Mestre Cupijó e seu Ritmo ‘Siriá’ (Analog Africa) 4/5

Mestre-Cupijó-e-seu-Ritmo-SiriáAmid a sea of highly polished Brazilian recordings in the mainstream MPB industry, it is heart warming to discover that Analog Africa records have seen fit to explore one of the lesser known regional musical tradition in the north-west of Brazil from the state of Pará and the music contained on this compilation was largely recorded in the city of Belém. This is music with a slightly rawer edge in terms of production and sounds all the better for not being too polished and instead has been stripped down to its raw essence. It is a music that above all else celebrates life and its myriad pleasures as well as exploring the roots of the Quilombolas or Maroons, the freed former slaves who now form their own community and inhabit part of the Amazon. The leader of the big band formation is Cupijó who is a multi-instrumentalist and son of band leader Mestre aka Vicente Castro. After first performing on clarinet and mandolin, Cupijó finally settled on the alto saxophone and this has become his immediately identifiable sound in the band. It was indeed after experiencing life among the Quilombolas that the leader returned to form Jazz Orquestra os Aces do Ritmo and the band’s reputation gradually spread by word of mouth. This anthology cuts across six albums that the band recorded and there elements of rural big band music (similar in some respects to Columbian big band cumbia in fact and with accordion incorporated at times) as well as urban samba (at least in the use of cavaquinho and percussion), though the final result is something that is quite distinctive and utterly compelling. An outstanding example of the style is ‘Farol do Marajó’ which is a joyous track featuring male lead vocal and unison brass to stunning effect. In general a driving beat with joint saxophones and vocals is performed at a rapid pace which is ideal for the rural dancefloor and numbers such as ‘Papa Chibe’ and ‘Morena do Rio Mutuacá’ illustrate this to perfection. Ideally one would have like a more generous timing and with six albums to choose from, at least sixty minutes of music should be made available to the budding listener. Otherwise, a fascinating insight into a rural style of Brazilian music that has hitherto been ignored outside the regional and national borders and that is something to be welcomed. Tim Stenhouse