The Story of José Ignacio & Avolta Brazilian Grooves

"In 2004 Podcasts were small, local, personal, about cool stuff, anti-capitalist and above all they were to contain absolutely no copyright material whatsoever..."

Gary Corben Presents Avolta Brazilian Grooves
The cover art for the 2004-6 Avolta Brazilian Grooves Podcast

In the early days of podcasts copyright music was a no-no...

Back in 2004 podcasting was a super new and little understood (including by me) element of the new online frontier – the democratization of access to online content distribution. Before YouTube, and before Google actually did start to do the evil they promised they wouldn’t, podcasting was to be the way forward to reach out to the world of listeners on their new Apple iPod devices.

The BBC and The Guardian in the UK were well ahead of most other entities anywhere and both started placing links to download podcasts (in the case of BBC radio shows, and The Guardian all kinds of culture bits). But there was a guy called Adam Curry who had almost single handedly come up with the concept, defined what a podcast should be and within a few short weeks a self imposed ethos seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Podcasts were small, local, personal, about cool stuff, anti-capitalist and above all they were to contain absolutely no copyright material whatsoever. Recorded music? Only if you were the composer or you had it under a Creative Commons license.

But I could see the potential. If only I could learn how to manage this podcasting lark, I could recreate my radio show without ever having to leave the house with a massive box of records ever again.

Since we began this project in March 2001 we’ve had investment from players within the music industry as well as some investment bankers all of whom see a future for niche music as being very different. Some of those investors had assumed our releases must be strange music of some kind, but then they listen to the reissues and are amazed how fantastic it is. It’s just music that was never marketed properly before.

We have access to thousands of titles we can reissue legitimately as well as a new project currently being recorded by Edson Lobo & Tita featuring Joao Donato and Robertinho Silva. And of course, the best new release for us this year has been Dwitza by Ed Motta (Ed Note: yet to be released in Brasil it should be out in January on Universal Music).

In contrast to most reissue record labels Whatmusic is highly efficient and entrepreneurial and because of that we’re getting more funding this month to fund our expansion plans. That means, more titles!

I'd picked up on the podcasting thing via Wired magazine and was intrigued that anyone could get content published on the Apple iTunes Store.

That was insane. There was just one catch - like most early adopter things online, there was a whole ethos that went along with podcasting and that included 'like no copyright music, maaaan'. This was the dawn of creative commons but I wanted to move my radio show from the defunct Soul247.com - a long forgotten London based global internet radio that was broadcast from an actual studio in Hackney - to an online forum and to me podcasting seemed the way to go.

But, copyright music was a no-no and the morons at the RIAA were still prosecuting music fans for sharing music.

Well, they've never understood the fan mentality - you share, tape, download and then you buy the product - it's called marketing. I was concerned that my show would by default be comprised entirely of copyright music. I wanted to make the shows to share the incredible depths of Brazilian music, that back then most people still weren't aware of.  I knew that 99% of what I would sequence for these shows would never cross the radar of any industry police types, but why take the risk?

The solution? How about inventing a random record collector with a back story in a far off land and I'd never be caught!

Enter Jose Ignacio Brasileiro de Souza e Castro, an elderly gentleman from one of the oldest and noblest families in Rio de Janeiro (but who somehow was au fait with technology and this latest podcasting trend) with a massive record collection who wanted to spread the word for rare Brazilian grooves.

It seemed like a good idea at the time and I'm pretty certain that the for first three shows I was introducing the tracks. That quickly became a chore and so I moved to a more laid back sequenced model, much like the Soundcloud mixes of today. But it really never occurred to me that anyone would take the whole Jose Ignacio thing too seriously, especially when I'd been speaking in English without an accent.

For some time in 2004 (when it was one of only around 1000 podcasts globally, and literally the only music podcast breaking the podcasters' self imposed 'copyright music' embargo on iTunes)

Then again, in 2005/6 I produced shows, each with a theme to hang the tracks on, all of them from my own collection built up over the previous couple of decades digging around record stores, not even realising there were other people out there doing exactly the same thing (Allen Thayer, Maciej Morus I'm looking at you guys).

The end of Avolta - or was it?

After the first few shows in 2004 I pulled the plug making more as it was getting to be really time consuming and I really expected to be getting into issues from those forces who were literally hunting down 'music pirates' back in the day. In order to put an end to the story and set the trail cold, I killed off poor Jose Ignacio for good. I was a bit taken aback that so many listeners emailed and really thought that 'velho José' was a goner.

From herein the shows would be commanded by Jose Ignacio Neto or JIN as he later became known as a some-time contributor of rare records to the also much lamented Loronix website.

Avolta Brazilian Grooves Playlist on Spotify

Later in 2005 there was a mass of podcast aggregators, little startups all wanting to be the Google of podcasts and be the portal for everything. These sites were scraping every podcast they could find online and creating pages for them. This took Avolta Brazilian Grooves podcast to the top of page one in Google for search terms like 'brazilian music' or anyone of the names featured in the shows.

I couldn't ignore the rising popularity of this already defunct show. So I did what any family would do in the circumstances, I passed the baton to my grandson - Jose Ignacio Brasileiro de Souza e Castro Neto. 

Avolta Jr - the return of 'the return' of 'the return'...

So here are those original podcasts, back again for the first 'second time around'.

(Plus new podcasts in higher quality also available on MixCloud)

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