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Brazzil - Music - April 2004
 

A Brazilian Buffet of Sounds

In The Pulse of Brazil CD release, 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 people living in Rio's favelas, their distrust of official
authority and the strange glamorization of criminal life.

Ernest Barteldes


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.

"Isaura," an 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 life.

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.

Forró is 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 innuendo—a 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 thoroughly recommend.


The Pulse of Brazil, Various Artists, Arc Music, http://www.arcmusic.co.uk


Another version of this article appeared in Gaytoday.
Ernest Barteldes 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 ebarteldes@yahoo.com


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