Bixiga 70 Incites Dance Party at Ottawa Jazzfest

Bixiga 70 - Ottawa Jazzfest

Photos: Mike Bouchard

jimmy skyline I July 2, 2017

Afro beat is often heard in my house. I dragged my young son to see “Fela” the musical about Fela Kuti’s life. Years earlier I gotmy son (about 8 years old then) back stage in 2008 in Toronto Harbourfront to meet Suen Kuti and Egypt 80. I even had my boy with me the last time I saw Fela’s other son, Femi. This is the legacy of Afro Beat Royalty. Today the impact of Afro Beat is every where. From Ottawa’s SoulJazz Orchestra to Tokyo's Kingdom Afrocks, these poly rhythms are no longer restricted to the Nigerian homeland.

Insert Bixiga 70, a San Paulo Brazil Afro Beat, funk, dub, latin and jazz 10 piece band.

  • Cris Scabello - guitar
  • Daniel Nogueira - saxophone
  • Daniel Gralha - trumpet
  • Décio 7 - drums
  • Doug Bone - trombone
  • Gustávo Cék - percussion
  • Marcelo Dworecki - double bass
  • Mauricio Fleury - keyboard/guitar
  • Cuca Ferreira - saxophone
  • Rômulo Nardes - percussion

From their Bixiga neighbourhood the band Bixiga 70 has released two recordings done in their Traquitana studio. A 2011 self-titled release and a follow-up with 2013 Ocupai. Each year their sound broadens. The adventurous sounds of Brazil are leaking more and more into the bands music. Brazil has different copyright laws from here, so mashups, remixes and reworking of foreign music is the flavour of the day.

Along with more traditional Brazilian music styles like sertanejo, samba, bossa,  and more modern sounds of funk carioca, frevo and brega, Bixiga 70 takes it’s place among one of the most forward thinking “world” music bands. Clearly the influences of Fela Kuti and the Ethiopian Mulatu Astatke are still front and centre, The undercurrents in the band’s sound is getting stronger. Their third release III, which dropped in 2015 pushes deeper into Africa diaspora culture and Cumbia styles, where rhythm is king.

Formed in 2010. Bixiga 70 is a band without borders. Primal and organic, hooked filled dance mayhem. Powered by a baritone  sax that won’t quit (Sadly Cuca Ferreira didn’t make the Canadian dates as he fell ill). This is the result of a collective of different musicians and different styles of music.  There is more of a sub-Saharan African tradition, mashed up with Nigerian Afro Beat, and pummelled with a driving guitars, moog, congas, djembe, shekere, shakers and fiery horns.

This was a must see for me. Having missed a lot of the Ottawa Jazz fest this year, I had made both Shabaka and the Ancestors and Bixiga 70 priorities. They didn’t disappoint. Even with a nine piece band instead of a ten. The Baritone Sax of Cuca was surely missed, as it would have been nice to have the horns rounded out with some heavy bottom end. But the driving spirit of Bixiga 70 was pure, and kept the music lively and infectious.

Oddly the 200 or so people in the tent were mostly seated. A serious mistake with an addictive sound of Afro Beat. It was’t long before the dancing took over. An 11 song set covered a lot of dance steps. Some straight up samba’s were mixed in a the afro latin fusion that is unique to Bixiga 70. The band performed with high energy, doing synchronized dance steps. Some times these steps were done quite badly, but made up for with charm and humour. Bad dancing on stage equals more fun on the dance floor.

Bixiga 70 - Ottawa Jazzfest

Photo: Mike Bouchard

A conga line was formed with the encouragement from Cris Scabello. It took over the tent winding and snaking from the front to the back of the tent, and back again. But it was the tiger shirted guitarist and keyboardist Mauricio Fleury that stood out. His sun glasses and orange t shirt with a stunning black guitar and frizzed out hair had him looking like a mid 1970’s California porn star. Way too cool for school. His wiry guitar playing gave them a real authentic Nigerian feel.

Near the end of the set Mauricio had a chance to shout out his appreciation for those who help bring Bixiga 70 to Ottawa, with a special nod to the Soul Jazz Orchestra. A few sobering words about the turmoil that Brazill is facing with a near coup d’etat that is taking place against the present corrupt government underlined the thought that music is still a driving social force for brining people together and creating meaningful change. 

The set list as taken off the stage reads

  1. Niran
  2. Lembe
  3. 100 % /3
  4. Canjira
  5. Di Dancer
  6. Portal
  7. Especial
  8. 1000 Vidas
  9. Kalimba
  10. Primeiramente
  11. Bac Boa
  12. Morte