Tripping Out on El Mascarado

Hi, I’m Gorda, and I am a snob. *In unison* “Hi Gorda.” Not only am I a snob when it comes to music, I am also a snob about the people I know, including the five Snobs curating this blog. 

Today, El Mascarado turns 30, and I wanted to pay tribute to this amazing human being (the best one I know) by allowing you to get to know him more. From bouncy Hip-Hop to smooth and funky Soul, I will attempt to show you the different sides of who he is through the music that he listens to.

There is no other way to kick this off but with Cruisin’ (the D’Angelo version, thank you very much). This instant feel-good track is not only theme-appropriate as we dive into this journey together, but, most importantly, it introduces you to El Mascarado via D’Angelo, his all time favourite artist.

Anderson .Paak comes in second, so let’s put on some Reachin’ 2 Much. This one is particularly good because it’s almost a two-for-one deal; just when you think the song is over (and you have already loved it), a second one comes in and you are confused as to how you are still listening to the same track, and loving it even more – a musical representation of El Mascarado, if ever there were one.

[Editor’s Note: the whole Ventura album is a must for getting to know El Mascarado – read his review here.]

Something to know about this particular birthday Snob is that he has lived in more places than he can tell you if you asked him. This is partially because he has a terrible memory, but also because he genuinely lived in ten different countries. One of these countries was Brazil, where we met back in 2006. The two years he lived in Rio de Janeiro, and the countless times he has visited the city since, had a tremendous influence on him – all of which is reflected in his musical taste buds. 

Allow me to take you back to Rio de Janeiro during the late ’60s and ’70s, where the consequences of a military dictatorship led to the most poetic form of revolution: Brazilian Popular Music, led by Chico Buarque and Gilberto Gil. The 80s were marked by soul, funk and jazz being incorporated into traditional Bossa Nova. In Tim Maia’s upbeat song about true love (and the fact that when you are really in love you don’t want money, just that one love), Não Quero Dinheiro – and equally in Marcos Valle’s Mentira – you can notice how hard it is to separate the genres. Now, put on Taj Mahal by Jorge Ben Jor, and let the Brazilian Carnaval take over your body, heart, and mind. All this is to tell you that, after listening to these three songs, you should now know El Mascarado’s essence.

The all-consuming, feel good sensation from these tracks is a reflection of who he really is as a person. El Mascarado has the optimism to think (and genuinely believe) that he is the luckiest guy in the world, even though he managed to have his eyebrows shaved off, and catch both a foot parasite and malaria back-to-back. Despite the obstacles he has faced, he will still try to convince you he is the luckiest person on the planet and ask you how it feels to know that person.

[Editor’s Note: Like Ventura, this post would be way too long if it contained all of Tim Maia and Jorge Ben Jor’s greatest hits, but they all scream El Mascarado, as his good-vibe Brazilian music taste is guaranteed to make your day better. Listen to some more Brazilian music on your own, trust.]

Sunday mornings with the man of the hour feel like time spent with Booker T and the M.G.s’ Sunday Sermon – there is no bad weather. He is always down to get lost on matters of life and love – of nothing and everything – like the effect that Erykah Badu’s Hello (ft. Andre 3000) can have on a person. 

It is also impossible to know El Mascarado without listening to D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar. His sweet, smooth, ’90s sexy neo-soul rhythm is the only way to describe El Mascarado’s—you know what? Scratch that. I’m the only one that should know this side of El Mascarado. You just enjoy Brown Sugar and see what happens. 

We are almost done. By now you must feel some sort of connection. As we close this off, instructions are to be followed carefully: as you press play, turn your speakers up to the maximum volume, close your eyes and sing – even if you don’t know the whole lyrics. Ready? Press play on Frank Sinatra’s My Way

Now you know him. And to know him is to love him (back off, he’s mine), and to love him is to celebrate his life.

Happy Birthday, El Mascarado!