Lula Côrtes and Zé Ramalho – Paêbirú

Lula Côrtes and Zé Ramalho – Paêbirú
Shadoks Music CD

Satwa – Satwa
Time-Lag CD

Lula Côrtes and Lailson were two freaks from Recife in North Eastern Brazil who met back home in 1972 after various world travels conducted in flight from the dictatorship that had a stranglehold on the country at that time. “Moroccan sitar” in hand, Côrtes jammed with Lailson, and in early 1973 they recorded Satwa (a Sanskrit word for the luminous aspect of consciousness), a mostly acoustic set of compositions and jams, using wordless vocals in order to circumvent the government’s censorship of lyrics. Originally released on “Kif Records” (a Moroccan word for marijuana), Satwa is a stoned but fiery, glorious record – a true ancestor of the current free folk explosion. Sanskrit, Hot Tuna, Moroccan music, Brazilian regional folk music: all fused in a cloud of smoke. The second track, entitled “Can I Be Satwa” i.e. “cannabis sativa” gives the game away, but made it past the censors.
Apparently, the first independent record made in Brazil, the master tapes for Satwa disappeared in a coastal flood in 1975, along with copies of a second disk, Marconi Notaro’s No Sub Reino dos Metzoarios, which Time-Lag is about to reissue, and Paêbirú, made in collaboration with Zé Ramalho, recently reissued by global archivists of the psychedelic, Shadoks.
Paêbirú, ironically, is organized, like Harry Smith’s Smithsonian folk collection, around the four elements, fire, air, earth and water. Paêbirú is recognizably psychedelic rock but saying that hardly does justice to this extraordinary record. While most of the tropicalia music of Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso clearly emerges out of a dialogue with 1960s American pop music, here, as with Os Novos Baianos’ marvellous Acabou Chorare, which also came out of the Brazilian commune scene, or Milagre Dos Peixes period Milton Nascimento, there’s a stranger fusion of traditional Brazilian music with unhinged psychedelic rock and folk jamming. “Paêbirú” was apparently the location of an archeological site near Recife where Côrtes and Ramalho took acid and grokked cave hieroglyphs whose origin still remains a mystery. The range of styles here, from flute driven folk jams to explosive garage rock to various cosmic and psychedelic styles is more evidence that young people all over the world found in psychedelia the license to fuck with and fuse traditions and electronics, gesturing to a hazy but potent universal horizon that is still there, though currently obscured by other, darker clouds.

Originally published in The Wire.

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