Thoughts and Writings from
GODDESS OF THUNDER
by Tim Wagner
If youve never heard Floras 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. Youll 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 Floras
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
Floras 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 Floras 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 Floras 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.