Ramiro Musotto, Civilizacao & Barbarye

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

As its title suggests, Civilicao & Barbare focuses on musical contrasts — especially those represented by Ramiro Musotto's two main axes: the berimbau, a one-stringed Afro-Brazilian percussion instrument associated with the Afro-Brazilian candomblé religion, and the computer. A prominent Argentine producer-percussionist who has lived in Brazil since 1984, Musotto released a more radical, though considerably less graceful, blend of old sounds and new technologies on his choppy 2003 album, Sudaka. Civilicao & Barbare is an immensely more elegant, organic and enjoyable tour of the diverse tribal trance sounds of Brazil, Cuba and Africa.

Dude, you’re getting a Dell…and a berimbau.

The record's top half concentrates on the sounds of Brazil, beginning with Musotto's minimalist multitracked berimbau solo, "Ronda." This segues into the electronically reconfigured geography of "Ochossi," a traditional Afro-Cuban song in praise of the Yoruban Orisha, or spirit, associated with hunting. "Gwyra Mi" combines the words of Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos with an indigenous children's choir. The kids 'voices are subsequently heard in reverse, over a Congolese guitar riff," in "M'bala." The Pifana flutes, forro rhythms and voice of local star Chico César in "Nordeste & Bérad Ro" represent the northeastern Bahia region. And an unforgettable mandolin melody gets a strong samba accompaniment in Musotto's version of Jacob do Bandolim's arousing "Assanhado."

Leaving Brazil, Musotto makes an unexpected detour to Balochistan (a region straddling Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran) in "Majno Ma Bi" before visiting Zimbabwe ("Mbira"). He ends up in Cuba for "Yambú," an old, slow rumba performed originally by Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. From Brazil to Africa to Cuba, Musotto makes an immensely listenable case that any real contradictions between tribal and electronic styles are danceable resolved by the universality of rhythm.