Elements of Brazilian music permeate much of our jazz and pop landscape. Many of us instinctively equate Brazilian music with the samba, but Brazil is rich in musical variety: hybrids of Portuguese, European, and African music abound. With the fervor of a dedicated ethnomusicologist, Discovery Firm delves deep into Brazil's musical heritage in Bom Dia Brazil ($55), a CD-ROM filled with 16-bit, 44.1 kHz loops of traditional Brazilian instruments and grooves.
The single CD-ROM features a folder each of Acidized WAV and REX2 files, covering two significant bases for importing and playing the loops. Subfolders contain an assortment of grooves and single-instrument percussion loops. The colorful booklet gives the package a folky vibe, but don't let that lower your expectations: much of the content would serve well in jazz and pop compositions. I tested the files on my dual-processor Mac G4/1.42 GHz using MOTU Digital Performer 4.11, Ableton Live 1.5, and Propellerhead Reason 2.01.
For each format, you get five main folders: Brazilian Groove; Cabacal Style, which is a festive parade-style music populated with flutes and multiple types of percussion; Capoeira, which derives from the Brazilian martial-arts practice; a folder of individual-instrument percussion loops; and a folder of outtakes. Within each of the 15 Brazilian Grooves subfolders are three to eight loop variations representing different styles from various regions of the country, including baiao, carimbo, choro, coco, forro, maracatu, and four different types of samba. Although most are full drum-kit grooves, some of the loops have traditional percussion instruments mixed in.
Among the single-instrument percussion loops, my favorites come from the thunderous sound of the zabumba, a double-headed drum played with a mallet on one side and with a stick on the other side to produce higher pitches. I also liked the low, buzzy surdo and the repinique loops. Other looped percussion includes the berimbau; the tamborim; shaker-type instruments such as the caxixi, the ganza, and the chequere; and talking drums.
Among the Brazilian Grooves, I loved the rolling half-time feel of the Maracatu files. The Angola Capoeira files, with their vocal chants and marchlike feels, are spooky and atmospheric. The Capoeira Maculele loops manifest the music's African influence with a driving three-against-four rhythm. Generally, the loops have a minimally perceptible ambience, allowing them to sit well in tracks with little or no need for added reverb.
I was eager to test these files on a guitar-oriented piece I composed in the Latin-flavored style of the David Grisman Quintet. The samba grooves had the wrong feel for the song, so I navigated to the Baiao subfolder. Baiao is a syncopated style that originated in Northeastern Brazil and was popularized by Luis Gonzaga. I replaced my MIDI-programmed drum and percussion tracks with three REX-file variants of baiao grooves, and the track immediately sprang to life, taking on new dimensions of forward movement (see Web Clip 1).
Bom or Bomb
As much as I love this collection, I must also admit that it has some major flaws that limit its usefulness somewhat. To begin with, the documentation may generously be described as sketchy. The booklet lists the contents by single-instrument loop and groove folders and gives the number of files in each folder, but that's all.
The worst thing about Bom Dia Brazil is the complete absence of tempo information for the files. If you are lucky enough have a digital-audio sequencer that can automatically adjust or reveal the original tempo of a file — as Sony Pictures Digital Acid and Ableton Live are able to — this won't be a problem for you. Otherwise, expect to have to do some educated guessing when you're working with the WAV files.
In addition, a few of the REX files are poorly sliced. When I dropped them into tracks, I noticed huge gaps between the slices that resulted in intermittent playback. That's too bad, because otherwise the quality and variety of the content make it extremely useful.
Nevertheless, Bom Dia Brazil provides a veritable aural education with its well-recorded examples of authentic Brazilian roots music, including many esoteric styles — and they groove like crazy. Only the poor documentation and sloppy editing prevent me from awarding this project EM's top rating.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 3