RIOVOLT AND THE SOUNDS OF BRAZIL — “DIGITAL AUDIO BOSSA” AND “SAMBARAMA”
By J.C. Tripp
Listening and enjoying “world” music is one thing — actually going to the source and involving oneself in the music requires a passion that transcends mere appreciation. One must be obsessed and that is exactly what led German-born Norbert Küpper, aka, Nobit to travel the world in search of inspiration and knowledge of music.
After studying drums and piano as a youth Nobit’s interest in world music led him first to study tablas in India, where he joined local musicians in jamming sessions. Next it was San Francisco, where Nobit dug into the local club circuit playing with latin and pop bands. Back in Cologne he founded the funky Brazilian band Agua na Boca , delving deeper into to hip hop and electronic music and meeting up with Zuco 103’s Lilian Vieira.
In 1999 Nobit took the big leap to live in Rio de Janeiro for several years. Diving into the Rio music scene, he joined local bands and produced a wide variety of artists in his studio. Taking the chance to work with Brazilian singers and musicians in his spare time Nobit worked on his “Riovolt” project which he later completed in Munich.
With his Brazilian-music creds firmly established, Nobit fused the country’s sounds and flavors with electronica, drum’n’bass, house and a touch of indian on Riovolt’s “Digital Audio Bossa”. The album, released by Irma Records La Douce in 2004, received acclaim for breaking borders with stylistic originality. The tracks ‘Sidewalk Samba’ and ‘O Ronco da Cuíca’ sung by Lilian Vieira, appeared on many compilations including “Sambass 2” and “Sister Bossa 5”.
Now Nobit has taken the next step with Riovolt re-arranging the album’s music for an electro-acoustic jazz-oriented line-up and now engages in live gigs as Riovolt and the group Bossa Três. Riovolt “live” is an unforgetable experience: five excellent musicians, perfectly performing with virtuosity, groove, hot solos and cool vibes. The centre of attention on stage is the Brasilian singer and piano player Jú Cassou, who enchants the audience with her voice and charme. Nobit handles percussion using fat electronic beats and hypnotic acoustic percussion to move the crowd. The two are backed by the Brasilian saxophone player Marcio Tubino, Christian Gall on Keyboards and Matthias Engelhardt on bass.
Now working steadily on the follow-up to “Digital Audio Bossa” to be released this spring, Mundovibes hooked up with Nobit to talk about his Brazilian love affair.
Mundovibes: There are many producer-Djs who have absorbed the Brazilian influence. What is your opinion of the plethora of Brazilian-styled productions in Europe?
Nobit: Brazilian music, ever since the bossa nova came up, has its place in the international music, and I think this is not going to change so soon. in every decade since the fifties you can find more or less exciting interpretaions of brasilian songs. and in a certain way I think it´s great that brazilian music has taken such an important place in todays european electronic music. for me, being a big fan of Brazilian music since my early teenage days, it´s interesting and sometimes inspiring to hear a lot of people mixing Brazilian music with other styles and coming up with realy good tracks. But the problem is, that not only in the music business, but in the whole “media-world” in general, there is too much bullshit being thrown on the market. Too many cheap and careless, badly elaborated productions, heartless quick-shots, attempting to follow a trend to make some money. And with a Brazilian-electronic mix there are two more problems: the one thing is to make Brazilian music really groove, you must really dig it, which is possible even for non-Brazilians, but you must study and listen and play it a lot. The other thing is that especialy in electronic, computer-based music, a lot of people, who don´t know anything about MAKING music, are making music.
MV: What was it that inspired you record an album of Brazilian music?
Nobit: As I said: I´ve been crazy for Brazilian music for a long time. Plus when I produced the first track for “digital audio bossa” I was living in brazil, where I of course had a lot of input. But I wouldn´t consider it an “album of Brazilian music”, but rather a mixture of (almost) every style I like. So along with the stong Brazilian touch you can find as well my “old-school-influences” like jazz, funk and fusion and of course modern electronic styes.
MV: How were you received in Brazil — were musicians open to your presence?
Nobit: Before I actualy moved to Rio I spent several times there and in other places in Brazil, so I knew quite a few people and musicians and the Brazilian people in general are quite open to other people. On the one hand I think it can be a certain advantage to be a “gringo” who lives and works there, on the other sometimes I first had to prove that I really knew how to play Brazilian music to get fully accepted, but this was not much of a problem.
MV: What were some of the highlights of your experience there?
Nobit: Besides producing and playing with a lot of different bands, I was playing in a very crazy band called “Regonguz”, which in a way reminded me almost of Frank Zappa, with three singers and a lot of people on stage. A real kind of flower-power thing. During a show, at a certain moment in one song they wanted me to go to the microphone and speak in German. I just said whatever came into my mind — we had lot´s of fun!
MV: What is it about Brazil that it creates such great music?
Nobit: That´s a very good question, because there are indeed many good musicians and especialy composers in Brazil. But frankly I don´t really know why. Maybe it´s the special mix of afro-indian-european influences or it´s the easyness of the lifestyle. Or it’s the abillity (as a result of pure necessity) to make something out of almost nothing, which most of the people face every day. Probably it´s a mix of these and other things.
MV: Why do you think Brazilian music lends itself so well to electronic reinterpretation?
Nobit: I think Brazilian music mixes great with many styles of music: choro and jazz turned into bossa nova. In the seventies brazilian musicians influenced by funk and soul music mixed it with samba and samba-funk is one of the hottest mixture ever heared. And Brazilian music is very rhythmic, so it blends well with electronic music, who´s most important element is rhythm. But Brazilian music has as well other sides, that are missing (for my personal taste) in pure electronic music: there is on the one side the softness, delicacy and smoothness and on the other hand a great harmonic richness.
MV: You worked with Lilian Vieira from Zuco 103 on a version of ‘O Ronco da Cuíca’. How was this experience?
Nobit: I know Lilian already quite some time: we met in munich in the nineties, performing on the same event. One year later i was living in Cologne, which is very close to Holland, where Lilian lives, and we started to work together. Me and my friend and prefered piano player Tobias Drentwett had a band called “agua na boca”, playing funky brasilian music, where Lilian sang whenever she could make it. So by the time I lived in Rio and worked on the first tracks of my album “digital audio bossa”, Lilian came for holidays and I took the chance to record some tracks with here. On my upcoming album there will be one of these tracks in a new version. It´s simply great to work with Lilian, because we have a great friendship, and, come on, Lilian blows your mind as soon as she starts singing. She is one of the best, most professional and most unique singer I ever worked with.
MV: How does Digital Audio Bossa reflect or interpret Brazilian music?
Nobit: “digital audio bossa”, as I mentioned earlier, for me is not an album of pure Brazilian music. It´s actually a very personal mix of the music styles that influenced me my whole life and Brazilian music is making quite a big part of it. I grew up with jazz, fusion, funk and soul music as well and now I ´m mixing all of this together. I don´t think I “interpret” Brazilian music, like someone who sings and interprets Brazilian songs.
MV: You are presently a member of Bossa Tres, which performs Brazilian standards as well as your music. Please tell us about the band.
Nobit: This band is basicly to have fun playing hand made music live. it´s me on drums, the fabulous paulo cardoso on double bass, who has the most exciting and outgoing way of playing bass, and a not fixed third member, which can be Jú Cassou, the singer of Riovolt, since she´s also a piano player, or Pedro Tagliani, another Brazilian “devil” on the accoustic guitar, or one of the other musicians, who know how to play brazilian music. it has a very free, jazz-like approach with a lot room for improvisation, and on the same time being very “classic” in terms of sound and instrumentation – all accoustic. For me it´s to contrast and compensate all the electronic, both in studio and with “Riovolt” live, where i use a lot of electronic as well.
MV: What plans do you have for the future?
Nobit: I´m busy working on my new album, which is going to be released before summer this year by irma records. We are planning to release a single first. Of course “Riovolt” will continue to perform live (as well as “Bossa Três). I´ve been asked to do some remixes and there is a singer called “Fouxi”, who is doing a very unique and cool kind of french electro pop. I will co-produce some of her tracks; keep an eye on her, she is kicking.