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Rémie Roseman
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Lincoln Center Festival - Brazil: Beyond Bossa - From Coco* to Mangue* Beat - Selma do Coco & Mundo Livre S/A

by Rémie Roseman
July 16, 2003
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

Lincoln Center Festival - Brazil: Beyond Bossa - From Coco* to Mangue* Beat -
Selma do Coco & Mundo Livre S/A


LaGuardia Concert Hall

By Rémie K. Roseman
July 16, 2003

Selma Do Coco

Lead Vocals: Selma (do Coco) Ferreira da Silva
Surdo*, Alfaia*: Alexandre de Andrade Ferreira
Percussion: José Ferreira da Silva Filho
Tímbal*: Flavio Luis do Nascimento
Backing Vocals: Jacqueline Pena Leite, Flavia Nunes Pena, Adriana de Andrade Ferreira
Ganzá*: Wellington Luis de Assis Ferreira

Producer: Edilton Euclides de Lima
Tour Manager: Sandra Cadeddu

New York Debut

Mundo Livre S/A

Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Cavaquinho*: Fred 04
Keyboard, Electric Guitar: Bactéria
Percussion: Marcelo Pianinho
Drums, Vocals: Xef Tony
Electric and Acoustic Bass: Areia

Producer: Alê Oliveira

*[see selected glossary below]

As the near sell-out audience applauded and the lights on stage brightened, a group of cheerfully dressed men and women entered the stage. The women took their positions in front of the microphones, while the men picked up their instruments-a variety of Brazilian drums and percussion-and began to play a lively set of rhythms. Accompanied by brisk drumming, the three female vocalists started to sing in a semi-chant, "Dona Selma," calling the queen of coco onto the stage. She entered, intoning a response, and the show took off.

Selma began many of the songs in a quieter, almost contemplative mood, with a trance-inducing introduction that then called the other musicians to join her-and join her they did, in a true celebration of life. Many of the songs presented a sort of musical conversation, in which Selma would call out a phrase or series of phrases, and the female singers would answer, in chorus, with the instrumentalists keeping the energetic beat flowing behind them. Sometimes the vocalist and Selma would sing together. Throughout her songs, Selma would punctuate the music with musical laughs, "Ha! Ha!," sung in a quick-slow pattern, or "Ya!" The singers added their own personal percussion to the beat of the various drums, clapping slow-quick-quick, over again.

The three female singers, wearing white peasant tops and ruffled skirts with blue trim and big yellow sunflowers, danced joyously as they performed, their skirts twirling out like party dresses. The four male musicians looked equally cheerful in colorful matching shirts and white pants, keeping the beat with their bodies as they created complex rhythms. The alfaia player in particular jumped and danced with great enthusiasm, throwing his whole body into shaking his instrument. Jaqueline Pena Leite, Selma's main back-up singer, was an especially engaging performer, moving with such energy and spirit, and encouraging the audience to participate by clapping along. The dancing evoked images of African dance forms as well as capoeira, Brazil's celebrated, dance-like martial art, with all kinds of skips, jumps, stomps, swirling turns, taps, and leaps back and forth. Selma herself joined in some of the dances, languidly moving her older body with surprising grace and energy, albeit at a slower pace and lower altitude than that of her younger companions.

There was barely a pause between each energetic song, so the performance seemed to fly by, as the audience was caught up in the experience. At the end of the show, Selma sang her way slowly off the stage. Then Jaqueline introduced all of the musicians, who bowed and waved.

After an intermission, during which the stage set-up was entirely transformed, Mundo Livre S/A, one of the major Brazilian groups who popularized mangue beat, came quietly onto the stage. Before the first notes even met our ears, it was obvious this was going to be a very different performance than that of Selma de Coco. The band came out on the stage in silence, walking up to their respective musical stations, where they picked up and tuned their instruments, without a word. The band members looked like any modern pop group, with a East Village garage-band-cum-hipster look-the majority of the musicians sporting sunglasses and funky athletic shoes. The lead singer, known only as "Fred 04" (I wondered about Freds 0-03), was more colorfully dressed than his counterparts, in a purple shirt sprinkled with red peppers and an oh-so-cool hat. I waited, in anticipation, wondering what sort of experience we were about to have.

The first song they performed had a mellow, Coldplay feel to it (an English pop band who is very "en vogue" right now), with Fred 04 semi-speaking his lyrics in a trancelike tone over grinding instruments, that became progressively louder and wilder. The second song had promise, with a cool bossa nova groove leading off. Soon, however, the band turned up the volume-way up-with complex dissonant melodies that ultimately were hard to listen to. Done right, dissonance is fascinating and even beautiful. Done to be different, done loudly, it's painful. The best song in their performance was a sort of rock-samba, for which Fred 04 pulled out a cavaquinho, which in many ways is the soul of samba music, if drums like the tímbal and surdo-noticeably absent from this band's arsenal of instruments-are the heart. One could actually bop along to this one, although again loud dissonance crept in and overpowered the traditional elements. It was very amusing, though, to watch Fred 04 rocking hard on the tiny guitar.

The band itself did not seem like it was having a great time performing. It appeared more of an obligation and a duty than a pleasure, especially in contrast to the celebratory performance of Selma de Coco and her group. Fred 04 and the band seemed too busy trying to pass themselves off as cultural "cool cats" to be bothered. When they moved, they jumped up and down, like adolescent boys jamming in someone's garage. I suppose the fact that the hall was more than half-empty when they were less than halfway through their set did not help. Eventually, though, Fred 04 found and played to a small group of twenty-something fans who congregated near the stage, waving their arms madly to each and every song.

I will say for Mundo Livre S/A that they have many styles of music, from punk rock samba to contemplative (well, sort of) ballads, but ultimately all of their songs were loud and complex, with more dissonance than one would hope for. Not really danceable, not easily to follow, the songs inspired lots of jumping up and down, at best. I always had wondered how modern artists and musicians who came from cultures with a strong history of particular national art forms (such as samba) would react to these forms in their own contemporary work. Would they incorporate elements, would they deny all their roots? Mundo Livre S/A seems to have embraced many elements of their musical heritage from the North and other areas of Brazil, but is it successful? Just do not ask the many concertgoers who fled the concert mid-act. They were anticipating an interesting look into a new part of Brazilian culture, not a noisy rock concert for teenagers and twenty -somethings. Sadly, I think I finally understand why my parents found some of my 1980's and 1990's rock music to be "noise". Good try, wrong audience.

*Selected Glossary

Excerpted from the Lincoln Center Festival 2003 Complete Program Guide (p. 50)

Musical/Dance Forms
Coco-A traditional dance style whose origins remain unclear, coco may have been brought to Brazil by African slaves, or it could have been created by the cross-pollination of Afro-Brazilian culture. Coco is usually performed by a circle of singers clapping their hands, and the lyrics are improvised rhythmic poetry. The tirador de coco starts the improvisation and is answered by background vocalists in a manner reminiscent of rap poetry. A tambourine or the beat of feet on the ground accompanies the singing. Coco was rediscovered and reenergized in the early 1990's, when the mangue beat groups Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, as well as Mundo Livre S/A, incorporated it into their music.

Mangue Beat-This form appeared in the town of Recife in the early 1990's when Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, as well as Mundo Livre S/A, began inserting the newest pop elements available (rap, electronica, and neo-psychedelic British rock) into traditional folk style from the Pernambuco region such as maracatu, coco, ciranda, etc.

Instruments (in order of performance listing, above)
Surdo-A drum used frequently in samba schools, samba reggae, and frevo.
Alfaia-A wooden drum covered with an animal skin tied on with cords.
Tímbal-A conical-shaped drum from the Bahia region. It is played with both hands.
Ganza-A tubular metal shaker that is also called a miniero.
Cavaquinho-A small four-stringed guitar from Portugal widely used in samba music. It was the inspiration for the Hawaiian ukulele.

Rémie K. Roseman
Vice President, Citi Cards—Citigroup
Focus on strategy development and implementation, global financial services
BA, Yale University
MBA, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College
MALD, The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University
Amateur singer, student of partner dancing, avid music fan, writer

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