What if you could get insider information about great Brazilian musicians that are ignored by the wider public?
Sparrow Roberts is an American that runs a record shop in Salvador, Bahia. A few weeks ago he had a great idea: he launched Via Euterpe, a website named after the Greek music muse where you can help promote musicians that you love. “I think of Via Euterpe as one of those small record stores with a cadre of devoted employees who have made it their business to know as much as possible about their own little niche. But THIS record shop is a labyrinthine hall-of-mirrors, twisting and winding its way through an Escher-like cyberspace, wherein along the way anyone who cares to may recommend, and should they feel inspired, elaborate”, in Roberts’ words.
The project reveals a few pearls from Bahia (here described by Roberts):
Bule Bule…the griot of Bahia! Within the folds of the cerebrum within the bearded head under the folded-leather hat are engraved the recordations of the folkloric universe of a very musical people (those of the parched, hardscrabble interior of Brazil’s great Nordeste…northeast).
Samba Chula de São Braz are to Brazil what Charlie Patton would be to the United States if he were alive today. Magnificent roots music, primordial samba in this case, the base of virtually all popular Brazilian music from the 19th century on. The Saturno brothers are at the core of the group — rough-hewn men in black hats — in their seventh decade of hard-scrabble lives spun into life-affirming art full of moving soul. And these guys do move!
Raimundo Sodré is a diamond truly lost-and-found. A backlands Bahia (Brazil) boy, he won immediate fame and a record contract with PolyGram by placing third and being the audience’s wildly popular favorite in Brazil’s yearly nationally-televised music talent festival (of the time), and then fell out of favor (to put it mildly!) with a powerful politician during the dictatorship. Raimundo fled the country to save his life, losing his nascent career, only to return some twenty years later. Luckily samba musicians are like blues musicians…they just get better with time.
Gabi Guedes…his lean frame belies the weight of — or in, rather — his hands. Gabi is head percussionist at Salvador’s storied house of candomblé Ilê Iyá Omin Axé Iyá Massê…Gantois. He played for nine years with Jimmy Cliff and now records and plays with everybody in Brazil.
Alex Mesquita is The Man from Monkey Heights! Truly! He was born in Alto dos Macacos (Monkey Heights, in other words), Bahia, Brazil…in the Bahian Recôncavo, samba’s cradle. He understands the touch, the swing of this area, something that even musicians in Salvador across the bay are unable to get right (and don’t even think about Cariocas…musicians from Rio!). But Alex was educated (musically) at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, making him truly a man for all seasons. He is currently a professor of music at the Federal University of Salvador, and a top-flight session player and sideman.
Dona Dalva de Cachoeira (Lady Dalva, of the town of Cachoeira, Bahia, Brazil) is the First Lady of Brazil’s primordial samba, the soul-lifiting samba-de-roda of the Bantus brought to work Bahia’s great sugarcane plantations.
Good luck, Sparrow. Enjoy the ride!