Friday, April 28, 2006

Estudando o Tom Zé

Play it: Tom Zé Estudando o Pagode
Play it: Tom Zé Estudando O Samba (1975)

"I don't make art, I make spoken and sung journalism."
- Tom Zé

The recently turned 70-year old Brazilian artist Tom Zé has been defying classification now for 40 years. He started in Brazil's rebellious Tropicalia movement, and is still challenging minds with this latest release, Estudando o Pagode (Studying Pagode.) Rich with layered sounds and textures, it's an extended operetta that in three acts tells the oppression of women in Western civilization. (Hey, I just realized this is the third rock opera I've posted on in April... weird, huh?)

Estudando o Pagode is also a parody of an album he released 30 years ago called Estudando o Samba, which is translated as Studying Samba.) This album from 1975, oddly enough, is responsible for both ending his career as reviving it years later. Too challenging for the Brazilian public, it fell on deaf ears and forced him into isolation. By 1988, the album fell into the hands of one David Byrne and is said to have blown his mind. Having just started his label Luaka Bop, Byne rescued Zé from a job at a relative's gas station to return to making music. First Byrne released a greatest hits compilation, which contained 9 of the 12 songs from Estudando o Samba (I've reassembled them in a playlist - PLAY IT.)

Both Estudando o Pagode and Estudando o Samba deconstruct the Samba, leaving it as an underlying base for the experimentation and word-play to dance around. Pagode is a Brazilian variant of Samba that mixes African rhythms, and was born in the Rio de Janeiro region as a form of improvisation for Samba musicians to jam to and became a street-based dance music that is was (and is) wrapped in machismo. Into the traditional pagode, Zé mixes rock, hip-hop and his own experimental sounds - he invented a wind instrument for this that's made from the leaf of a ficus tree. Lyrically, the story centers around a man who tries to find his way in the modern world, but keeps falling back on traditional patriarchal (ie, woman-opressing) ways, so 's use of this musical mix is very key to the whole of the piece. It's a lot to get your mind around, but even without the background, the music is in and of itself unique and enjoyable to listen to. That's the kind of music I love, enjoyable - yet challenging, and Zé's got it down with this release.

Staying on the tropicalia front, I just purchased my tix to see Os Mutantes when they come to town July 26th. I'm so excited I can barely contain myself!

Previously:
Everything is possible! (Os Mutantes tour)
What Kurt Cobain couldn't do (Os Mutantes reunite, Tecnicolor album review)

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2 comments:

drake leLane said...

Tom Zé Estudando o Pagode

1. Ave Dor Maria
2. Estupido Rapaz
3. Proposta De Amor
4. Quero Pensar (A Muhler De Bath)
5. Muhler Navio Negreiro
6. Pagode-Enredo Dos Tempos Do Medo
7. Cancao De Nora (Casa De Bonecas)
8. O Amor E Um Rock
9. Duas Opinioes
10. Elaeu
11. Vibracao Da Carne
12. Para La Do Para
13. Prazer Carnal
14. Teatro (Dom Quixote)
15. A Volta Do Trem Das Onze (8.5 Milhoes De km2)
16. Beatles A Granel

drake leLane said...

Tom Zé Estudando O Samba

1. Mã
2. A Felicidade
3. Toc
4. Tô
5. Vai (Menina Amanhã De Manhã)
6. Ui! (Você Inventa)
7. Doi
8. Mãe (Mãe Solteria)*
9. Hein
10. Só (Solidão)
11. Se*
12. Índice*

*not currently in Rhapsody