Second album from the half Brazilian, half British, London based purveyors of Afro-meets-Brazilian funk. This vibrant record sees the band channelling ’60s Brazil via 21st Century East London.
It’s been two years since their eponymous debut came out, picking up diverse radio support from the likes of The Unabombers (XFM), Craig Charles (BBC 6Music) and Gilles Peterson (BBC Radio 1), but Saravah Soul have not rested; the need to soak up more and more influences, gathering obscure African and Brazilian instruments on the way, has kept them busy. ‘Cultura Impura’ is built on digging: hunting through old West African recordings from the ‘60s and ‘70s, sifting through Brazilian folklore and delving into Afro-Brazilian religious music, along with a deep love for ‘60s funk and Afro-beat. And lots of gigging: constantly touring their intensely vibrant live show, from festival to festival and across continents. Two shows – one in Sao Paulo, one in Leeds – especially illustrate the diverse appeal of their carnival-style showdowns, and stand out in the mind of the band’s Brazilian singer, guitarist and all round shape-throwing frontman Otto Nascarella:
“In Sao Paulo, Nov 2008, on a Tuesday night; the place was filled up just with musicians, especially band members of a famous Brazilian band called ‘Jota Quest’, and an important funk band… to see how much our music has travelled, and playing to mainstream musicians, is a very important acknowledgement.” Then in Leeds, 2009, “We had a bunch of young guys trying to sing our songs, the ones with Portuguese lyrics, right in front of the stage. That was quite amusing, cos I remember myself, before I spoke English, blagging all the James Brown lyrics…Later on they all came and bought T-shirts, despite they were too big on them. That’s the kinda support I need!”
Led by Nascarella, the musicians that make up Saravah Soul are all constantly exercising their talents on outside projects – collaborating with artists from the Heliocentrics and Jazzinho to Kylie Minogue and Kyle Eastwood – but all have invested themselves in Saravah Soul with a passion that is palpable. Importantly the full line up was restored to the fold of this special band once again, maintaining the unique chemistry for the sophomore LP – even if a series of visa nightmares meant that the bulk of the album was recorded in just four days. “We’re glad to have managed to count on the same great musicians from the first album…getting this sought-after team together is quite difficult”, says Nascarella. This killer ‘team’ comprises Graeme Flowers, Jack Yglesias, Mattheus Nova, Marcelo Andrade, Chris Webster, Kiris Houston and Eduardo Marques.
The album opener, “Janaina”, merges an Afro-Brazilian religious rhythm called Congo de Ouro and classic Afro-beat. According to African mythology Janiana was the Queen of the Sea, and the band acknowledged this deep rooted history by inviting Nigerian musician Ade Wallace to add vocals to the track; Wallace’s deep voice draws you in before giving way to the backbone of every Saravah Soul track – an infectious rhythm. The first single, “Alforria” (out in June), talks about freedom and immigration based on the real experiences of Nascarella when he was refused entry into the UK. Elsewhere on the record you’ll find Ethiopian melodies pushed up against an old school soul rhythm section, psychedelic Carnival sounds with Afro-beat and even a gutsy Frevo version of Jimi Hendrix’s immortal hit, “Fire”. By mixing the traditional Afro-Brazilian rhythms like Jongo and Coco, and instruments like Pifano (bamboo flutes), Afoxé and Berimbau, with Highlife and Afro-beat, along with the down-to earth nitty gritty of their own life experiences, Saravah Soul conjure something totally new and fresh.