LatinX – Linda Costa interview with Casa de Caba, out of Manaus, Amazonas

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Every last Wednesday of the month, Linda Costa joins LatinX for a Brazilian Takeover. Linda’s curated playlists highlighting great music from Brazil’s indigenous artist, contemporary, classic, and psychedelia at its best. The livestream broadcasted on May 31, 2023 and now available on www.wmnf.org/latinx, featured a special interview of the band Casa de Caba, straight out of Manaus, Amazonas, a cosmopolitan city of 2.1 million on the edge of the Amazon River. Linda talked to bassist Samir Torres and shared four of their powerful and eclectic songs: Cilio, Sacode o Bode, O Cacto, and Sociedade de Cao. Below the full audio and the transcript of the interview.
Linda Costa (Linda) – Samir Torres, bassist of Casa de Caba (Samir) – May 2023

LINDA:

Welcome, Samir Torres.

SAMIR: 

Hello everyone. Thank you, Linda. Thank you, Brian, my good friend and Isha for the window here with us to exchange some of the cultural connections we have.

LINDA:

We are so excited to share not just your music, but your story. So, can you tell me a little bit about your story? Tell me who are CASA DE CABA?

SAMIR:

Very good. CASA DE CABA is a seven people band that produces Brazilian music with a lot of percussion and a mixture of very different music styles, mostly from different parts of Brazil. Here we have strong roots in Africa. When we think about the band with the big drums, and different types of instruments: we have flute, saxophone coming on also with us, the rock and roll coming with our guitarist that was very much influenced by British rock and roll and alternative and Indie, and our great singer, Magaiver Santos, he is a big brain, the big head, in the lead of this band. He’s a natural poet, a very special person that discusses all of the questions of people living in big cities, and especially as we are seven people that live in Manaus, the capital of one of the biggest states in the country. In the heart of the Amazon rainforest, a city that is 2.1 million people now and is extremely cosmopolitan and mixed and well, definitely nuts.

Our city, of course, struggles just like any big cities around the world and here we try to reflect about that: what city life comes to regarding love, regarding politics and how this affects us in our daily life. And that’s what we try to do with our music, too. Plant some sort of seed of thinking about important questions as workers that we are here in Brazil. And we of course try to touch people with the musical languages that we have here. People love dancing in our concerts as well as singing along with the chorus of the songs and the strong parts when we question the most important things in life that are the essential ones.

LINDA:

I’ve always felt very strongly about lyrics. I don’t know if that is necessarily a Brazilian inclination, but I do think that we have some very impactful lyrics in our musical history as a country, and I’m often wishing I could translate all the most important songs to my American friends because it moves me so deeply. Magaiver Santos really is a fantastic lyricist. I gotta’ give it to you guys. I was very impressed when you told me that you built the songs around that. Can you tell me a bit about your songwriting process and what that experience of seven different people, with very eclectic world global inspirations, different Brazilian and local inspirations from different states: how does all that pepper into the music?

SAMIR:

Oh yeah, that’s, a very special seasoning. Our singer is a poet, a natural one and he comes with strong ideas. He comes with some poetry. He, most of the time has a path on his mind that is already set, and he just throws at us his messages and everybody’s just, oh my God, what do we do now? I mean, it’s very interesting because we first get impacted with his message.

You see, they are very strong, and it is extremely inspiring and motivating, and that’s how we come to the process of creating.

Once we have percussion we generally think about stepping up, stepping deep, strong, to give presence to the songs.The nuances that we touch, that we approach in the songs tend to go sometimes very fast, sometimes very slow. If I can talk about pace on the song, going piano, going forte,that’s what we try to work on with the dynamics.

Try to be changing as well, to.surprise people with the music and try to highlight the messages that we have, the parts that are softer and the parts that are rough and strong and violent sometimes. That’s how we try to make the music. From the lyrics to the sounds that we produce, which try to convey meaning to the music, at the end. That’s basically the process. And that’s it.That’s the synergy that moves us. Besides that, it’s just some, I mean, cosmic connections that we establish.

We are seven and each one of us has different influences when it comes up to music and culture and how our parents raised us or something like this. We are all the same age, about 35, 37, 40 years old. We came through historical passages in Brazil, political changes such as Military dictatorship. We get music that inspired us in our compositions throughout these political times in Brazil that made us reflect and know where we are, how delicate things are for disruption. We are very sensitive to these matters and we try to put that in the music we produce.

LINDA:

Your lyrics definitely speak truth to power in a lot of ways and process a lot of universal emotions, things that we all go through, like love and loss and challenges of the urban experience. But what I’ve noticed also were the very eclectic sounds, the buildups that are grandiose, the waves that come and crash and the slow gentle motions that you have.

A sweet flute might be in the background. There might be some, very traditional Brazilian rich sounds coming through like Coco or other traditional sounds, folkloric sounds like that. Can you talk a little bit about some of those influences?

I know we talked a little bit about music pertaining to the dictatorship in our other conversation, being children that were raised during that era, or touched by the music of that era, how that, influenced in some way.

Who are those musicians from that era? What music touched you from that era?

SAMIR:

Well talking about myself I think Chico Buarque de Hollanda touched us a lot. Yes. That he was one of the main composers, at the time, and he was one of the Brazilian artists that managed to – censorship – as I’m talking from the country of soccer, I can say- dribble, made it in that way.

Absolutely. Yeah. Brazilian artists, they really struggled with military forces at the time, and to question it, was very difficult. Censorship was very harsh. I was educated being taught that that was a terror, horrific moment in the country. I am a privileged person to be living now, in a city that is much freer now, that we can talk our minds, can express ourselves, our policies still, yes, sadly, are still racist. Yeah. That we also always have to keep our eyes open to be strong about these questions and well, the influences that we get in here were the elements that a lot of these Brazilian artists used during the seventies. That’s when the dictatorship was the strongest in Brazil, the sixties as well, of course. The electric guitar, for example, arrived in Brazil in the sixties and that’s when we got an international influence in Brazil. This is a strong part of our music, the Northeast, the African influence, they created Coco (musical style).

Brazil, Brazilian people are very warm people. People that work with body language. We have always danced since the original people. When we talk about indigenous populations way before the Portuguese arrived here. So, Brazil is this big bowl of salad from all over the world.

We are very much cosmopolitan, we have influences.

My blood line, my ancestors, I have in my family- I have to go from Portugal, from Italy, (African) people that were enslaved and indigenous people. I mean four lines. And that’s us. That’s who we are and that’s what we think. What we get from these mixtures, and that’s what we can understand from reality, the access that we have to education. It all depends on the level of access that people have to understand yourself in the context that you are set in and that’s it. It’s not easy to understand that. It’s not easy to be happy about it, and to find a way to make yourself meaningful, to make yourself useful and go somewhere and construct your path and do that, your way and that’s it. We are always experimenting. We are adventuring ourselves on creating these songs. We created with poetry, with music, and these are the tools that we have at hand to join forces and try to make this a strong and powerful thing to touch people and to connect. That’s it. We love connecting. We love the force of community, the force of people, and the working class. We always hit on that. We always talk (about the) working class. We are working here for you. We’re making art for you. We’re trying to make you think. We are one And that’s what we love.

LINDA:

I find that very powerful, that you feel strongly not just about the lyricism of Magaiver, Writer and lead singer, but also that you all feel very empowered in this message of empowering others. That you are inspiring a particular group, and that you are part of that group yourself. This idea of reflecting with your audience and sharing with an audience of equals, things that matter equally to all of you, is really potent. I think you’re in a lineup of very similar minded lyricists that I’ve chosen. I would love to get my whole audience to learn Portuguese, but you know, that’s not going to happen tonight.

But could you share a little bit of some of the lyrics that Magaiver has come up with?

Tonight, we are celebrating Mental Health awareness month. You told me that “Cactus/ O CACTO” has a little bit of a mental health journey lyric to it. Can you maybe share it in Portuguese first and then translate a bit of it if you could?

SAMIR:

Yes, definitely. I have it here with me. We thought that this song touches a bit of this mental health awareness. The first part is in Portuguese, and then I’ll translate the second part. In English:

There is too much for my leg of peace.

There is too little silence within.

There are too many colors from our grouchy gray to notice.

I don’t want flowers to decorate.

~~~

I don’t deserve to be made of sugar or honey.

I will not take on such a role.

In the name of all the words spoken and which were made with the raw material of disillusionment to be happy is too much ingratitude.

This is the cactus.

LINDA:

Wow. What a cactus. That one has a lot of thorns, but it’s relatable, magical writing, and I love that you were able to translate it so well and so quickly in English. Thank you for doing so. You’ve talked a little bit about Manaus. You’ve talked a little bit about the band. Is everyone from Manaus, or are there influences from other Brazilian states in the band?

SAMIR:

Yeah, we were born in the city of Amazon and some of us were not born in itself, that is Cleumir Leda. He plays the flute and the saxophone. He was born in the city named Maués that is the biggest producer of guarana. I don’t know if you know guarana. It’s considered to be the energetic fruit from the Amazon. It’s a powder that we get from a fruit here. It has a lot of caffeine in it, and it’s a very energetic thing that they mix with juices or drink with water.

I’m a consumer. I mean, I love it. So, he’s from a very exotic city from the countryside of the state of Amazonas. The state of Amazonas is a big state. If you get any sort of picture of Brazil’s geography, we are a continent. I like saying that we are several countries inside of one.

And even though we are all from the region, we have very much different influences in our life story and a mixture of Rock and Roll, Coco, Indie Rock, British Rock and Roll, Capoeira.  Capoeira is such a beautiful part of the history of Brazil. It was a way of the dancing and fighting and music of enslaved people that lived in Brazil. So, it comes with Paulo Pereira, our percussionist. I’ve talked about Cleumir Leda on the flute, saxophone, and we have João Carlos Ribeiro, or JC, on drums, and we have Erika Tatiane on percussion as well. I’m Samir Torres. I play the electric bass, and my influences are very much also Northeast Brazilian music and Brazilian music in general. Dictatorship music, and rock and roll. LED Zeppelin is my favorite. I must say that. That’s a very different approach that I work nowadays with alternative music. The (electric) guitarist is Jeorgio Claudino, he’s the English British man. He’s from Manaus, but of course he’s got a lot of influence from alternative rock and poets. He reads all of the great writers from Brazil, South American writers. He started also in rock and roll. The beginning of my career was in rock and roll, playing in rock and roll bands as well as Magaiver. We found ourselves once we started talking about reality and life, and that’s how I found myself, that’s how I found the baselines that I am, that I have a very percussion baseline. And based on Brazilian music and the richness of Magaiver’s guitar, he plays the acoustic guitar, and it’s, I mean, pure Brazilian JUICE, as we say in Portuguese, I mean, the big mixture of it.

LINDA:

You know, it’s beautiful how you can weave that tapestry of different, folkloric sounds, and sounds that are uniquely of the Brazilian experience of both indigenous and African sounds. It’s all mashed in there with your love of Led Zeppelin and everything else, and you can really hear that in the songs, and I hope that our audience agrees. I’ve been really enjoying learning more about your band.

We’ve lost some great artists in Brazilian music recently. I’m thinking of Elza Soares Samba legend, Gal Costa who’s one of my favorite vocalists and Rita Lee who wrote some very, impactful lyrics.

Special thanks to Brian Matthew Van Fleet, LatinX on the road member for connecting us with Casa de Caba. Also, Luke Rosebaro aka Midnight Dynamite  for audio editing. 
Like and Follow Casa de Caba on social and streaming platforms:
• Instagram: @casa_de_caba ou
• TikTok: @casadecaba
• Spotify:

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