Figure & Grounded in Brazil
Unable to fly to South Africa due to a Yellow Fever vaccine rule (that you need it when coming through certain parts of South America), I had to spend ten extra days in Brazil as an “incubation period” before heading to Cape Town—not a bad deal at all. Being here for about five weeks, I managed to visit an embarrassing amount of record stores in a few different cities. Here’s a personal best-of guide to record shopping for Brazilian vinyl in this land of small 45 holes and perfect fuzz guitar. And a few tracks that I fell in love with. A big shoutout to Tropicalia in Furs.
Geographically from North to South:
First I hit up a few record stores in the Pelhourinho old town area. Along Praça da Sé right across from the famous Elevator Lacerda there’s a continuous strip of music stores: AURISOM (which used to be called MINISOM), a couple of instrument shops, and a mainly-CD place playing the latest Seu Jorge album. None of them were that thrilling for LPs, so I started walking down to catch a bus back to Federação where I was staying.
On my way to Terminal Barroquinha I stumbled upon a very unassuming store (and I’ve completely forgotten the name on the handwritten sign but know it’s right near Ladeira da Praça). The guy behind the counter was polishing up some Chilean pressings of A Hard Day’s Night and the majority of the place was organized very generally with genres fairly mixed up. What surprised me first was a Roberto Carlos 1969 album for R10 in pretty good condition. This has the Joel Stones signature track “Não Vou Ficar” and the one of my favorites “Nada Vai Me Convencer.” Digging around, I soon found that this place had six more of that same album scattered around in all different sections…
For some reason, Jacques Dutronc’s 1966 self-titled album was on a Musica Popular Brasilia (MPB) shelf, and I also spotted one of the Erotisma! albums, another cool French find. On a random Painel De Controle LP I noticed “Black Coco,” a track produced by Lincoln Olivetti (R.I.P) that appeared on The Ambassador's killer mixtape for Wax Poetics. And I picked up a Rita Lee & Tutti Fruti 45 for R1. Very cool place.
I didn’t make it to Cana Brava Records which in the same neighborhood, but I hear that one’s worth checking out too.
But first and foremost in Salvador: Bazar Som Três in the Nazaré area. This record store is walking distance from the others, though a little out of the way. It’s not an extremely big but I found it to be hands down the best place for vinyl in the city. Specializing in MPB, it has some amazing LPs out in the front and near the back there are exciting and precarious stacks of 45s. You listen on a turntable at the back of the store standing on a little stool (unless you’re really tall), and from those piles I picked up Marcos Valle’s “Estrellar” and a couple Tim Maia picture disc singles for next to nothing.
Also in Bahia, I got to pass through Caetano Veloso’s hometown of Santo Amaro on the way to the most beautiful little town called Cachoeira.
Rio de Janeiro
I love Rio. And after getting sun at the beautiful beaches, Botafogo is the place to go for vinyl. Right near the Metro there's a charming book and record shop called Baratos da Ribeira in a converted house (they recently relocated from Copacabana) on Rua Paulino Fernande . It has a good few shelves of 45s (priced according to national vs. international pressings and picture sleeves) and an overall great vibe. Plus there's a nice sunny outside area to sit and read with free wifi and coffee!
It was an honor to hang with Kassin and see his studio, and he tipped me off about Supernut Mara. Fabio, who runs this operation out of an apartment in Botafogo, used to work in a petroleum company for 15 years before giving that up to start building a mecca of Brazilian records in Rio. It was unreal when I walked in—his collection is huge. Fabio made me feel so at home, showed me some amazing tracks, and pulled out an incredible artifact: the first ever samba recorded in Brazil. It's an 11-inch disc that spins at 76rpm called "Pelo Telephone" (1916). It couldn't have been more perfect timing: he placed the 99-year old samba record on the record player and at that exact moment the power went out.
Here are two of my favorite 45 finds from that day:
Another great record store for MPB in Rio is Tropicalia Discos in Centro. It's organized beautifully, it's got a really friendly and helpful vibe, and they have a ton of great stuff (the owner introduced me to an amazing psych compilation Años Psicodélicos). Google Maps made it impossibly confusing to get to, but I finally found it right across from a flower market in a mall-type building a few floors up.
There must be some weird connection between flowers and vinyl in Brazil—two more record spots in São Paulo have flower store fronts as their entrances. One is Cheiro de Saudade, a flower wrapping place in São Bento that sell those crisp plastic sleeves for 12-inch LPs in the back. Another is Patuá Discos, a place upstairs from a flower arranging operation in Vila Madelena (thanks for the tip Sessa).
It doesn't have any sign outside whatsoever, so make sure you just go through the main lower store called A Bela do Dia. Patuá Discos is a gem. It's been open for less than a year and isn't very big, but it certainly has some serious stuff (like the Pedro Santos' Krishnada album below). There's also a way-over-my-head African LP selection that I wish I had the time to thoroughly go through. One of the co-owners Ramiro (on the left) was pulling out LPs for a vinyl fair and bboy dance event put on by Show Me Your Case which was insane. His business partner DJ Paulão spun some tracks there (including the red hot New Mastersounds "Nervous Raw Mix") and I noticed a flash amount of Itamar Assumpção albums scattered around (plus the dancing was incredible).
Crate digging in São Paulo seems to be centralized in one galleria at República, right near the Metro station. Take the escalators up to the second level and you’ll be immediately hit with way an absurd amount of record store options. Disco 7 (aka Disco Sete) is the one that most people talk about and for good reason. It has an amazing MPB selection and the owner Carlinhos is super sweet and cool. Locomotiva Discos is also brilliant. I was excited to leave the galleria with a beautiful Quarto Em Cy record.