San Francisco (California), USA – The music of one of Brazil’s biggest stars, Lenine, will be available in the United States in July 2006 through Six Degrees. Lenine‘s self-titled US debut,Lenine, includes material from three Brazilian releases.
Lenine announces himself right away, starting the compilation with the sounds of acoustic guitars over the distant pounding of drums, and leading into the effortless funk of “Jack Soul Brasileiro.” His rhythmic singing blurs the boundary between song and rap. A break featuring traditional forro accordion and maracatú drums from northeastern Brazil is embroidered with brief electric guitar power chords. The song reflects Lenine’s own roots in the city of Recife, one of Brazil’s oldest and most diverse cities.
Recife has a rich cultural mix of African, Portuguese, Dutch and other European traditions mixed with distinctive traditional music forms and rhythms. “To reflect on my surroundings has always been my goal,” he says. “Pop and samba, rock and the Brazilian maracatu, the popular and erudite, analog and digital, they are all tools I use.”
Some of the most striking pieces on Lenine are the works that take a particularly Brazilian approach to electronica.
Lenine refers to “0 Dia Em Que Faremos Contato” as “retro-futuristic science fiction.” A subtle tinge of electronica floats beneath what otherwise sounds like easily recognizable MPB, adding an unexpected hue and an aura of mystery. Science fiction also lurks in the background of “0 Marco Marciano,” where the simple, appealing mix of acoustic strings, electronic processing, and distant synth drones suggests some kind of brain-twisting collaboration between the legendary Brazilian mandolinist Jacob Do Bandolim and the Bohemian electropop of CocoRosie.
Of course, Lenine couldn’t reach the stature of national hero in a music-crazy land like Brazil without attracting some international attention. Among those paying attention was the NY Latin-funk collective Yerba Buena, who appear on “Rosebud (0 Verbo E A Verba),” a song that seems to exist in a time warp of 1950s Latin pop, 1970s New York salsa and 21st-century post-drum’n’bass production. The rock band Living Colour plays on Lenine’s “0 Homem DOS Olhos De Raio X” – a psychedelia-laced, R&B-based take on the cult film The Man With TheX-Ray Eyes.
“Nem 0 Sol, Nem A Lua, Nem Eu” features the gifted jazz trombonist Steve Turre, who might be best known as part of the Saturday Night Live band, but who has for years made music with conch shells. “A cyber-punk ‘Ring Around The Rosy'” is how Lenine describes this lovely, languorous ballad – its faint, twittering electronics and muted seashells “taking this song to remote sandy beaches… in Saturn!”
Another organic sound turned on its head is the Brazilian berimbau, a percussion instrument that looks like an archery bow with a coconut shell at one end. Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, who also appears on Lenine, has made this sound somewhat familiar to jazz and world music fans, but on “Tubi Tupy” Lenine multitracks the instrument and turns it into a kind of one-string funk guitar. Add trip-hop rhythms and electronic programming, and you get what Lenine refers to as “the genetic code of the racial mix found in Brazil.”
The sounds of the African diaspora – the bluesy guitars in “Na Pressao,” the samba drums on “Lavadeira Do Rio,” the high-octane funk of “A Rede,” even the rap-rock of “Alzira e a Torre” – all coexist peacefully and musically on Lenine.