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Brazil's World Cup host cities: where to find the best music

Written by Lewis Robinson for The Guardian

With just over six months until the football World Cup finals in Brazil, it won't be long before we're deluged by a wave of TV adverts cashing in on a stereotypical version of Brazilian music – easy-listening bossa nova or energetic, percussion-driven Brazilian carnival batucadas. Here Lewis Robinson, head of alternative Brazilian record label Mais Um Discos, takes us on a musical tour of the host cities for the World Cup, profiling an artist from each city to show a Brazil beyond the carnival cliches.

Rio de Janeiro - Jorge Ben Jor

Samba, bossa nova and baile funk are Brazil's three most internationally popular genres, and all are firmly associated with the cidade maravilhosa (marvellous city). It's hard to think of a musician who better represents the "gringo" vision of carefree, swinging 1960s Rio than Jorge Ben Jor, who back then wrote a slew of jazzy, swinging sambas and bossas, many of which are now considered Brazilian standards. By the 1970s he was crafting socially conscious samba soul and was celebrated by the likes of Island label founder Chris Blackwell. Most famously sampled by artists MIA and Diplo, baile funk is the dance music of Rio's favelas that has a small but loyal international following. Mas que Nada is guaranteed to be the soundtrack to at least one sports commercial next summer.

São Paulo – Os Mutantes

Formed in São Paulo in 1966 by brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias with lead singer Rita Lee, Os Mutantes (The Mutants) are not only one of Brazil's most famous musical exports, but also widely recognised as one of the key 1960s psychedelic-pop groups. Kurt Cobain famously wrote to Arnaldo in 1993 asking them to reform. São Paulo has been the economic and business hub of Brazil since the time of Mutantes, and they were one of the first groups to put it on the map, as pioneers of an eclectic and experimental music movement that rivals London or New York. Today the city draws in migrants from all over Brazil, and as such the music scene is more varied now than ever before, with particularly healthy hip-hop, dub, Afrobeat and indie-rock scenes.

Salvador – Lucas Santtana

Born in Salvador de Bahia in 1970, Santtana creates a post-tropical sound where dub, Afrobeat and electronic samples are as important as Brazilian rhythms. His eclectic approach to songwriting means he may not produce music that is typically Bahian or even Brazilian, but alongside the likes of Argentina's Juana Molina and Colombia's Bomba Estereo, he's redefining 21st-century Latin music. With João Gilberto,Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso, Bahia has given Brazil some of its most celebrated composers.

Fortaleza – Cidadão Instigado

Fortaleza has a very strong local roots music scene, dominated by the style forró, a stripped down but upbeat type of dance music, usually played by a trio featuring accordion, triangle and zambua (bass drum). While there's no discernible forró influence in the dreamy 80s indie-guitar music of Fortaleza's Cidadão Instigado, they do take influence from popular local style brega, a 1970s and 80s Brazilian romantic pop music. It's played on local commercial radio and is still hugely popular in the north and north-east. Thanks to bands such as Cidadão, led by the charismatic and highly respected guitarist Fernando Catatau, brega is also enjoying a revival among the Brazil's hipsters.

Curitiba – Karol Conka

Curitiba has a growing independent music scene that was the talk of Brazil in 2011, thanks to the sudden rise of folksy hipsters A Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade (The Most Beautiful Band in Town). An overnight success after a cleverly shot video; their whimsical melodies saw them linked to Beirutando – a mini-scene of Brazilian alt-folk bands obsessed by US band Beirut's Zach Condon. Thankfully, new talk-of-the-town Karol Conka pays no heed to Beirutando. She has instead collaborated with kuduristas Buraka Som Sistema on a track for Adidas, with her debut album to be released internationally next year [on Mr Bongo!]

Read the rest of the article over at The Guardian