By Greg Scruggs, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – “Cosa Nostra,” the first cut on Erlon Chaves’ 1978 LP Banda Veneno – Vol. 1, does not mince words about what constitutes Brazilian pride. Jorge Ben, Pelé, Copa do Mundo, Carnaval, cafezinho, Ipanema – they are all “coisa nossa,” our thing.
The phrase entered the Brazilian lexicon, especially when referring to Brazilian music, and is a more than appropriate name for Circo Voador’s new event, which debuts on Friday, April 15th with Dona Selma do Coco, Lia de Itamaracá, and DJ Dolores.
The Pernambuco takeover (all three acts hail from the northeastern state) of Rio’s venerable stage for the first edition of Coisa Nossa is all part of the plan, explains Gaby Morenah, special events coordinator at Circo.
“We have a problem at Circo in that we always host big bands, but it’s difficult to showcase newer or medium-size acts,” she explains. “While we have a large festival, MoLA (Mostra Livre de Artes), in October, we are lacking an event that can bring mid-career acts without sticking them in an opening slot.”
In the case of the Coisa Nossa premier, which if all goes well will become a monthly event, the stage will not be hosting mid-career acts, but rather some exquisite musical talent from outside of the normal Rio and São Paulo circuit.
Recife, in the northeastern heartland, is a hotbed of traditional folk music with an ear for the 21st century – novel arrangements, remixes with more contemporary styles, and a simple longevity that sounds good whatever the decade.
Lia de Itamaracá, a 67-year-old singer, composer, and dancer, is a living legend with a half-century of experience performing Ciranda, a dance and musical style created by fishermen’s wives on the island of Itamaracá (from where Lia hails, hence the name).
In traditional settings, the slow, percussive music is usually accompanied by a dance circle as women await the safe return of their husbands. On stage, Lia’s most recent arrangements mix Jazz, Samba, and Frevo (Recife’s brass-driven answer to Samba) with her powerful, strident voice.
Dona Selma do Coco, whose name also clues you in, represents another strain of northeastern culture. Coco is a dance and musical style, this one from the interior of Pernambuco, Alagoas, and Paraíba with a mixture of African and indigenous traditions.
Like Ciranda but faster, typically Coco is danced in a circle (roda), with percussion accompanying. Two dancers pair off, but not cheek to cheek like a traditional partner dance. It’s something of a cross between Samba without the cavaquinho and capoeira without the martial arts.
Finally, rounding out the night is Recife’s premier disc jockey-cum-ethnomusicologist, DJ Dolores. An early adherent of the Manguebit movement, which sought to filter traditional music through a contemporary electronic lens.
Dolores’ DJ sets map out the best roots music of Brazil and beyond, pairing it with the bumping beats and bass that digital technology permit. His music is curatorial at the same time as it makes the dance floor groove, and he will be the perfect complement to these two grandes dames of the sound of Pernambuco.
Coisa Nossa at Circo Voador in Lapa, Friday, April 15th, doors open at 10PM, show at 11PM. Entrance: R$50 or R$25 for students, under-21, and seniors, or if you bring the e-flyer or 1kg of non-perishable food.