THE MATRIX BEGINS HERE, where Bahian griot Bule Bule (leather hat, Centro Histórico of Salvador, Bahia) sings "Chegou a hora dessa gente bronzeada mostrar seu valor / The time has come for these bronzed people to show their value"... & Luê above sings "O Tio Sam está querendo conhecer a nossa batucada / Uncle Sam is wanting to get to know our drumming" ... Video by Betão Aguiar.

 

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IF YOU CAN'T STAND THE HEAT

 

Brazil is not a European nation. It's not a North American nation. It's not an East Asian nation. It straddles jungle and desert and dense urban centers both the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Brazil absorbed over ten times the number of enslaved Africans taken to the United States of America, and is a repository of African deities (and their music) now largely forgotten in their lands of origin. It was a refuge (of sorts) for Sephardim fleeing an Inquisition which followed them across the Atlantic (that unofficial symbol of Brazil's national music  the pandeiro — see the very beginning of the clip above — was almost certainly brought to Brazil by these people, and mixolydian  the mode upon which música nordestina is built — perhaps as well). Across the parched savannas of the interior of Brazil's culturally fecund nordeste/northeast, where wizard Hermeto Pascoal was born in Lagoa da Canoa (Lagoon of the Canoe) and raised in Olho d'Águia (Eye of the Eagle), much of Brazil's aboriginal population was absorbed into a caboclo/quilombola culture punctuated by the Star of David. Three cultures from three continents running for their lives, their confluence forming an unprecedented fourth. Pandeirista on the roof. Nowhere else but here.

Oligarchy, plutocracy, dictatorships and massive corruption elements of these are still strongly entrenched have defined, delineated, and limited Brazil.

But strictured & bound as it has been and is, Brazil has buzz...not the shallow buzz of a fashionable moment...but the deep buzz of a population which in spite of or perhaps because of the tough slog through life they've been allotted by humanity's dregs-in-fine-linen, have chosen not to simply pull themselves along but to lift their voices in song and their bodies in dance...to eat well and converse well and much and to wring the joy out of the day-to-day happenings and small pleasures of life which are so often set aside or ignored in the European, North American, and East Asian nations.

For this Brazil has a genius perhaps unparalleled in all other countries and societies, a genius which thrives alongside peeling paint and holes in the streets and roads, under bad organization by the powers-that-be, both civil and governmental, under a constant rain of societal indignities...

Which is all to say that if you don't know Brazil and you're expecting any semblance of order, progress and light, you will certainly find the light! And the buzz of a people who for generations have responded to privation at many different levels by somehow rising above it all.

"Onde tem miséria, tem música!" - Raymundo Sodré

 

And it's not just music. And it's not just Brazil.

 

Reload browser for more artists (this stack is randomly generated). Welcome to the kitchen!

The matrix began with the living musicians included in the "radio" below (lauded by The Guardian as one of "10 of the Best Music Radio Stations Around the World"). A COMPLETE EXPLANATION of the matrix, its why and its ethos, follow the radio (which follows the party in the quilombo of Kaonge).

TWO BLACK AMERICAS

RECÔNCAVO BRAZIL

The area around the great bay over which Salvador presides like a rough-cut but radiant black diamond is where the profoundest root of Afro-Brazilian civilization gave rise to the fluorescence which continues to illuminate (and move) Brazil…after a journey closely paralleling that of the cultural genius of African-Americans in the United States…

 

The U.S. was scene of a world-shaking migration from the plantation country of the rural south to the cities of the north. These people... (continue...)

 

COMMON BLOOD

 

New Orleans is America’s Steam Valve. By which the rhythms of Africa entered the U.S.A. Filtered through Haiti, through Cuba, unfiltered…

 

No New Orleans? No Louis Armstrong. No Duke Ellington. No Benny Goodman. No Andrews Sisters. No Chuck Berry. No Elvis. No Charlie Parker. No Miles Davis. No Motown. No Rolling Stones. No Beatles. No Beyoncé… New Orleans is without a doubt the single most influential music city of all time.

 

Among many other things, music carries with it elements of the characters of the human souls from which it was drawn. Americans have a reputation for being brash, open. A walk. A talk. This is born out in American music and if not born of it it is joined at the hip with the music’s progenitors. The attitude, if it didn’t spread from New Orleans, was spread by it.

 

But as absolutely essential to American — and world — culture as it is, New Orleans remains an anomaly. Like Hong Kong to China and Singapore to Malaysia, it sits apart. On the edge. You have the elements of the culture where they’ve seeped in elsewhere, and you have the living, sighing culture itself. If that’s what you’re after…you’re just gonna have to not visit, but immerse yourself in the place. Easy to do. Settle back. Let the Big Easy’s sultry, laden atmosphere seep deep down into the marrow of your soul. Let it lighten your step and ease your stride. Let it whet your appetite for great food and good drink, amazing music and fascinating people.

 

New Orleans is a perfect Afro-Caribbean storm…

 

It’s certainly the most mysterious, and maybe even the most truly American city of them all.

 

I'm Sparrow/Pardal here in Bahia...but Whisperin' Jay Mazza is on the scene in New Orleans...we have a guide to the place, with much more to come...

 

DANCING GODS

Did you know that Brazil has a pantheon? In the sense that the Greeks and the Romans did? The Greek and Roman gods were done in by Constantine (first blow) and Theodosius (final blow). The gods of Brazil were born in Africa and arrived in Brazil within the negreiros making the Middle Passage, a voyage which transported not only people, but a culture. There was a great attempt by the Brazilian poobahs to exterminate the gods of Africa in Brazil, but it didn’t work (João do Boi's music is a manifestation of the rhythms for Cabila, or Cabula, deity of the hunt in the candomblé of Brazilian Bantus).

 

As the Roman emperors moved to extinguish the very real belief in Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, Minerva and the rest, banning the ceremonies to these deities, the Brazilian “authorities” banned the ceremonies devoted to Oxalá, Oxossi, Iansã... (continue...)

 

STORIES FROM THE CENTER OF THE SUN

Severino felt his pockets for coins and bills to measure the day. He placed his two steel coolers next to the front door on his way into the house, and paused to thank God for his arrival home, as he always did. He scraped off the red-brown mud caked to his sandals, and hung his black felt fedora, dripping wet, on the wall.

 

It wasn’t good. (continue...)

 

FOUNDATION LOST

Bahia is a hot cauldron of rhythms and musical styles, but one particular style here is so utterly essential, so utterly fundamental not only to Bahian music specifically but to Brazilian music in general — occupying a place here analogous to that of the blues in the United States — that it deserves singling out. It is derived from (or some say brother to) the cabila rhythm of candomblé angola…

 

…and it is called… (continue...)