Borderline Latin: Nirvana, The Brazilian Connection

Read more

Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

Earlier this week, on Monday, a couple of posts on Nirvana’s Facebook page generated a few thousand “Likes,” and some juicy love-hate buzz. First, the administrators posted a video of “Come As You Are” covered by Caetano Veloso, “noted composer, singer, political activist,” in their words. The cover comes from Caetano’s album A Foreign Sound; he also covered songs by Talking Heads, Bob Dylan and others. I didn’t particularly love this cover, but some people really hated it. A fan even suggested that no member of the band would be proud about being connected to “someone like Veloso.” That is unfair to both Caetano and Nirvana.

The administrators replied to this “fan who claimed no member of Nirvana was ever into Brazilian music” by posting an image of a 2010 comment by Krist Novoselic in Nirvana’s iTunes’ profile, where he recommends Os Mutante’s song “Bat Macumba” saying, “Kurt used to sing the words of this song himself and play air timbales.” Even some hardcore Nirvana fans are unaware of the admiration that Kurt expressed for Brazilian music, especially for Os Mutantes. There may be little or no samba in Nirvana’s songs, but in 1993, when the band performed in Rock in Rio, Kurt spoke about his respect for Os Mutantes in an interview. He said his friend Bill Bartell had introduced them to him, and that they both agreed it was a great band: “They were very revolutionary.”

Kurt even wrote a personal letter to Arnaldo Baptista asking for an Os Mutantes reunion; it would happen, but Kurt would not live to see it. From 1993, check out Flea playing the trumpet on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Does a trumpet make it sound Latin? Nah, but isn’t this a nice connection anyway?

[insert-video youtube=1KTRjUYtu3Q]

Click HERE to read more “Borderline Latin” profiles. For comments and tips, please contact me at:, and for more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.