This 2006 documentary follows the musical collective Keepintime on their trip to Brazil, where they play shows, buy records, swap stories and buy more records.
Despite its somewhat niche subject, Brasilintime is really a film about the merging of cultures (samba meets hip-hop; North meets South America) – all tied together by the universal language of music. Brian “B+” Cross’ documentary explores these connections with boundless enthusiasm and joyous sounds, as the musicians discuss the songs that introduced Brazilian rhythms into their musical worlds – for will.i.am it was The Pharcyde’s Runnin’; for Derf Reklaw, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.
These performers live and breathe music, and for them Brazil marks uncharted territory. While DJs Cut Chemist, Madlib, Babu and J. Rocc go digging for Brazilian records, drummers James Gadson and Paul Humphrey go shopping for percussion instruments they’ve never seen before, and their combined passion and curiosity is never less than infectious. A particular highlight is Madlib geeking out in the presence of one of his musical heroes Ivan Conti, drummer for the Brazilian jazz-funk trio Azymuth.
There’s joy in seeing these legends of Latin percussion meet this new wave of electronic musicians, who may be separated by time and distance but whose musical ties run deep. Brazilian music emphasises percussionists just as hip-hop emphasises beatmakers; Brazilian music turns frying pans and kitchen utensils into percussion, much the same way that sampling allows for any sound to be used percussively. To quote the film: In America if two beats clash it’s called a train wreck; in Brazil it’s called a samba. This notion will be familiar to anyone who’s had the unique pleasure of listening to a Madlib record.
Brasilintime combines the history of Brazilian music with electrifying live performances (it ends with a half-hour jamming session between all the players) and some of the best drumming you’ll likely ever see, unless you happen to have been married to Ginger Baker – and probability dictates that you have. You needn’t know your bossa nova from your Tropicália; this is a film that sees music as conversation; something that transcends borders and helps us to understand each other. It speaks to the way diverse culture absorbs different vibrations like a solid pair of drumsticks.
You can watch the documentary on YouTube – it might make you reconsider before condemning all forms of cultural appropriation. If Dilla is wrong, I don’t want to be right.