Learning Tom Zé

Learning Tom Zé

I grew up vaguely aware of Tom Zé’s but it wasn’t something I listened to studiously at any period of my life, like I did with Chico Buarque, Elis Regina. I listened to Rita Lee a lot more than Tom Zé, for example. Then David Byrne from Talking Heads discovered him and he became worldwide famous in the 80s.

Turns out A LOT of Tom Zé’s stuff is on you YouTube, so now I’m studying it and eventually will get the albums I like the most. Tom Zé is turning 80 on October 11 2016. Along with Hermeto Pascoal Documentary ‘Quebrando Tudo’ (Breaking everything) who also turned 80 this year (we saw Hermeto play with an orchestra at the Barbican a few weeks ago!)

Pretty much everything I heard so far has gone from interesting to amazing and there’s very little I haven’t liked. The first album I listened to was
Estudando o Samba (1976)’ and what a masterpiece! I’ve re-listened to it about 5 times in the last 2 days so I’m definitely buying this one.

I noticed re-occurring and reworked songs through albums and I’m just making notes of anything I find interesting here as I listen in the next few weeks/months.
* I love this: Ma. This is a song about christening a baby ‘batiza esse nenem’ and a good christening ‘batizado bom’. This was the album David Byrne heard when he first heard Tom Ze and asked ‘what kind of country is this when someone who makes this kind of music isn’t well known?’ (or something along those lines)
* I heard this one today: Curiosidade, for the first time and I thought it sounds a hell of a lot like Amon Tobin. Quick search reveals that yes, he was involved in this :D. This is from Tom Zé – Postmodern Platos (1999)
* Feira de Santana – Correio da Estacao (1978) and Hips of Tradition (2003) with berimbau. I first heard the 2003 version, then the ‘original’. This song talks about ‘Feira de Santana’ a place in Bahia. On the original he travels on a Thursday (Viajo na quinta feira, Feira de Santana) and on the 2003 version it happens on a Monday (Viajo segunda feira, Feira de Santana). I’ve no idea why, but I’ll find out one day hopefully.
* The first song in Nave Maria (1980): Nave Maria has this introductory line: lyrics in Portuguese -> When I arrived from the stars I entered Earth through a cave named birth. Tom Zé is very surreal and creative with his lyrics. Some of his rhymes surprised me as I’d think of an obvious word for him to come up with next but he comes up with a completely unexpected word, these made me go ‘huh!? Clever!’ a few times.
* Tom Zé – Grande Liquidação (1968) debut album opens with a song about the city of São Paulo, which made me think of Westerns. Tom Zé grew up in a small town in Bahia and moved to SP to pursue his musical career.
* Menina, amanhã de manhã evoked capoeira a little for me, as it mentions ‘roda’ and ‘jogo’. Sounds like one of those songs with double meaning about oppression and military government. This one is from the 1972 album, Se o caso é chorar.
* 1973 – Todos os olhos, I heard this about 5 times so far too, as I really like it and have just found out that the cover was a prank on the censors at the time. It’s not the picture of a real eye. Prizes for guessing what it is. (It’s explained here in Portuguese). Update – 04 Aug: Actually the more I listen to this one the more I think it’s just amazing!

Will add more notes as I listen.

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