Brazil is a vast country, and its territory is larger than the continental
U.S. that is much of a cultural melting pot where African, European and native
cultures have blended together into something they can call their own.
Being such a huge nation,
several different rhythms and musical styles developed in the different regions,
and that is what The Pulse of Brazil, a selection of songs from all
over the country, has to show us.
What everyone knows is
samba, the beat that Carmen Miranda brought to this country via Hollywood.
The rhythm is represented here by two tracks.
original song by Rio de Janeiro's Grupo Raça. Their variation on the
beat is pagode, which is the music that people perform at informal
get-togethers in homes and bars of Rio and other cities. The lyrics usually
talk about love won and lost, and also about humorous aspects of everyday
A darker side of samba
is represented through the critical eye of Bezerra da Silva. Way before there
was gangsta rap in the US, Bezerra sang about the lives of the people who
live in the favelas (shantytowns) of Rio de Janeiro, their distrust
of official authority and the strange glamorization of criminal life.
In "Malandragem Dá
Um Tempo," which would translate into Hey Bro, Give Me a Break Here,
he tells his friend that he will roll a joint, but will not light it up because
the police are in the area and he doesn't feel like getting in trouble with
the law at that specific moment.
the music of the Northeast, a syncopated two-by-two beat to which couples
dance till the sun comes up. The rhythm was relegated as unsophisticated for
a long time even though the late Luis Gonzaga became a legend in the country,
but in recent years the beat has gone mainstream through clever marketing
by labels who specialize in releasing large amounts of the beat.
In the album, there are
three forró tracks: a more traditional song Baião de
Corda ("Ó do Borogodó", which is untranslatable),
a more commercial track ("Mexe-Mexe," by Banda Mapson, which translates
into "Into the Move") and the very humorous Severina Xique-Xique,
by legend Genival Lacerda.
Lacerda is the icon of
the comedy forró in which the lyrics are made as to have a double
meaning: what sounds innocent actually is a blatant song of sexual innuendoa
trick that composers picked up during the years of heavy censorship in the
60s and 70s
In Severina Xique-Xique,
he tells us of a poor, ignored girl (Severina) who started a boutique, and
now all the guys in town want to be with her because they have "their
eyes into her boutique". But if one carefully listens to the words we
know that the "boutique" is actually something else...
In the late 50s, Antônio
Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto combined samba with elements of cool
jazz, and that caught the attention of American musicians such as Charlie
Byrd and Stan Getz. After the release of albums such as Jazz Samba and Getz/Gilberto
in the early 60s the style conquered the world.
Bossa-nova is represented
here by pianist Luiz Avelar, who has worked with Milton Nascimento, Gilberto
Gil and others, and he gives us a beautiful rendition of Djavan's "Aquele
Um" (That One).
The only bad moments in
The Pulse of Brazil are when they showcast Axé, the popular beat that
emerged from Bahia in the late 80s.
Instead of the original
tracks, the CD has here cheap remakes (using electronic sounds!) of popular
Bahia songs such as "Prefixo de Verão" (The Opening of Summer),
"Doce Multidão" (Sweet Crowd) and two others.
Apart from those assorted
tracks, The Pulse of Brazil is a highly enjoyable album which I can
The Pulse of Brazil,
Various Artists, Arc Music, http://www.arcmusic.co.uk
Another version of this article appeared in Gaytoday.
is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance
writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette
since September 1999. His work has also been published by Brazzil,
The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island Register, The
SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other publications.
He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at email@example.com