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Carlinhos Brown
Omelete Man
Blue Note/EMI 97402 CD, 1999 (46:03)

An Overseas Report

Miranda Mowbray, 24 March 2001

This album is mindboggling.

The artwork. At the back of the CD there is a picture of Carlihos Brown as a Maharajah, Indian-miniature-style. Except that the small print reveals this is a genuine ancient painting so it can't be him after all, the resemblance is either coincidental or part of some kind of weird global resonance, man. After listening to the album you'll think there might be something in that resonance idea.

The lineup. The musicians and singers include Carlinhos Brown, Marisa Monte, Arto Lindsay, Nile Rodgers, Brown Feijão (feijão means black beans), Gatinho (kitten), Pai de Santo (a candomblé  priest), Dinossauro, Abarrá II, Albuquerque, and a small group called Dois Sapos e Meio (two-and-a-half toads).

The instruments. Carlinhos himself is on vocals, drums, bass, guitars, timbales, surdo virado, Hammond B3, Virus synthesizer, vocal percussion, piano, tubular bells, temple block, Kong, sabá, water-stick, cowbell, chestnut cymbal, Flexoton, Porc bell, Lotom, timpani, OB-1, Fun Machine, wood block, Wurlitzer, "Foot claping" [sic] and 12-shot rocket. And then there are all the other musicians. I'd like a Fun Machine for my birthday, please.

The lyrics. They're in an omelette of a language whose egg is Portuguese, filled with a mixture of scraps of French, English, Yoruba, Italian, and other tongues I don't recognize. "Omelete Man" is pronounced "Ommaletchyma". They're sometimes poetic, sometimes incomprehensible, sometimes both.

Water my girl / C'os you make me very strange / Water my girl / C'os I need molhar  floresong...Water my girl / C'os you are my planet water / And my forest song "Molhar flores" means "to water flowers", so I reckon a molhar floresong is a song to water flowers with. What kind of multilingual warlock can think up make a rhyme like that for "forest song"?

Similarly, "Eter-now", as well as a transcription in English of the way Brazilians pronounce "eternal", is just the word you need for the feeling of eternity in the present moment.

The musical styles. This album sounds very Brazilian. In fact you could almost read it as a guide to different kinds of Brazilian music (bloco afro, samba, bossa nova, indigenous music, religious music, MPB, cavaquinho quintet) but it cross-breeds these with all sorts of other stuff. Not only the reggae funk rap ska and pop (including some disquieting Beatles-ventriloquism) you might have imagined: "Hawaii e You" has slide-chords and violins, the funk-fest "Tribal United Dance" features what sounds to me like Berber yodelling, and "Cachorro Louco" sounds like Motörhead and the Pogues on a float at carnival of Bahia. The different styles sound as though they'd always fancied each other, ever since that great party way back, but they were seeing other musical genres at the time, and what with living in different timezones, they didn't get it together until now.

The message. In Northeast Brazil there's not much difference between a concert, a religious ceremony, and a party: they all tap into the same force. This album's got the force all right, as have many wonderful albums out of that part of the world. What makes this one different is that it's about how everyone's music can be part of the Tribal United Soul. Your music too. Reach right now across this blessed global dance of electrons and listen to the opening track at . Add your own percussion. Jack into the eter-now.

Copyright © 2001, Miranda Mowbray. All rights reserved.