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   Fênix: Marfim: Release Information

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Release Date: 15.10.2004
EAN/UPC: 705304506028
TT Catalogue No: 4475

The man has taste. In the selection of compositions for his second CD, Brazilian counter-tenor Fênix falls back on some of the most brilliant minds of MPB, Música Popular Brasileira: Caetano Veloso, Nelson Cavaquinho, Lulu Santos, Zeca Baleiro and Totonho. Old and young masters who stand for the creative melting of Brazilian traditions with new international developments. First-class artists they are, as ornamental as ivory, which is exactly what the translation of the album title “Marfim“ means.

Fênix´s androgynous voice has something of those precious elephant tusks too. It is light, clear, and as rare as the sun in a German summer. Where the singer grew up, however, in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, there tends to be a little too much sun. In Sertão, the dry interior of the Northeast, where drought and flight to the cities shape life as much as deep-rooted faith and superstition do, nobody would have anything whatsoever against a few days of German summer. Besides plenty of sun and plenty of sand, there’s plenty of something else here too – rhythms. And amazingly enough, none of them starts with an “s“.
What do 99 percent of people think of first when they hear the words “Brazil” and “music”? That´s right: Samba. Samba embodies the whole tropical cliché of Sugar Loaf Mountain and sunny beaches with eternally dancing mulatto girls in sinfully tiny bikinis. But Samba doesn’t even represent 1% of all the forms and variations Brazilian music has to offer. Fênix´s roots are called Forró, Maracatu, Frevo, Coco, Ciranda, Cavalo marinho, Caboclinho, Xote, Baião, Mangue-Beat, Afoxé and Maculelê - the rhythms of the Northeast. This could be heard very clearly on his first album “Eu, causa e efeito“ (2002, Traumton/Indigo), where, for example, drummers from Maracatu Nação Pernambuco contributed rhythmical colors from the Northeast. Fênix is someone who defends those colors in that shady area of pop music.

The countertenor proudly presents these roots and influences on the new album, “Marfim”, as well. This is expressed in the song “Nhém, nhém, nhém“, a Ciranda, where metaphors for rural concerns in the Northeast are construed with intelligent wit, and end with the ambiguous lines: “Porque sonhos não se limitam a artistas e os tubarões de Pernambuco não toleram surfistas.” (Because dreams do not limit the artist and the sharks of Pernambuco will suffer no surfers.) Totonho wrote the song (he also sings and plays guitar on it), another exciting new MPB musician from the Northeast; who has on occasion dedicated his albums to Fidel Castro, the Madonna and Jesus altogether.

Fênix also investigates curious polytheisms. Those of love and of being left. The eternal Saudade, that damned longing. And then he does sing a Samba, though a very tame one: “Para um amor no Rio“ by Zeca Baleiro, for whom none lesser than the outstanding Marcos Suzano beats time. Just as subdued, he interprets the song “Duas horas da manhã“ by Samba legend Nelson Cavaquinho (written with Ary Monteiro), as music for blue hours.

Fênix has been living in Rio de Janeiro for ten years, with periodic stays in New York. He is certainly no Pé de serra, “Mountain-foot“. In Pernambuco this is what you call everything raw and unrefined that comes from the backwoods to the city. On “Marfim“ five of the eleven songs were penned by him, two of them as co-author; they are pop songs, urban and universal. Programmatically, he opens the album with “Cara a Tapa“ (Bet My Head), his Portuguese version of the Res hit “They Say Vision”. He heard the song in New York on television, bought the CD and wrote the new lyrics on his flight back to Brazil: “Se fui bem claro eu mostro que é provável / Sambar, cantar, compor, erguer sem ser palatável / Finjo o que sei, o que eu não sei / pra que me confundir com aquele na televisão.” (When everything is clear for me, I’ll show what is possible. Dance the Samba, sing, compose, intensify myself without getting too elaborate. I’ll act like I know something, act like I don’t know anything, so I can blend in with that guy on TV). The phoenix, as it is known in our culture, incinerates when it dies and rises up again from the ashes. Fênix (Phoenix) illustrates with “Marfim“ a renewal, without denying his roots. An extraordinary voice in the universe of Pop Made in Brazil. More melancholy than joyful. Saudade is to see things as if it was for the last time. Or for the first. Sometimes it’s the same. Cara a tapa. I´ll bet my head on it.
/ Friedhelm Teicke (Translation: Nancy Huber)


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