This rather quirky and mostly acoustic album delivers a refreshing respite from the overproduced and flagrantly commercial albums Brazilian pop star Gilberto Gil released during the '80s and '90s. Recorded in Norway's capital in 1994 but not released until 1998, O Sol de Oslo was instigated by producer Rodolfo Straeter, who wanted to combine Gil's Bahian background with musicians from other so-called "backlands." These include dusty-voiced singer Marlui Miranda, who specializes in native Brazilian music; accordionist Toninho Ferragutti, who combines Astor Piazzollan tango riffs with folky Brazilian forro chops; ubiquitous Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu; and Norwegian "cyber-backlander" keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft.
The music's all over the map, predictably, but still maintains coherence (you're on your own lyrically, however, unless you happen to speak Portuguese). Some of Oslo's better tunes come from the Brazilian public domain: "Mana," featuring Miranda's dusky vocal, and "Tata Engenho Novo," in which Gurtu's tabla and Ferragutti's jolly accordion weave together wonderfully. Gil adds slow, sacred Yoruba-language stanzas to Straeter's stately "Kao," an affirmation of African ancestry that extends to the jazz harmonies of "Eu Te Dei Meu Ane," the hip-hop rapping of "Rep," and the percussive overdrive of the album-ending tribute to Bahia's famous bloco Afro drum ensemble, "Oslodum."