March 10, 2021

Rhythmic Pairs and Geophysics

Listening Post 293. Continents separated by geological forces are knit together again by human movement. But the case of Brazilian singer-songwriter Jabu Morales is exceptional: When she landed in cosmopolitan Barcelona she entered an atmosphere in which her strengths—radiant voice, magnetic persona, Afro-Brazilian rhythms—seemingly became superpowers, especially as they marinated in musical styles from the Mediterranean to Angola, from the Caribbean to Cape Verde. Her pivotal encounter was with Italian accordionist-composer Alberto Becucci, and around them formed the six-member Ayom—named for the Candomblé orixá (spirit) of music. The band’s eponymous debut album highlights migration and mixing, freedom and resistance, with Morales sizzling in Portuguese, Yoruba and French Antillean Creole. Beyond the captivating swing and homage to disparate traditions are lyrical pairings that range from natural (clove and mint), to contrary (flowering and drought) to magical (passion between the tide and the moonlight). Morales avoids politics but does offer an Ayom Manifesto, a biguine-inflected ode to a woman’s right to be whatever she wants and go wherever she pleases (video 1). One of the most delectable couplings—and an emblem of the core Brazilian-Italian synergy—is Cachaça e macarrão (Cachaça and Pasta, video 2), a blend of baião and maracatu cadences. Baile das catitas (Fancy Dance, video 3), is a pulsing forró about a ball that doesn’t go as planned. One of two tracks devoted to orixás, Éxu (video 4) moves from slow baiao to samba as it invokes the wisdom and drumbeat of a divine messenger. With a final sip of cachaça, A marvada e a promessa (The Curse and the Promise, video 5) staggers from the dancefloor to the gutter. Borderless like the supercontinent that gradually broke into today’s earthly landmasses, Ayom—band and album—is a universe where inspired artists compose unlikely matches that make perfect sense and great music. (Amplifica Records)

Jabu Morales: Voice, percussion
Alberto Becucci: Accordion
Timoteo Grignani: Zabumba, percussion
Walter Martins: Percussion
Ricardo Quinteira: Guitar
Francesco Valente: Bass


Ayom Manifesto
Jabu Morales, Alberto Becucci, Timoteo Grignani

(From the Portuguese and Antillean Creole lyrics)
They say that a woman can’t do what she wants/The world works like that and the restrictions fall on me
When someone told me to watch my step/Don’t shout, don’t be vulgar, be demure and stay home
I couldn’t accept the rules

I would live somewhere else/Where I could scream
Laugh out loud, be free and dance, even if you don’t like it
I can love another woman, it’s my law and that’s all I know

I’ve grown up, given birth, created and procreated/And I’ve gained so much strength
You can’t scare me with your rules/No one can shut me up
That’s what I know, nothing less/My world is today, as I’ve told you
There are many like me and we won’t get tired of fighting


Cachaça e macarrão / Cachaça and Pasta
Jabu Morales, Alberto Becucci

(From the Portuguese lyrics)
At the blowout where young girls choose the sweethearts who rock their socks
I want to see the rattling chairs kick up dust all over the room as the band rumbles

And the ritual begins/Shake-shake shimmy-shimmy scratch-scratch on the floor
Braiding samba with a Latin mix/Needing only a trigger to make the pot explode

Take it easy, my man/If you want to be my baby and my love
You have to feed me and I don’t like to wait/I have some caprices that I insist on

Cheese and coffee, cachaça and beans/Love, I’ll give you the world
And stop the time from passing as the clock strikes summer

I’ll show you all the richness you can put on a table full of delicacies, and in my heart
As sure as Tuscany has farfalle, bucatini, linguini, tortellini and gnocchi with parmesan

Rest assured, everything has its alchemy/And I’ll show you that I’m the queen of tradition
I take every opportunity to train all this pent up desire/Because talking about cheese brings back memories
Be careful how you mix the recipe/You bring the cachaça and I’ll take care of the pasta


Baile das catitas / Fancy Ball
Jabu Morales, Alberto Becucci

(From the Portuguese lyrics)
It was the grand ball that roared its approach and suddenly/The day came and everyone was dancing
But when the wind rose it took an unexpected turn/At dawn Dona Jandira grated the squeezebox and shook everything up
Not even Juno with his hairy arms could tame the damn thing/It was Cotinha, with the face of saint, who got things under control

Fancy circle
The pretty girls spin
In the Forró of the Intoxicated Woman

But the dance wheel lost a thingamajig and spun off course/Like the tangles and twists of a comet’s tail
And dust rose like a melody from the valves on a horn
And that night everyone whispered/Never seen two women coiled together
Or the clueless sheriff who arrived and thought he would unravel the plot
Or the ball planned for big boys that turned into perfumed revelry



(From the Yoruba lyrics)
Exú, Blessed Exú, the Divine Messenger speaks with power
The owner of the crossroads, who dances to the beat of the drum/Ticks the drum with his toe
Stay out of conflicts/Conflicts are contrary to the spirits of the Invisible Kingdom
Direct the baby’s unsure feet/Exú’s words are always respected
We will use your sword to touch the land/Exú does not mislead me, the divine messenger will not mislead me


A marvada e a promessa / The Curse and the Promise
Jabu Morales / Alberto Becucci

(From the Portuguese lyrics)
At dawn every cat is dark/
Around the corner at the crossroads
And the cursed cachaça plays the beast/I put it in my belly, it goes to my head

Drunk as a skunk when I fall, it’s a fact/Either pray to the divine or disappear in hell
Just one more sip to liven up the party/Spending my wobbly walk like a drumbeat

I made a bad bet and said good morning to a horse/Like the chicken challenging the cock, I ended up drinking from the latrine
Whoever helped me I pulled to the floor to dance pagode/I polished the rams’ horns and played with the girls

Another day, the sun wakes me/My face in the gutter and everything sucks
Another day, the sun won’t refresh me/A pilgrimage to the gutter and I make another promise



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