Mates’ Crates, a series headed up by our friend Andrei Sandu, dives into the tales behind records and digs deeper into our connections to music. This time, beautiful tunes from Brazil to complement the summer sun, in the form of Marcia Maria's "Amigo Branco".
Label: Mr Bongo (originally Capitol) | Year: 2019 (originally 1978) | Discogs: Marcia Maria - Amigo Branco
One of my favourite house tracks of summer 2017 was COEO's "Cabrio Mango". Freshly graduated, it was five and a half minutes of pure sunshine which I still associate with my first few months of being a grown-up. It was only a few years later that I traced it back to Marcia Maria's "Amigo Branco" ("White Friend"), itself almost certainly a cover of Djalma Dias' "Nada Sei de Preconceito" ("I Don't Know About Prejudice").
As far as I can find, the song was written by Leci Brandão, a samba musician currently representing the Communist Party in the Legislative Assembly of São Paolo. As an African-Brazilian woman, Brandão has long taken opportunities to oppose discrimination and regularly performed at LGBT events against homophobia.
As a non-Portuguese speaker who first encountered the song via an upbeat edit, I'd had no idea that the song was addressing issues of race. Listening to my copy of "Amigo Branco", reissued by Brighton-based label Mr. Bongo, I started thinking about what can sometimes be lost when buying records in this way. Is it somehow cheating?
Don't get me wrong, I buy represses all the time, and my wallet is grateful. An original copy rarely goes for less than a few hundred pounds, and the Mr. Bongo 7" was also backed with Simone's beautiful version of "Tudo Que Você Podia Ser". The other day I bought another of the label's Brazil 45 series, with Marcos Valle's "Estrellar" on one side and Robson Jorge & Lincoln Olivetti's "Aleluia" on the other. Two absolutely golden tracks for £5.99!?
For the avoidance of doubt, I think that Mr. Bongo's reissues and compilations are a fantastic way of introducing new generations (including my own!) to this music, and I haven't seen any reporting to suggest that things aren't done in the 'right' way or that their licensing isn't above board. My thoughts turn to our responsibility as consumers to understand and appreciate the decades-old artistry we're now able to buy for less than the price of a pint.
As is so often the case when researching for the column or radio show, I stumbled upon some fortuitous musical connections. Two years after "Cabrio Mango", COEO released "Don't Oho", made famous by that Folamour Boiler Room. Like Disclosure's "Tondo", that edit samples Eko Roosevelt's "Tondoho Mba", which features on another repress compilation I bought recently.
That Folamour Boiler Room begins with Odyssey's version of "Going Back To My Roots", originally by Lamont Dozier who sadly passed away at the start of the week. The same COEO EP featuring their edit of "Amigo Branco" also includes a version of Dozier's "Shout About It".
The music lives on forever.