A Music Sensation
Here is another music sensation from Brazil. Karnak is bound to redefine what is new in Brazilian popular music. With a genre that is truly undefinable and with influences from all corners of the Earth, Karnak had its world debut with this superlative collection of thirteen songs. Though the primary language of the songs is Portuguese, there are also citations in Russian, Spanish, Arabic, French, Italian and even a made-up language among a few others. Influences from Northeastern Brazil as well as the Middle East are clearly noticeable in many songs.
Karnak comes from the state of São Paulo. Since its beginning in 1995, the 13-member band has earned several momentous awards. In 1995, the Art Critics Association of São Paulo chose the group as the Best Band. That was followed by two awards from MTV Brazil: Best New Band and Gold Clip in 1996. The story was just beginning for this eclectic group under the leadership of André Abujamra. In addition to the regular members of the band, other special guests, such as Chico César, Lulú Santos and Paulinho Moska, lend a hand to this singular release.
“Vinheta Árabe” starts the magic carpet ride of Karnak. From that opening track, the listener enters all people’s souls in “Alma Não Tem Cor.” The distinct and heavy organ introduction is very much like a Russian opera. The song, however, soon switches to an electric Northeastern Brazilian forró. As if Karnak’s music did not already prove it, “O Mundo” stresses how small the world is and questions why some people can be mean to others. “Vim Que Venha” uses another Northeastern Brazilian tradition of the Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru (a flute band) and women chanting to life’s inevitable end. Questioning again human kind’s constant fighting and when it will end, “Comendo Uva Na Chuva” mixes a slow samba with reggae. Then, in an outstanding display of lyricism, “Espinho na Roseira/Drumonda” evokes the poetry of Carlos Drummond de Andrade.
This constant balance of world elements and Brazilian traditions is supported by lush instrumentation, cadenced rhythms and ornate lyrics. In a most Brazilian tradition of word usage in popular music, Karnak extracts sounds in every word to produce its music. The consummate example of such artistry is found in the closing track, “Hymboraewqueyra,” which is a play on the sounds of the Portuguese words “embora eu queira” (even though I wanted). This created African-like chant leads to a perfect culmination of a fascinating release.
Tinder Records 42850842 (1997)
All tracks by André Abujamra, except where noted.
- Vinheta Árabe
- Alma Não Tem Cor
- Martim Parangolá (Martim Parangolá – version: André Abujamra)
- O Mundo
- Vim Que Venha (2 Hugos e 2 Zambos) (André Abujamra – Sérgio Bartolo – Hugo Hori – Eduardo Bid)
- Comendo Uva na Chuva
- Espinho na Roseira/Drumonda
- Conversa dos Nenês (José – Antônio)
- Balança a Pança (André Abujamra – Lulu Camargo – Sérgio Bartolo – Hugo Hori)
- Ai, Ai, Ai, Ai, Ai, Ai, Ai
- Oxalá Meu Pai (Popular song adapted by André Abujamra)
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, January 1998.