Archive for January, 2010

Negro É Lindo

January 13, 2010 2 comments

Jorge Ben – Negro É Lindo (Phillips, 1971)

Today I find myself in a Starbucks somewhere in Downtown San Francisco. They ran out of bagels, it looks like rain, I have a fifty pound backpack with me and I’m not sure where I’m staying tonight. So obviously, I only need the best feel-good music right now.

I’m posting another Tropicalia album by one of the more discreet figures of the scene. Like Jards Macalé he is also a native of Rio de Janeiro and was somewhat of an outcast of the movement. He did not fit into Macalé’s group either as Ben’s focus was a bit more light-hearted and reminiscent of street samba of the favelas. What distinguishes and makes Jorge Ben a lasting figure is his heavy use of samba, as well as soul – two styles which were born in and dominate black neighborhoods – and incorporating them with the rock and bossa-nova music his contemporaries were playing. Jorge Ben’s music will often fuse samba drumming and whistles, bossa nova piano, and powerful soul singing to create a song that is both soothing and beautiful, but upbeat and danceable.

Negro É Lindo is a great record, but it’s hard to go wrong with any of Ben’s releases from this time period. The main reason why I posted this record versus any of his others is for the song “Cigana.” It opens so sweetly and serenely with a very clean bell and acoustic guitar, Jorge Ben’s smooth voice seeps into your ears like honey and dreamy violins ease away all tension. Overall, this is a fantastic album with a perfect blend of oneiric bossa-soul songs and lively samba-soul tracks. Interest in Jorge Ben’s music has resurfaced in the US as most of his early stuff has been reissued recently and he is more and more widely appreciated. Get going on this already!

1. Rita Jeep
2. Porque é Proibido Pisar Na Grama
3. Cassius Marcelo Clay
4. Cigana
5. Zula
6. Nego é Lindo
7. Comanche
8. Que Maravilha
9. Maria Domingas
10. Palomaris

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Categories: 1971, brazil, tropicalia

Mind Fusion Vol.1

January 12, 2010 1 comment

Madlib – Mind Fusion Vol. 1 (???, 2004)

Madlib is one of my favorite hip hop producers of all time. His body of work goes so deep, constantly making groundbreaking beats, and redefining the concept of what a beat is. By thoroughly sampling from the deep bombshelter of jazz, funk, soul, hip hop and more recently Bollywood and Brazilian music, his breadth is huge. This man can boast working with MF Doom, J Dilla, Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killa, Erykah Badu, Mos Def…. basically an endless list of amazing hip hop artists, but also having worked with legendary Brazillian drummer Mamão Conti of Azymuth on a collaborative album. Madlib’s alias “the Beat Konducta” is not just a slick nickname, but really a fitting title for him as he literally orchestrates samples, loops and beats to create the perfect track.

There’s a lot to say about Madlib, and unfortunately I don’t have time right now to fully delve into a deep study on the artistic significance of Madlib’s groundbreaking beat constructions. Instead I’m going to look at the album at hand, Madlib’s Mind Fusion Vol. 1. There is not much information available about this record (or any of the other 4 Mind Fusion records), and the official Madlib discography page makes no mention of it either. Regardless, this is definitely Madlib’s work at hand. Each volume in the series runs like a mixtape, and this first one is somewhat of an early Stones Throw sampler with remixes of Oh No, Quasimoto, Jaylib, Madvillain, but also Method Man and Common.

This is a really great mixtape, a lot of fun to listen to. My favorite track on here is probably the Dudley Perkins song, but the Wildchild tracks are also super ripe. I’m not going to post the tracklist on here, but trust me in that you need to hear this whether you’re new to Madlib or not.

For more information on Madlib check out the Stone’s Throw website for more info about the Mind Fusion series check out the Rappcats blog.

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Categories: 2004, hip hop, US

Aprendar a Nadar

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Jards Macalé – Aprender a Nadar (Phillips, 1974)

Macalé is an interesting character in the Brazilian music scene of the late ’60s and ’70s. He was involved in the developing Tropicalia movement by writing music for such musicians as Gal Costa, but due to strict censorship by the military dictatorship at the time he was exiled before recording his first album. He returned to Brazil in ’72 and immediately became a big player of the art community in Rio, hanging out and collaborating with artists, poets and other musicians. Macalé was never really a part of the Tropicalia movement and as his music never was poppy or commercial enough, he always stayed under the radar of the fame.

Interdisciplinary cooperation was a major point of Macalé’s artistic philosophy and Aprendar a Nadar is his first major example of collaboration. The album is a concept album based on the “morbeza romantica,” which translates to the romantic morbid-beauty, a phrase developed by Macalé and poet Waly Salomão. The term meant to represent a sentiment of “ill health and beauty,” a state which represented the Rio artists of the ’70s as they struggled to be creative under the dictatorship. Unlike other artists, the Rio group refused to flee to Europe as ex-patriots, instead choosing to produce art that would get Salomão arrested and tortured and lead poet/journalist Torquato Neto to suicide.

The album itself is a piece of collaborative art in every sense, as the lyrics are put together by Macalé, Salomão, Neto as well as a few other poets and the music is a combination is a mixture of bossa nova, tropicalia, mambo, folk and jazz. The theme of “morbeza romantica” is fully present throughout the album as it is moody, sexy, dark, but just slightly off and uncomfortable. Macalé’s vocals are scotch-smooth, tinged with a bit of fire and irony, but trust me this cat can sing! Gotta love this record, it’s a bit haunting. If it doesn’t grab you on the first lesson, give it a second shot and listen to the way Macalé sings, the way the piano echos and how ironic the strings sound, maybe read some Baudelaire or Marquis de Sade or some Neto.

The following poem by Neto fully illustrates what Macalé and his group were attempting to achieve, it was used in 1982 as a song off Macalé’s album Os Últimos Dias de Paupéria:

Let’s Play That

when I was born
a crazy, very crazy angel
came to read my palm
it wasn’t a baroque angel
it was a crazy, crooked angel
with wings like a plane
and behold, this angel told me,
pressing my hand
with a clenched smile:
go on, pal, sing off key
in the happy people’s choir
go on, pal, sing off key
in the happy people’s choir
let’s play that

1. Jards Anet A Vida
Corações/No Meio do Mato/O Faquir da Dor/Rua Real Grandeza/Pam Pam Pam
3. Imagenes
4. Anjo Exterminado
5. Dona de Castelano
6. Mambo da Cantareira
7. E Dai…
8. Orora Analfabeta
9. Senhor Dos Sabados
10. Boneca Semiotica

For more information about Jards Macalé and his involvement in Rio counter-culture read this article by Marcelo Ballve that appeared in Waxpoetics over the summer. If anyone has links to Tropicalia poetry online, please let me know!

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Categories: 1974, brazil, tropicalia

Los Sueños de América

January 7, 2010 2 comments

Manduka/Los Jaivas – Los Sueños de América (Movieplay, 1974)

A great lazy day album by Brazilian folk singer Manduka and the Chilean psychedelic group Los Jaivas. There is not much information available in English about Manduka at all, but from what I gather he was a folk musician from Brazil who was born into a family of poets and writers. He lived the bohemian lifestyle as he traveled throughout Latin America playing with different groups and incorporating different influences into his music. According to one account he actually lived in a house with Pablo Neruda at one point – very interesting. On his travels in Argentina he joined up with Chilean psychedelic group Los Jaivas and their meeting resulted in this fantastic album.

Los Jaivas, originally from Chile, were ousted after the coup that overthrew Allende in ’73. A Pinochet dictatorship obviously could not handle the rocking political grooves of Los Jaivas so the group moved to Argentina then later relocated again to France. As the first recording since the groups exile, this album must be seen as a reaction to the unjust Pinochet regime. Simply enough in the title, “Los Sueños de América,” we find a sense of hope, and as the album has a drifting dream-like quality, we listen as Manduka and Los Jaivas explain the current state of a Latin America struggling for its identity and for hope in the future.

This record is beautiful, epic and very groovy. Manduka said that this album attempts to explain “the wisdom of the mountains, the intoxication of the sea and the hermetic jungle.” This geographic dialogue is heard through the extensive use of flute, chanting and percussion. A great record to sip coffee to as you start your day, or perfect for tucking you in at night. Favorite track on here is “Date Una Vuelta en el Aire,” absolutely beautiful.

1. Don Juan de la Suerte
2. La Centinela
3. Date Una Vuelta en el Aire
4. Tá Bom Tá Que Tá
5. Traguito de Ron
6. Los Sueños de América
7. Primero Encuentro Latino Americano de la Soledad

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Categories: 1974, brazil, chile, psych-folk