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Chico Cesar: Mama Mundi

Mama Mundi
(2000)

Album Notes by Ricardo Pessanha: Chico César is part of a recent generation of musicians who have gone through the streaking passage from regional niches to planetary emotional awareness. An artist from Catolé do Rocha, a small town in the interior of the northeastern state of Paraíba, Chico César, taken by the waves of time, has chosen to leave the herd, to go cosmopolitan, to make his own way through Brazil and abroad. Like other Brazilian artists who crossed the same paths, travelling from the hinterlands to the globe, Chico César is a wired ethnic, a native of an unlimited space that intentionally performs a dance that swings from Okinawa to Aquidauana (a city in Central Brazil).

Mama Mundi features explicitly danceable tunes such as "Dança do Papangu," the forró "Nego Forro," the coco "Aquidauana" and the samba-enredo "Sonho de Curumim." But side by side with these highly rhythmic tracks, there's space for deep lyricism as in the luminous, amorous "4 e 15 ou 10 p/ 3"; the stabbing, bluesy "Tambor"; the sheer, popular romanticism of "Pensar em Você"; the mysteriously beautiful "Talvez Você"; the Cape Verde-styled toada "Barco"; and the subtle recreation of Lilian's "Sou Rebelde".

On Mama Mundi, the dance frequently represents more than a primeval rhythmic impulse. It elicits meditation about social life and the destiny of mankind. On some tracks, rhythmic slowdowns make this process evident, as in "Folklore", a xote/reggae that tells about lelê, a rhythm/dance from Maranhão (a state in Northeastern Brazil). The plunge into the internal universe of lelê induces feelings about Brazil's failures and the song closes (certainly not by chance) with an acute, surprising, visceral and unintelligible  "speech".

"A Força Que Nunca Seca", a tune Chico César wrote with Vanessa da Mata is also a musical poem that tells of the "work dance" poor women have to perform when they carry big cans full of water on top of their heads. The lyrics mention their "blind balance" that keeps the cans straight up. The highlight on this track is the subtle participation of African musician Basuru Jobarteh and the percussion of Marcos Suzano and Naná Vasconcelos.

"Dança", a song Chico César sang in the Aos Vivos CD (the one that featured his greatest hit "Mama África"), is back and Chico has a good reason to record it again. He did it because "Dança" is about the cultural stew in which rural communities; urban tribes; North American, African, European and Asian influences mix in the world of the metropolis of São Paulo. It's this same global village feeling that permeates the samba-enredo "Sonho de Curumim", track that closes the CD talking about "the war/carnival of the nations".

In his finely tuned balance of lyrics and melody, Chico César once again proves his mastery at linguistic jokes, playful puns and tongue twisters. The words simply dance to the rhythm. "Dança do Papangu" (Papangu is a funny character in Reisado - an ancient popular dramatic procession that celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Wise Men)) is an energetic tune in which the sequence of "oooh" sounds creates a humorous atmosphere that leads to a surprising funk ending. On "Nego Forro", the repetition of syllables perfectly matches the forró rhythm woven by Chico César's nylon-stringed and Mário Manga's steel-stringed guitars.

The motif on “Aquidauana” is a sequence of multicultural riddles that oppose Brazilian Indian and Asian words with amazingly similar sonorities. This word game ends up in a long, juicy repente (improvised verses), punctuated by Naná Vasconcelos´s superb percussion, that plays with habits and life styles of different places. The track opens with sounds from the streets of Istanbul-Turkey, a recording made during one of Chico César´s many tours around the world. It’s important to notice that Mário Manga, the CD producer in partnership with Swami Junior and Chico César himself, does not saturate sounds with technological resources, nor does he constrain melodies with heavy, exaggerated walls of sound. Much to the contrary, Manga respects the pulse, the breath of each song. On “Aquidauana”, the Turkish muezzin´s voice  heard at the beginning of the track returns at the end, tenderly lingering over the seducing coco rhythm, creating a magic, dreamlike atmosphere.

Talking about dreams, Nelson Ayres’s arrangements for the slow songs superbly emphasize their transparency and lightness. That’s exactly what happens on “Barco”, where arpeggios and guitar phrases converse with the strings in total consonance with the electronic sounds programmed by Sacha Ambak. The arrangements attain the same splendid effect on “Rebelde”, and, even more intensely, on “Talvez Você” (written in partnership with Vicente Barreto). On this track, the descendent guitar phrases, together with acoustic and electronic glissandi lying over alternated long and short ethereal strings, create a hovering sensation that tastes like a brew of vague winds, fluid remembrances, latent silences and floating desires.

And talking about floating desires, the last word goes to the beloved, desired woman on “4 e 15 ou 10 p/3”, seductive lady that stands in the light of the horizon and to whom the whole world is granted to the sound of a thousand bagpipes.

According to Mama Mundi, eternal salvation (if it exists) is a female creature.  

© Ricardo Pessanha 2005


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