Com o objetivo de estimular atividades e trocas de experiências no mercado internacional de música, o Brasil Music Exchange aproveitou o contexto da Copa das Confederações e realizou o Encounters nas cidades do Rio de Janeiro e Fortaleza, além de preparar cinco compilações com temas diferentes para serem distribuídas online aos mais de 1.500 convidados internacionais e nacionais no evento.
Dona Onete, cantora e compositora paraense de 71 anos, que também foi selecionada para o álbum New Sounds 2013 veiculado na revista Songlines, foi apresentada a um dos convidados internacionais na etapa Rio de Janeiro do Encounters, o etnomusicologista Jacob Edgar, presidente da Cumbancha/Voyager e A&R do selo Putumayo. Através desse encontro entre Jacob e o produtor Geraldinho Magalhães, da empresa Diversão e Arte, a cantora se apresentou em um evento fechado no navio da revista National Geographic, in Belém, dia 02 de outubro, em comemoração aos 125 anos da revista.
Em entrevista para o BME, Geraldinho Magalhães contou que “Dona Onete é perfeita para Jacob Edgar. Ele é um cara ligado na cultura popular, na música étnica e procura artistas que tenham este perfil e tenham também carisma, talento e histórias pra contar”. E então, o etnomusicologista mais do que confirmou as palavras de Magalhães: “Dona Onete tem uma belíssima personalidade e sua música reflete as tradições da região”. Confira na íntegra as entrevistas.
Jacob Edgar, president of Cumbancha/Voyager and A&R of Putumayo label, spoke about the international market of brazilian music and the opportunities of actions such as Encounters, his meeting with Dona Onete promoted by Brasil Music Exchange.
BME: Where does this love for exploring music around the world come from?
Jacob Edgar: I have been involved with music since I was very young. I grew up in an artistic family, and my parents were part of the sixties counter-culture in the US. They had a very eclectic record collection, so I was listening to Bob Marley, Miles Davis, African music, Ry Cooder and interesting, alternative music as a child. By the time I was a teenager I was playing a lot of music, singing in choirs and performing trumpet and guitar, but I was also very interested in seeing the world. I had made friends with exchange students from other countries who were living in the US and I decided to become an exchange student myself. I spent my last year of high school living with a host family in Reykjavik, Iceland. I became very close friends with the other exchange students who were from all over the world, Brazil, South Africa, Spain, France. I began to travel a lot, and everywhere I went I would connect with people through music. Music opened many doors and helped me make friends with people, even if we didn’t speak the same language.
In college, I discovered that the field of Ethnomusicology existed, which is basically a mixture of Anthropology and Musicology. Once I knew that it was a legitimate science I went to Los Angeles to get my Master’s Degree in Ethnomusicology at UCLA. I decided early on that academia was too stiff for me, so I found a job working for a company that imported and distributed CDs from around the world. Since then, I have never looked back!
BME: How was Cumbancha born?
Jacob Edgar: In 1998, I was offered a job at Putumayo World Music, one of the most successful and best known world music record labels. My job was to travel around the world, discover exceptional music for Putumayo’s compilations and write most of the liner notes for the CDs. Eventually, I became the Vice-President of Product Development and was having a marvelous time working for this exceptional company. However, I also wanted to be my own boss and have my own company. Since Putumayo was focused exclusively on compilations, I saw that there opportunities to work more closely with some of the special talents I had discovered while doing research for Putumayo, and I decided to start my own music company, Cumbancha, to work with these artists and help them reach a wider audience.
When I informed Putumayo that I wanted to start my own company, rather then getting upset they decided to invest in Cumbancha and help the label get off the ground. I continue to do the music research for Putumayo, so I was able to have my cake and eat it too. Cumbancha was officially launched in April, 2006 and we have released nearly 30 albums to date.
BME: You travel the world and come across artists you feel that deserve an opportunity in this music industry. How does this process of choosing a specific talent work? And how do you use your experience and knowledge in ethnomusicology to find new artists?
Jacob Edgar: There are many factors that go into deciding who I will work with on Cumbancha. The most important one is that I have to personally love their music and feel confident that many other people will as well. After that, I am looking for artists with a story to tell and ones who have talent that makes them rise above the others. They have to be excellent live performers and as dedicated to their careers as I will be. They also have to be willing and ready to work very hard, to develop relationships with their fans and to have a long-term vision of their careers. Then we also have to work out a legal and financial relationship that is satisfactory for both parties. It can be a long and complicated process.
Because I am always listening to new music and keeping on top of the latest trends, I have a sense of what types of music will be interesting with the media and the public at this moment in time. What are the hot new sounds, the exciting flavors that people will be interested in next year. Its a guessing game, but like anything you can increase your chances of success by making educated choices.
Also, as I mentioned, the music is also about the stories of the artist and the culture. I have found that music resonates more widely when the artist has a compelling personal story, comes from a culture that is interesting to people and has a message in their music that has a deeper meaning then standard pop music.
BME: Putumayo stands out in the market because of their uniquely designed album covers and also for presenting new music to the listeners. Do you think this is the real “secret flavor” which distinguishes this label from the others?
Jacob Edgar: Putumayo has done an exceptional job creating a recognized and trusted brand. This is especially important when people may not be familiar with the artists and music featured on a compilation…you have to feel confident that even if you are not knowledgable about the music you are going to like what you hear. So it has to be about more then the image, the music has work as well. We spend a lot of time on research, looking for exceptional songs that capture the essence of a culture yet are appealing to a wide audience. A lot of effort is put into sequencing and mastering as well. We tie it all together with informative and easy to understand liner notes. Over the years, Putumayo’s consistent quality has earned them a loyal following.
In addition to creating a great product, Putumayo pioneered the concept of selling CDs at store that normally did not carry music such as book stores, clothing stores, coffee shops, art galleries, etc. The founder of Putumayo, Dan Storper, started his company as an importer and retailer, so he knew what shops needed in order to be successful with music. Putumayo is now available all over the world, I can’t tell you how often I hear from someone that they saw Putumayo CDs in a small shop in Zanzibar or any number of unexpected places. This success in bringing the music to audiences everywhere, and having faith that the market for world music was much bigger then people gave it credit for at the time, is also key to Putumayo’s success.
BME: The international world music market is controlled mainly by European labels. So what’s the feeling being with an American label which was awarded the Top Label Award at Womex?
Jacob Edgar: It was extremely gratifying, especially because we received that award in only our second year of eligibility. I have a spent a lot of time in Europe and looked on in envy at the support world music receives from press, radio, television, promoters and the public. We do not have that level of support in the United States, although we do have a very large market so it is possible to make things work here if you know how to reach the right audiences. My hope has long been that someday world music will be as commercially viable in the US as it is in France, or for that matter in Quebec, our neighbor to the north, which is also much more open to world music. I think we are headed in the right direction, although we still do not have support from mainstream media in the US, which is focused almost exclusively on mainstream pop and mass market trends.
BME: You were one of the Encounters’ guests, which is an action promoted by Brasil Music Exchange for the exchange of information and experience related to the music industry. What do you think of the iniciative? In your opinion, what are the main advantages?
Jacob Edgar: I thought it was great to see an effort by the Brazilian governmental agencies to promote and develop Brazilian music abroad. I think there is tremendous opportunity for Brazilian music on an international level, but it will need support from artists, the government and the local industry to keep Brazilian music on the forefront of the global music scene.
BME: Dona Onete was introduced to you by Geraldinho Magalhães. Why did you choose her to participate in the event that celebrated the 125 years of National Geographic magazine?
Jacob Edgar: The ship was going to be making a stop in Belem and we had an opportunity in the schedule to present a local artist. The music scene in Belem is very hot right now, with all kinds of interesting music, but I knew right away that our guests would enjoy Dona Onete and her music. She has a beautiful personality and her music reflects the traditions of the region yet is very accessible. Plus, an added bonus is she is from the same generation as many of our guests, so I thought they would be inspired. I met Geraldinho Magalhães at the Encounter in Rio in June where he introduced me to Dona Onete’s music, so this is one very tangible outcome of the event that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
I have curated a number of concerts in Brazil during this National Geographic Expedition. In addition to Dona Onete, we featured Ile Aiye in Salvador and will have concerts with Teresa Cristina in Rio, Luísa Maita will be joining the ship in Paratí and we will also have a concert with the group Quarcheto in Rio Grande do Sul. I tried to select artists that represented the local sound of the region we were visiting.
BME: Last year you were in Rio de Janeiro for the Encounters project. In terms of music, what took your attention? Any new music style or new artists (you are free to quote names!)?
Jacob Edgar: I was particularly interested in the guitarrada sound of Belem, I think it has an interesting quality that will excite people around the world. The guitar is popular all over the world, and guitar-based surf rock also has a huge following ever since Dick Dale’s music was featured in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. We saw Criolo perform during our visit to Fortaleza and I really enjoyed the show. I’m sure he will find success abroad as well, although he may now be so popular in Brazil that it will be difficult to develop an international career.
This is one of the challenges faced by Brazilian artists, once they are successful at home it is very difficult for them to take the time and make the financial investment necessary to promote themselves overseas. This is why when Cumbancha signed its first Brazilian artist we chose Luisa Maita, who was unknown in Brazil at that time. Her first ever tour was in the US and she has developed a strong following there. She might not have had the time or flexibility to undertake the four tours we have done for her in the US if she was star in Brazil when we started out.
Some other artists whose music I received and enjoyed at the Encounter are Flávia Dantas, whose husband plays guitar with Teresa Cristina. I also enjoyed Anna Ratto, Roge, Katia B, Elisa Addor, DJ Mam, Manari & Marco Andre. I received so much music I still haven’t listened to it all. I am very excited to see how many independent artists there are in Brazil, even in times of industry crisis great music is still being created.
BME: As an ethnomusicologist, what type of Brazilian artist captures your attention?
Jacob Edgar: I am looking for artists whose music is clearly Brazilian and is accessible to a wide audience. They have to be artists with interesting personalities, a unique yet culturally connected sound and be professional and ready to work hard to develop their careers. I think sometimes Brazilians are surprised about the artists that become popular outside of Brazil that are not particularly popular in Brazil. I’m thinking of artists such as Bebel Gilberto, Céu, Luísa Maita and others who have occasionally found better reception abroad than at home. Meanwhile, artists that are very popular at home don’t appeal to an international market. That’s because international audiences have different tastes, and they also bring certain expectations about what Brazilian music should sound like. They want to hear something that reflects Brazilian culture and not just hear a great Brazilian rock band or hip-hop artists. Maintaining this Brazilian identity is essential for artists who want to find an international audience.
Interestingly, some of the Brazilian artists that are creating great music for the international market are not based in Brazil, and I think their understanding of what the international market wants is more clear. I am thinking specifically of Marcio Faraco, Nazaré Pereira (I met her for lunch in Belem, pictured attached) and Flavia Coelho in France, Da Lata in the UK, Forró in the Dark in the USA, Clara Moreno in Sweden, Bia in Canada and many others. I wonder if the BME is able to work with and support these artists as I think they have something valuable to contribute to the international awareness of Brazilian music.
BME: It’s clear to us that one of our goals is to help professionalize the national music sector. What are your thoughts about the Brasil Music Exchange program?
Jacob Edgar: I think it is a very good program and a necessary one. Other countries such, especially Canada and France, have invested heavily in the international development of their music industries. These efforts have had tangible results in the success of artists from those countries abroad. I think the Brazilian Music Exchange is off to a good start, but I would like to see it go even further. Hopefully, they will receive the necessary financial and political support to grow in the future. Brazil is one of the world’s musical powerhouses and the country should do everything it can to support this unique national resource.
BME: What are your expectations for Brazilian artists in the international market?
Jacob Edgar: I think Brazilian artists have tremendous commercial potential around the world. The sound of the music is widely appealing and we have seen a number of artists such as Seu Jorge and Céu build wide international followings. We have yet, however, to see many new artists reach the level of artists of the past, when Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Jorge Ben and others could regularly fill large concert halls overseas.
BME: What are your expectations for 2014 season of PBS Music Voyager which will focus on Brazilian music? Any little secrets or details you can tell us?
Jacob Edgar: We have not started filming episodes in Brazil. We have found it very difficult to get the necessary support from the Brazilian government, sponsors and TV industry. I hope someday we are going to be able to overcome these challenges and get the support we need to present Brazilian music to Music Voyager’s millions of viewers around the world.
BME: Can you share some details about the concerts with Ile Aiye, Teresa Cristina and Luisa Maita? How did you get to know them? What do you see in their music and the advantage of building a career outside Brazil?
Jacob Edgar: I wanted to show the guests on the ship the typical sound of Salvador. I was thinking of either Ile Aiye or Olodum, and I felt Ile Aiye would demonstrate more clearly the deep African influences on Salvador’s music culture. I have known about Ile Aiye for many years, as they are very famous and are often mentioned in famous songs by Veloso, Gil and others.
I can’t remember how I first discovered the music of Teresa Cristina, but I have been a fan of hers for many years. We have featured many of her songs on Putumayo collections because her voice and songs are very appealing. I met Teresa in person in Rio in 2005 (picture attached) and when I was thinking about who represented the Rio samba sound but wouldn’t be too difficult to get (I figured Martinho Da Vila or Beth Carvalho would be hard to get!) and would be wonderful to work with. I knew Teresa was that artist and I am very confident that our guests are going to enjoy her music and personality.
I was first introduced to the music of Luísa Maita from a friend, Beco Dranoff, the producer and tastemaker who helped introduce Bebel Gilberto and founder of the Ziguiriboom imprint. I fell in love with her music instantly and knew she was the artist I wanted for Cumbancha. I took my time releasing her album, and made sure it was supported with a strong US tour. The response to her music was amazing and she is now quite well-known in the US. We are hoping to conquer Europe soon. I think Luísa is a great talent as a singer and a songwriter and it has been exciting to watch her grow and develop as an artist. I think she is just at the beginning of what will be a long and successful career. We have had some fun adventures together…last year she was invited to perform at the Google Zeitgeist conference in Phoenix, Arizona, a private event that featured some of the top people in the tech industry and many celebrities. We had fun hanging out with some of the most important people in the future of technology. Luisa has also performed at the Apple headquarters, so she is becoming quite popular among these trendsetters.