Musica Popular Brasileira, or MPB but, literally, Brazilian Popular Music was introduced by the recently arrived Brazil diplomatic mission to Botswana. As their first cultural cross-pollination experience, they hosted Brazilian guitarist, Mombaca, at Mantlwaneng auditorium at Westwood International School. Present were the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, Moeng Pheto, and members of the diplomatic corps.
MPB is an umbrella for the diverse popular musics of Brazil, such as samba, which originates and is most popular in Brazil, baiao maxixe (pronounced ma-shi-she) and xaxado (sha ÔÇôsha-do). MPB is the sophistication of each style. Mombaca rendered a majority of samba songs and a sprinkling of reggae.
Mombaca, who does not speak English, drew the audience over the language barrier by having them sing answers to his call and response choruses back at him, and inviting them to join him in singing tongue-twister phrases to hilarious results. Mombaca and his band drove some to get up and dance versions of the samba.
He performed with a four-piece band, which included him, on acoustic guitar, a drummer, keyboardist and bassist. To my dismay, the stereotypical conga drums were absent to which Mombaca would later tell Sunday Standard during an after show interview that his percussive guitar playing implies the percussion expected of the drums.
After the performance Sunday Standard managed to speak to Mombaca on an array of subjects, through an interpreter. I learn from him that Brazil is second to Nigeria with the largest population of people of African descent.
African descendents who have managed to maintain their inherent cultures, and exporting them back to Africa, such as the Afro-martial art Capoeira, which enjoys popularity in the Portuguese speaking African states.
Though he was born into a Baptist church forty-seven years ago, Mombaca has adopted Syncretism, which is an incorporation of Roman Catholic and Candomble (which is derived from the Guinea Gulf) spiritual values.
Candomble is the African derived belief system slaves maintained and which helped them build solidarity.
The Baptist church is where his musical roots are found where his father, a clarinet player, was and still is a choir conductor. Having seven brothers, his father bought a lot of diverse instruments that saw each brother picking up their own and young Mombaca picking up a Brazilian 4 string dwarf guitar which was rhythmic and percussive.
The brothers taught themselves how to play their instruments to spiritual music. As he grew older, Mombaca picked up the mandolin, a slightly bigger guitar instrument.
“The instruments got bigger as I grew taller,” he jokes. “The mandolin provided a synthesis of Melody, harmony and percussion. I eventually played the guitar which is very melodic.”
His first public performance was at church when he was five. His professional career was launched in 1982. Mombaca has recorded two albums; his first album is titled Mombaca and the second, Afro Memoria, was inspired by 2001 Durban Conference against Racism, and the album paid homage to anti racism leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Abdias Nascimento, (a Brazilian leader).
Mombaca’s third album, Afro Memoria + Pretinhosidade, will be released on the 20th November, a National Black Awareness Day in Brazil and, in this instance, will also be the first time that a nationwide debate will be held on Afro Brazilian issues and public policies concerning them, “Never before has these issues been discussed frankly and openly debated,” Mombaca says, “Thanks to the current government. The current president is very attentive and promotes a lot of exchanges between communities.
Mombaca, however, insists that “love is above idiosyncrasy, there is no racial hatred, in spite of slavery in our past. In fact, Brazil is one of the most ‘blended’ nations.”