A David Byrne style update on Brazil

10 Sep

When you’re hoping for an update on Brazil with a slightly oft-kilter but ultimately prescient nature you can’t really do much worse than David Byrne. Luckily, he has been writing about Brazil on his blog, which I can handily paste in here. He basically highlights the film “Saudade do Futuro” as one to look out for as well as mentions for Caetano Veloso and CéU. The first of these doesn’t really need any introduction, other than to say he still has it, but CéU maybe does. She is still getting bigger and bigger but yet to really break the US or England yet. She played in London for the second time this summer, and has been popping on all kinds of different albums, including new releases by Herbie Hancock and 3namassa. As Mr Byrne says, it really is only a matter of time before she makes it. Here’s what he had to say in full:

Brasil Update

The other day I watched a Brazilian film called Saudade do Futuro, a documentary about Northeastern musicians in São Paulo. This means the poor Northeast in Brasil, not Northeast as in Connecticut. The film is very poetic — there is almost no voice over, and almost no didactic explanations of what we’re seeing — but those techniques are made unnecessary because the style of music — forró, and especially repentismo — tell the stories of the singers’ harsh lives in the lyrics. The latter style consists of rap/rhyming duels, with the singers also playing pandeiros (tambourines with heads, to us northerners). They describe how they had to leave the Northeast — as Luiz Gonzaga did decades ago — and their struggles to survive in the big city. There’s a lot of humor and innuendo in the lyrics as well. Years ago I went to a forró club in SP and it was lovely — great dancing and live music blasting over a horrific PA system.

The filmmakers intersperse the musical scenes with poetic footage of São Paulo — the stock exchange, the street bustle, the commuter trains — that also have a kind of musicality to them. It all fits together in a way that is lovely but inexplicable.

I saw Caetano Veloso’s show here recently at Terminal 5. He’s touring with a band led by guitarist Pedro Sá. The music from his last two records is minimal and raw — rock with a subtext of samba. Lyrics about relationships gone bad, the US base at Guantanamo and drug addicts. Not exactly feel good stuff — but he manages inevitably to make it enjoyable and even beautiful. His pleasure in performing was infectious. It was the best sound mix I’ve ever heard at Terminal 5.

Sunday night I saw Céu, a singer who is one of the exponents of the kind of electronic-roots hybrids now coming out of Brasil. She does a very contemporary kind of music that’s informed by a myriad of historical (mostly Brazilian) styles. The band was, like Caetano’s, minimal — bass, drums, keyboards, and a guy who played samples by using discs as a DJ might… but in this case he played the discs manually, triggering sounds off his laptop. In the last few years she’s gotten hugely popular — well, everywhere except the USA. I expect that might change soon.

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