thu 25/07/2024

CD: Sonzeira – Tam Tam Tam Reimagined | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Sonzeira – Tam Tam Tam Reimagined

CD: Sonzeira – Tam Tam Tam Reimagined

Brilliant re-working of epochal 1950s album

1950s via Gilles Peterson: a fascinating double-take

Little-known Brazilian arranger José Prates created the music recorded on Tam...Tam...Tam...! in the early 1950s to accompany a touring dance show. When the show toured Europe in 1958, the tracks were released as an album. So obscure is Prates today that Gilles Peterson made a TV appeal for a good copy of the LP, which he couldn’t source.

Yet Prates’ blend of complex, loose-limbed, recognisably African rhythm, with sultry, melodic vocal lines was genuinely an epochal moment in the birth of bossa nova and the modern Brazilian sound.  

The crucial word here, of course, is “reimagined”. The relationship between Prates and Peterson is both subtle and profound. The new work features many Peterson trademarks: there’s jazz, in the form of acclaimed drummer Moses Boyd, featured on three tracks; there are contemporary Brazilian influences, courtesy of producer Kassin, and there’s a strong club flavour. Listening to the two side-by-side is an eerie experience. On first hearing there’s nothing to connect the florid, quavering vocal lines of Ivan de Paula’s overwrought vocals with the spare dub beats of the re-imagining. But keep listening, and remarkably similar rhythmic shapes emerge in the music’s skeleton.  

“Nana Imboro” is the place to start, a song that Jorge Ben transformed into “Mas Que Nada”, which Sergio Mendes then made a global hit. Re-worked, it becomes “Nada Nada”, with the same whistling melody as the original, and Moses Boyd more than equal to the intricate rhythm, but without the vocal line that’s somewhere between Harry Belafonte and Pavarotti on football duty. It’s a fascinating double-take. Elsewhere, the likeness is even more delicate, possibly too much so in a couple of places. “Samba de Piramide” is a little bloodless, though “Samba de Retorno” more than makes up for it.

Two years ago Peterson released Brasil Bam Bam Bam, a kind of showreel for the variety of Brazilian musicians active today. Despite the assonantal association, this is a much more oblique celebration of that culture, but no less effective. Peterson has re-presented a crucial, but neglected document in the development of modern Brazilian music, weeded out the cod opera in the vocal line, and dressed the rhythm, that core Brazilian identity, in clothes of urgent contemporaneity. Brilliant as documentary, brilliant as dance.


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