By Ernest Barteldes
On the EP “Carnival Caravan” (Self-released) the Scott Kettner-led Nation Beat embarks on a very interesting musical trip that blends the sounds of New Orleans with Northeastern Brazil ‘s traditional beat of Maracatu – that is immediately noticeable on the opening track “Casa Diamante/Sew Sew Sew,” a mash-up between an original track in Portuguese with a traditional NOLA tune.
Like I have written in the past, there are many similarities between the cultures of northeastern Brazil and Louisiana that putting them together is more natural than one might think. That is evident on “Carnival Carnival” – just listen to “Vou Cantar Esse Coco,” an original tune sung entirely in Portuguese with the backing of a typical New Orleans-sounding brass band. The same goes with “Canto da Ema/All on A Mardi Gras Day,” a very enjoyable mash-up of the two countries’ sounds. The track begins with with a traditional NOLA “call” and then Fabiana Masili jumps in with her native Fortaleza-accented Portuguese.
The EP is lots of fun and gets you moving from the very first moment. It sounds like everyone was having tons of fun in the studio together – even if some of the musicians were in different locations. I am surely going have this one at hand to get the party started.
Going in a completely different direction is Dű-Sems Ensemble’s “Music From Turkey and Greece,” (Arc Music) a lovely collection of traditional sounds from the neighboring Mediterranean countries. Like Brazil and New Orleans, both countries also share various cultural and culinary traits.
This disc blends original and traditional tunes from both nations. Most of the disc is instrumental, going from slow ballads to more uptempo tunes. I especially liked the more improvised, seemingly off-the-cuff moments – two examples being “Oud Improvisation,” an inspiring two-minute solo piece by Osman Kirklikçi and Tanju Erol’s “Clarinet Improvisation,” which begins as a solo and then becomes an ensemble piece.
Among my personal favorites were “Nihavend Mandra,” an instrumental tune that picks up tempo as it goes along, and “Abacilar Inişi,” one of the few tracks with vocals by an unidentified female singer (they list various on their website, but I could not figure out who it is since they have various guest artists performing with them) who sings with great gusto.
As of this writing there are no scheduled dates for any shows in North America – I surely would love to have the opportunity to see them up close – the music is highly captivating and beautifully played