:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Bahia beyond Axé

Ataualba Meirelles fuses instrumental elements.

Daniella Thompson

31 May 2005

Bahia. The cradle of Afro-Brazilian culture. Icons of the distaff line: Tia Ciata and her cohorts. Negas doceiras e festeiras. Mãe Menininha. A Preta do Acarajé. Carmen Miranda—Portuguese by birth but not altogether a falsa baiana. And in Carmen’s steps: Gal Costa, Daniela Mercury, Ivete Sangalo. From one type of axé (that of the candomblé) to another (mass entertainment, with a capital A).

A parallel trajectory can be traced in the male line: Hilário Jovino Ferreira “Lalau de Ouro”; Getúlio Marinho da Silva “Amor”; Dorival Caymmi; João Gilberto; Caetano and Gil; Carlinhos Brown.

Bahian music today is more varied than at any time in the past. Much of it is unlistenable—to our misfortune, it’s what’s most available. There’s also much listenable music that never gets beyond the portals of Salvador.

I first came in contact with Ataualba Meirelles in 1999, when he released the collective album 1000 Zicbuk 2 (that’s Musicbook 2 in Brazilspeak). The disc contained 20 tracks performed by 18 artists. The musical mix was eclectic, as these artists represented every trend imaginable, including jazz, bossa nova, MPB, pop, rock, reggae, and instrumental music. It was a delight to find “Bahian music that’s not Axé,” as I communicated my discovery to friends at that time. Egídio Leitão thought so too and published a review.

Ataualba went back to his studio, and now he reemerges with a new instrumental CD called Trégua do Absurdo (Respite From the Absurd), consisting entirely of his own compositions. Although this is the work of a single artist, the eclecticism remains, offering selections of ijexá, baião, samba, funk, jazz, pop, and yes, aquele Axé. Clearly, eclecticism is Ataualba’s preferred environment. Now is the time to point out that Ataualba is not a lone artist laboring in a hidden garret. For twenty years or more he has worked in the real world, directing and/or performing with artists such as Margareth Menezes, Edil Pacheco, Batatinha, and Xangai. His debut CD is not a solo album but a group effort. Participating in it are respected musicans like Fred Dantas (trombone), Joatan Nascimento (trumpet), and Tota Portela (flutes); Jurandir Santana and Tony Augusto (electric guitars); Ricardo Marques (electric guitar, cavaquinho & bandolim); Mauro Tahim and Márcio Diniz (drums); Danilo Santana and Marquinho de Carvalho (piano); and Giba Conceição (percussion). Although the disc is instrumental, several singers make an appearance in vocalese, including Andréa Daltro, Nana Meirelles (Ataualba’s sister), and Júlio Miranda.

Who better than the composer to describe his creation?

Trégua do Absurdo took two years to record in my own studio. This required that I look after all the details. In Salvador, the focus of the cultural media are generally given to mass music, tourism being one of the main revenue sources of the city. Producing a work like this is somewhat suicidal; there’s no financial support, and the initiative depends heavily on the free participation and good will of one’s musician friends. This disc also has the opportunity of demonstrating the excellent performance of the musicians of Salvador who’ve escaped to more auspicious markets like São Paulo, owing to the poor work prospects in Bahia. I composed all the tunes and wrote all the arrangements in the CD, as well as playing bass and synthesizers.

This is my first album, after 23 years as professional musician. Over the years I have accompanied and/or directed many Bahian artists, playing all over Brazil and in various other countries. I composed soundtracks for films and for the theatre. In 1999 I was in Luanda, Angola, creating soundtracks for the state TV during the civil war in that region and was able to see up-close the misery and cruelty imposed by the insanity of war. Now I work in my studio, where I arrange and direct many discs for various artists. Most of them are works of high quality but with little or no publicity or distribution.

About the tracks:

Francamente #2 has this title because the bass line and the groove were taken from an old tune of mine called “Francamente,” but the melody and harmony are different. The bass line consists of a series of eight notes (clearly, without the rigor of academic serialism). What I like in this tune is the rhythmic play. Although its soul is 6/8, its groove fakes a 4/4 the whole time, and the agogôs insist on playing a ijexá in the middle of all this. This recording is augmented by the wonderful voice of Andréa Daltro who, like few others, knew how to interpret the tune, so difficult to navigate.

Vibhuti is a ijexá whose theme is quite unusual. Part B has a special climate with the vocal participation of Júlio Miranda. The improvisations of Danilo Santana (piano) and Jurandir Santana (electric guitars), who are not brothers, drive the music.

2002 was the first track we recorded. It’s a tribute to two persons who left us that year 2002. Bastola was a Bahian percussionist and very much loved by everyone here. George Harrison also was loved by all and left in me an inexplicable saudade. In the middle of the tune, I feature a vocal section as a passage between two moments. But the second moment, unexpectedly, is equal to the first, reminding that life continues for us as well as for them. A vignette from this tune is being used as the signal for a local TV cultural program.

Pedra que Brilha is a lively baião full of flutes. In the native Tupi-Guarani language, ‘A stone that shines’ is expressed in the word itaberaba, which gave its name to the hot Bahian city where my mother was born. In 2004, this tune was one of the 14 finalists (out of 1,500) in the Festival da Rádio Educadora. For the opening, we made a maracatu, suggested by the drummer Márcio Diniz. It worked out very well with the môlho [salsa] of Giba’s zabumba and triangle.

Atlântico Sul has the flavor of the 1970s, with that electric guitar wa-wa groove of Tony Augusto and the Rhodes piano of Marquinho de Carvalho. The repiques with brush (Giba’s idea) criate a special climate in the intro and in part B. Played by Joatan Nascimentos trumpet, the theme is short but says everything. The rest is groove.

Clube X was the name of a football team that my father had during my childhood. My father is an engineer, hence the Cartesian name. I made a typical sambinha, that reminded me of the football games I had watched as a child. Fred Dantas’ trombone plays the opening theme and improvisation. In part B, Júlio’s vocal defines the final theme, concluding the whole thing.

Aiuruoca is a small town in southern Minas Gerais. This town has singular characteristics. It’s situated among high mountains, and UFOs are frequently seen there. This tune is somewhat like cool jazz, takign advantage of Marquinho’s interpretation on piano and of Joatan’s on trumpet.

Lu e Lena is a tribute to my two daughters. An unpretentious pop tune that’s fun to hear, where I dare to sing at the end.

Ningameover is the most radical track. With unrestrained use of serial technique, the tune enters into the atmosphere of a game, questioning this moment in our global civilization (is it the end of the game?). It concludes with a sambinha, with only a bandolim for the harmony.

Finally, Pierrot Solaire is a joke involving Axé music. In part B, the tune utilizes a serial line in the bass and an equally serial melody in the flute. All walking to 7/4 beat. The suggestive name is a double allusion to Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and to the Bahian carnaval.

Read Egídio Leitão’s review (with two audio samples) in MúsicaBrasileira.org.

Ataualba Meirelles: Trégua do Absurdo
(Pelourinho Discos BS008; 2005) 51:31 min.

All compositions & arrangements by Ataualba Meirelles.

01. Francamente #2
02. Vibhuti
03. 2002
04. Pedra que Brilha
05. Atlântico Sul
06. Clube X
07. Aiuruoca
08. Lu e Lena
09. NinGameOver
10. Pierrot Solaire


Copyright © 2005–2008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.