The invitation to come to the U.S. is the result of an epic performance this past April at the first Brazilian edition of Lollapalooza, the famed alternative music festival founded by Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell in the 1990s. Marcelo Falcão, O Rappa’s lead singer, stirred the São Paulo crowd into a collective frenzy with his mesmerizing stage presence. Farrell was so impressed that he personally invited O Rappa to perform at the Chicago Lollapalooza alongside bands like Black Sabbath, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, Franz Ferdinand and many more.
“I think he (singer Falcão) is the new Bob Marley,” said Farrell to Brazilian magazine Veja. Falcão later posted a video saying, “It was an honor for me to receive those compliments from him. [I’ve loved Jane’s Addiction] since I was a teenager. Perry Farrell has invited us to play, and we are very excited. The show here in Brazil was unbelievable and gave us energy to perform in Chicago and Miami Beach. It will be great to return to the U.S. once again and play alongside such amazing bands and show everyone our unique mixture of sounds.”
After playing Lollapalooza, O Rappa will head south to Miami Beach for its only headlining concert, featuring a full set of hits and an arsenal of sound and lights. This is a rare U.S. visit, as well as the band’s first performance in Miami.
It’s a breakthrough moment for a group that has paid its share of dues along the way. In 1993, Marcelo Lobato (keyboards), Xandão (electric guitar), Nelson Meirelles (bass) and Marcelo Yuka (drums) joined forces as the backup band for reggae singer Pappa Winnie’s Brazilian tour. They continued playing together after the tour and created the unique sound of O Rappa, one that is backed by a fierce conviction to combat social injustice. The charismatic Falcão soon joined to complete the band.
O Rappa’s self-titled first album was released the following year, evolving the band’s musical identity of reggae, rock, dub, funk and Brazilian rhythms—not to mention a social conscience reflected in such lyrics as, “... After all, in Brixton, Bronx or Baixada (neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro) the injustice is the same—here or there every police van has got a little bit of slave ship inside. ...” This would be the only album with Meirelles, later replaced on bass by Lauro Farias.
In 1996, the album “Rappa Mundi” was a major success. O Rappa exploded onto national radio, and the band played to packed arenas and stadiums across Brazil. Hits from this album remain crowd favorites: “Pescador de Ilusões,” “A Feira,” “Miséria S.A.,” “O Homem Bomba” and ”Eu Quero Ver Gol,” as well as the covers “Ilê Ayê” (Paulinho Camafeu), “Vapor Barato” (Waly Salomão and Jards Macalé) and a rousing reggae/rock version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.”
In 1999, O Rappa released its masterpiece—“Lado B Lado A”—considered by many critics and fans to be the band’s most compelling work. This groundbreaking album includes “Minha Alma (a paz que eu não quero),” “O Que Sobrou do Céu,” “Me Deixa,” “Lado B Lado A” and “Tribunal de Rua”—all instant classics and staples in the band’s live shows. “Lado B Lado A” also earned O Rappa its first of many awards. In 2000, the music video for “Minha Alma” was MTV Brazil’s biggest winner with six awards—Best Direction, Best Edition, Best Photography, Best Rock Clip, Video Clip of the Year and the Audience Choice awards. The following year, “O Que Sobrou Do Céu” won Video Clip of the Year, Best Direction and Best Photography prizes. “Our video clips, (always recognized by major awards for portraying social drama), are the backdrop for all the people that really believe in our message,” says Falcão.
At the end of that year, drummer Marcelo Yuka became another victim of Brazil’s violence. While trying to stop a mugging, Yuka was shot; the injury left him a paraplegic. Unable to play the drums, he kept composing and working in studio with the band and on other parallel projects, but at the end of 2001, Yuka left the band to work on his solo career. O Rappa became a quartet formed of Marcelo Lobato (drums), Farias, Xandão and Falcão, along with Lobato’s brother Marcos on keyboards. This formation recorded the album “O Silêncio Que Precede O Esporro” in 2003, containing the songs “Reza Vela,” “O Salto,” “Rodo Cotidiano” and “Papo de Surdo e Mudo.”
The year 2005 was important in O Rappa’s history due to the release of the popular “Acustico MTV” album. In addition to new, unplugged versions of its famous songs, the album also featured two new compositions: “Na Frente do Reto” and “Não perca as Crianças de Vista.” In the same year, O Rappa won two awards from the cable channel Multishow for Best Group and Best Concert.
In 2006, the unplugged DVD won Multishows’ Best DVD recognition and was also nominated for two Latin Grammy Awards for Best Brazilian Rock Album and Best Long Form Video. The band embarked on an international tour that went through Europe and also the U.S. O Rappa’s Irving Plaza performance earned a glowing review from New York Times music critic Jon Pareles: “Through the years, O Rappa has broadened its music with hard-scrubbing funk guitar, the snappy syncopations of The Police, the growl of dance-hall toasting and the power chords of rap-rock. ... But there was no stopping the band’s agile rhythm section, Mr. Falcão’s mutable voice—which could croon as earnestly as Sting or fire off fast, gruff dancehall syllables—or the audience, which shouted along with every call for justice and resistance.”
In August 2009, the band embarked on an audacious and original project that only O Rappa could pull off. They took over an abandoned bus garage in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s biggest favela (slum), to record the new DVD “O Rappa Ao Vivo,” released in 2010. The DVD, filmed with eight high-definition cameras, captured an epic performance in front of thousands of fans and lasted into the early morning hours. PRS Guitar News was there with guitarist Xandão and experienced the energy of the band and adoration of the fans. “Regardless of the location or the demographics, the crowds at O Rappa shows are fervent. They know every word to every song and sing along freely and without reservation. These fans have more than a passing interest in this band and its music. This is a cultural phenomena.”
O Rappa in the U.S.
Friday, Aug. 3
Lollapalooza, Grant Park, 205 E. Randolph Street, Chicago, www.lollapalooza.com
Sunday, Aug. 5
Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, www.livenation.com