Various Artists

Nu Brazil: Fresh Sounds from Today's Brazil

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Most of this 2003 double-CD compilation of contemporary Brazilian music dates from 2001-03, though a few tracks are undated and one (Os Originais Do Samba's "La Vern Salgueiro") sneaks back to 1972. As befits a country that, according to the liner notes, is the fifth largest record producer in the world, there's a good deal of variety to the nearly 30 songs, which total over two hours of music. There are some of the rhythms and hints of samba and bossa nova that North American and European listeners would associate with Brazilian music, but actually there's a lot more here. There are pieces that are close to rap, funk, jazz, and just plain pop, showing a good deal of influence from First World popular trends (stretching to scratching and remixes); there are also outings from veterans whose careers go back to the 1960s, such as Joyce, whose "Forcas d'Alma" is one of the jazzier and better songs. Perhaps this is the bias of a Western-oriented listener looking for something different peeking through, but it's not as exotic or exciting as one might guess. The songs that take melodic and rhythmic inspiration from more identifiably Brazilian pop forms are for the most part pleasant but placid, while the ones showing more contemporary influences can sound close to average early 21st century R&B that happens to be sung in a non-English language, albeit often with a particularly Brazilian suaveness. Caetano Veloso's son, Moreno Veloso, comes closest to the seductive bossa nova of older days on "Deusa Do Amor (Goddess of Love)," with Celso Fonseca's "O Origem Da Felicidade" not running far behind in that department. Daúde's "Ala-La-O" is one of the more intriguing numbers in how it incorporates some ideas that echo African high life.

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