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[Off The Record]
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Caetano Veloso

The title track of Brazilian singer and songwriter Caetano Veloso’s Noites do norte ( " Northern Lights " ) has a text by Brazilian abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco; Veloso sings it wistfully to neo-classical accompaniment. Brazilian culture — indeed, Brazil’s national identity — has long been at the center of Veloso’s work, and on this album he tells his stories as much through the rhythms as through the words. Even the presence or absence of drums (which are at the heart of Brazilian music) has implications.

In " 13 de Maio " ( " May the 13th " ) — an odd-metered, bouncy samba — he celebrates the day that marked the end of slavery. " Zumbi, " Jorge Ben’s song about the leader of a slave rebellion, is refashioned here as a powerful samba reggae. In " Zera a reza " ( " Prayer Down to Zero " ), Veloso hints at funk-hop and pagode, a style of samba. Elsewhere, he pays his respects to the late Brazilian rock pioneer Raúl Seixas on the rockish " Rock’n’Raul, " salutes the greatest of Italian filmmakers on " Michelangelo Antonioni " (a drummerless piece sung longingly in Italian), and calls up his own memories of Rio de Janeiro on " Meu Rio, " which is rich with lyric imagery and musical references to samba. Noites is subtle, deceptively simple, and rewarding throughout.


Issue Date: June 14 - 21, 2001

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