A Espetacular Charanga do França is a São Paulo-based carnival collective and brass band who combine retro horns with cumbia, baile funk, jazz, Michael Jackson and much more as demonstrated on The Importance of Being Espetacular a compilation of their signature songs collected together for their debut worldwide release.

A Espetacular Charanga do França, Thiago França

The Importance of Being Espetacular

Cat No: MAIS045LP
Release date: 1 October 2021
Format: LP
Country: Brazil

A Espetacular Charanga do França is a São Paulo-based carnival collective and brass band who combine retro horns with cumbia, baile funk, jazz, Michael Jackson and much more as demonstrated on The Importance of Being Espetacular a compilation of their signature songs collected together for their debut worldwide release.


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Listen to: The Importance of Being Espetacular

1. Hasta la Cumbia
2. Carnaval Arco-Íris (feat. Verônica Ferriani)
3. Vem Desacatar (feat. Lucas Santtana)
4. Cadê Renan?
5. Eu te Conheço (feat. Suzana Salles)
6. Cheia de Manias
7. O Capitão do Sax (feat. Juçara Marçal)
8. Cara do Apetite (feat. Tulipa Ruiz)
9. Shabab’La
10. O Trombonista
11. Hino da Charanguinha (feat. Verônica Ferriani)
12. Não Para (Don’t Stop 'Til You Get Enough)
13. Obá Iná

Item Description

The group is the brainchild of saxophonist Thiago França, best known as a founding member of Afro-punk explorers Metá Metá, and one of São Paulo’s most in-demand horn players, with credits on influential albums by Criolo, Elza Soares, Céu and Lucas Santtana.

França formed A Espetacular Charanga do França in 2013 as a political act, part of a recent movement that has seen the people of São Paulo reclaim their streets, turning their city into a revelation of Brazilian carnival. Though COVID-19 put a stop to them hitting the streets this year, previous years have seen them draw crowds of over 15,000 revellers making them an iconic staple of São Paulo’s revived carnival. In 2020 they made their way to carnival with over 60 brass players and 30 percussionists, declaring their bloco an anti-fascist zone, their reply to a political climate in Brazil that is suffocating human rights, culture and any hope for equality.

A Espetacular Charanga do França is, without question, França’s most personal and powerful project to date. It maps his life and career: his time listening to the charanga (horn and percussion band) of his local football team, Atletico Mineiro; his formative years playing classic sambas and marchinhas in São Paulo nightclubs; the fervour of hearing frevo and maracatu at Recife-Olinda carnival; the cumbias he discovered in Colombia; his love for 60s samba sax players like Paulo Moura, Zé Bodega and the Sax Sambistas ensemble. All of these experiences flow into the group’s sound which, either as a 100-strong bloco or a smaller ensemble for recording, carries an urgent potency that could only arrive from a band designed to perform for thousands of people on the streets, reliant on their unamplified instruments and collective presence to unify the people in revelry and deliver a clear message of inclusion and respect.

The Importance of Being Espetacular collects the group’s signature songs from digital-only releases plus two new exclusives. The album opens with a cumbia clarion call on “Hasta La Cumbia”, a clear indication that there are no borders in this band whilst “Cadê Rennan” has a rhythm inspired by baile funk, a trick Thiago learnt playing nightclubs in the 90s when his group would throw in what was then an emerging new music from Rio. This is a group that can go from a traditional carnival march (marchinha) such as “O Trombonista” to a bombastic cover of Metá Metá’s “Obá Iná”, their only concern being the energy any song can generate. The two exclusives are a breath-taking cumbia version of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (retitled “Não Para”) and their take on Raça Negra’s “Cheia de Manias”, a 90s pagode [a commercialised subgenre of samba], which again highlights their irreverent approach.

Guest vocalists including Juçara Marçal (Metá-Metá), Verônica Ferriani, Suzana Salles and Lucas Santtana all get involved, the latter writing “Vem Desacatar” especially for the bloco. Tulipa Ruiz joins in on the rousing frevo-accented “Cara do Apetite”, with her father Luiz Chagas providing stinging guitar, a nod to the guitarra baiana style of carnival music which Caetano Veloso recorded in the 1970s. On “Shabab’La” we get to hear another side of the bloco; this one was especially written for Thiago’s daughter. A Balkan-inspired rhythm, when played live at carnival, the revellers are invited to slow down and speed up in time with the music. It’s one of a number of songs written with children in mind, a concerted attempt by Thiago to turn the collective into a family that encompasses multiple generations and not just the latest objet du jour for Brazil’s young elites.

“The idea of the charanga, to play acoustically to a lot of people, to get this vibe going on, is an energy thing. You have to play powerfully, you have to blow very hard to get heard. You know when you go to see a concert and people are playing really smooth and the arrangements are very intrinsic, the dynamics are very controlled so everything can sound right? The charanga is the opposite of this, you have to play as loud as you can. There was always something special in this concept. You had to really put yourself into it.” Thiago França

The popularity of A Espetacular Charanga do Franca, who first played warm-up gigs for carnival until it’s destiny drove it to become a main attraction, has occurred in sync with the growth of São Paulo’s own carnival. Prior to the 2010s the city’s carnival had largely been anaesthetised. What was a heady party up to the 1970s moved from the streets to a dedicated Sambodromo arena, a way of the authorities to control the event, and coincidentally push the working-class (and often Afro-Brazilian) people who celebrated the festival away from it. Local laws ensured that right into this century there was no carnival on the streets. “It wasn’t forbidden”, says Thiago, “but it wasn’t allowed. You had absolutely no help whatsoever from the city. We won’t help, you can’t close the street”, with a ban on street advertising meaning that the samba schools were not able to fund blocos with sponsors in the way that is commonplace in other cities. This changed around 2010 when a few blocos started to form and, despite some arrests, a movement grew until a new mayor let the shackles off, finally supporting carnival’s return to the streets. Astonishingly, it is claimed that in 2019 more people partied during carnival in São Paulo (14 million people) than in any of Brazil’s more famous carnival destinations (Rio, Salvador, Olinda), clarification that the carnival spirit is back, and stronger than ever.

A Espetacular Charanga do França are at the heart of this return to the city’s public spaces, which represents a clear break with an ideology that has burdened São Paulo for many years: “We grew up with this notion of no entertainment, no art, no going out on the streets”, says Thiago. “This is a very strong feeling in São Paulo still”. It’s a city known for its residents’ predilection for driving everywhere they go, oblivious to the poverty and homelessness on the streets. These problems have only got worse during the pandemic and so, along with other blocos, A Espetacular Charanga do Franca, has tried to address the issue of food poverty head on, cooking meals each week for those who need it the most.

“We get involved with social stuff, because the Charanga is a very powerful weapon. I have all of these people mobilised, everyone is here, everyone is one message away from doing something. I can send one text to the bloco on WhatsApp and I can get all these people together and doing something. It’s too powerful to just be sitting there waiting for February.” Thiago França

Note: In Brazil charanga is the word used for brass/percussion bands at football matches, in Fcarnival they usually call such bands fanfarras or orquestras.