Monday, June 21, 2004

"Disco e cultura"

From an All Music Guide essay on Brazilian music:

"The inscription 'Disco e cultura' (Records are culture) that appears on many Brazilian albums demonstrates an awareness on the part of Brazilians that their music is an authentic expression of who they are, that it is an uplifting, unifying force. It is at the same time a universal language understood everywhere, enriching all who listen."

Well, I'm never too sure about that "universal language" business (there are too many other factors that shape our taste and openness to individual works of art), but the rest of this strikes me as pretty interesting: the handy little motto, for starters, and the notion that record albums are as legitimate a contribution to culture as, say, books or movies. And there is something to be said for the way that a shared interest in a particular song or genre of music can bring people together.

That's what I like, and what I find frustrating, about Blogger's profile template: you're asked to name your favorite music (among other things), and then you can find out who else out there shares your taste in a given artist or song, which could certainly be a way to build community. But I find it really bothersome to have to isolate certain artists as "favorites." I like a lot of stuff from all over the map, and I don't really expect anybody else to enjoy both 70s-era Beach Boys and truly noisy Aphex Twin songs. And what qualifies as a favorite, anyway? I'm eager to hear from--and learn from--other folks who are fascinated by Brazilian sounds from the 40s through the current day, and that (incredibly broad range of) music is certainly a timely passion of mine, but over the course of my life people like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison (to say nothing of the Clash and Gang of 4) have played a much bigger role. Yet I'm not really that interested in tracking down more Clash fans; I don't think we have that much to say to each other beyond, "Yeah, that song is really good" or "Boy, it was sad when Joe Strummer died."

More to be said on all this when I'm not so sleepy.


Richard Wicka said...

RW: Speaking of Brazilian music, what do you know about Ellis Regina? I would be interested in comparing your information on her with what I have read.

Ron said...

Funny you should bring up Elis Regina, because she figures heavily in the last third or so of Ruy Castro's history of Bossa Nova, which I just finished reading mere hours before discovering your comment, Richard. My head is still full of Castro's accounts of her catfights with various rival singers, particularly Nara Leão (who called her "a childish, aggressive, and unstable woman"). But the juiciest anecdote has to do with Regina's marriage to her onetime arch-enemy, the writer/producer Ronaldo Boscoli. During one of their many fights she threw most of his extensive collection of Frank Sinatra albums into the Atlantic Ocean, one cherished and expensive disc at a time.

As far as her actual music goes, I confess I don't have a lot to judge it by. I've seen her called the most highly regarded of singers by her fellow Brazilians, but what little I've heard so far (three tracks on an uneven "Canta Brasil" compilation on Verve and her duet with Tom Jobim on "Waters of March") doesn't move me all that much. I've read that her voice changed radically over the years, not unlike Billie Holiday's, and it doesn't really sound like the same singer to me from one track to the next. Plus there are some fairly unfortunate production elements, like some pretty dated electric guitars, here and there, along with some cooler touches. But I'm certainly open to hearing more--apparently her duet album with Jobim, ELIS AND TOM, is a classic, and the one song I've heard is pleasant enough. (I've also heard the singer Joyce's tribute album, ASTRONAUTA: SONGS OF ELIS, and that leaves me pretty cold, too.)

FYI, that Slipcue site I love so much has a very informative page on Elis you might want to check out.

Anybody reading this have any Elis Regina recommendations?