Brazil Maori Music Fusion

Brazil Maori Fusion Music

King Street Live 1 April 2015

Reviewed by David Famularo

Alda Rezende (Brazil, based in Wellington, vocals), Matiu Te Huki (Aotearoa, vocals, guitar and traditional Maori instruments), Caito Marcondes (direct from Brazil, percussion), Kristoff Silva (direct from Brazil, guitar)

Unfortunately, the performance started early and I arrived late for this event, but nevertheless the quality of the music was such that it deserves a review. Opportunities to hear quality Brazilian music live in New Zealand and especially Masterton are rare, even more so when some of the musicians have come directly from Brazil.

I’m a lover of Brazilian music but recognise that often I am enjoying music that is half a century old. My knowledge of current trends in popular Brazilian music is practically zero (although I do have a Lambada CD from the early 1990s). And being such a vast country there are bound to be numerous strands of authentic Brazilian music that I am not even aware of.

The fact is my own taste and knowledge is mostly via Bossa Nova which while a definable sound is also a spirit and a flow, a church that accepts a rich variety of influences, from indigenous to jazz and on this night Maori. It’s a sensibility as much as a distinctive sound, that combines Brazilian sensuousness and rhythm with a certain intellectual awareness.

The question surrounding this performance would be how comfortably Te Huki’s strong Maori flavour would mesh with that of his Brazilian co-musicians. Sometimes in “world music” the path to hell is paved with good intentions, producing interesting experiments but music that is too contrived to genuinely work.

In the end, there was never any awkwardness about this performance, whether the song was The Girl from Ipanema in Te Reo or one of Te Huki’s own compositions. The foundation of the night was Te Huki’s ongoing creative relationship with Alda Rezende which has been going on for some time, I understand.

The two Brazilian musicians were brought over by Rezende, hence this sublime match up. One would never have guessed that the five had only played as a group for a few days and a few performances.

The music flowed beautifully, with a clarity of sound that allowed every instrument to be heard clearly while their sounds weaved beautifully in and out of each other. The rhythms were lovely and the feeling rich and almost spiritual – something Te Huki in particular brings to every performance he gives.

Over the period of a few songs it slowly became obvious just how good Marcondes and Silva are. Lovely acoustic guitar from Silva that in the best Bossa spirit was disciplined at the same time as relaxed and improvisational. Rezende’s voice has a deep resonance that reminds me of Sarah Vaughan in her later years, and has the same sensuous and mature character.

Before the last number Te Huki spoke of how humbled he was to play with the Brazilian musicians and while numbers were small, how he appreciated the audience being part of this development stage of the project. The last number was a Te Huki original I have heard before and previously been deeply impressed with. It never fails to send shivers down my spine.

Talking to Marcondes afterwards, despite his down-to-earth manner, I slowly discovered just how impressive his background is. As well releasing a number of his own albums, Marcondes has written scores for a number of Brazilian films.

Whether this combination ever plays in New Zealand again is hard to be sure of, due to the costs involved. However, Marchondes told me they were keen to get Te Huki over to Brazil, while Rezende said that appearances at a music festival like Womad might be the best option because of the financial certainty that would offer.

NB I can’t provide you with a video of the night but you can see a video of Caito Marcondes recently performing on Brazilian television here.