Sunday, 7 October 2018

Tribalistas: a deep human connection beyond music

Diaspora, the opening track on the Tribalistas’ second album, is more than just a song. It is a prayer, a lament to the human condition. Especially to those caught up in the recent refugee crisis. Lines such as “Onde está/Meu irmão sem irmã/O meu filho sem pai/Minha mãe sem avó/Dando a mão pra ninguém” point to a certain sensibility, often absent from official, political circles. After all, we all have a father, a mother and a grandma.

It is this deep human connection that has made Tribalistas the successful supergroup they are. And it is precisely this sort of kinship that fans of the band will be able to feel at the Eventim Apollo on Sunday 4th November, the first time the Brazilian outfit will play in the UK. From their debut album in 2002, to their sophomore effort fifteen years after, Marisa Monte, Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes have added another dimension to the human experience. One that goes beyond musical boundaries.

Supergroups come in two guises. There are those that stick to a well-trodden, successful and familiar musical path, say, blues-driven Cream and those which become genres unto themselves. For instance, experimental-sounding, all-star Irish The Gloaming. Tribalistas belong to the latter category. Their songs are not the typical samba-lite, listener-friendly, Brazilian sound commonly found on Jazz FM’s Breakfast show. Monte, Brown and Antunes have three very distinctive personalities and voices. However, so far the trio has managed to find enough common ground to churn out two outstanding albums, each a masterpiece in its own right.

Rio-raised Marisa Monte has a singing style that has been influenced by both samba and opera, having trained in the latter in Italy. Ex-Titas member, Arnaldo Antunes has the sort of earth-scorched vocals that can turn even the glibbest of pop songs into an intellectual manifesto. Carlinhos Brown’s mid-range, melodious timbre is the perfect counterweight to Marisa’s lyrical and Antunes’s deep-voiced tones.

Just like 2002 Tribalistas, the 2017 outing, of the same name, is arrangement-rich. Collaboration is the key amongst the Tribalistas. Sixteen years ago, the evidence was in tracks like É Você, a dreamy tune that found Brown and Monte’s voices intertwining organically. Fast-forward to Tribalistas 2 and you have the foot-tapping, momentum-building Tribalivre, an ironic take on work that boasts Antunes’s lead on vocals, Monte on guitar and backing vocals and Brown playing all kinds of instruments, from congas to berimbau.

More than a musical statement, Tribalistas is that rarest of beasts nowadays. A supergroup whose members have left their egos behind in order to create a solid, politically- and socially-minded sound. The concert at the Eventim Apollo on Sunday 4th November promises to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience this.

© 2018

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Thoughts in Progress

The best response to the question of what the meaning of life is, if someone ever asks you, is “look for it in a police crime reference number”. The parable of our human existence can be reduced to a letter from the local police station. Sandwiched in between the Total Policing motto at the top and the logos of both CRIMESTOPPERS and victim support at the bottom is the human essence of us. Our unsolved essence.

Dear So and So,

Thank you for contacting us to report the recent Crime. By reporting this you have helped us to understand local crime and police the area more effectively.

We have investigated the incident and our enquiries are now complete. However, at this stage, we do not have sufficient evidence to proceed further, which means we must close the case.

Why was “crime” spelled with a capital “C” in the missive? Was it to highlight the absurdity of someone making off with my bicycle? A bicycle that had been double locked in my front garden, but not actually bolted to anything? A fact that was seized upon by the less-than-helpful-and-rather-testy operator I spoke to straight after the incident? Or was the need for a big “C” a subliminal message from the forces of law and order? A way to show the public (crime victims, for instance) that the “C” stood for “cancer”, but of the social type.

Whatever the significance of that capital “C”, the effect of the letter was the same. My bicycle of almost four years, my two-wheeler, companion in so many urban jaunts, the transport that came in so handily when I went to Grenfell last year to give my support to the victims of the fire a couple of days after the disaster (most roads were blocked, so it was less difficult to pedal my way from help centre to help centre carrying donations on the rack). That bike had been taken, stolen from me in broad daylight a week before. And here I was, holding a letter from the local police telling me that “Although this case has been closed, our work does not stop here. We will continually review the information you have provided, as well as any additional evidence our officers have gathered.”

I felt as despondent and helpless as Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 2, when he delivers that powerful first soliloquy: “O that this too solid flesh would melt/Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!/Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd/His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!/How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable/Seem to me all the uses of this world”. Or to put it more succintly. How useless my local bobbies are.

© 2018


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