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Genre-Bending Brazilian Returns to SF

Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Curumin brings his eclectic mix of soul samba, funk and other genres back to U.S. soil this month with a tour that stops January 22nd at Slim’s, where he will be joined by label mates Blackalicious, Tommy Guerrero and Lateef. The São Paulo resident released his second album JapanPopShow with Bay Area record company Quannum Projects last year.

SF Station (SFS): São Paulo musicians seem to be popping up more often in the United States. Do you feel like there are more eyes on Brazil lately as people look for the next undiscovered band?

Curumin: Well, I feel there are a few points to see in that question. First, growing up in São Paulo, I always had an intense exposure to North American culture, in cinema, radio, TV, etc. This is much more the case than in other cities in Brazil. I feel that we're closer in our expressions than the other cities are. We have our Brazilian thing, but it's mixed with other references.

The other thing is, São Paulo is in a real intense art moment. Lots of artists, from all over Brazil are living here because it's a place you can find some work. In music, for example, a scene has formed, with good clubs to play and people to watch and consume music.

I feel that North America is more open now to entertain music from other places than in the past. A few years ago, it was really hard to release an album or book a tour -- singing in Portuguese and playing that kind of music -- in the U.S. It looks like people are looking for something different now.

SFS: Were you actively looking to expand beyond Brazil before Blackalicious heard your music and you signed to Quannum, or was it a chance encounter?

Curumin: I think that nobody thinks local anymore. In 2001, I toured Europe playing drums for a singer from Brazil. It was my first experience at festivals and on a real tour.

In that time, it wasn't common to have tours in Brazil. We don't have many festivals or underground clubs in other cities. It used to be really hard to play outside São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Brazil didn't used to have the infrastructure for an underground music scene.

I released my first record in 2003 and since than I was actively looking to expand outside of Brazil, because I had this experience and I knew that it was easier to play in Europe than to play in Bahia, for exemple.

SFS: What has been the biggest challenge for you?

Curumin: Singing in Portuguese in the U.S. is a big challenge. Promotional stuff is also hard. There is always a new technology to learn and you have to take care of myspace, facebook, imeem, a website, orkut, youtube, blogs, video clips, t-shirts, stickers, etc. It's almost impossible do this without a crew or some money.

SFS: Has your association with an American label and the relationships you have built with your label mates influenced your music?

Curumin: Playing with or watching the guys produce and make music has influenced me a lot. The Quannum crew is awesome. Last year I stayed some weeks in San Francisco and jammed with Honeycut, Tommy Guerrero and Pigeon John, and that was great. They're incredible musicians. I made some productions with Chief Xcel, too, And I watched Gift of Gab record.

SFS: Your music mixes several different genres that you were exposed to when you were young. Where do you look for inspiration now?

Curumin: Life is the biggest inspiration: a walk through São Paulo, drinking with good friends, a show, a movie, a swim in a river, a walk through an Atlantic forest or through a Cerrado forest, or just sleep when I’m tired. Dreams are a big inspiration.

SFS: What musicians should people interested in getting acquainted with soul samba listen to?

Curumin: From our days, I recommend 3 na Massa, Lucas Santtana and Instituto.
From old stuff, the masters are Jorge Ben and Tim Maia, but there is also great music from João Donato and the first records of Gal Costa, Djavan and Luiz Melodia.

SFS: What should we look for from Curumin in 2009?

Curumin: Fun. This is the only way I know.

Curumin performs at Slim’s on January 22nd. Tickets are $16 in advance and the show starts at 8:30pm.