Saving the Sounds of the Amazon
Good music touches a sensitive chord, and I have to admit that Marco André’s music does that to me. It all comes together for me: tradition, contemporary accents, fantastic musicianship, originality and not to forget a healthy sense of humour. Not too long ago I was happy to write about the album Amazônia Groove, where you can find more information about the career of this exceptional artist. In short, Marco André (born in Belém at the mouth of the majestic Amazon River) resides in Rio and is an enthusiast promoter of the rhythms of the traditional music from the Amazon region. He fits those rhythms into very contemporary compositions. The title of the previous cd clearly referred to the music: the music from the Amazon with a contemporary groove, Amazônia Groove. The title of this album does the same, although it’s a bit more complicated. “Beat” speaks for itself, but “Iú” needs a little more explanation. Marco gives that in the attractive booklet of the cd. “Iú” derives from the word “pitiú” in the Tupi language, an ancient dialect spoken by Brazil’s Indian tribes. It means “the strong smell of fish”; a smell that one of course can encounter in the villages near the Amazon river. And there we have the combination again: Modern sounds, flavoured with Amazon tradition.
Marco André makes the link with his earlier cd in an original way: the first song of this album is called… “Amazônia Groove”! It makes clear that Marco continues where he left. We didn’t have to wait very long for this successor of Amazônia Groove (released at the end of 2004). On Beat Iú the music has even improved a bit. Partly responsible for that is the choice of musicians. The dazzling percussion power Trio Manari is again very present on this album. For percussionists Nazaco Gomes, Márcio Jardim and Kléber Benigno the rhythms of the Amazon have no secret. They dedicate their artistic life to it, studying, discovering and popularizing the hidden rhythms to the world. Another musician who was also featured on the earlier cd is guitarist Júnior Tostoi. He has the priceless talent to paint with sounds. At one moment he plays acoustic guitar lines, at other moments he produces perfect sounds on the electric guitar to give new dimensions to the music, always serving that music. Pianist, keyboardist and co-producer of this cd, is Sacha Amback. Playing piano since the age of nine, he developed a direction-providing interest in the music of the 20th century. He uses the studies of that musical era to enrich every composition he touches. An eleven year long stay in Lulu Santos’s band earned him knowledge about pop music. The combination of these elements makes him a perfect guest (both as musician and as producer) on numerous albums, ranging from Lenine, to Chico César, Ramiro Musotto, Caetano Veloso, Leila Pinheiro and Paulinho Moska (among many others). Bassist on this cd is Dunga, who is a settled name and a sure bet in the Brazilian music scene.
As said, the album opens with “Amazônia Groove,” a song composed using the rhythm of the Carimbó, a predecessor of the world known Lambada. Although the Carimbó represents a strong black rhythm (a batuque), it actually is a dance that might have had its origin in the tribes of the artistic creative Tupinambá Indians of the Amazon. Centuries later, the African slaves got in contact with the dance and added their tradition to reshape the monotonous music that accompanied the dance. The third party that slightly shaped the dance and the music were the Portuguese settlers. They tried to gain the sympathy of the locals by participating in the dance and even adding dance expression from their homeland Portugal. That’s how a true Brazilian dance and music style arose, combining the influences of its main populations. A tradition to cherish and that is what Marco André does on this album. Eliezer Rodrigues additions on the tuba, halfway during the opening track, cleverly gives an extra impulse to the listener’s aspiration to dance.
The famous Jorge Ben composition “Por Causa de Você, Menina” is hardly recognizable in the carimbó rhythm, it’s a completely new song. The heavy keyboard accents of Sacha Amback give the song a somewhat overpowered character. But that is compensated by a light and infectious solo by the horn section, referring to the Caribbean influence of the music that’s often played on the radio in Belém. The horns — Humberto Araújo (saxes), Jessé Sadoc (trumpet) and Aldivas Ayres (trombone) — play an important and role on the cd, whether they’re featured in solo’s or accompany the music in a subtle way. A perfect combination of musical skills. The song flows over in a beautiful peaceful moment. Belém’s legendary singer Dona Onete quietly sings her own composition “Lua Namoradeira,” accompanied by soft sounds created by Amback and Tostoi. A moment of peace that is ruthless ended by “Sumano’s,” a song with the rhythm of a machine-gun, brightened up by a touch of salsa from the horn section. The Boi-Bumbá style is used in “Dançador,” which features Dona Onete again, together with a Boi-Bumbá legend, Mestre Fabico, and Arraial do Pavulagem, a group of artists preserving the folklore of the northern states of Brazil. “Pequeno Dicionário do Amor” sums up something like 80 definitions of the word “love” in a funny and unpretentious song. The title track, “Beat Iú,” has the potential of a big hit song in the tropical dance scene. So much refinement in all aspects of the instrumentation shows again how clever the songs are made, while never forgetting the traditional aspects of the music. “Gueixa” has an air of the relaxing Caribbean again, accentuated by fragments sung in Spanish and a trumpet solo that sounds as if it was inspired by the Mexican Mariachis. “Marajoara Flor” is a dragged-on Carimbó that flows into an infectious trombone solo that might have gone on forever. The area’s most famous composer Maestro Waldemar Henrique (Belém 1905 – 1995) is honoured by the performance of his composition “Abaluaiê.” The album quiets down with a beautiful ballad, “Brancura,” which features the voice and acoustic guitar of Marco André.
And so we are given a more than enjoyable look inside the rich culture of Brazil’s Amazon region. This music has the power to conquer the world like the Mangue Beat from Brazil’s northeastern states did a decade or so ago. Marco André makes it ready to be discovered. A fantastic album!
For more information about the album and artist, please stop by Marco André’s home page.
Independent MNV003 (2006)
- Amazônia Groove (Marco André)
- Por Causa de Você, Menina (Jorge Ben Jor)
- Lua Namoradeira (Dona Onete)
- Samano’s (Marco André – MG Calibre)
- Dançador (Marco André)
- Abaluaiê (Waldemar Henrique)
- Pequeno Dicionário do Amor (Marco André)
- Amor de Bengala (Marco André)
- Beat Iú (Marco André)
- Gueixa (Marco André – Jorge Andrade)
- O Que Pode e Não Pode (Marco André)
- Marajoara Flor (Marco André – Juraci Sequeira)
- Laço de Flores (MG Calibre)
- Brancura (Marco André)