Chico Science: Sound of the mangroves
by JOHN ARMSTRONG
CHICO Science, who has died in a car crash in Olinda aged 30, took the traditional rhythms of his home state Pernambuco in impoverished north-east Brazil, added rock, rap, reggae, funk, and a trace of heavy metal and produced mangue beat.
But it was more than just a beat, it became an aesthetic movement, with it name representing the evolution of the world out of mangue (literally a mangrove swamp). It had followers called mangue boys and girls, and a mangue manifesto proclaiming Chico's interest in comics, interactive TV, anti-psychiatry, street music, John Coltrane, chance, non-virtual sex, ethnic conflicts and drugs.
The north-east comprises conurbations like Recife and Olinda, where Chico was born, and the arid, almost feudal farming area, the Sertao, worked by smallholders drawn from Portuguese, African and indigenous Amerindian racial permutations. This is reflected in its music, including intriguing throwbacks such as Moorish scales and medieval Lusitanian dialect. The influx of post-Beatles foreign trends has tended, if anything, to strengthen this culture. And Forrock a fusion of rock and forro, the north-east's beer and accordion music arrived in Recife in the early 1970s.
A decade later Chico started playing with local bands like Hip-Hop Legion and Orla Orbe before forming his group Loustal - an homage to the French cartoonist - in 1988.
The aim was to rework forrock with 1960s Brazilian psychedelia and modern African-American beat. And out of the rump of Loustal, he formed Nacao Zumbi (Slave Nation), named after the legendary leader of a 19th-century slave revolt in north-east Brazil.
His groundbreaking debut album, Da Lama Ao Caos (From Mud to Chaos) in 1994, produced a shockwave analogous to that of the Sex Pistols in Britain. Brazilians, accustomed to dismissing the country's rock bands as American plagiarists, could hear under the post-punk sound, the forro and maracatu, the beat of Pernambucols Afro-Brazilian carnival processions. Last year's follow-up album was Afrocibedelia.
Chico, songwriter and performer, had a stage presence which drew comparisons with Jimi Hendrix. His was a fresh contribution to the anarchic, magnificent history of Brazilian popular music.
Chico Science (Francisco Franca), musician, born 1966; died February 2, 1997
The Guardian and The Observer on CD-ROM SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: 17 February 1997 FEA PAGE: 11 Obituary:
(c) 1997. copyright. Guardian Newspapers Ltd
"... Arte Viva in February of 1988 but the
band did not last (ibid.). In 1989 Orla Orbe was replaced by Loustal,
named after a famous French cartoonist whom Chico admired. Loustal
featured Chico as lyricist and singer, Lúcio on guitar, Alexandre ..."