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São Paulo Underground: Três Cabenças Loucuras

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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As the great tradition of Brazilian music swept down in all its glory from the sertão, into the river basins, and gradually to the urban areas of Rio and São Paulo, several mavericks remained in the vanguard, continuing to cross-pollinate the music as it gathered in strength and momentum. Among the first of these was Hermeto Pascoal. The generation of Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil followed. Although Pascoal withdrew to remain close to the music of the Northeast and choro, Buarque, Veloso and Gil (protesting the status quo) formed an urban tribe. With them "Música Popular Brasileira," MPB, was created.

This music, with a groove deep in choro, samba, maracatu and so on, continued to be ironic, protested many ills of society, and created a worldwide sensation. That was the '70s... Jump to the modern era, and musicians like Arnaldo Antunes held sway. Hot on his heels, Carlinhos Brown arrived in his magical mystery tour bus. Tom Zé was holding court all through this time. Guinga was as well, but in a different domain. And now today...

It is impossible to ignore the attack of Sao Paulo Underground—musical terrorists of a different kind, their approach similar to that of Bill Laswell, yet different. The SPU is likely to use choro as a basis for everything, yet they innovate by using a greater load of electronics than traditional instruments. On Três Cabenças Loucuras the cultures of the urban and the urban underground collide. The rap is sung in a meter similar (but revolutionary) to that of choro as the music breaches the surface. It describes the denizens of the people, the favela ("slums"), where heartache and joy, peace and disquiet, live like strange bedfellows under the same gun. This is what flavors the brilliant antagonism of "Colibri" and "Rio Negro."

The mangled electronics nestle cheek by jowl with the aching lament of the cavaquinho. Rob Mazurek's cornet sounds a loud wail as the assault on the senses is made. There seems no way that this music could take back the alegria ("joy") of Brazil. However, in the calming choro of "Agoda's Dream," notice is given to a happy way of life, despite the abject realities of the favelas. This is music made out of the same dust that created the men who live it—a raw, beautiful lifestyle where the sadness of the choro can also mean utter joy, no matter what the complaint.

Track Listing: Jagoda's Dream; Pigeon; Carambola; Colibri; Just Lovin'; Lado Leste; Six Six Eight; Rio Negro.

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet, electronics, voice; Mauricio Takara: cavaquinho, drums, percussion, electronics, voice; Guilherme Granado: keyboards, loops, samplers, percussion, voice; Richard Ribeiro: drums, voice; Kiko Dinucci: guitar, voice; Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone (5, 7); John Herndon: drums (5, 7); Matthew Lux: bass guitar (7).

Title: Três Cabenças Loucuras | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


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