Sounds and Colours Brazil: book review

This book and CD set gives a crash-course on Brazilian culture and a snapshot of its most influential music

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Cover of 'Sounds and Colours Brazil'

It’s difficult to capture the feel of a culture as varied and rich as Brazil’s within the scope of less than 200 pages, but Sounds and Colours Brazil – a self-styled ‘part-book, part-magazine, part-fanzine’ – is an ambitious attempt to show the multifaceted nature of the country’s regions and subcultures through a rapid-paced study of its music, film, visual arts and literature by more than 50 contributors. It also comes with a 20-track compilation CD.

So does it succeed? On the one hand, it does an admirable job trying to explain specific scenes (SP, Rio, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife and Belém) by showing the evolution of genres via engaging first-person accounts, such as New York accordian player Rob Curto’s discovery of the North-Eastern forró sound and his journey back to its most famous practicioner, Luiz Gonzaga; and Rodrigo Brandão’s retelling of his and São Paulo’s exposure to hip hop, which originated with a screening of the 1984 American film Beat Street in a grubby cinema on the SP outskirts.

On the other hand, the book tries to to be all things to everyone – its second half contains micro-explorations of important cultural figures like writer Jorge Amado and painter Candido Portinari who deserve more than the few allotted pages. But the informal tone serves the collection well in its goal to be a helpful, but brief, reference source.

The book’s centrepiece, for example, a handy guide to 20 influential Brazilian albums, deftly illustrates these records’ origins, receptions and relevance within their related stylistic movements. And despite the shortcomings of the excessively groove-oriented CD, it provides a nice wide-angle snapshot of current national artists.

Sounds and Colours Brazil can be ordered directly from the publishers at

By CM Gorey


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