Brazil is a country of intoxicating music. You'll find it everywhere, from the Afro-Brazilian percussion of Bahia to the sexually tinged sambas of Rio. In the 1980s, these sounds played a large part in leading David Byrne away from the Talking Heads to launch both a solo career and a world music record label, Luaka Bop.
Ten years after Luaka Bop's first release, Beleza Tropical, an album that is still one of the best-selling Brazilian compilations of all time, Byrne & Co. offer an even hotter follow-up. This is not a rehashing of the record-selling predecessor. Rather, Beleza Tropical 2 is a groundbreaking look at what has happened to the Brazilian music scene over the past decade. State-of-the-art studio productions, rap, sampling, funk and punk have been absorbed into the Afro-Brazilian mix. Such a combination may sound like a prescription for trouble, but for Brazilians who are known to live and breathe music, this sort of experimentation has been going on throughout this century. The album is infectious. The music is rootsy, yet contemporary, and 100 percent danceable.
Familiar faces, including Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, longtime legends of Brazilian music, are joined by today's Brazilian chart-toppers. Highlights include Marisa Monte's mix of samba, funk and her delicious vocals on the catchy "Balaca Pema," Daniela Mercury's reggae-driven Bahian percussion pop, the late Chico Science (killed in a 1997 auto accident) and Nacao Zumbi's funky, rap-driven Mangrove Beat on "Rios, Pontes & Overdrives," and even a Brazilian Sgt. Pepper-inspired duet, "O seu Olhar" by Arnaldo Artunes and Monte. Another gem, Moleque de Rua's "Pregoes de Rua," shows that the massive drumming-pop sound isn't reserved to the music of Bahia. The group that began as a local youth project to help impoverished street children in the Sao Paulo slums beautifully mixes reggae, rock and rap into its powerful social mission.
The music on Beleza Tropical 2 is as diverse as the nation it represents, but it is so well-sequenced that even the most trigger-happy remote control users can simply hit play, clear away the furniture and dance their hearts out.