Tom Zé 

Estudando O Pagode: Na Opereta Segregamulher e Amor

Along with better-known artists like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé helped create tropicalia, the '60s musical movement that combined samba and other traditional Brazilian rhythms with American rock, soul, and radical politics. Tom was more experimental than his compatriots, using noise, homemade instruments, odd rhythms, and other avant-garde devices; once underappreciated, he's enjoying a career revival thanks to David Byrne's Luaka Bop label.

Zé's latest, Estudando, is a stripped-down blend of electronica and samba favored by the working class but ignored by polite Brazilian society. It's a beautiful blend of gentle acoustic instruments and harsh electronic textures, written as an operetta to address Brazil's sexual and cultural oppression of women. "Ave Dor Maria" blends children's instruments, thumping bass, and a female chorus praying for Mercy from the afflictions visited upon us by men. On "Pagode-Enredo dos Tempos do Medo," Zé blows into a ficus leaf to produce the sound of a giant mosquito (or maybe someone with a cold clearing his throat), then blends it with clanging guitars, a moaning chorus, and background singers chanting nursery rhymes. "Elaeu" is a straightforward blues/rock tune with a swinging chorus that Zé describes as "homosexuals talking about anima and animus after a Gay Pride March at the Vatican." The album may deal with weighty matters and adventurous production, but in the end it's the simple brilliance of Zé's tunes that makes Estudando O Pagode shine.

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