Commentary on Iara Rennó's album

The African influence on Brazilian music is immeasurable. It is at the origin of the most popular genres in the country, such as samba and choro, and it infiltrates the multiplicity of northeastern music, in the drums of the sertão, in the hills and terreiros, in the vissungos and nursery rhymes.

In the so-called MPB (an acronym that is increasingly dated and incapable of encompassing contemporary diversity), the post-bossa nova politicization movement, which coincided with the era of festivals in the 60s, promoted a resumption of Afro values, under different forms and languages. Since the emblematic album released by Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes (The Afro Sambas, 1966), to versions of the movement Black Power north american (Elis Regina recording Black is Beautiful, in 1971), through the resumption of blackness in samba by authors such as Martinho da Vila, Elton Medeiros, Paulinho da Viola, Candeia, Nei Lopes, Geraldo Filme, among others, when it was going through a process of “whitening” and appropriation by the class dominant. Never sufficiently recognized is the work of composer and arranger Moacir Santos, who released the instrumental LP in 1965 Things, one of the cornerstones of an Afro-jazz-Brazilian sound.

It is not, never has been, an easy, natural process. Fighting against market forces, against the mercenary and Eurocentric (later Americanophile) media, demanded the sacrifice of many. Several “integrated”, paled their music and poetry, in search of acceptance. Among the not few merits of the so-called tropicalist movement is the permanent resumption of elements of African culture, in a punctual but incisive way. Gil, Caetano, Bethânia and Gal were, at various times, spokespersons for African culture in Brazil. Obviously, being born in Bahia makes this more natural, and they all lived in Salvador, the “Black Rome”. Under the aegis of Dorival Caymmi, other composers from Bahia, such as Roque Ferreira and Roberto Mendes, in different styles, also keep the Africa-Brazil link well tied.

It is not just about composing a samba, but reaffirming the importance of the African matrix through the lyrics or instrumentation and use of rhythms. This often leads to a religious bias, via candomblé or umbanda, but this is not the facet that interests us here.

Groups as different as Os Tincoãs or Cantores de Ébano, through very different aesthetic and marketing paths, contributed to keeping the spotlight on ancestral heritage. Still in the 1960s, the luminous presence of Milton Nascimento revived the terreiros of Minas Gerais, while Rio de Janeiro mixed the tradition of samba schools with the invention of black pearls like Luiz Melodia and Jorge Benjor and white pearls like Beth Carvalho and Clara Nunes. Which, by the way, was from Minas Gerais.

But let's get back to the present. In this 2022st century Brazil, where contradictions are sharpened and obscurantist evangelical fundamentalism pursues religions of African origin, the performance of artists such as Virgínia Rodrigues, Fabiana Cozza, Juçara Marçal, Kiko Dinucci and others is remarkable, who seek a modernized return to the matrices from beyond the sea, often resuming ancestral mystical values, incorporating invention, mixing sounds and experimenting with new technologies. Among these, I highlight the singer and composer Iara Rennó, who in XNUMX released the album Oriki.

Fruit of dedicated research and an intermittent trajectory of recordings, started in 2009, the songs mix orikis (salutations to the spirit) dedicated to the orixás, atabaques, a sharp suit of woodwinds, guitars, electronic timbres and voices, many voices. There are participations by Criolo, Tulipa Ruiz, Carlinhos Brown, Curumin, Thalma de Freitas, Anelis Assumpção, Lucas Santtana and several musicians from the first team.

The opening track features the trumpet of the American Rob Mazurek, who makes a beautiful jazz solo over the textures of voice and percussion. Throughout the album, Iara Rennó manages to create a climate of interaction between voices and instruments in a very original way, mixing words from several languages ​​in songs that are non-narrative, but sensory or, at best, descriptive.

Oriki it is yet another fruit of the long and prolific musical history that unites Brazil and black Africa, and confirms the relevance of the work of artists who, like Iara Rennó, dare to seek raw material in the most remote tradition to build new sound worlds.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

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