Obatala

Wassily Kandinsky, Picture XVI, 1928.
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By HENRY BURNETT*

Comment on the album by Grupo Ofá

Released in 2019, the album Obatalá – a tribute to mother Carmen (Gege Produções under exclusive license from Deck), by the Ofá Group, with various participations, recently had the documentary of its production shown on GloboNews with the title Obatalá - the father of creation. Linked to the family of the most famous candomblé house in Brazil, Terreiro do Gantois in Salvador, the project has a special characteristic, most of the recordings of the sacred chants were recorded in the original Yoruba language. Tracks in Portuguese only balance, despite being beautiful, like “Carmen” (Beto Pellegrino & Ariston), in the midst of the historical force that the original language imposes on listeners today; especially today.

At a time when, according to Agamben in an intervention text called “When the house burns”, “God, incarnating himself, ceased to be unique and became one man among many” and that, “for this reason, Christianity had to connect to history in order to follow its destiny to the end – and when history, as it seems to happen today, is extinguished and decays, Christianity also approaches its sunset” (https://www.n-1edicoes.org/textos/196), the album arrives as a call to what I feel is a true religious dimension, linked from the beginning to singing, poetry and the spirit of those who live their faith as sharing and not as carnage and intolerance. Obatala it is, in every sense, a lesson.

stuffed with stars pop, the record has the ability to neutralize the most well-known voices, subsuming them into the rite of execution of each song. So, from this uniformity, emerge the forces that stand out on the record precisely because they seem more integrated in the house of origin. or would it be in religion? It does not matter. By uniting Jorge Benjor and Matheus Aleluia in the same project, something really important is manifested. All famous and outcasts are at the service of these ancient chants.

A mutual respect lingers in the documentary's atmosphere. Without the naivety of assuming that Ivete Sangalo and Daniela Mercury do not fulfill their functions integrated in the project, it is impossible to listen to Márcia Short, Luciana Baraúna, Alcione, Vó Cici, among others, without being touched by deep emotion; even those who, like me, think they can approach this matrix religion without letting themselves be affected, like one more listener, by a strictly musical interest; a mistake.

Even when, by chance, as narrated by Flora Gil in the documentary, Benjor ended up in the studio singing “Odu Re Odure Ayelala – Orixá Oxalá” together with Gil accompanied only by the drums, something like a confluence is in the air, as if the realization did not was casual, but dictated by something bigger. It is not easy to talk about sublimations in times of so much real and symbolic violence. But that's what it's about, Obatala it is a rare encounter, more than a phonograph record in the studio of Carlinhos Brown, who is also present, who sings “O Fururu Loorere – Orixá Oxalá” after the obligatory opening with “Oriki – Orixá Exú”, sung by Felix Omidiré.

Despite the cohesion of the set, some tracks speak louder. As a powerful cry of freedom and integration, we heard “Ajaguna Gbawa O – Orixá Oxagiayan”, with Grupo Ofá and Lazzo Matumbi. “Obatalá – homage to Mãe Carmen” is the track that most emphatically unites modernity and ancestry, although Matheus Aleluia's voice invokes everything that may be most historically important in the African heritage left to his descendants.

“O Yeku – Xá Omiludé – Orixá Oxum” sung by Grupo Ofá is the high point of this never-ending party; an almost unrecognizable Alcione explodes in “Odekomorode – Orixá Oxóssi”, one of the best-known and most beautiful songs of the celebrations of African origin that have remained here despite so much pain, or because of it. In the most explanatory track on the album, Gal and Gil unite in “Carmen”.

An album that spins uninterruptedly like a ritual for weeks, helping to overcome the anguish and the most melancholy New Year's Eve that the XNUMXst century has ever faced. Maybe that's the message that Zeca Pagodinho and Nelson Rufino leave on the album's farewell, a sunny and hopeful track: you have to look forward, even though you can't see much under the thick fog.

*Henry Burnett is a professor of philosophy at Unifesp. Author, among other books, of Nietzsche, Adorno and a bit of Brazil (Unifesp Publisher).

Originally published on Guaru Magazine.

 

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