Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, September 7, 2001

All the feathers and finery that accompany Carnaval's
rhythms and festivities will be on display at Anna
Bannana's tomorrow night as musicians and dancers
celebrate Brazil's fiery spirit and independence.

Samba celebration

Brazil's Carnaval goes local
at a weekend party

Brazilian beats, contemporary spin

By Gary C. W. Chun

If there's something Brazilians know how to do, that's party in a big way. The spirit of the colorful street Carnaval comes to fruition starting this weekend, as Sept. 7 is celebrated annually as the day that sprawling South American country won its independence back in 1822.

While Brazil is observing the anniversary of the 179th year of independence from Portugal's three-century-plus reign, bringing together its multicultural makeup of native people, the Portuguese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Spanish and Africans, Honolulu will be part of that celebration with an ambitious program of dance and music conceived by Evelyne Raposo of the local Afro-Brazilian troupe Samba Axe (pronounced ah-shay).

Raposo says the word "axé" is Brazilian's equivalent to our "aloha," and she's touting tomorrow night's event as "a Brazilian dance-show party." Besides presenting a rich assortment of African and Brazilian dances, she said that "we'll always be interacting with the audience, where the quality of our show will vary between performing particular pieces, breaking them up with one or two rhythms the audience can then dance to themselves. There'll be a lot of variety, and we'll keep the pace going."

Samba Axé consists of 10 dancers and five percussionists, but tomorrow's party will bloom into an extravaganza of color and rhythm. "I'm proud that while this is the third party we've done at Anna Bannanas," Raposo said, "this will be the first time that all of the Brazilian groups on the island will be brought together for this special event. It's going to be an exciting thing."

After introducing the African influences on Brazil with conga dances performed by Michael Wall (Raposo's husband) and his First Circle West African ensemble, the evening's events will continue with Brazilian dances in honor of the culture's spiritual deities, including the "ile aiye" ("the house of life") for the deities of the umbanda tradition. The local Brazilian martial arts group Capoeira Hawaii will then be included in the mix with its array of amazing acrobatics (the blend of dance and martial arts came out of the oppressive culture that arose out of sugar plantations manned by African slaves).

Later in the evening, starting around 11, an hour will be set aside for music and dance to the always popular bossa nova rhythms played by the Mistura Brazilian Jazz Band, fronted by its local "Brazilianized" singer, Sandy Tsukiyama. And a new style will be debuted by Glo Ayson and Samantha Tavares called "belly-samba," a sensuous blend of belly dancing and samba.

From about midnight to the wee hours of Sunday morning, Shakasamba, a new trio of percussionists led by our adopted master, Carlinhos de Oliveira, will play for the Samba Axé dancers. Raposo said they will first perform "samba-reggae," a fusion of the popular dances of Bahia, the capital of Afro-Brazilian arts, then a fusion of samba and forró (from the northeastern part of Brazil) and then a spicy thing the group calls "timbalada."

The night will culminate with the full regalia of "samba-mangueira," choreographed by the group's Carmen Olivie, and then it's Carnaval time with performers donning traditional costumes purchased in Brazil from two samba schools that performed during Rio de Janeiro's Carnaval 2000.

A Brazilian Celebration

With the Samba Axé dance group, music by Shakasamba and the Mistura Brazilian Jazz Band, the Capoeira Hawaii martial arts group and the West African drum and dance group First Circle

Where: Anna Bannana's, 2440 S. Beretania St.
When: 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. tomorrow
Admission: $12
Call: 377-3786 or 946-5190


Brazilian music beats
keep grooving with
a contemporary spin

By Shawn 'Speedy' Lopes

Influenced as much by the "cool" sound of American West Coast jazz as the percussive samba, bossa nova represented a melding of new and old, as the traditional sounds of the old world acknowledged the progressive musical sensibilities of the ultra-mod. Who knew, including João Gilberto, long credited as the innovator of the bossa nova, that the breezy sound would be revived and restyled some four decades later with the help of electronic gadgetry?

In a fascinating development, Brazilian music has been resurrected in recent years in the Northern Hemisphere, where styles like samba and bossa nova have been fused with such club-friendly subgenres as house and drum 'n' bass. It seems a natural pairing, as samba rhythms are every bit as complex and challenging as the skittish percussive patterns of drum 'n' bass, and the laid-back feel of down-tempo electronica adapts quite easily to bossa nova's lilting grooves.

While the number of producers hip to the newfound possibilities of such a musical fusion is on the rise, as are the number of albums available to the public, this particular sound has yet to find a name or a widespread audience. "Those records are very hard to get," explains Norm Winter, who for nearly 20 years as music guru of the original Jelly's music chain has seen every musical trend come and go.

"There aren't that many available, and when they are put out, aren't available for very long. The demand for that stuff's not being fed mainly because major record labels think it's still a specialty thing."

Winter was also there for the initial Brazilian pop invasion of the early '60s, when after nearly a decade of development in its homeland, bossa nova was embraced by noted American jazz and pop musicians, and Brasileiros like Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto and Laurindo Almeida broke into the mainstream.

"It was phenomenal," Winter remembers. "It was huge. It all started with 'Desafinado' (a Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça composition popularized by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd). That was in the '60s and the album's still selling."

As compilation albums featuring contemporary club grooves reworked from Brazilian classics have been selling in DJ specialty shops in recent years, dedicated record hounds have been snatching up used copies of first-run jazz, funk and bossa nova albums just as quickly.

"The truth is, some of these kids are becoming more knowledgeable about classic stuff from the jazz eras," he reveals. "They look for artists I almost forgot about that never sold that much in the first place. What's happening is, the deejays are becoming more knowledgeable than even the old-time record collectors."

Renewed interest in Brazilian sounds is by no means an American phenomenon, however. Italian producer Nicola Conte's spiffy "Bossa per Due," first featured on the ultra-hip Eighteenth Street Lounge series, was picked up as the musical backdrop for a recent Acura commercial. Crazy-eclectic German composer Rainer Truby, compiler of the wondrous past-meets-present Glucklich collections, travels the world as a highly sought-after producer and DJ. Among the featured acts on his Glucklich series are brothers Shuya and Yoshihiro Okino, a k a Kyoto Jazz Massive, the successful DJ-promoter-producer-remixer brother combo from Japan.

But to say that this revamped sound has become a musical movement would be a bit overstated. The new bossa nova is far from being embraced by the greater populace. Although more nu-bossa compilation CDs have become available every year to the delight of fans of the subgenre, none has ever cracked Billboard's Top 200. This is precisely what makes it cool. Even club DJs, long considered the mavens of cutting-edge cool, have not yet caught up to the balmy sound en masse.

A handful of in-the-know aficionados have, and now believe there's no going back.

"I used to have a monstrous collection of house and trance, both on vinyl and CD," says Daniel Bray, an avid music collector and bedroom deejay who spends between 15 and 20 hours a week scouring record shops and the Internet for Brazilian-based electronica. "But when I began to turn on to this music, I started selling them off, little by little. I think I've found the sound I've been looking for all my life."

Suggested listening:

>> Zuco 103 "Outro Lado" (Six Degrees)
>> Bebel Gilberto "Tanto Tempo" (Six Degrees)
>> Various artists: "Caipirissima: Batucada Eletronica" (Caipirinha Productions)
>> Various artists: "Bossa Mundo" (Wave Music)
>> Various artists: "Break 'N Bossa" Chapters 1-4 (Schema)
>> Various artists: "Glucklich" Vol. 1-4 (Studio K7/Compost)
>> Various artists: "Brazilian Beats 2" (Studio K7/Mr. Bongo)
>> Various artists: "Brazilectro" Vol. 1-2 (SPV)
>> Various artists: "Red Hot + Rio" (Antilles/Verve)

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