Album Review: Maga Bo – Amor (É Revolução) : turntable-ready Afro-Brazilian energy.

The Breakdown

Maga Bo takes live and local rhythms with real and rooted vocals as the heart of his pulsating dance floor orientations- it’s fusion with honest integrity.
Kaxambu Records 8.7

There’s more to Maga Bo than sought after DJ, re-mixer, engineer and album maker. He is a true global beat innovator, a sonic explorer, not just absorbing sounds in the studio but constantly on the move, travelling to and living with the music, people and rhythms that intrigue him. His de-camping from Seattle to now adopted hometown of Rio in 1999, sparked the start of an itinerant musical expedition which continues some twenty years later.

In that time he’s taken in the side street syncopation from Zanzibar to Cape Town, Senegal to Marakesh and developed the foundation of his approach, taking live and local rhythms with real and rooted vocals as the heart of his pulsating dance floor orientations. Oh and then there’s the bass, Mega Bo is a maestro of the sub levels, dropped long and low or slow and spacious, he has a sixth sense when it comes to resonance.

As an in demand producer for such labels as Tru Thoughts, Ninja Tunes and Soundway plus ‘go to’ live performer, it’s understandable that such careful curation around his solo work takes time. His debut eclectic percussive travelogue ‘Archipelagoes’ appeared in 2008, followed by 2012’s electrifying whirlwind ‘Quilombo do Futuro’ and now we’ve come full circle with his new release ‘Amor (É Revolução)’ available on his own Kaxambu Records from 27th May.

The new record sees him focus on those Afro Brazilian sounds that first inspired his musical wanderings, so something of a homecoming and a return that deserves every celebration. Opener ‘Axé Para o Bará’ clearly signposts the album’s overall trajectory, fresh sparked percussion, raw, living vocals and the deftest electronics for added momentum. Featuring the sadly departed, revered singer and Candomblé priest, Mestre Antonio Carlos de Xangô who implores a fine-tuned choir to ever sharper responses, this is a chant based spiritual that naturally gets physical. Behind the call-response action a subtle skank bobs and waves, while Maga Bo dabs in flutters of bubbling synths for extra boost.

‘Cade Ze’ follows, with frequent collaborator Rosângela Macedo bringing her full-bodied vocal to an exuberant Batucada stomp. What’s different is that while tradition flies and flutters proudly upfront, that hefty bass drop and fader blast is never far away. Still, it’s evident from the early entries on the album that Maga Bo understands that anything woven into the mix needs to preserve the pattern of those original sounds. That’s not too say he’s not into unraveling, re-wiring and arriving at new configurations. Take the electro-distorted ‘Ilu de Oya’, an insistent Brazilian beat assemblage with Congotronic connections or the tense ragga-rhumba of ‘Na Contencao de Jah’, where the stalking cadence of Jeru Banto’s agile rap dodges the threat of some searching waspy synth lines. There’s even room for some lead guitar extravagance in the tempo shifting, agit-rapping, Manu Chao-ish ‘Labuta’, a track that manages to bundle ska-facing organ stabs with Santana rich sustenance without stopping for breath….and that’s some achievement.

But it’s on the less bombastic cuts that Maga Bo’s essential musicality really rings out. The jubilant ‘Sepateado de Catita’ puts Felipe Cordeiro’s sun-soaked guitar melodies upfront, keeping the rhythms breezily light to blow in that pop samba freshness. Then there’s the title track, merging crisp nu-cumbia, spacey dub, Dandara Manoela’s pure toned vocal and seasoned rhymes from MC Bnegão in a song of celebration and solidarity. Perhaps fittingly closing track ‘Recanto II’ reveals the richest of these Maga Bo fusions, Isaar’s ripe and righteous singing opening out to a choral reply that lifts and soars on the wings of a praising melody. Spirited and spiritual, it’s fusion with simple honest integrity.

And if that’s not enough to convince the punters, ‘Amor (É Revolução)’ comes turntable ready with its own accompanying album of remixes. None of these are tedious favour exchanges, each delivering a head-spinning re-imagination of the Maga Bo original. Early attention getters include Nirso’s re-work of ‘Cade Ze’, pure hot-stepping that mixes sixties bubblegum with a reggaeton zing, and the Victor Rice steamy deep dub spooking of ‘Congo Rei’. Then there’s the reverb dripping, broken beat version of ‘Sepateado de Catita’ from DJ Tide or the eminent Dengue Dengue Dengue’s radical grime ready beat reduction of ‘Ilu de Oya’. So much to take in, so much ground to cover but as Maga Bo proves on ‘Amor (É Revolução) ‘ he’s the perfect guide and it’s a classy excursion.

Pick up a copy of Maga Bo’s ‘Amor (É Revolução)’ from your local record store or direct from:

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