...a good inroad to reggae from the less conservative end of the 'world' music scene.
Angus Taylor 2008-05-16
As the most widely enjoyed music in the world, reggae has succeeded in its oft-repeated aim to 'go international'. And since the early mistakes were conquered (low production values, failing to hit the afterbeat) home-grown reggae acts have sprung up across the globe. These artists can be divided into two camps: those like Gentleman, Natural Black and Alborosie who studied in Jamaica to hit big in their adopted homes and 'a foreign', and NZ's Fat Freddie's Drop, Serbia's FC Apatride Utd, and Brazilian roots and culture act, Ponto De Equilibrio, who've created their own sound, unconstrained by current wisdom.
Formed in a North Rio commune, Ponto De Equilibrio have adopted reggae as the quintessential outsiders' music. Of course there is a whole lot more to reggae than ''truths and rights'', but second album, Abre a Janela's colourful tales of a divided Brazil whose favela denizens are swept under the carpet fit neatly over their union of rockers rhythms with samba, macarutu and maculele.
They are a very tight band, benefitting from some fine production by Chico Neves, whose only faux pas is being way too sparing on the bass levels. There's some good Ernest Ranglin-style bobbling guitar, the punchy crisp brass is nothing shy of superb, and singer Helio Bentes' vulpine nasal tenor has been generously compared to the late Joseph Hill's - in reality sounding closer to Manu Chao on excitable form.
Overall, Ponto De Equilibrio are at their best when they avoid paying tribute to orthodoxy. A cover of Soul Rebel makes no gains on the Wailers, Gladiators or Jacob Miller efforts, but Quem Sabe's interplay between local styles and reggae mixes up a tasty cocktail of sounds that feeds Jamaican music back into the Latin Quarter of its roots.
It would be easy to dismiss this as yet more non-Jamaicans attempting to hark back to what they view as the island's golden age. But while those beholden to the true form may not be convinced, Abre a Janela is a good inroad to reggae from the less conservative end of the 'world' music scene.