The city of Campina Grande is situated in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Paraiba and slightly higher up from Recife (state of Pernambuco), away from the coastline and largely tucked away from tourist awareness. It is from this relatively unknown city that hails the group Cabruêra, who have quietly developed their craft since their creation in 1998, and in more recent times have performed to critical acclaim at major festivals in Europe such as Montreux and Womad. This latest offering, their sixth album in total, is to this writer’s knowledge their first international label release and it is a musical trip into the very roots of Brazilian folk music, but given a twenty-first century modern twist for good measure. The four piece band is the brainchild of founding member and multi-talented vocalist, guitarist and, unusually for Brazil, melodica player Arthur Pessoa. Guitars, bass and percussion predominate, but here are supplemented by trumpet and trombone, and collectively they cut across north-eastern Brazilian folk rhythms (with melodica invariably playing the role of traditional accordion) which are updated with external influences that take in ska, funk and rock among myriad other genres. What this writer especially likes is the amount of risk taking involved in such an enterprise and there are plenty of pitfalls the band could have succumbed to. However, thankfully for the listener, these has all largely been avoided and instead a cohesive and distinctive band sound has emerged over time. What is even more impressive is that the group is in such a creative mood and has assembled two CDs worth of material, though some of these numbers may be more familiar to native north-eastern Brazilian ears taken from previous Brazilian only release. Irrespective, Cabruêra are a band to be reckoned with.
The tight knit rhythm section immediately comes across on the attractive, ‘Doce de Coco’, which features a time ancient baião rhythm with a rasping vocal delivery over a catchy repetitive beat. On the breakneck speed ska-influenced opener, ‘Visagem’, Cabruêra come across as a kind of latter-day Brazilian equivalent of Pigbag, the early 1980s English band that fused an independent punk ethos with manic funk grooves. A local carnival feel permeates the brass-led number ‘Xangô’ with guitar to the fore while the melodica instrument takes centre stage on the deeply melodic ‘Passorada’ where the rapid-fire vocal delivery gives way to a lovely shift in pace part way through. North-eastern rhythms such as frevo and forró are incorporated throughout the songs and lends a truly authentic feel and the listener never senses that the band stray too far away from their local roots, yet at the same time are fully willing to take on board extraneous rhythms from other countries. A major highlight fro this writer is the dancefloor heaven of ‘Pisa Moreno’ that brings together surf guitar, house beats and even reggae, with guitar then morphing into a wah-wah effect. Simply stunning and infectious too.
Perhaps their last but one album from 2012, ‘Nordeste oculto’, neatly sums up the group’s approach since Cabruêra are rooted in the folk rhythms of the north-east, but have just the right touch of the left-field avant-garde about them and that should, if there is any justice at all, attract a whole new audience globally. The Brazilian Portugese only website sheds further light on the band’s journey (www.cabruera.com.br).