SUELY MESQUITA SEXO PURO: A LIFE IN BRAZILIAN SONG (Lesma E Lula Press) BOOK & CD REVIEW

August 24, 2010
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Sexo Puro is the outcome of musician/artist Bob Gaulke’s love affair with Brazilian music, which has captivated him since his discovery of the treasure trove of ‘tropicalia’ in the mid-‘90s.

This combined book and CD acts as a primer to the artistic life of Suely Puro, a critically acclaimed Brazilian singer-songwriter who, as Gaulke says in his notes, “seemed to have catalysed an entire community of songwriters and performers… around the idea of creating sophisticated, innovative pop music. I wanted to tell the world about her.”

To that end, Gaulke spent the Summer of 2009 hanging out with Mesquita and recorded the interviews that form the basis of Sexo Puro. The extended interview is intelligent, perceptive and openhearted. While the details of her world, culture and musical co-conspirators remain murky to the curious outsider, there’s enough passion and drama in the way she discusses her work and life to make it of interest, especially to musicians, those with an interest in Brazilian music, and would-be singers (Mesquita discusses her job as a vocal coach in depth).

For the casual reader, however, the book presents a problem, in that it consists of the interview, followed by blow-by-blow descriptions of each song on the accompanying CD, and lyrics. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, just that it makes it less of a readable, ‘proper’ book, and more of a mechanism by which one can worm their way into an appreciation of Mesquita’s music.

I’m sure that Brazilian music (heck, even Brazilian female singer/songwriters) could form the backbone of a lifetime study, and I’m the first to admit to being a novice. Apart from a few fabulous instrumentalists (Hermeto Pascoal!) and a little bit of the tropicalia of Tom Ze, the subtle differences of singer-songwriters somewhat eludes me. Having said that, the CD of Mesquita performances/songs that accompanies the book is full of pleasurable, sensual songs, mostly of an acoustic bent, and the lyrical translations in the book prove to be highly illuminating.

Anyone contemplating an immersion into ‘alternative’ Brazilian music (outside of the pap mainstream, that is) could do worse than check out Gaulke’s modest loveletter in book/CD form. – GARY STEEL

Sound = 3

Music = 3.5

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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