Review Toumani Diabaté, Arnaldo Antunes, Edgard Scandurra – A Curva Da Cintura
Following on from last year’s AfroCubism album on World Circuit which saw musicians from Cuba and Mali join together for a surprisingly coherent and successful collaboration, this summer sees another Afro-Latin team-up, with Brazilian musicians Arnaldo Antunes and Edgard Scandurra heading to Mali to record with Toumani Diabaté and a selection of other top Malian musicians. A Curva Da Cintura documents this musical mash-up.
The big difference between A Curva Da Cintura and AfroCubism is the daring shown on this record. Arnaldo Antunes and Edgard Scandurra are not here as sidemen, to add Brazilian flourishes (the way Eliades Ochoa added flourishes of a Cuban variety to AfroCubism) but to lead the band into new territory. Both from the alternative rock scene in Sao Paulo, they are responsible for the majority of the compositions here. The instantly striking element they bring to the album is Antunes’ voice. If you’ve not heard him sing before it may take some adjustment, his voice can at times be droning, monotonous even, but it’s a crucial tool, able to bring gravitas and focus to his always captivating lyrics.
Scandurra brings his considerable guitar skills to the album, alternating between jazz noodling (“A Curva Da Cintura”) and blues riffing (“Ir, Mao”). When combined with Toumani Diabaté and his son Sidiki’s kora playing as well as the vocals of Zoumana Tereta, the results are often mesmering, and never dull. Opening track “Ce Nao Vai Me Acompanhar” which seemingly features both guitar and kora with wah-wah switched to full, and a driving vocal from Antunes, is an early highlight.
One of the great things about the album is the fact that the songs are taken into completely new territory. If you listen to “Grao de Chaos” enough it’s possible to see it’s roots as the kind of post-bossa nova MPB track that Antunes delivers so often, but here it takes on an extra folkloric element, more spiritual than “roots”, with a cacophonic use of layered melodies that suggests a fusion between Sun Ra and Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell’s Afro-Sambas album.
This spiritual element continues on tracks like “Kaira” and “Coracao De Mae” which sound almost Eastern at times, and accentuating the spoken word poetry side of Antunes’ work. At the same time there are tracks that could only be described as Led Zeppelin wall-of-rock riffage (the final un-named track), country-folk ballad (“Muito Alem”) and gypsy folk (“Cara”), such is the diversity on offer.
Essentially this is an album featuring three great musicians unafraid to take their music in new directions, and which has resulted in 15 songs that continually confound expectations. As a complete listening experience there may be too many twists and turns, and the heavy vocals of Antunes may grate for some after a while, but with each repeated listen you will find new sounds and flavours that you never knew could exist so well together. It’s for albums like this that the word “fusion” was invented, a breathtaking meeting of minds and melodies.