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Brazil's Rogê brings Rio to the U.S. with his samba-funk fusion

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Maybe it's the warm weather. Maybe it's the world-famous beaches with mountains on the horizon in both cities. Well, whatever the reason, musician Roge says nothing makes him feel more like a native son of Rio de Janeiro than working in Los Angeles.

ROGE: Yes, it's a little cliche, but when we were out from Brazil, we can look to our culture with - in a big picture, you know? I think I'm feel more Brazilian here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRITO DO NATUREZA")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

SHAPIRO: He moved to LA a few years ago after releasing eight albums in Brazil. And while he was recording in LA with some hip-hop artists, the man who was born Roger Jose Cury found a new identity.

ROGE: And the guys asked my name. What's your name? My name is Roger. And the guys - what's your last name? My last name is Cury. The guy said, oh, Cury man.

SHAPIRO: "Curyman" became the title of Roge's new album, his first produced and recorded in the U.S. It's Brazilian samba influenced by American funk. He worked closely with producer Tommy Brenneck, who's collaborated with Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse and more.

ROGE: Tommy bring all the angle, all the vision for the music, and that's what I'm always looking for. I'm just a guy to love music and just love my culture, Brazilian culture. And I really want to mix it with that culture here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRA VIDA")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

SHAPIRO: I did look up the English translation of these lyrics, and the first song, "Pra Vida," has a lyric that translates to, it doesn't matter if a door is closed, there's always an opened window.

ROGE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: And I wondered if that describes your experience going from making music in Brazil to the United States.

ROGE: Yeah. My brother, when I arrived here, was very tough. That song talk about - we have to always go forward because we have to believe in the life - you know? - because I was living that experience here when I arrived here. I didn't have nothing.

SHAPIRO: So why did you do it?

ROGE: I do it because in Brazil we have a big crisis over there - economic crisis, political crisis, social crisis, security crisis. Everything was bad after the Olympic games. And I used to come here to LA to record. And I look around, say, oh, LA is the only place in the world that I can change with Rio because LA has everything, you know? It has a chance to develop my career. So I thought to myself, whoa, this is going to be a big challenge, but maybe that's the - you have to hear your voice inside. Everybody has the voice inside.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

ROGE: I have the song for that in this album too - "Existe Uma Voz."

SHAPIRO: "Existe Uma Voz" - I was just going to ask about that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EXISTE UMA VOZ")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Tell us about this.

ROGE: Everybody has a voice inside. You have to hear this voice. You know, if you are quiet and protection (ph), you - everybody - you have a chance to understand what the good direction to go because always life's testing you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EXISTE UMA VOZ")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

SHAPIRO: To take a step back from the conversation about your life and your move and talk a little bit more about the music, I was curious about the difference between samba and samba-funk. Can you talk about what is happening rhythmically when you are doing a traditional samba and when you're doing samba-funk?

ROGE: Yeah. This is a good example, you know, because when I make this song, I think the guys play funk, like funk - like James Brown funk, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET UP OFFA THAT THING")

JAMES BROWN: Ow.

ROGE: We use the 16 - (imitating maracas).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET UP OFFA THAT THING")

BROWN: Say it now. (Whistling). Yeah. I'm back.

ROGE: You have this one in samba too - (imitating maracas).

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

ROGE: (Imitating maracas) - we have this. We have - when you use the 16, it's the same when you do samba.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RETUMBAR DO MEU TAMBOR")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

It's (inaudible) - (vocalizing).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RETUMBAR DO MEU TAMBOR")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

The other one is "Eu Gosta Dela."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EU GOSTA DELA")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

SHAPIRO: So tell us what we're hearing in this one.

ROGE: This is - it's more the - have samba and have funky, too, because it's - the samba is (vocalizing). It's half samba.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EU GOSTA DELA")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

But the guitar is sometimes played double. We mix it with the double time and half time. It's a kind of mix, too, with Brazilian - very Brazilian and, I think, sounds universal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EU GOSTA DELA")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

SHAPIRO: People will obviously listen to this album in different contexts, but I understand that the context of your live performances is very specific. Can you paint a picture for us of - when you are in a room doing a show, what's happening?

ROGE: For me is like a spiritual thing - the stage, you know, the room and - because you have the energy with the people with you. For me, the crowd makes the show.

SHAPIRO: You describe making music as a spiritual experience, and there are a couple songs on this album that talk explicitly about spirituality. Can you tell us about one of them?

ROGE: Yes, I can tell about "Yemanja."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YEMANJA")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese).

Yemanja is a god of creation. Yemanja is a god of the ocean. So in Brazil, we have a religion we call Candomble. It's a beautiful ritual. And we have a - like a (speaking Portuguese) has like a sense...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

ROGE: ...For every power of the nature.

SHAPIRO: Do you feel like you're channeling this energy when you perform these songs, or are you singing about someone else's traditions?

ROGE: No, no, I really feel that. I really feel just - for me, I'm always - try to open for that energy. So these energies protect me and guide me, you know? And I has - I have a lot of respect for that because that is make me strong. I never alone - never.

SHAPIRO: That's Roge, spelled R-O-G-E. His new album is "Curyman." Thank you so much.

ROGE: Thank you so much, Ari, for space, for your attention, you know, thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISTERIO DA RACA")

ROGE: (Singing in Portuguese). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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