by Jason Gubbels | September 29, 2013
Brazilians are rightly proud of the rhythmic innovations their musicians have introduced to the world -- from the late-19th century emergence of samba (2/4 beat) to the bossa nova revolution (1-&3-&1 on the bass), Brazilian performers have kept dancers from Rio de Janeiro to Bahia busy with intricate and flowing rhythms. So it's quite a testament to both the ubiquity and the sheer fun of disco's good old 4/4 beat to consider how adept Brazilians have proven at mastering the New York/Philadelphia dance craze of the 1970s.
Plenty of Brazilian artists were already entrenched in American funk before the first disco records went international (such bands as União Black and Banda Black Rio were pioneers in the appropriately named Black Rio movement). But once the disco inferno was ignited, even legendary performers like Sergio Mendes, Gilberto Gil and Marcos Valle couldn't avoid the craze: Mendes' "I'll Tell You" proved an especially popular downtown club hit in 1979. Brazilian jazz artists also embraced the 4/4, whether it was Eumir Deodato growing ever-sillier or noted jazz-funk Rio outfit Azymuth landing a top 20 UK hit in 1980 with the unflagging beat of "Jazz Carnival."
And now, long after disco's popularity faded from Brazilian charts, there are still plenty of disco beats to go around. As American music fans rediscover funk-informed artists like Ed Motta and Tim Maia, both pop singers (Daniela Mercury) and DJs (Gui Boratto) revel in disco-fied rhythms. Even the explosive Funk Carioca scene emerging out of the favelas of Rio owes something to '70s boogie. Check out the attached playlist for 30 examples of how Brazil hit the disco floor. And don't worry -- we've included a version of monster 1978 dance smash "Disco Samba" (we went with an actual Rio-based band rather than the Belgian trio who originally popularized it).