1979 // COPA 7 // O SOM DO COPA 7
Here's the scene: It's the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 1970s: The very streets which had previously played host to the traditional 'blocos de carnaval' for the massive February outdoor party that is Carnival, and the passionate guitar-led laments of the most beatiful choros, are now beginning to swing under a very different suingue: the imported sound of American soul and funk, courtesy of the now legendary local DJs: Big Boy, Ademir Lemos, Paulao, Monsieur Lima and many other sound systems with names like Soul Grand Prix, Furacao 2000 and Black Power…
Many records that today have become the holy grail of collectors played out the soundtrack to this era, from the Dutch group Reality, through Cane & Abe, Masterfleet to Raw Soul Express, Mickey Murray and of course the classics of James Brown, The Meters, Kool & The Gang, B.T. Express and Bohannon that played on the suburban decks alongside the post-Bossa of Cassiano, Wilson Simonal, Tim Maia and Jorge Ben.
The dance bands, the so-called "bandas de baile", that played live sets mixed in with the records that the DJs dropped had to be incredibly versatile to stay up there with the eclectic sounds being played - a successful melding of samba with soul-funk and even Italian pop songs and French chansons!
The true popstars of the bailes were organist Ed Lincoln's classic line-up that featured Orlandivo, Durval Ferreira, Tony Tornado and other killer players - the group which kicked off the whole scene a decade before. From these early sensations the "bandas de baile" were formed. Groups like Rancho, Brasil Show, Fanks and the biggest cult of all, and still active today 30 years on, the Copa 7.
Bands with the same name are nothing new in the music business and in the case of Copa 7 they shared their respected 'Appellation Controlee' with the second line-up of J.T. Meireles' Copa 5, also called Copa 7 and which only recorded a single LP for London Records in the late 60s*. Our Copa 7 launched their recording career with the rare single, and classic baile groove, Sabada [b/w Copa 7 No Samba - Top Tape]. This song, written by Ronaldo Barcellos, a collaborator with both Banda Black Rio and Robson Jorge & Lincoln Olivetti, is still the number one request at the regular shows the group command in the few clubs still carrying the torch for the philosophy behind the original bailes.
The first LP O Som da Copa 7 came out in 1979 and was followed closely by 1980's O Som da Copa 7 Vol 2, the originals of which are extremely rare today and have become a holy grail for those seeking out something special in Brasilian music beyond the stereotypical batucada.
To get some idea of the spirit the band purveys on these LPs one has to imagine the Mizell Brothers had dropped by the far flung suburbs of Rio (places like Madureira, Ramos, Penha, Cascadura, Abolicao, Nilopolis) with an ARP String synth under their arms and found a samba soul group that mixed Erlon Chaves with the Blackbyrds, whilst drinking beer at the same table as vocalist Damiao, devotee of that sweet voice of reggae, Horace Andy! Mix this heady brew together, recording sessions at the Estudios Haway (Hawaii Studios was the Studio One of the Black Rio bands), and we're ready to get down!
Check out the mellow instrumental funk of Gangorra written by guitarist/arranger Dionisio, (now living and playing in New York), the humour of Plantei Vagem deu Feijao and the Norman Harris-style phase pedal guitar that you could almost call Philly-Samba. Coupled with Paulinho's bass on Mulher Absoluta, with its full on chorus and phase pedals, it all adds up to make this debut LP obligatory listening for anyone trying to understand the true sound of the bailes.
In Vol 2 Dionisio hits the right note yet again with the sublime scat vocal track Agora e Minha Vez. Here and on the other instrumental tracks the Black Rio atmosphere is no accident - Banda Black Rio's second drummer, Paulinho Black, played in some of the literally hundreds of line-ups that Copa 7 have passed through. Maria Joana has that 'everyone partying together feel' in a samba of sheer 'alegria' that sounds like something from the Fatback Band or Brass Construction.
It's possible to see similarities between the music of Copa 7 with that of Ricardo Marrero's contribution and his influence of North American Black music with its orchestral feel to the compositions, arrangements and so on….
All praise goes out to Whatmusic.com for making such a rare and expensive collectors' LPs finally available to everyone.
In Brasil today, one of the keenest audiences for the 'new sound' of things from the past, and specifically Brasilian Rare Groove, is the Sao Paulo scene, where the Copa 7 have recently undergone a kind of renaissance in the minds and ears of younger funksters mainly through the auspices of collector Rodrigo Piza and his Phono 70 and the Sunday bailes led by Marco Mattoli & Seu Conjunto.
Now, for a note of extra-musical interest, to get into the Copa 7 scene is to commit an act of gastronomic exaggeration with a great big portion of feijoada wolfed down in freaky portions and lysergically enriched for the ears to dance to!
Text © Ed Motta 2001