The Key Studio Sessions: Alo Brasil

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Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

In terms of personnel, instrumentation and sheer sound, Philadelphia-based traditional Brazilian ensemble Alô Brasil might be the biggest band we’ve recorded for The Key Studio Sessions. The photo above gives you a sense of just some the stuff they brought to WXPN the other night: multiple percussion instruments, including the conga, the timbau, the pandeiro and the quinto. Melodic accompaniment including guitars, cavaquinho, keys and horns. Eleven players – including band leader Alex Shaw – weaving in between the instruments to create a massive, emotional eruption of body-moving sound. The opening song below is a medley of songs in the Brazilian capoeira tradition – a mix of music and martial arts that evolved under the era of colonial slavery, and employs the sonically singular berimbau (a musical bow). Other moments dipped into samba, reggae, batucada and even carried a hint of jazzy looseness and improvisation. Listening to their set is like a cultural education, especially when Shaw explains each song’s background and significance – as he does with children in the Live Connections series at World Cafe Live. Seeing the band live is even more of a multi-sensory experience, with dancers and much pagentry. Which is to say you’ll love seeing them when they kick off the City Hall Presents series on May 29th, and you’ll love them even more at this summer’s XPoNential Music Festival. Below, download “Capoeira Medley” below, and stream the other songs – new arrangements of contemporary and classic 20th century Brazilian songs.

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