By Nathan M. Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Lenine, the award-winning singer-songwriter/composer/poet, is one of Brazil’s favorite musicians, and even David Matthews Band made a point to hang out with him when here last. The Rio Times was given an exclusive interview last Monday, before the first of three shows, August 27th, 28th and 29th at the Theatro NET in Rio.
The artist’s most recent album Chão – (named for the Portuguese word for “floor,” an onomatopoeia) explores different aspects of modern life within a larger system. The album sounds great on a pair of headphones, even better at home with a nice sound-system.
A great album for a one sitting listening, à la “Dark Side of the Moon.” Yet the live performance of Chão, in the intimacy of Theatro NET in Copacabana, supported by a quadraphonic sound-system, is a captivating experience bordering on performance art.
“We wanted to change the way people experience the live performance. It is usually see then listen, with Chão we wanted people to listen then see,” Lenine explained to The Rio Times.
Like Pink Foyd’s opus, Chão has a ethereal quality, a modern pop symphony constructed around the sounds of life. “We went out and recorded all those sounds on our own,” a smiling Lenine said. ”No edits, just us.”
The sounds, which link the songs Lenine’ performs live with a stripped down two piece band, race around Theatro NET’s quadraphonic sound-system.
Cicadas, the sound-producing insect that hail the arrival of summer in Urca, sing through the theater. Their joyous song set against Lenine’s original composition, a melancholic tale that speaks about the end rather than the beginning.
When asked about the inspiration for Chão, ”We wanted to make an album without drums,” Lenine says. The challenge of recording a Brazilian album without drums prompts the question: Why? Why make a Brazilian album without drums? Lenine only offers a broad child-like smile, “Why not?”
In fact, the album is heavy on percussion, the guitars offer a sufficient amount of rhythm, as do the sound recordings, most notably a heavy heartbeat.
Lenine refuses to put labels on his music, to adhere to a genre. So the idea of making an album without drums fits into the way the artist sees his own music.
It has also allowed Lenine considerable wiggle room to make music in many different ways that for another, less talented, less visionary artists could result in being dismissed as too experimental.
The live performance of Chão is experimental, but not in an alienating way. It also sounds great, whether you are fluent in Portuguese or just looking for a way to practice what you already know.
Chão is Lenine’s (born in Recife as Osvaldo Lenine Macedo Pimentel) ninth album, the first came out in 1983 – Baque Solto, and the next almost ten years later, Olho de Peixe. In 2005, Lenine won two Latin Grammys: one for “Best Brazilian Contemporary Album” and one for “Best Brazilian Song”.
Wednesday, August 29th is the last performance of Lenine’s three-night stand in Rio. A visit to the newly-renovated Theatro NET to catch the performance is highly recommended.