Alborada Familia Music Selections: Carolina Nunes #1

[The first in a series of music selections chosen and explained by Alborada readers. This first one focuses on Brazil and and comes courtesy of Carolina Nunes. You can also listen to Carolina’s selection as a playlist on Alborada’s Spotify account (see below). We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!]

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Alborada Familia Music Selections: Carolina Nunes – London, UK, May 2016

Read the entry for song number 5 for more information about this photo

1) Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil - Dê um rolê
 (Album: Live in London, Vol.1, 1971

The relationship I have with these Tropicália artists, as well as Caetano Veloso, is unlike that with any other artist in the whole world. It is probably because we are from the same place in Brazil - Bahia. Everything they sing about is familiar to me: gods, colours, places, smells, and with my language and accent. We Baianos can recognise one another with a mere 'hi'. 

My father played these artists and their songs in our house daily. He had all their records. I often dream of Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. It is as though we are family; I open their fridges and vice versa. It is special. In day-to-day life, we are not friends, although we have met several times. They rose against political and social apathy, openly criticising the 1964 coup d'état. Both ended up living in London for a period in exile. They still are big voices, both musically and politically, and have been publicly repudiating the 2016 coup against President Dilma Rousseff as well as the illegitimate government that has taken power. I wonder what it feels like for them to see history repeating itself so soon.

2) Novos Baianos - Brasil Pandeiro
 (Album: Acabou Chorare, 1972)

Novos Baianos, from Bahia, were one of, if not the most important and revolutionary band in Brazilian music. I chose this track specifically because the first thing our illegitimate president Michel Temer did on only his second day in office, having usurped executive power, was to close the Brazilian Ministry of Culture. This did not go down well with the artistic community. Many Brazilians refuse any kind of negotiation with this government in order to not legitimise it. People took the streets and most Ministry of Culture head offices throughout the country were occupied.

During the 1965-1985 military dictatorship in Brazil, Novos Baianos were pretty much living in a state of anarchy. They were considered hippies or ‘vagabundos’, which means lazy or irrelevant. This is a phrase reserved for people who don't work, at least not conventional office job hours. This same derogatory label is being said about artists to their faces now. It always intrigues me how non-democratic governments get away with the contradiction of beginning their persecutory agenda with the very people they call irrelevant and meaningless. 

This song is called 'Brasil Pandeiro'. It says: "[the] time has come for this tanned people, to show their true value". This is the first track on what is an extraordinary album. It is considered by many as the best Brazilian album in history.

3) Dom Salvador e Abolição - Hei! Você (Album: Som, Sangue e Raça, 1971)

Salvador is a 'Brazilian Popular Music' (MPB) pianist from Sao Paulo. He toured the world with his trio, then returned to Brazil and spent his time on music production and research. In the 1970s he was part of the group Abolicao, which is the precursor to the band Banda Black Rio. This song mixes a little Baiao, and this is one of the most relevant samba/soul albums ever recorded in Brazil. Dom Salvador’s records from the 1960s/70s are quite rare, hard to find and expensive, so you're lucky if you get your hands on any!

4) Tom Zé - Complexo de Epico (Album: Todos os Olhos, 1973)

And then came Tom Ze! Aaaah, there are no words I could write that would do him justice. He, like Gil, Caetano, Gal and Moraes Moreira/Novos Baianos is also from Bahia. But unlike them, who found fame and achieved commercial success, mellowing their music on the way and producing pretty stuff for the ears, Tom Ze fell into total obscurity and experimentation. For years. 

I thank David Byrne for (re)discovering him and bringing him back to light after the Tropicalia movement. Tom Ze is the opposite of commercial. For me he is a cross between a poet (but with a very good sense of humour) and a scientist. An experimenter. So clever and so wonderful and so witty. Some say he's crazy, others that he's weird. He didn't pursue prettiness or the easily accepted, and has had to open doors for his music himself. He is my favourite Brazilian genius!

"They (Gil, Caetano) were consistently making music within the mainstream, within beauty; I was making a sort of madness that was not called music. I was making ugly music, which was starting to be more and more interesting. I wasn’t making contemplative music, I was throwing line and bait to the audience’s cognition."

This song is called 'Epic Complex' and mocks the sometimes blasé aura of his contemporaries. It says:

“Every Brazilian composer
suffers from a complex
Why then this darn habit
this concern of speaking so seriously
of being so serious, of playing
so seriously, of loving so seriously?
Oh, dear God, go do that in hell!”

If you don't know Tom Ze, you must look him up. You are missing out!

5) Vanja Orico – Berimbau – Capoeira (Album: Viagem Musica, 1955)

I get emotional just reading her name. Vanja Orico is not my contemporary, not even my parents', but I came to know of her and love her because of this photo (see above) taken at Edson Luis' burial, a student killed by the repression. In the picture, she throws herself, on her knees, in front of an army car, and waves a white handkerchief screaming 'don't shoot, we are all Brazilians'.  And man, this woman fought dictatorship. She fought for justice and democracy. 

Also, her greatness in film, alongside the likes of Fellini made her talked about and the winner of awards in Cannes. She was the first Brazilian to face censorship and sing in Eastern Europe. This is Capoeira sang by the great Evangelista Orico, straight from 1955. I'm sure some of you will recognise this!

Listen to Carolina’s selection as a playlist on Alborada’s Spotify account here:

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