Various: Brazil Classics 2: O Samba LP
Samba, like many other Afro-Latin music forms, propels and ignites the lower body–the hips, the butt, the pelvis, etc.–by letting the downbeat “float.” By de-emphasizing the first beat of each measure a rhythm becomes more sensual and ethereal; one “floats” outside the time and space of earthly existence. Repetition creates a timeless, communal otherworld, a floating ethereal cycle that is both rooted in biological rhythms and in the beyond or the meta-biological.
Any activation of the hips-sex-butt-pelvis relates to the source of all life, the womb. This music is definitely a respectful prayer in honor of the sweet, the feminine, the great mother–the sensuous life-giving aspects of ourselves and our lives–and to the Earth, the mother of us all. To shake your rump is to be environmentally aware.
The songs on this collection go straight to the heart of the matter. The first song by Clara Nunes re-tells a legend concerning two of the Orishas: the African (Yoruba) gods, Iansa and Ogun. Each Orisha embodies three levels of existence at once: 1) a force of nature such as wind, lightning, the earth, or the ocean, 2) a person who once lived on this earth (historical personages much like Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed) and 3) a psychological archetype–perhaps a trickster, a strong woman, or a warrior. In northeastern Brazil the worship of the Orishas is called Candomblé, and it incorporates ritual rhythms that have often been appropriated and secularized in popular songs. One can feel the direct link between the ecstatic release of rhythmically based popular songs and the spirituality that is their roots.
Sub-atomic particle physics shows us that matter is nothing but interlocking rhythms and energies. There is a common respect for the sanctity of the groove.
Although I have chosen many songs that reveal an African influence in their lyrics, one should not get the idea that sambas take only Afro-Brazilian culture as their subjects. One can also be transported by the groove while singing hilarious topical songs such as “S.P.C.” or a classic love song such as “Sufoco.” And, as in all successful popular songs in which the subject is a metaphor, every song is more “about” the attitude than the specifics of what is being said. As an example, in “Olerê Camará,” Alcione asks the Capoeira brothers to “open the circle.” Capoeira is traditionally a male-dominated martial art, dance, musical and philosophical system–choreographed kick-boxing with music. In recent years, women have been brought into the Capoeira Societies, and I suspect the song is as much about redefining women’s changing social roles as it is specifically about being allowed to demonstrate one’s prowess in the Capoeira Circle.
Like all art, it is what it is, but it’s something greater besides.