Having enjoyed this lot of young Brazilians at WOMAD I was keen to see them again without the many distractions of a festival weekend. Back then they had looked freshly scrubbed, like the new arrivals they were. If now, two weeks later and on a slightly less prestigious stage, there was an understandably crumpled air about them then, happily, it was not to be reflected in their music.
Originally formed in São Paolo in 2012 the ten-strong line-up now lacks Beto Montag’s distinctive marimba, an absence that puts the spotlight firmly on the frontline duo of Fabio Prior and Marcos Mauricio on percussion and keyboard respectively. This pair essentially set the sonic agenda in rhythm and tone for a sequence of surprisingly varied tunes that embraced funk, reggae, acid jazz, hip hop and Afrobeat while generally avoiding more predictably Latin styles. That said, the loping Brazilian texture of Prior’s percussion was an ever-present underpinning to whatever they played.
Wisely they started with a brash and funky number awash with the power of the four-horn brass section, an attention-grabbing gambit that began to gather a crowd. Two numbers later there was a definite dance floor thing going on and soon after that it was apparent that The Canteen was, for once, a music venue with a bar alongside (as opposed to a bar with a bit of music in the corner).
It would be hard to pigeonhole what they played, deploying their resources as much in rock (with Luis Eduardo Galvao’s guitar a strident contributor) as funk or jazz. The arrangements made great use of the possibilities a big band allows when you have savvy minds at work, such as allowing a slapping funk number to slip into loungecore mode and back again or a pompous prog/psych riff emerging from beneath a drenching of free-blowing horns.
Locally we have big bands like Smerins Anti-Social Club and World Government that similarly rifle the possibilities of funk, jazz and dance music to great effect. Nomade Orquestra are deliberately more eclectic in their styles and more provocative in their collaging of them. At times they recalled Jerry Dammers’ fabulous Spatial AKA Sun Ra tribute – or even Ghost Town era Specials – but the key thing was that the Nomades kept it dance-friendly throughout so that there was was a seamless continuity of party vibe when sax and flute player Beto Malfatti switched to being DJ at the end of the live set.
Great fun, therefore, and yet more entertainingly clever stuff from the tireless São Paolo scene – and a real credit to the Canteen’s achievements as a music venue that such a renowned act was on the bill.
More Afro-Latin psychedelia at Canteen on Friday August 25 when King Lagoon’s Flying Swordfish Dance Band come up from Brighton.