TO LISTEN, TO DANCE, AND TO CELEBRATE
Singer Rita Ribeiro launches through Biscoito Fino the long expected CD Tecnomacumba.
After enthralling audiences throughout Brazil with the amazing concert Tecnomacumba, singer Rita Ribeiro launches through the Biscoito Fino recording company, a namesake CD, equally charming in its musical purpose. Tecnomacumba is more than a record containing songs. It is a cultural intervention that places Rita Ribeiro (born in Maranhão) among the most creative, sensitive, and tuned interpreters of the MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) who have emerged since the 90ies.until nowadays.
Increasingly conscientious of the path she has chosen to follow in the musical field, Rita Ribeiro not only signed with guitarist Israel Dantas for the production of this record, but also decided to write the arrangements for one of her songs – “Canto para Oxalá” (Song for Oxalá ), of public property. Without lacking the characteristics of genuine Brazilian popular pop music, capable of setting fire to the dancing floors and, at the same time, to stir one’s feelings, Tecnomacumba endeavors to show the intersections among the MPB, electronic sounds, ballads, beats and prayers of the Afro-Brazilian religion (of orixás, voduns, inquices – African deities –, and also of caboclos and pretos velhos – sorts of voodoo wizards), studded with catholic and Alan Kardek’s spiritualist syncretisms.
The prefix tecno, however, here means not so much electronic music as technology, in the sense of human activity that produces culture. According to African mythology, thanks to technology Oxóssi (African deity) built his “ofá” and Ogum (another deity) forged his weapons with iron. Thanks to technology, man has built primitive drums as well as modern synthesizers, not to mention the modern means of communication capable of globalizing what is local and vice versa. Connections between local cultural issues with global ones is not something new in the history of music. However, it is up to each artist to diversify or to remain repeating the same old patterns. Rita Ribeiro achieves a meaningful variation. Not by chance, she opens her CD hailing Exu, and after saluting other orixás, presents a succession of beats and songs in honor of the different deities invoked (including paying tribute to her feminine side, through an entity known as “pomba-gira”), once that nothing can be accomplished without the acquiescence of Exu, either a rupture or repetition. Exu is the orixá who can break tradition and promote changes. He represents the actual movement of life. And, consistent with Exu, Tecnomacumba does not mean tradição (tradition), but tradução (translation), instead.
Rita Ribeiro resumes that ample meaning that music has for the black Africans: that music is not meant only for aesthetic fruition and pleasure; that music is a means of transmitting knowledge among different generations and is, therefore, fundamental for the culture of the people; that music is a form of communication between the world of men and the sacred world (that is why it is so often practiced in the candomblé and umbanda - types of Afro-Brazilian voodoo - floors, particularly to celebrate the joy of living, dancing and amusing themselves); and finally, the feeling that music – always produced by drums – conducts axé, the sacred force of life.
Tecnomacumba redeems the wide sense of what music means and reveals that the MPB ows a lot to the Afro-Brazilian religions. For that purpose, Rita Ribeiro sings not only that which is evident, like the songs “Rainha do mar” (Sea Queen), a classic by Dorival Caymmi, and “Iansâ”, by Caetano Veloso. She completely recreates some nearly forgotten songs, like “Domingo 23” (Sunday 23), by the talented Jorge Benjor; “Cavaleiro de Aruanda” (Aruanda Knight), bu Tony Osanah, recorded in 1973 by Ronnie Von; and “Coisa da Antiga” (Old-fashioned thing), by Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes, formerly recorded by Clara Nunes (incidentally, here, Rita Ribeiro with great ingenuity, pays tribute to umbanda´s “pretos velhos” (sort of priests in the Afro-Brazilian form of voodoo). The renditions and the musical textures of the songs are so rich that could only be performed by an artist with the talent and the creativity of Rita Ribeiro. And this has to do not only with her merging of popular music, ballads, beats for spiritual entities, and electronic sounds, but with the fact that Rita Ribeiro knows how to adjust her interpretation and sonority in order to effectively express the particular orixá or entity to be honored. She excels when interpreting “Oração ao Tempo” (Prayer to Time), by Caetano Veloso, counting with the precious participation of violinist Nicolas Krassik; laughs and is sexy when singing “É D’Oxum” (It belongs to Oxum), by Gerônimo and Vevé Calazans; produces echoes in his voice while singing “Baba Alapalá”, by Gilberto Gil, to greet Xangô, the ancestral orixá of the Kingdom of Daomé, lord of thunder; and displays drums as vibrant as the winds of Iansã in “A Deusa dos Orixás” (The Goddess of Orixás), by Toninho and Romildo, also picked out of Clara Nunes´repertory. To that we should add that “Jurema”- a public property spiritual beat, already recorded by Rita in her first record - appears totally revamped but no less striking. As a matter of fact, it was the people’s curiosity with regard to the sonority of “Jurema” that prompted this singer to coin the expression “tecnomacumba”, in order to explain it. Other song formerly recorded by Rita Ribeiro in her first record is “Cocada” (Coconut sweetmeat), by Antonio Vieira, here recreated in a drum’bass format, and dedicated to the spiritual beings erês.
Tecnomacumba also has the merit of being a positive representation of a free relationship among several beliefs in a moment of growing religious intolerance. Do not expect either the rigor of an academic research or the boredom or a hermetic record, destined to a few only. Tecnomacumba has the flavor of oral tradition. It appeared to be appreciated and sung by the people. May all go well, I hope so! May all go well, God grant it!
Original written in Portuguese by Jean Wyllys (Journalist and writer)