which I will be posting today.

Click Here to Visit Curumin’s MySpace Page

Click Here to see the full flickr set of pictures I took.

Upcoming Show: Curumin at CSPS in Cedar Rapids 1/26/09

This might be as close as a Quannum artist will get to Cedar Rapids…

While touring Brazil, Chief Xcel of the formidable Blackalicious fell in love with the locally released Achados e Perdidos and quickly signed Luciano Nakata Albuquerque who performs under the moniker Curumin (KOO-roo-mean). Achados e Perididos with its pan-continental mix of salsa and funk was re-released on Quannum in September 2005 to critical praise– quite an achievement for an artist who sings primarily in Portuguese!

In October, 2008 Curumin released the much-anticipated follow up JapanPopShow— the title of which is a nod to his split Spanish and Japanese heritage. JapanPopShow picks up where Achados left of with its strong samba-soul vibe and warps it with the heat of afro-beat, dub and experimental funk with refreshing spritzes of tropicalia. At times it reminds me of Air or Gilberto Gil in it’s easy casual feel. The Quannum collective jumps in to lend a hand on some of the tracks– Herve Salters from Honeycut, the Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel from Blackalicious and Lateef. Frankly a brilliant and original album. I especially dig Curumin’s testament to his love of 45RPM records “Compactu.”

So, Cedar Rapids will be warmed with Brazil’s ambassador of samba soul in the dead of winter on Monday, January 26th at Cedar Rapids own CSPS! The show starts at 8PM and tickets are $13 in advance and $16 the day of the show.

According to his press releases, Curumin typically tours with a couple of musicians and each took the stage armed with an MPC sampler providing live beat manipulations combined with live instrumentation. Curumin also switches between live drums and cavaquinho which is like a ukelele.

Don’t sleep on this, folks– it promises to be a head-bobbin’ evening.

Click Here to visit the Facebook Event for Curumin at CSPS.

Click Here for more information on the show

Click Here for Curumin’s MySpace Page which has streams of some of his tracks.

Click Below to download “Compacto” (personal favorite)

JapanPopShowCurumin
“Compacto” (mp3)
from “JapanPopShow”
(Quannum Projects)

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