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Dendê Macêdo - Agô

Album Review

Credit - Joaquin Famos, Stephanie Black, Sam Elijah, Jesse Tucker

Dendê is a percussionist, singer, composer, bandleader, teacher, and multi-instrumentalist. He’s been a professional musician since the age of 14, when he appeared in the frontline of Timbalada, Carlinhos Brown’s superstar percussion ensemble. Since 2001, he’s been splitting his time between the US and Bahia, working with his own ensembles.

The newest emanation of that signature ethos, Dendê’s latest album Agô (out May 27, 2022, on Ropeadope Records) merges themes steeped in the traditions of Afro-Brazilian Candomblé with joyous melodies and ecstatically percussive world rhythms, delivering positive universal messages to inspire the collective consciousness and hypnotic grooves to make the body move.

Opening the album with the title track 'Agô' I was captivated by the sound of this artist and his band. Bridging the gap between Western and Tribal music we hear so many constrasting influences in this piece. The track begins with tribal chant in layers and spoken word at the forefront of this piece. Interestingly the elements of funk make an appearance through the piece's signature bassline and guitar twangs. This is such an interesting project so far. As Dendê Macêdo brings his singing into the mix I found myself singing along and fully enticed by the nature of this song. The song takes a turn when it drops all instruments to make way for a traditional Brazilian drum percussion and brings a real community feel to the track throuugh the reintroduction of backing vocals. I really loved this piece! Epê Babá” is a song honoring Oxalá, the father of all the Orixas, who is the eldest Orixa known for wearing white and symbolizing purity and peace. I felt welcomed into to the world and culture that this artist and his band are a part of. Introducing the same elements of funk and percussion that was found in the previous track we find ourselves alongside a heavier guitar piece that makes its way into the mix at several key points during the production. I LOVE the cultural specifics that are prominent in his sound. Track 3 titled 'Homem da Justiça' trranslates as Man of Justice. This track aims to invoke the Orixa Xango, god of justice and the song describes the amala de Xango, the offering that is given to him as well as the colors that he wears, red and white. I love the inspiration behind the lyrics of this artists' music and I really feel the vibe of these pieces even though the words are not native to myself. This track continues the vibe of the album thus far but brings brass instruments into the production. Towards the end of the song we hear a breakdown into a lower key which introduced another dimension to its sound. Bringing the funk energy back into the track, this one ends with the bang that we hear mainly in jazz big band compositions. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS ALBUM. Track 4 is the honoring the goddess of the ocean and mother of all Orixas, the song titled 'Yemanjá' represents motherhood and fertility. Offerings to her are made in baskets full of perfume, soaps, flowers, and other items contributing to her beauty and left for her in the ocean. The contents of this production bring all the elements found in the previous tracks of the album into one through the use of Funk, native percussions, brass and layered tribal inspired vocals. We also hear the introduction of melodic piano embedded in the fingers of the mix before ending with a breakdown of raw and natural drum percussion. Track 5 titled 'Moça' opens with a sound that is similar to that found in Hawaiian music. Definitely a track for the beach, I can see this track being performed by the full band on the sand along the sea front. I'm really impressed. Coming into the end of the first half of this project we're introduced a track named 'Feira De São Joacquim' opens with a real different feel to the rest of the tracks through the use of melodic guitar. We hear the harmonics in this song that may be that of a concertina? 'Saudades' gives us a sprinkle of spice in its opening before bringing in some smooth bass and keys. This track is a lot slower than the others we really breaks the album down. 'Black Lives Matter' is a track written using afrobeat as the foundational rhythm of the song which has deep roots in black resistance, pays homage to those lives that have been lost in the US and in Brazil due to structural racism. It pleads for justice and equality and illustrates how these issues impact upon black communities beyond the US in the African diaspora. As the first track sung in English, this is incredibly touching and enables the union of the globe through a universal language. This really helps get the message of the lyrics and political stance out to the world. Paying tribute to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor alongside an ever growing list of names. The sad reality of police brutality towards the black community is at the soul of this song in a way that brings an upbeat celebration to the lives of those who have lost theirs. I just hope that things change and rapidly. 'Vai De Azul' opens with a heavy rock sound through the use of lead guitar. This tack has a more electronic sound when compared to the rest of the album, without losing its native feel. 'Crioula' brings back the heavy use of percussion and brass instruments. Rap flows take this track and project to another level through its use of English language when combined with the native vocals and percussion. The rap style is similar to that of Jay - Z. in a tribute to 'Black Queens'. 'Sextou' is a whole vibe that everyone would enjoy! Catchy lyrics and a funky beat. Ending with the same energy of the opening track 'You Can Dance' brings back a whole funk and big band feel. Nile Rogers comes to mind. This whole album is something very special! To hear the album on release day make sure that you follow Dendê Macêdo on Spotify so that you don't miss it!



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