Q & A: Latinaotearoa

Q & A: Latinaotearoa

As so neatly encapsulated in that combo handle, Latinaotearoa is about blending Kiwi music influences with those of the colourful cultures of South America – meaning they overlay soul, jazz and hip hop with Latin funk. It’s also the blend of Brazilian-born Auckland DJ Bobby Brazuka and the Venezuelan voice of Jennifer Zea. Their 2013 debut album was self-titled, the follow up recorded in the colourful surrounds of Brazil cleverly badged ‘Latinaotearoa in Latinoamerica’. After a break, they’ve returned with ‘Influencis et Collabis’, described as ‘an almost spiritual journey through the Latin and soul influences that inspired their musical careers.’ Bobby Brazuka answered NZM’s questions.

Bobby Brazuka says he learned all he knows about producing an album from working with former Latinaotearoa bandmate Isaac Aesili on their first two releases. Their third studio album, ‘Influencis Et Collabis’, sees the Brazilian/Auckland and Venezuelan/Auckland Jennifer Zea collaborate with the likes of contemporary Kiwi jazzer Nathan Haines, the versatile talent of Yoko-Zuna and Laughton Kora, and hip hop artists Melodownz (Bronson Price) and Team Dynamite.

How did the new album launch tour go and what’s been the reaction to ‘Influencis Et Collabis’?

The album has been well received. Jazzy Samba [featuring Team Dynamite] became our hit with more than 110,000 plays on Spotify and one of Red Bull’s most viewed premiered videos. The tour went really well with full venues around NZ and Australia. We are now looking and keep pushing our album with a summer tour starting in the end of December until mid-January, followed by summer festivals. This album is more urban – less Latino. There’s a lot of hip hop, but good hip hop. There’s reggae… I am trying to reach out to more people.

Have you and Jennifer been the core of Latinaotearoa from the start?

Yes, we were from the start of it. Then we had Isaac Aesili for the first two albums, for about four years. We’ve been doing this for six years and it’s been a great journey. Her stuff is more like salsa, cumbia. I was more like bossa nova, samba, folk, boogaloo, groove sounds of Brazil. But then I received so much Latin work that I started getting quite big. That’s when I met Jennifer.

We decided it would be a cool thing to put together a melting pot of South American music with South Pacific flavours, and that’s what Latinaotearoa is. It’s pretty unique and pretty cool. It’s been a good musical journey so far.

What’s her background?

She was born in Venezuela. Lived in Detroit when she was younger then met her husband and lived in Paris for a while then Melbourne then to NZ and then stayed here. She was in a heavy metal band.

And what about you? When did you come here?

I was an exchange student in ’97. Went back to Brazil and have been back since 2000 so been here for 20 years.

You were on a radio DJ for quite a while. What’s your musical taste/background?

On George FM – I left after my family started getting bigger. I was there for 14 years. I used to smash it to get airtime for my music. I have a massive record collection. My influences are the Brazilian groups, soul, funk, jazz of the ‘70s, bossa nova, Brazilian funk, disco, everything that comes from old vinyl and rare, that’s where we sample our music from.

How did you and Jennifer first meet?

I was on my radio show on George FM and someone sent her over. She had just moved to NZ and she had a bossa nova band that was going to play a gig, so they sent her over to do some promo for it. I interviewed her then I went to the gig and liked it. She was already kind of getting into Kiwi music, reggae etc, like Che Fu, House of Shame, Tahuna Breaks.

I said, ‘Why don’t we just do instrumentals and you do the vocals?’ and it was a good combo. We started getting asked to do festivals and its been a great six years so far. We asked Isaac to join us and it was just fantastic, the combo the three of us was great too.

Any particular reason why you’re not together now?

Isaac decided that he’s too busy, he’s not around at the moment but he’s just so busy that he just couldn’t give 100% to us and so he decided to leave. But he left a good legacy. I learned a lot, he taught me a lot about how to produce an album and that’s what I did with this, I just copied him everything he taught me – it was pretty fun!

There were 14 tracks on the first album. Had you been working on it for a long while?

We had a lot of demos to be honest and we were busy talking to other people to do stuff. That first one was a bit more worked on. We had some demos from Isaac from the open source tapes and made the album. For the second album we went to Brazil and did it from scratch. It had 12 songs.

You did some remixes as well after the second release.

Yeah, an album of remixes of first two albums, we reached out to different DJs to do the remixes. It was really cool.

Most of the tracks on ‘Influencis Et Collabis’ seem to include other collaborators?

This one is full of collaborations. The name of the album says it all – influences and collaborations. We had music that influenced us and we sample it, or we make versions of it and then we have different guests come in and play, do their verses, do their part.

Was it you who approached the other artists for the collaborations?

Yes, they didn’t know we were making an album, so in the back of my mind was, ‘What about this person, that person’, and I hit them up. Some of them are good friends of mine and I asked them to come in and be part of our album. Jennifer has worked with Nathan Haines before.

Nathan’s been very unwell, hasn’t he?

Yes, he’s got clear of cancer now. I was very privileged to have him to want to do a song with me. Then when he became sick he still called me, coming out of the hospital to finish this song, and I would go to his house and we were working on it. It was pretty cool.

How did you feel like the last album went down?

It was okay. It was very ambitious, trying to do Latin American in South America. We went there with Ladi6 and then we were touring and then had a week in Red Bull studio in Sao Paolo. We were very lucky to get some musicians to come in and give their time to us, and that’s when we made demos – just people playing, it was really, really cool. But when we came back we were really poor so we couldn’t go to a proper publicist or distributor. We had to do our own which was a good lesson. We learned this time that we should go with people that make it more professional.

It’s difficult to make money out of niche music obviously, but I suppose you learn more over time?

There’s a lot of expectations when you do an album, that you put so much work into it you want it to be amazing that everybody should love it. But the reality is that people are busy, they listen to what they are familiar with and we are so niche. I can see a lot of good things coming out of the vista with the third album, it’s getting a lot more attention and I’m really excited about it.”

Your last album was released 2014, when did you start working on this one?

In 2016, we had a leftover tune called Leave It which features Brazilian rapper Black Alien, that’s co-produced by Isaac. I made a single and I left it there. I had a baby who took a lot of my time and I just came back into it in 2016. We started slowly getting back into it and last year I put a lot of effort into it in the last year to make it happen now.

There’s an argument that the lyrics being in English helps, in an English-speaking country

This album is one where there are more English speaking songs, it’s about half and half. Melodownz is in English for example, others are melodies, one in Spanish and one in Portuguese, quite multi-cultural. But more in English in this album – we want to start moving that way.

Jazzy Samba’s had a lost of listens – well over 100,000. What do you put that down to?

I don’t know what makes it so popular. Mark James Williams (Slave) made a video for it. We hired a boat and went out and filmed it from 5am to about 6pm. We used a drone for some of it.

What’s your own favourite on the album?

Tu Manera, a reggae one that’s the first track. Our publicist and the rest of the band like the Melodownz tune [Under The Sun] which is also beautiful, it’s cool.

What’s the process of the collaboration between you and Jennifer?

Mostly it’s me who comes up with the ideas. I actually come up with a reference first cos if she doesn’t even like the reference I might not get into the demo. So I say, ‘I want to do something like that, what about this?’ And she’s like, ‘Na, na, don’t like it,’ or ‘I love it’. Then I go away and work on it and come up with a tune.

She comes in sometimes she does it right on the spot. I’m like, ‘Did you make any lyrics for this?’ And she will say, ‘Well I had an idea in the car.’ She’s quite clever, sometimes comes up with something real good.

And how do you assemble the tracks?

I would get together with some other producers such as Haz Beats, Isaac Aesili and Nathan Haines and make demos with samples we would get from my old and rare Latin/Brazilian records. After that we would bring musicians such as Nathan himself, our band member Guy Harrison with keys, piano and Rhodes to give that nice jazzy, Latin sound to the tracks.

Chip Matthews would recreate bass lines, Miguel Fuentes does some of the percussion as well as Richard Cesar and Antonio Karam. Then we would layer Jennifer’s vocals with all other rap vocals like the Team Dynamite crew and Melodownz to put the cherry on top

Is it that when you come up with a track you already know the particular person you want to work with?

When you do the demo. I just think about whoever’s available and who’s going to be good for it. That Tu Menera song I knew that Kila Meraru, who plays for Black Seeds and has played with Che Fu, I wanted him to do the chord. Our keyboard player Guy Harrison, he changes a lot of the songs as well, when it was just a demo he made a whole song.

Any thought that you might want to do any remixes yet?

I want to breathe this first, I was so happy to have it finished, and the next step is to do the tour and play for people, see how people receive it. Then I will have a relaxed time and just see my family and go away for a little bit, then prepare for summer.

It’s such a snowball, it’s never finished, but making the album is a milestone. You’ve got to do it, especially in our niche market. We can’t just sit back, relax and wait for gigs to come out to us, we’ve got to keep working. We don’t know where we want to go. We would like to do some drum & bass, electronic – we’re going to see where the journey will take us.