This week’s potpourri of music begins with the Cameroonian bass virtuoso Richard Bona, who brings his Cuban band on March 17 to The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Bona got his start as a jazz musician when somebody in his village handed him a cassette of the Weather Report song “Portrait of Tracy,” which Bona spent a year learning on a hand-built instrument. Now he’s one of the best electric bassists in the world.
We’ll then hear great playing from Cleave Guyton, Jr., a reedman who helped propel Abdullah Ibrahim’s band forward at last weekend’s Royce Hall performance. I am also really liking a new project called Heritage from saxophonist Owen Broder and his ensemble, The American Roots Project. Broder takes roots music and points it in a modern jazz direction, with the aim of celebrating the diversity of American traditional music.
For the second half of the show, I feature different versions of one of my favorite Brazilian songs, “Canto de Iemanja,” written over 50 years ago by guitarist Baden Powell and poet Vinicius de Moraes. The classic song honors the orisha Iemanja (also spelled Yemanjá), the African goddess of the oceans and rivers—one of the most important saints of the African diaspora, in Haiti, Cuba, and West Africa where she originated. Iemanja is venerated in Caribbean islands wherever slaves landed. In Brazil, with its thousands of miles of Atlantic coastline and vibrant African heritage, she is celebrated in music, religious iconography, jewelry, tattoos, and other adornments.
We first hear the original by Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes from 1966, which features the female vocal group Quarteto Em Cy, giving it a haunting Gregorian chant sound. The music still feels new after all this time.
The second version by Bahian singer Virginia Rodrigues is deep, spiritual, and worshipful. Rodriguez got her recording start after Caetano Veloso heard her sing in a Salvador, Bahia church. We close with a third version by Brazilian singer Joyce Moreno, from a wonderful collection called Nós E O Mar, Brazilian Music Inspired by the Sea, which was released in 2005 in two CD volumes.
If you’re interested in exploring this song further, it’s been recorded many times by artists such as Mario Adnet and Philippe Baden Powell with singer Monica Salmaso (video below), Mia Doi Todd on the compilation Red Hot + Rio Vol. 2, as well as the wonderful Brazilian guitarist Fabiano do Nascimento.
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 3/9/18
- Richard Bona / “Tiki” /Tiki/ Decca
- Owen Broder and The American Roots Project / “Goin’ Up Home” / Heritage / ArtistShare
- Cleave Guyton, Jr. / “Pensativa” / Introducing the C.J. Heptet / Consolidated Artist Productions
- Baden Powell / “Canto De Iemanja” / Os Afro Sambas / JSL/Iris Music
- Virginia Rodrigues / “Canto De Yemanjá” / Mares Profundos / Edge Music/DG
- Joyce / “Canto De Yemanjá” / Wave: Nós E O Mar / Dubas Musica/Universal