CHICO SCIENCE and MANGUE
Late one night in Olinda, we had been out dancing to Samba de coco, and the youth Maracatu Maracatudo when it was announced from the stage that Chico Science had been killed in a car crash just outside Olinda. The reaction was immediate; the music stopped, some people burst into tears and everyone headed for home. The funeral the next day was attended by 1000s of mourners who lined the streets. Shrines appeared spontaneously all over Olinda. Newspaper reports from the two days following his death included a whole supplement dedicated to him and his musical legacy. In a short period of time, Chico Science the man and Chico Science the band had become perhaps the most exciting new development in Brazilian music in recent years. His death had an impact rather like that of Nivana's Kurt Cobain as Chico Science was perceived as a figure head for a generation of Brazilians,particularly in his native northeast.
Mangue or mangrove music was born in the late 1980's in Recife. A group of musicians had got together with a Samba Reggae band called Lamento Negro and while jamming with them had produced a hybrid of Brazilian rhythms and rap/hip hop with a DIY punk mentality. This group soon widened to include artists and journalists and taking Malcolm Mclaren as their role model (for his management of The Sex Pistols and his manipulation of the media),founded a movement called mangue which included radio shows, fanzines, music festivals, political activism, comics, etc as well as 3 bands, first came Loustal and then Chico Science e Na‡ao Zumbi, and Mundo Livre S.A.. In 1994 Chico Science released the album Da Lama ao Caos and followed it up in 1996 with Afrocibedelia. Both these album feature Brazilian rhythms such as maracatu,samba de coco, samba-reggae combined with dance music, rapping,heavy riffing, samples and masses of attitude. People immediately took notice of this radically different departure for Brazilian music and Chico was soon touring in Europe and north America. His extensive obituary in The Guardian the day we arrived back from Brazil, proves that his influence had permeated through to Britain, though here I've only heard his music played in Brazilian clubs.
Perhaps Chico Science's most significant contribution to Brazilan music is that he has made afro-brazilian percussion cool for teenagers who had previously been far more interested in heavy metal, rave and rap from abroad. Chico always promoted local rhythms and musicians and met his death at the tragically young age of 30, coming back to Olinda to party with his friends at carnival. His 2 albums while full of energy and imagination, are somewhat lacking in the melodic and vocal department and I'm sure that there is a better mangue album still to be made. Whether it can be made without Chico Science is anybody's guess. Tributes to him from Carlinhos Brown, Gilberto Gill, Aleceu Valen‡a and others showed what a great loss to the future of Brazilian music Chico Science will be.