Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jorge Ben: Africa Brasil (1976)

Three parts West African rhythms, equal parts Parliament-style funk, and a dash of soul, triple distilled, make up this heady brew, the last--and most boisterous--of Jorge Ben's cornucopia of 1970s masterpieces. Its most famous songs need little introduction: the thunderous "Xica da Silva," an immediate sensation, which resounded through the discotheques of Europe; "Taj Mahal," from which Rod Stewart promptly stole the famous riff for his (decidedly flaccid) "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"; and of course, the anthemic "Umbabarauma," which could light a fire under damn near anyone's ass. The record's most enduring treasures, though, might in fact be found on its deep tracks, none better than "A Historia de Jorge," a shimmering piece of acoustic booty brought back from Ben's Id. The song climaxes with a sick disco jam in the middle, in which the tension mounts to an almost unbearable level, only to be somehow miraculously released with a sudden change of key at 2:05 ("Voa Jorge, Jorge Voa!" / "Fly Jorge, fly!"). Moments like this epitomize Ben's greatness: neither as innovative as Caetano Veloso, nor as ethereally beautiful as Milton Nascimento, he was nevertheless the greatest musical alchemist Brazil has seen, and listening to his output, at its very best, yields more sheer pleasure than anything short of simply shooting H. He would go on to release a plenitude of other LPs over the next couple of decades, but never recaptured the magic of albums like A Tabua de Esmeralda, Força Bruta, and Africa Brasil, as if, in making this last record, he expended himself in a final, exhausting burst of creativity. We are the better for it.

Africa Brasil
  1. Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma) – 3:52
  2. Hermes Trimegisto Escreveu – 3:02
  3. O Filósofo – 3:27
  4. Meus Filhos, Meu Tesouro – 3:53
  5. O Plebeu – 3:07
  6. Taj Mahal – 3:09
  7. Xica da Silva – 4:05
  8. A História de Jorge – 3:49
  9. Camisa 10 da Gávea – 4:04
  10. Cavaleiro do Cavalo Imaculado – 4:46
  11. África Brasil (Zumbi) – 3:47


  1. Andrew,

    Amazing blog. I love it and your written voice.

    Maybe I'm retarded, but I'm trying to open the Jorge Ben album link and I'm getting asked for "the passphrase for this archive." I have no idea what to put, and am frustrated I can't listen to what you describe as a fun and lovely album. Please help!

    Thanks, Kevin

  2. Sorry Kevin. The password for that one is "vibes." Enjoy!