Thoughts and Writings from others ~

by Tim Wagner

If you’ve never heard Flora’s voice, listen. It is the sound of the ocean, sand and the sky melting together on the canvas of our mind. It not only moves, it motivates new emotions, heretofore unrealized. Spiritual food for the mind. And her music - it makes you dance, whether it is quiet or loud, slow or fast. It would be silly to label her music because it is so many thing but unique in its synthesis. Listening to either of her two new albums will bring aspects of jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop to your ears. You’ll hear Indian ragas filtered through a flamenco sensibility and the sounds of Latin America, from the tip of Argentina to Cuba and New York. Always present is Mother Africa, the source of all the rhythms that feed our soul.

Do you want to know more? Album number one of the year is Speed of Light on the B&W label. Speed of Light, with songs like “Light As My Flo” and “What You See” (recently remixed by top UK junglist A Guy Called Gerald), is Flora’s first venture into programmed beats and samples. On the jazz side of things, the project is full of stellar musicianship, including Airto Moreira, Billy Cobham, Freddie Santiago, Giovanni Hidalgo and Changuito.

Flora’s second album of the year, also on B&W, is a live recording of her group Fourth World, entitled Encounters of the Fourth World. The sound sculpted by the band is pure passion incarnate. The best word to describe it is organic. Layers of sound, moving and shifting. A more rhythmic and “world”-ly take on spaces first explored by Coltrane.

I caught Fourth World live in New York City on the Brazilian Independence day, at Flora’s urging. The first set they played on stage was identical to the new CD. Although many might dismiss it as one too many Xango, it was the most spiritual and coextensive musical experience I had in a long time. The inspired rhythmic structure set up by Airto and guitarist Jose Neto got people on their feet and Flora’s voice sent them soaring.


Flora Purim is not only musician of consummate skill; she is also a performing artist of the highest order. And anybody who has had the experience of seeing jazz musicians combining prodigious technical wizardry with a stage demeanor of calculated impassivity will know that musical virtuosity and the gifts of stage presence and personality do not always go hand in hand. I have often wondered how jazz musicians can expect audiences to be moved by their performances when they apparently are not moved by themselves. On the other hand, the extravagant and mindless exhibitionism much associated with rock music, where ostentation and designer hooliganism are frequently employed as a cover for musical incompetence, are also ominently unacceptable. Flora has shown quite conclusively that it is possible to project, communicate and manifest excitement without detracting in the slightest from the integrity of the music.

She conspicuously enjoys her music - and this is a potent factor in her appeal to audiences around the world. She is a poet, a painter and an actor with her music. What she brings to her audiences is the colors, the contrasts, the complexities and comedies of life. A great deal of contemporary music particularly that which makes extensive use of electronics, is technically adroit but not much imbued with feeling. This kind of ritual, mechanical recapitulation of predictable sounds and phrases is anathema to Flora. She lives her songs; she inhabits them and invests them with her personality and character, with her mood and passion. Her music is full of raw energy and complete commitment - and that is why she is able to communicate with such vigor and eloquence to her audiences. You do not need to understand a word of Portuguese to know when a Purim song speaks of ecstasy or anguish, of delight or desolation, of laughter or loneliness. It is all there in the performance.

Mike Hennessy


Photography Top and Background > Janis Wilkins.