Rio de Janeiro’s Negro Leo Makes Music To Lose Your Mind To

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Née: Sound crumbler Negro Leo.
Raíces: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Sounds like: A bossa band, an Afrobeat outfit, and a free jazz ensemble tumbling down the stairs while someone narrates the event effusively instead of helping them out.
You should listen to Negro Leo because…as random as this may seem, it’s fun and shows great talent and craft.
When you encounter the music made by Negro Leo, it’s invariably a confrontation. It jerks in a spastic rhythm punctuated by a blast of atonal noise made by one or more instruments while Leo sings with vaguely contained emotion. This is music to completely lose your mind to, regardless of what will the neighbors think.


Negro Leo hails from Rio de Janeiro and has four albums to his name so far, the latest being the surprisingly cohesive Ilhas De Calor. The LP’s inventive arrangements and a wide arsenal of instruments lend to a variety of styles, thanks to the contributions by his backup band made up of members of Chinese Cookie Poets and Abayomy Afrobeat Orchestra. Leo is also a member of the band Baby Hitler, who also are into making tons of similar noise. Both will be present at this year edition of NRMAL fest, as Negro will play the Austin Psych Fest showcase along with The Black Angels, Cave, Oxomaxoma, and Acidandali.

Listening to his songs, there’s hardly anything to cling to. Just when you think you can decipher a beat, it dissolves into a blast of random drumming, and when a melody starts to develop, it suddenly morphs into waves of uncontrollable madness, all to a very exhilarating effect. It all sounds improvised but I bet it’s carefully constructed.

Leo takes his cues from the more far-out experimentations of late Sixties tropicalia exponents like Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, and Caetano Veloso, as well as the new wave movement started in NYC by figures like Lydia Lunch and Arto Lindsay (who himself has made a career fusing noise with bossa nova) that later spawned bands like Sonic Youth and Swans. The latter are also slated to appear at this year’s NRMAL, proving that as chaotic as the music might seem, they have a way of coming full circle.