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  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 5, No. 2, 2006

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Montreal Jazz Festival 2005 Annual Summer Percussion Festival Longueuil







Piano Keyboard




Featured artist: PAULO RAMOS
from Longueuil (Quebec) Percussion Festival, July 2007

The whole world loves Brazilian music, but don’t blame it on the bossa nova, or even on the film Black Orpheus. Even before the classic 1959 blockbuster film about Carnival came out, after which bossa nova hit the international air waves, there was Antonio Carlos Jobim. As a young musician, the late composer (1927-94) and his friends breathed new life into samba canção (samba song), with sophisticated chord progressions and fresh lyrics. Jobim, by the way, was also a serious composer of 12-tone music, which probably explains the unusually sophisticated structure of bossa nova. Today, singer-songwriter and guitarist Paulo Ramos carries the torch for Brazilian music in his adopted city of Montréal. And like his mentor who was also a world traveler, Ramos has sounded the call on tour throughout several continents.

To be sure, the term bossa nova is a little old fashioned these days, since it identifies the musica franca and dance craze of the early 60s. That said, the world wouldn’t be so familiar with Brazilian were it not for the bossa nova phenomenon started by Jobim and company. As for Ramos, he is too versatile to be pinned down to one style, although he rarely strays too far from samba.

Bossa nova, a.k.a. jazz samba, began to migrate from Brazil in the late 50s, when young college students in Rio began experimenting with a new kind of popular music that combined the vocabulary of jazz, convoluted chords and melodies and samba. Samba is probably Brazil’s foremost music, which developed in Black ghettos of Rio at the beginning of the 20th century. Though samba is most often associated with Carnival, it is also a key component of many modern styles of Brazilian music. Singer-guitarist João Gilberto is the other significant originator of bossa nova, whose universally adored, ethereal voice has almost become synonymous with the genre.

Bossa nova is generally less percussive than samba and is highly influenced by the tone and harmonic complexity of West Coast ‘cool jazz.’ No surprise that Jobim’s composition, “Girl from Ipanema,” sung by Gilberto’s wife Astrud, is the second most played song in the United States, next to the Beatles' “Yesterday.”

Fast forward fifty years later, and Brazilian music continues to grow and maintain a strong following around the world. In Montréal, Paulo Ramos has been a fixture of the music scene for the past twenty years. His latest recording, entitled Brasil Em Fevereiro, finds Ramos in his element in front of a solid rhythm section comprised of percussionist Daniel Bellegard, drummer Sacha Daoud and bassist Dan Gigon. As well, they are joined by several guest instrumentalists.

The quartet swings in the very best Brazilian way – the rhythm is at once hard driving and lilting. Ramos sings his own compositions with a bittersweet tenderness. His instrument of choice is a solid body acoustic guitar with nylon strings, which is an ideal solution to a potential conflict where vocals and delicate finger work could get short changed. The subdued tonals of an acoustic nylon-stringed guitar are essential for Brazilian singers but the percussion could overwhelm them.


Jimi Hendrix
Joni Mitchell
Stevie Wonder
Neil Young
John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Bob Dylan
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