Five years ago the Brazilian singer and actor Seu Jorge made one of the best albums of his career: Seu Jorge and Almaz, a collaborative effort with members of the manguebeat-pioneering outfit Nação Zumbi that delivered loose, addictive takes on a wide range of Brazilian music from the past. The repertoire included classics by the likes of Jorge Ben, Tim Maia, Nelson Cavaquinho, and Joao Donato, as well as a killer version of Roy Ayers’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” But the song that jumped out at me more than any other was called “Pai João,” by a group I’d never previously heard of called Tribo Massáhi. I couldn’t find any info online about the group, so I e-mailed the brilliant producer and musician Kassin, of the +2’s fame. He told me the group was a kind of hippy commune that made a single, incredibly rare album in the early 70s. I eventually found a download of the record on some long-shuttered MP3 blog, but now the record has finally been reissued on vinyl for the first time.
Estrelando Embaixador (Goma Gringa Discos) is a remarkable piece of work—incredibly loose, rhythmic, and hypnotic. It features eight songs that tap into a heavy African vibe, even if the songs are clearly rooted in samba. The group was led by a percussionist and actor named Sebastião “Embaixador” Rosa de Oliveira—he appeared in a 1968 low-budget film that was a promotional vehicle for the Brazilian-pop heartthrob Robert Carlos, and he later acted in the 1984 film Quilombo—who ultimately faded into obscurity before his death in 1996. (The liner notes by Brazilian journalist Itamar Dantas offer the most extensive information yet provided about the group’s leader.) The version of “Pae João” is today’s irresistible 12 O’Clock Track, a gem that wends its way through a swiped “Peter Gunn” riff, a dense polyrhythmic breakdown, and an infectious samba melody, with an appealingly ragged group chorus.