Mauricio Pacheco’s passion for Angolan music has flowered into a wonderful album of reinterpretations of classic Angolan tunes by the cutting edge of Brazil’s underground scene
Fly: So, please tell us a little about your own musical background?
Mauricio Pacheco: I grew up in the 80s in Rio, and I always loved samba and rock, so I started playing guitar in a band where we mixed all these elements of Carioca music, such as Brazilian soul, samba and a bit of rock too. When I started being a professional musician, I started another band with some friends, called Stereo Maracanã, wich brought capoeira and candomble to my music environment, and was my debut as a producer, in 2002. After that, my computer was my new instrument, as the guitar was in the beginning. I think my city is very open minded in terms of music, and you feel free to experiment and create your own path.
How did you get interested in Angola and Angolan music?
When I was 17, I lived in France for a year, studied music and got in touch with African musicians, that introduced me to Touré Kunda, Fela Kuti, Manu Dibango. At that age, you absorb new influences very quickly, so, the following week I was trying to play Malian guitar licks, buying vinyl, etc. There were a lot of clubs playing African dance music as well, like Mori Kanté and Youssou n’Dour in remixed versions. When I came back, I was talking about African music and I felt like an outsider. It’s curious because in Brazil we have a great African heritage, but you couldn’t find African music in stores or on the radio. Then I must give the credit to my friend Moreno Veloso (who I invited to remix the track ‘Kappopola Makongo’), because he simply introduced me lots of other African artists, and to Angolan music. I can remember the first time I heard that old compilation from the Alliance Française, called Angola 70. You know, it was a strong experience, because we loved samba, Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil, and George Clinton, Nile Rodgers, and Sly & The Family Stone, and African music really was the piece that was missing in the puzzle to me, so I was just driven to it and I started to dig it. Angola was always special for me, because we speak the same language, and we feel like brothers. We have important Brazilian artists like Jorge Ben, who made an LP in the 70ies called “Africa-Brasil”, wich is a masterpiece, with lots of African rhythms in it mixed with samba and rock. All the music I loved most kind of got together and made more sense like this.
You’ve been there numerous times now, what have you been doing there?
I go to Angola every year, since 2003, when I was invited to record the first live DVD ever made there, called “Quintal do Semba”. It was recorded at the RNA (Radio Nacional de Angola) with some great local artists, like Paulo Flores, and Carlos Vieira Dias, the son of Liceu Vieira Dias, wich is one of the patrons of the samba movement, with his group N’Gola Ritmos. When I got there, it was astonishing. It doesn’t matter that you learned it in school, that we were both colonised by the Portuguese. When you leave that, travel across an ocean and go to Africa, you find people that looks like your people and talk in the same language, it’s an incredible thing. I met people that could have been my neighbours, and, most impressive, musicians that played all the music I like and have been listening to for years. You know, the way they build their arrangements, for example. I just felt very comfortable with all that, and after that I met and made records with very soulful artists, like the amazing young singer Wyza, who I’m a fan of and play guitar with right now. I’m also finishing the production of a CD for Elias Dia Kimuezo, so called the King of the Angolan music. He is an incredible old guy who sings with his soul, for real. I’d say he’s like an African Ibrahim Ferrer, very beautiful music. There’s something I have to say about these guys: I know they’re anonymous outside Angola, and there’s not so much of Angola that comes out, but there’s such great music there, I think people should be interested, because something special is going there, besides kuduro. There’s this mix of African and Cuban music ,and a bit of the guitar tradition of western Africa, it’s something really particular, but it doesn’t communicate very much with other countries. Angola suffered a lot with three decades of civil war, and that obviously affected the cultural exchanges and the life of every artist, everyone there.
What was it like going through the archives of Angolan pop? How did you go about doing it?
In fact I had the idea of remixing one particular song from Tetalando, called ‘Angole’, the track that opens the CD. My friend Sergio Guerra, who does an amazing work there, with his label Maianga, really liked the remix, and that developed into a project of a full CD. So he just got all the material from RNA and other sources and sent me, and I kind of organised more than 50 CDs from several artists, all from the 60s ,70s and 80s, and started picking some tracks and imagining who of my friends/producers would like to do something with that tracks.
How did you go about choosing the remixers?
They’re all friends of mine, for a start. So it was a very easy work. I took a year to get everything done, because of everybody’s schedule, but it was worthy the waiting, because the remixes get better when you just leave it for some days, and then listen to it again and find a better solution for a part of it, for example. I think you never finish a remix, because it’s just part of your evolution as a musician. Right now, I’d do something different, for example, but at that time, that was how I was feeling about the track, so that’s the most important thing. We’re always having new ideas and producing something new, learning something new.
Which tracks are your favourites?
Well, I don’t have any favourites, really. There is the opening track , which has a meaning for every Angolan that will listen to it, because of its strong message, against all kind of prejudice, and telling the people to unite and make a future for the country. It’s really strong, especially if you understand the lyrics, that are beautiful and so true, you know. Another track I could mention is the last one, ‘Zom Zom’, which I remixed for Elias Dia Kimuezo. His voice is just hypnotic, and, you know, I admire a lot anybody who is working when he is more than 80 years old. Especially a musician, that has something to deliver, at that age, it’s very special, historical. You know, everybody understands when you say “bluesman”. Can you imagine what the grand grandfather of a bluesman would sing like? That’s him.
Any idea how some of the original artists have reacted to these new versions of their tracks?
Not yet. I don’t know if the original composers listened to this work, because it’s just not been released in Angola yet. It will be soon, but anyway, it was made with respect and I put my soul into it, so I just hope they like it, these great guys.
Good question. I’m doing some research to do a Volume 2 of this very project, and I have some newer angolan artists I’d like to produce, like Dodo Miranda and Sassa Tchokwe. As a musician, I’m getting all together to do some parties here in Brazil with DJ Dolores and Kassin, to promote the CD here. As I said, I’m playing with Wyza, who was recently selected to play at the FMM-Sines, a big festival in Portugal, so I’ll be in Europe with him in July, and I’d like to do some Comfusoes shows, as well. There’s a lot going on also with my band, Stereo Maracana, which is scheduled to play London, Brighton and Amsterdam this summer.