Diminutive Ceasar - King of Brazilian Music
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Over the past five years, Chico Cesar has revitalized Brazil's pop scene. A brilliant poet with a remarkable musical gift to create infectious melodies, Cesar is a unique talent, with a quirky nasal voice, he takes touches of reggae, Bahian and Northeastern Brazilian rhythms to create some of Brazil's most memorable hits in years. Putumayo's new offering features the best of two of Cesar's local Brazilian releases, "Beleza Mano" and "Cuzcuz Cla", and their compiler in chief, Jacob Edgar did a masterful job of picking the best of one of the word's greatest musical poets taking the best of both his infectious dance tracks and his touching ballads.Cesar grew up in one of Brazil's poorest regions, in the Northeastern state of Paraiba. Musically, it is one of Brazil's most fertile. Occasionally, the rhythms of the Northeast end up in Cesar's songs directly, such as the forro-inspired "Paraiba meu amor" (Paraiba, my love). The accordion and triangle as well as the up-tempo forro beat are straight from Cesar's birthplace. However, for "Paraiba meu amor", Cesar slows the typically frenetic forro beat, transforming the song into an uplifting nostalgic lovesong about the land he (and so many Brazilians) adore. Another Northeastern folk form that shaped Cesar were the songs of the repentistas (troubadours). It is part of a tradition of oral history where the repentistas compete through improvised poetic duels. The album's opening track, "Papo Cabeca" is an interesting variation on this theme, essentially a "solo duel". The title of the song literally means "heady jive", though in Brazil the term also refers to the cool and smooth way movie stars and celebrities speak. A mix between a Brazilian rapper and a true repentista, Cesar mixes humor and politics in this funky reggae driven song dancing between dozens of ideas representing just about anything "head" related: Trotsky's crushed brains, Baptists's served on a tray, a nail head (hammer), the head of a group (tyrant), penis head (fellatio condom), stilted (socialite) etc.The album includes many of Cesar's classics such as "Mama Africa", a song that has now become almost a national Brazilian anthem, telling the story of the struggles of a Brazilian working mother. The song is trademark Chico Cesar, mixing folklore, social commentary, and poetic lyrics with infectious MPB. This collection also includes Cesar's moving lovesong, "A Primera Vista" (At First Sight). The melody is as touching as its heartfelt lyrics. Even a listener who doesn't speak a word of Portuguese would immediately understand that this is one of the most intimate declarations of love ever composed.With Cesar's first North American release, it seems only a matter of time until audiences here wake up and learn what Brazilians have known for years and discover that Chico Cesar is one of the world's great songwriters."
Good song-writer, poor setting
Paul | Urbana, Illinois (United States) | 10/12/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Putumayo (lable) has recently taken on the admirable task of showcasing a number of good world musicians for a US audience (instead of putting out multi-artist compilations); Chico Cesar from NE Brazil on this album is one. I heard him first on a live concert album with just his voice and guitar, a more intimate setting that suits him. Attempting to beef up his songs instrumentally on his first US release, the arranger is guilty of overkill. The orchestration is overpowering and schmaltzy. I did like "Mama Africa" and "Papo Cabeca", but most of the others are embarrassing. A happy medium would be somewhere between these two albums: Chico, his guitar, and one or two backup instruments (especially percussion). This album isn't it. Wait for another."