Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


I am always amazed at how many wonderfully talented people Brazil has produced.
One of thos is Sergio Ricardo. Not a name I was at all familiar with until I read about this record in Increadibly Strange Music Vol 2. Jello Biaffra calls it psych-sploitation Brazilian style. That alone was enought to pique my interest.
However, it is much more than an exploitation record and Sergio Ricardo is much more than a Brazlian Davie Allan.
Ricardo was one of the earliest members of the bossa nova movement in the mid 50s, taking one of Jobim's nightclub gigs and letting Joao Gilberto sleep on his floor. He was a classically trained pianist but had also been an actor in TV shows. He toured in the US and Europe but by the mid 60s, as the momentum was going out of bossa nova, he started to make films. He proved to be just as adept a film-maker as he was a musician and his films began to recieve international recognition, particularly in France.
For A Noite do Espantalho, Ricardo not only directed, he produced, co-wrote the script and the soundtrack. The film tells the story of a peasant uprising in northeast Brazil and is increadibly stylised and dramatic - as you might guess from the cover shot of two bikers wearing spiked helmets and riding bikes with fairy wings!
I am not sure why Ricardo asked singer Alceu Valenca to sing on the soundtrack. It may well be that as the film is set in the northeast of Brazil, Ricardo wanted someone from that region. Valenca is well known for using the traditional music of the region but giving it a modern twist.
It is, I think, an inspired pairing. The music, as one might expect, has a dramatic, cinematic quality and Valenca's strong voice brings this out.
There are also very strong folk elements to many of the songs, perhaps not surprising in a film about a peasent uprising. These songs have a, largely, acoustic backing using flutes, accordians and the inevitable guitar. However, there is a constant unsettling, dream-like quality to the music. Something is bubbling underneath that is not pleasent and sometime it comes to the surface. A track such as Briga De Faca is quite scary in its way.
The two tracks which feature the beautiful voice of Ana Lucia de Castro are also worth mentioning.  
A quick word about the cover. My copy of this is from the early 80s and for some reason it reverses the front and the back covers. On my copy the back cover is a painting by Sami Mattar, a well known Brazilian artist and illustrator. If I get the time I'll post a pic of the back cover.

1 comment:

  1. Great review - interesting to see how they switched the images on the later issue of the LP (I wonder why?). Thanks for clearing up a few mysteries about the music too, lots of stuff I never knew. Just checked out the movie online for the first time and it looks absolutely mental. Cheers!