Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jun 19th 2007 11:00AM by Steve Hochman
But there's just never been a Brazilian Bob Marley, someone who would make the nation's music truly global. Still, the seeds planted along the way are bearing more fruit now than ever -- and not just in the reunion tours of psychedelic tropicalia legends Os Mutantes and Mendes' own Starbucks-approved collaboration with the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am last year. In recent months, three somewhat lower-profile albums reveal some very intriguing ideas at work with Brazilian forms, both in and out of the country itself. Arguably, the most rewarding developments in Brazilian music these days are originating along the vibrant beaches of the Northeast, where a generation is re-embracing the traditions of the local, rustically romantic forró styles but with various modern twists.
David Byrne himself collected some sharp examples in the recent Luaka Bop anthology 'What's Happening in Pernambuco: New Sounds of the Brazilian Northeast.' The accordion, zabumba drum and triangle core is represented, mixed in with DJ beats and other touches that bring the music up to date, generally enhancing rather than detracting from the form's natural appeal. Some of the tracks here take relatively straight, folky approaches. Others veer off into intriguing tangents: Otto's 'Bob' blends in techno production and layered, scatty vocals. Cabruêra's 'Erectuos Cactos' has what sounds like sawing cellos and finger-style guitar in what perhaps could be taken as a nod to 20th century Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, who often drew on indigenous styles.
And other tracks, including Cidadão Instigado's 'O Pobre dos Dentes de Ouro' readdress the breezy bossa nova vibes more effectively than Mendes' updates. Surprisingly, or maybe not, a more traditional approach comes not from Pernambuco but from New York, home of a group calling itself Forró in the Dark (above), whose debut album was released in November but is now starting to reach a growing audience. The group grew from a jam at a birthday party for percussionist-producer Mauro Refosco, and it shows: The casual buoyancy of the songs on 'Bonfires of São João' carries through, the musicians (including longtime Beck guitarist Smokey Hormel) committed first and foremost to the spirit of forró, though with no lack of skills in the musicality. And guest appearances by Byrne, Bebel Gilberto and Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori only add to the festive tone.
And then there's the Brazilian band Bonde Do Rolê. Just a look at the cover of the group's new debut album gets the message across: There's the giant Jesus statue that looms, famously, in the hills overlooking Rio de Janeiro -- but with laser beams shooting out from his eyes. Coming in the wake of São Paulo-based electroclash buzz band CSS ("Cansei de Ser Sexy," which means "tired of being sexy") and produced by Diplo, the Philly figure who helped craft Anglo-Sri Lankan wonder M.I.A.'s astounding debut two years ago, the album 'Bonde Do Role With Lasers' pushes a mix of New Wave dance punk, samples ranging from AC/DC to 'Grease,' absurdist lyrics (in Portuguese) and irreverent attitude well beyond the modernist "baile funk" genre -- or any genre. Maybe it's best to stop the futile attempts at description and just point to the music, or even better, the '80s-evoking video for the song 'Office Boy.' Forget Brasil '66. This is Brasil '07.