Friday, February 16, 2007

The secret of Brazilian pop music?

From no less an authority than tropicalista giant Tom Zé, speaking to the New York Times (1/26/07) about the traditional folk music of Brazil's Northeast, which he says is the source of the "richness and strength of Brazilian popular music":
Mr. Zé also noted that the music of the Brazilian northeast that came from Portugal was itself a result of cultural mixing, especially from the Arab domination there [Portugal] during the medieval era. The lyrics of some songs in the compilation [Musica Tradicional do Norte e Nordeste 1938] date back to troubadors' tales from that era, but the Arab presence manifested itself mainly in a vocal style characterized by a fondness for bent notes.
"That influence is still there in Brazilian popular music today," he said. "I hear it most clearly and beautifully when Caetano [Veloso] sings. He has developed a sophisticated, intensive way to use these modulations that were quite common in the singers we heard there in the backlands of the northeast."

The compilation referred to is recently released 4-CD set drawn from an archive collected in the northeast by a folklore team in 1938.

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