On the death of Ivan Conti: A legend with the playfulness of a child

Foto: © Far Out Recordings
As a drummer, he was an innovator who combined the rhythms of his Brazilian homeland with Western music. And he wrote music history with his band Azymuth. As a human being, he retained his childlike playfulness and curiosity. Up to the very end. Ivan Conti has died at the age of 76.

He was a musician through and through. When he sat at his drums and played, as he did last year at a concert on Lindwerder Island in Berlin, he beamed with the smile of a child who is completely at ease with himself. Many people try to preserve this light-hearted joy, but very few succeed. Called »Mamão« by his classmates in Rio de Janeiro after the Portuguese word for papaya, Ivan Conti said in an interview with the blog »It’s Psychedelic Baby« almost a year ago: »Music is the element that transforms humans into divine beings!«. And so it was in his case. 

A master of rhythm 

But he was not only a drummer who loved his instrument. He was also an innovator. His playing had the tightness of funk, the ecstasy of samba and the melancholic profundity of bossa. His consistent merging of the concepts of Western music with the fine rhythms of his Brazilian homeland puts him on a par with the Nigerian Tony Allen as a drummer. 

His consistent merging of the concepts of Western music with the fine rhythms of his Brazilian homeland puts him on a par with the Nigerian Tony Allen as a drummer.

He brought this between-the-worlds sound to life, above all with his band Azymuth. Samba doido, crazy samba, was the name given to their music. Ivan Conti met José Roberto Bertrami (2012) and Alex Malheiros in 1968. They founded the cover band Grupo Seleção and mainly worked as session musicians at first, playing with Arthur Verocai, Erasmo Carlos, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben, Raul Seixas. They owe their name to Marcos Valle, on whose album »Previsão Do Tempo« they can be heard playing as backing band. They have been playing their own songs since 1973. Their first album »Azimüth« was released in 1975, around 30 more followed. They celebrated their 50th anniversary this year and have a big tour lined up for the summer to mark the occasion. 

Tired? Never! 

Born in 1946, Ivan Conti has not slowed down in his old age. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nothing could ever stop him. During a hip operation in 2005, he had titanium implanted on the right-hand side, the side responsible for the bass drum. Afterwards, it had more oomph, but not less swing. The left-hand side, the hi-hat side, followed in the late 2010s (thanks to a big fundraiser). But even that couldn’t stop him. 

He continued to tour tirelessly, releasing some of his most remarkable albums in the last 15 years, such as »Fênix« with Azymuth, the solo album »Poison Fruit«, which he recorded largely on his own and on which he experimented with elements of electronic music, and »Sujinho«, recorded together with Madlib as Jackson Conti, which suddenly made him known to a much younger audience in 2008. A strong curiosity and passion for all kinds of music drove him. 

As his record company Far Out Recordings announced yesterday in a press release, Ivan Conti has unexpectedly passed away at the age of 76. The cause of death was not disclosed. 

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