Ten years after the live album São João Vivo on the same topic, Gilberto Gil again celebrates June's popular saints festivities on the buoyant Fé na Festa. Such festivities were brought from Portugal and became an important part of Brazilian culture, especially the cult of São João (Saint John) in the northeast region. The music associated with these festivities is typically performed with instruments brought by (or derived from) the Portuguese colons, such as the accordion, violin, triangle, cavaquinho, and sanfona. While Gilberto Gil has an international reputation as a musical revolutionary, thank to his tropicalista origins, he is also a superb classicist, as his many projects in Brazilian folk music can attest. Contrary to the aforementioned live album, Fé na Festa is mostly made of new compositions by Gil, rather than standards. In this respect, this brilliant collection of xotes, xaxados, and baiãos offers further proof that Gil can effortlessly match the masters of the genre as a popular composer. The first half of the album was written entirely by Gil, and it includes songs that combine the regional dances with his trademark philosophical musings, such as "Não Tenho Medo da Vida," or with his very contemporary take on sexual liberation on the utterly delightful "O Livre-Atirador e a Pegadora" -- the album's chosen single and sure to become a Gil classic, with impish lyrics of bemused tolerance and understanding. It reads like a Stephin Merritt song minus the sordid irony, if you can imagine that. The last six tracks, on the other hand, feature a segue of four songs by other composers and two collaborations on the same spirit: simple, beautiful songs about São João, music, and love. These include a tribute to king of baião Luiz Gonzaga, as well as a great remake of "Norte da Saudade" from Gil's 1977 masterpiece Refavela, and all are unreservedly charming, as is the entire Fé na Festa. True, this album may not have the ambition of Gil's best work, but it shares the quintessence of what makes him such an universal artist: the celebration of the joy of making music. Lovingly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Mariano Prunes