Friday, March 13, 2009

Gilberto Gil, Quilombo

In the ‘90s I never really spent much time listening to Latin music, not that I didn’t like it or was dismissive of it (how could you be?) but the way Afro Latin music was turned into ersatz yuppie jingles for chintzy cocktail bars and earnest nights of “serious” club music just put me off being curious about it at all. I had flirted with it briefly in the ‘80s — in a more innocent age that wasn’t replete with corn ball acid jazz casualties (please god don’t bring that back in a ‘90s revivalist manner) in dodgy hats — but somehow that didn’t resonate with me in the latter half of the next decade.

However, having gone back to Brazilian music again, only to be stunned by its beauty and sense of transcendence, and picking up Caetano Veloso’s book about the Tropicalia movement, Tropical Truth, I am newly refreshed by it. Especially when you listen to it and think about Velosos’s extremely literate, thoughtful and intellectual detailing of that turbulent period in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. One of Veloso’s many, but probably his closest, compatriots was Gilberto Gil, a legendary Brazilian musician who, like Veloso, was exiled to Britain by the military dictatorship.

On the Brazil Classics One record, which was compiled by David Byrne, Gil has a track called “Quilombo, O El Dorado Negro,” taken from the soundtrack of a 1984 Brazilian movie called Quilombo. The movie is based on the history of an independent republic set up by escaped black slaves in seventeenth century Brazil, and Gil wrote the music. I was very familiar with the title track from Byrne’s compilation but recently found a French copy of the soundtrack in great condition and discovered another beautiful track called “Chegada Em Palmares,” which is a slower and deeper reprise of “Quilombo, O El Dorado Negro.” Overall I find the album much more polished than Gil’s earlier work and thus not as interesting to me, but the two tracks mentioned above make it a worthwhile find. I think it’s still in print on CD too, so keep an eye peeled for it.


No comments: