A Superlative Album!
Brazilian northeastern music has been a well-kept secret for many years. Sometimes ostracized, neglected or called music for maids and taxi drivers (that was actually used as a subtitle for a CD a few years back), forró is now enjoying its well-deserved place in the vast Brazilian musical panorama. Besides world-renowned accordionist Sivuca, a new generation of performers has kept the forró tradition alive and well. Elba Ramalho, in particular, can be regarded as the queen of the “sertão,” the Brazilian hinterland.
With Leão do Norte, Elba Ramalho strikes again. Following her successful 1993 compilation, O Grande Forró de Elba Ramalho, and her 1995 Paisagem, Elba knew that sticking to her northeastern roots was the formula for yet another successful release. Leão do Norte is beautifully produced by Robertinho do Recife with the artistic direction of Sérgio de Carvalho. The songs cover just basically any variation of forró: xote, xamego, arrasta-pé and even frevo. The instrumentation is the best and most truthful you can expect in a forró recording: triangle, accordion, bumba (a kind of drum) and not much more. Nothing else is needed besides Elba’s voice, and the rhythm will take care of it all. Press the repeat mode on your CD player and your party will be effervescent!
As if Elba by herself were not enough, Lenine, Zé Ramalho, Robertinho do Recife, Dino 7 Cordas, Boca Livre and Dominguinhos show up as special guests. The songs are by Geraldo Azevedo, Capinan, Dorival Caymmi, Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira, Zé Ramalho, João do Vale, Antônio Maria, Caetano Veloso and Chico César, among others. It would be hard for anyone to talk about this release without using superlatives. It is simply one of Elba’s best work.
Leão do Norte
BMG Ariola 7432137673-2 (1996)
- Onde Tu Tá Neném (Luiz Bandeira)
- Xodó Beleza (Cecéu)
- Leão do Norte (Paulo César Pinheiro – Lenine) w/ Lenine
- Chão de Giz (Zé Ramalho) w/ Marcelo Szabo
- Béradêro (Chico César)
- Treze de Dezembro (Gilberto Gil – Luiz Gonzaga – Zé Dantas) w/ Época de Ouro & Dominguinhos
- Na Base da Chinela (Rosil Cavalcanti – Jackson do Pandeiro)
- Canoeiro (Dorival Caymmi)
- Parceiros das Delícias (Capinan – Geraldo Azevedo)
- Eu Vou Até de Manhã (Lauro Maia) w/ Boca Livre
- Estrada do Canindé (Luiz Gonzaga – Humberto Teixeira)
- A Paisagem (Manduka – Dominguinhos) w/ Dominguinhos
- Estrela Miúda (João do Vale)
- Sim, Foi Você (Caetano Veloso)
- Frevos: Evocação nº 1 (Nelson Ferreira) / Frevo nº 1 do Recife (Antônio Maria) / Oh! Bela (Capiba) / Sou Eu Teu Amor (Alceu Valença-Carlos Fernando)
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé in January 1997.