The Radar: Ocean Waves Band Brazil

Collaborating with musicians from the afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion, Ocean Waves may be involved in one of the most interesting projects we’ve heard in a long time.

By Shaun Ponsonby
Wed 09 February, 2022

Ocean Waves Productions initially built a reputation for alternative rock and indie: The Sneaky Nixons, The Shipbuilders, Jimmy & The Revolvers. But it didn’t take them long to move on to something far more interesting, such as their 2018 excursion to Jamaica.

Now they find themselves in Brazil, forming a new band to play the music of Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that comes from the ancient tradition of the Yoruba culture in Africa.

Candomblé is a religion with a vast culture and rich in precepts. It originated in the city of Ifé, Africa, and was brought to Brazil by the Yoruba people. Their gods are the Orishas, of which only 16 are cultured in Brazil.

Music has always been considered sacred by cultures around the world. The aboriginals even believed that life itself was sung into existence. So for Ocean Waves, this is a return to the roots of music, when it was composed merely of drums and chants and played primarily to celebrate supernatural entities, or to reach a meeting between man and the sacred. All members of Ocean Waves Band Brazil belong to this religion.

This is a world that remains unknown to most of western civilization,” says Ocean Waves founder Carlo Variola. “From a western perspective, we could say that this is the primal form of what nowadays is called ‘trance music’, a music created to reach an altered state of consciousness”.

In Candomblé, the music drives the followers into this altered state of consciousness called Transe-Possession. They believe that this is how they get closer to their God, Olodumare.

For us at Ocean Waves Productions, this is a unique opportunity to diversify and open our musical ears and minds and learn about new rhythms and melodies that may at first seem strange and unknown to us,” Variola says.

The project also concerns anthropology, ethnopsychology, ethnomusicology and explores a territory that remains largely unknown to most people in Western civilisation.

We must also remember that the afro-Brazilian communities suffered and still suffer a lot of discrimination in Brazil,” says Variola. “We are very happy to do our part in spreading the Afro-Brazilian culture, making it accessible in Europe and other places in the world. We hope our project will help to break prejudices.”

There will be two versions of each song coming out of the project; a traditional one (played as the music is played during the religious functions of Candomblé), and a remixed one featuring collaborations with DJs/producers from different parts of the world – current collaborators include Moodymanc from Manchester, French producer Leames and Liverpool’s own Germanager.

There is a stark contrast between the original versions and the remixes. Unsurprisingly, the remixes contemporise the Candomblé ethos, but we can’t say they dilute it. If the original sound is designed to put us in a trance-like state, then really dance music is its closest bedfellow.

The remixes produced so far are all respectful, artful and do what great remixes are supposed to do; recontextualise the music in an original and unique way, one that makes us think differently about the music we are hearing. A redundant “dumph-dumph-dumph” rendering of this music would be offensive. It’s a fine line to walk, but the DJ’s and producers here have created effective reframing of the original work by the Ocean Waves Band Brazil and the Candomblé musicians.

This is by far one of the most interesting projects we’ve heard in quite some time. You can feel the passion from everybody involved for this music, whether they are Candomblé musicians, or the Westerners energised by their discovery of something they perhaps were unaware existed.