SUBA featuring CIBELLE / “Felicidade”
I was born in 1961 in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. I’ve been studying music since I was five years old. I graduated in composition and orchestration at the University of Novi Sad, and specialized in electro-acoustic music at the Radio Belgrave Electronic Studio. I also studied jazz and researched East European ethnic music. Whilst in Belgrade, I wrote music for theatre, ballet, film and television and produced a number of records and radio/TV programs, covering various styles of music from around the world. I moved to Paris and lived there between ’85 and ’90, working on several theatre projects, and pursuing my interest in elecro-acoustic music at the IRCAM institute. I then moved to São Paulo, Brazil in 1990. I focused my research on Afro-Brazilian rhythms and native Indian music. At the same time I continued composing for theatre, dance and butoh pieces, and started producing records for top Brazilian artists such as Arnaldo Antunes, Marina Lima, Edson Cordeiro and Mestre Ambrosio. I also composed music and made soundtrack for more than 50 fashion shows, working with some of the most avant-garde Brazilian fashion designers. After all that, Mardc and Beco convinced me to embrace another adventure called São Paulo Confessions … End of story…so far… —Suba / July 1999There is a happiness (felicidade) that has at its core a sadness. Brazil does this better than anyplace else in the world, but we in New Orleans know it too. Everyday. In what is left of New Orleans, one is happy to be alive and sad that one is alive. Some days, you drive down the deserted streets and for hours afterwards you just feel like crying, sort of a nausea of tears. You fight to suck it up. Blink. Blow you nose or cough. Resolve to be a man, a woman: I can take it. You take it one day at a time. And deep inside this 'taking it' is a sadness brought on by memories of unflooded times. Listen at this song. It’s the saddest song about happiness I've ever heard. Brazil, y’all jacked. New Orleans needs this song. Right now. “Felicidade” is from the 1959 motion picture soundtrack Black Orpheus, which features music by Antônio Carlos Jobim and the poetry of Vinicius de Moraes. The soundtrack includes street sounds. But the featured version is by Suba from São Paulo Confessions, his one and only fully-realized, Brazilian-era album. Suba (Mitar Subotic) is another sad story. My man moved to Brazil. Got deep into the culture. Came out with this haunting and totally innovative album, São Paulo Confessions. And literally a few days after the release there was a fire. November 1999, his studio was burning down with all of his tapes inside. He rushed in to retrieve his life’s work. He never made it back out. None of the music was saved. Later a tribute album, Suba-Tributo, was released with “versions” and some snippets of live duets he did with his cohort Joao Parahyba, BKA JP. "Futuro Primitivo 3" is one of the duets. We also share a fantastically alternative version of “Felicidade” from Suba-Tributo. This remake is by Juryman, AKA Ian Simmonds. As buzzard luck would have it, the original tapes for São Paulo Confessions were also lost, therefore rather than remixes drawn from the masters, the versions on the tribute album are samples from the Confessions CD in some cases, complete remakes in other cases, as well as incomplete songs that were completed by singers and musicians whom had worked with Suba, plus the snippets of live work in which JP’s percussion was sampled and processed live by Suba in duet performance. The final version of “Felicidade” is by Hugh Masekela, who traces the samba rhythm from Africa to Brazil. His poignant horn playing is full of fire, but also replete with smears and bent notes—that sadness again. Felicidade. The sadness of Brazilian happiness. The theme song of post-Katrina New Orleans. Fire and water. We are destroyed. But we will rise dripping wet out of the ashes (or is it: rise on fire out of the water?). Our tears are not the marks of a breakdown. Merely a pause. There will be a happy end. When we get to it. We just ain’t quite there yet. But soon come. Soon come. Don’t worry. Even though we crying, we happy. —Kalamu ya Salaam I couldn't believe my ears I don’t know why I never got around to writing about this album. Along with Da Lata’s Songs From The Tin (which dropped the same year) it’s my favorite 'Brazilian' music of the last twenty years or so. I’ll never forget the day Kalamu dropped both of them on me. He handed me two burned discs: he’d scrawled album titles across the front and that was it. I didn’t exactly rush to put them on, but when I finally got around to it, I couldn’t believe my ears. Honestly, I have to go all the way back to the golden age of MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) before an entire Brazilian album sounds as good as Suba and Da Lata’s debuts sound to me. A lot of that is ignorance on my part, I’m sure. I have hundreds of Brazilian songs and albums but I don’t pretend to be anywhere near an expert. And, I certainly don't mean to insult any Brazilian musicians or fans out there. I'm aware that both Da Lata and Suba are European interpretations of the sounds of Brazil. Anyhow, like many great albums, São Paulo Confessions sounds best when listened to all at once. The grooves melt, or meld, together. Suba’s songs don’t begin or end as much as they stealthily morph into whatever they become next. Yes, the early 2000s was a time when electro-Brazilian music was all the rage, but São Paulo Confessions is the best of its kind. It’s bold, literate and elegant while a lot of the imitations were just that, imitative. It is steeped in tradition and respectful of the past it emulates. Many of Suba’s successors descended into schlock and shtick, probably because they knew little or nothing about the centuries-old culture they were seeking to pay tribute to. Suba knew exactly what he was doing, both musically and culturally. And, he had both the skill and the empathy to do it right. In deconstructing the sounds of musicians past, Suba effectively adding himself to the continuum. The way I hear it, there’s not a weak moment on the album. If my song-by-song descriptions make it sound like the album is too wild for repeated listening, like the music is more ‘interesting’ than good, that’s a failing of my imagination and descriptive abilities, not the music. It took me a little while to really ‘get’ what Suba was after, but once I did, I listened to São Paulo Confessions over and over and over. If you have an interest in either Brazilian music or electronica, you should buy Suba’s Confessions and give it a few close listens. You’ll hear something new every time. "Tantos Desejos" Languid vox and electronic squiggles drift over the two-note bassline. Sade-esque cool meets the future-sound of Brazil. "Você Gosta" A logician’s nightmare. The tidy piano riffs suggest something pleasant and tuneful, but every few bars the rhythm disassembles to near-chaos. Did I mention the woman whispering in Portuguese throughout? “Na Neblina” Like the previous track, “Neblina” walks the line between abrasion and tunefulness. This time the disruption is caused by dueling electronics: you get the impression that computers are arguing. The glue is a slithering percussion effect and a keyboard theme straight out of an episode of The Twilight Zone. "Segredo" About as conventional a tune as this album is capable of. Question: Is it possible to hum in Brazilian Portuguese? I would’ve thought not, but guest vocalist Katie B. proves here that the answer is an unequivocal yes. "Antropòfagos" The closest thing as yet to an actual samba. The title, which translates to something like “Cannibals,” could (but probably doesn’t) refer to Suba himself…and his ilk: young knob-twirlers and button-pushers consuming musicians and sounds of the past to create something new. The keyboards sound like an accordion. The bassline sounds like a slinky. Twenty years down the line, a new group of young cannibals will tear into this one with delight. “Felicidade” I didn’t know this was a cover until now. Shows you how much I know about Brazilian music, right? ;-) Despite the dialogue and ambient noise, the Black Orpheus version emphasizes the bittersweet melody much more than Suba and Cibelle’s does. I dig Hugh Masakela’s take on it too, but not as much as the Brazilian versions. "Um Dia Comun" “A Normal Day.” Anything but, sonically. Although the female voice-over would probably explain a lot…if I could understand it. Like listening in on one half of an unintelligible telephone conversation while, somewhere in the distance, the world’s funkiest computers warm up for the night’s festivities. "Sereia" We’re moving into Tricky and Martina territory here: drums of menace and vocals of ice. The keyboard riff sounds like it’s juggling pieces of itself. "Samba Do Gringo Paulista" Hyper-speed electro-samba. Many have tried to marry the trance-inducing thump of modern electro-club music with the equally trance-inducing rhythms of Brazil, but most fail. I can think of a few exceptions—Zuco 103’s "Morro Eléctrico" and Arakatuba’s “Josimar” come to mind—but Suba’s fusion is hard to top. The acoustic guitar is completely out-of-place but sounds just right. "Abraço" “Embrace” slows things down, all the way down to the approximate speed of trip-hop or something like it. But the brassiness of the synth horns and the passion of the electric guitars is more optimistic than depressing. Arnaldo Antunes contributes his distinctive rumble of a voice. For some reason, Suba has the girls do part of the chorus in reverse. "Pecados Da Madrugada" Probably my favorite Suba track…if I could only pick one. The groove has that leaping, galloping feel that sounds like it should be uptempo but isn’t. The vocals may or may not have been sampled from an English-language workout instructional: “Take natural breaths / Try a few more cycles / Try a few more cycles.” It just occurred to me that the drums suggest the swaying feel of Jamaican lover’s rock. Interesting. "A Noite Sem Fim" The last track is “Endless Night,” or translated literally, “A Night Without End.” It sounds exactly like you’d expect a song with a name like that to sound. Leave this one on repeat when you go to bed and you’ll have good dreams…. —Mtume ya Salaam Tracks: - Black Orpheus Soundtrack - "A Felicidade" from Black Orpheus - Suba - "Felicidade" - from São Paulo Confessions - Juryman - "Felicidade" and - Suba and JP - "Futuro Primitivo 3" from Tributo - Hugh Masekela - "Felicidade" from Stimela
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