Album Review: Grupo Bongar + Maga Bo – Macumbadaboa (Kafundó Records; October 2019)

Macumbadaboa, the collaborative release from the afoxe collective Grupo Bongar and music producer DJ Maga Bo is a rootsy and catchy take on African and Brazilian rhythms, steeped in Afro-Brazilian heritage and fused with electronic music. Grupo Bongar are from the Xambá community in the coastal city of Olinda, north-east Brazil, in the state of Pernambuco, known as one of the best-preserved colonial cities and a UNESCO Heritage site. The album is inspired by the memorial of Mãe Bo, which the Xambá community have fervently decorated with photos, relics, and antiques. It became the temporary home of the collaboration, and the makeshift studio from Mago Bo was set up in order to record the album.

The results of this fusion has birthed an album that feels both groove-heavy and grounded, and also current and exciting. It delves into compelling vocals, ceremonial rhythms and well-composed arrangements related to the history of Grupo Bongar and the history of the people from the Xambá terrario, going from afoxe rhythms in the opening track ‘Macumbadaboa’ to Brazilian afrobeat in the second song ‘Manhacá’, and also coco and maculele rhythms. Cutting into intricate percussion is a symbolic trait of this record. Always grounded but also reaching out. Innovative and respectful. ‘Passuê’ is an incredibly catchy song that adds a beautiful chorus to the drumming, which hits the soul beautifully.

The collaboration between Grupo Bongar and DJ Maga Bo, whose practices as a producer lead him to source a lot of Brazilian cultural heritage, as well as to move from Seattle, USA to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has benefitted each of them really well. Their aims work well together; Grupo Bongar towards the preservation and sharing of their musical culture within Olinda, and Mago Bo’s impulse to introduce Brazilian folk music to the electronic world. The album does have a preference for drum rhythms and musicality of those in Brazil, such as those from the Xangô religion, forro and maracatu. They have created a very rhythmic album with preference for bass frequencies.