Prentiss Riddle: Music

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Quem mora no Brasil?

Moro No Brasil (I Live in Brazil) is an explicitly Buena Vista Social Club-inspired film about the roots of Brazilian music. It is structured as a road trip from the Amazon through the Northeast and down to Rio de Janeiro, taking in a dozen musical styles along the way. The movie pointedly avoids the two Brazilian musical movements most familiar outside Brazil, bossa nova and tropicália, focusing mostly on older practitioners of traditional music.

The more folkloric scenes are great but I have to admit that the highlights for me are the artists I already knew, specifically Margareth Menezes, and - worth the price of admission all by himself - Seu Jorge hanging out and performing with the self-described old guard of the Mangueira samba school. Ivo Meireilles' staging of a James Brown medley on favela rooftops is fun, too, but it doesn't sound anything like the much more hiphop-influenced funk brasileiro I've run into elsewhere, and when a voiceover makes the doubtful claim that funk bands have led to a huge drop in narcotrafficking in the Rio slums it hurts the movie's musicological credibility as a whole.

Moro No Brasil DVD Moro No Brasil CD

Moro No Brasil is to be commended for bringing attention to styles and artists that haven't made it into the world music bins, but as a film it has some shortcomings. The conceit of the road movie and the first-person title suggest that we should learn something about the personal journey of the filmmaker, but all we get is that he's a Finn who left the snow behind and owns a night club in Rio. Nor do the musicians' personal stories add up to quite a dramatic arc to match the remarkable history of Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club. So what's left is a grab-bag of concert footage, interviews and impressive Brazilian scenery. Certainly could be worse!

And meanwhile I'm still waiting for the Brazilian music documentaries of my own dreams: a full-on Ken Burns treatment of Ruy Castro's history of bossa nova followed by something similar for MPB. They're long overdue.

music 2006.07.23 link