I often think that what makes a song Brazilian goes beyond melody, instrumentation, and rhythm. There is also that special Brazilian way, the jeitinho brasileiro, to capture music and make it distinctly Brazilian. Furthermore, there are lyrics. Yes, words in Brazilian music are as important as everything else. Take, for example, Cantos da Palavra, a multifaceted independent release with the obvious word play in its title and deep, multiple meanings.
Cantos da Palavra features the songs of Marcelo Sandmann and Benito Rodriguez. Unlike what one would expect, Sandmann and Rodriguez are not professional musicians. Well, at least in the sense that they make a living as literature professors at Universidade Federal do Paraná, a southern Brazilian state. Of course, upon listening to this CD, you will be convinced of the serious musical proposition made by these two artists. The words, as implied in the CD title, are the focus here, but to make Cantos even more astounding, Silvia Contursi lends her beautiful, soulful vocals to these tracks. The result is a fountain of creativity in Brazilian popular music. It is really no surprise that Jornal do Brasil’s music critic Tárik de Souza listed Cantos as a release that “injects rhythmic, melodic, harmonious, and poetic subtleties.” The music is varied and vibrant. The lyrics are intense and profound.
Paulo Brandão, member of the group Aquarela Carioca, arranged and produced the 14 tracks. Besides Sandmann, Rodriguez, and Contursi, several other musicians contribute to the group, including Grace Torres, Sidon Silva, Antonio Saraiva, as well as more familiar names, as is the case of Paulo Malaguti (of Arranco). Cantos da Palavra is samba, samba-funk (with samplers), frevo, pop, hip-hop, and more. Very eclectic and yet homogeneous.
The opening track, “Cisco,” starts off with a progressing alliteration enhancing the strong rhythmic and pulsating beat, an effect compounded by the solid bass line. The words by themselves could be music without notes. On another track, “Samba Danado,” there is a direct reference to Dorival Caymmi’s lyrics “quem não gosta de samba, bom sujeito não é.” Besides closing the circle between the new and traditional, these lyrics are like literary cannibalism, lending themselves to a similar proposition as the Tropicalista movement, where the incorporation of foreign elements into Brazilian music made itself present. Here, traditional elements morph with electronic samplers impressively!
Then there is “www.infolia.com.pc,” a cybernetic frevo as I would describe it. The rhythm is infectious as traditional frevo, but the words are light years ahead. It’s definitely a frevo in the best Carnaval style, but with a percussive and electronic accompaniment. As expected, the lyrics are all about cyber terminology.
The title track, “Cantos da Palavra” is an all-acoustic samba tribute to Brazilian greats: Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Cartola, Ary Barroso, Nelson Cavaquinho, Chiquinha Gonzaga, Carlos Lyra, all the way to the present. Besides being a music history lesson, it is a very festive and swinging samba.
Cantos da Palavra expands the Brazilian music horizons beyond the comfortable geographical zone of Rio de Janeiro – São Paulo. The music is much more than the notes and words you will hear. Every time you play this CD, a new meaning will unfold. Novel, traditional, electronic, acoustic, Brazilian, World — Cantos da Palavra is everything.
Marcelo Sandmann and Benito Rodriguez with Silvia Contursi
Cantos da Palavra
Independente MBSP01 (1998)
- Cisco (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Rebuliço (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Samba Danado (Marcelo Sandmann)
- Louco (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Sutileza (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Céu & Blues (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Juros de Amor (Marcelo Sandmann – Ricardo Carvalho – Benito Rodriguez)
- www.infolia.com.pc (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- O Fim da História (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Samba na Feira (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Valsa da Madrugada (Marcelo Sandmann)
- Deixa Pra Lá (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Cantos da Palavra (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
- Grão (Marcelo Sandmann – Benito Rodriguez)
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, 9/25/99.