Elza Soares has made a career singing her truth about her native Brazil. To understand “Luz Vermelha,” you’ll have to translate her lyrics and watch the video.
The dark world of Elza Soares
When artists become favorites to individuals, an understanding of sorts grows between them. An artist who is new to a listener lacks the benefit of that familiarity. That is where I find myself with Elza Soares.
From what I understand of Soares life, her formative and young adult years were bleak. Usually I resist using biography to understand what an artist does; it is problematic with poets and writers, as well as with musicians. However, when I happened upon the work of Soares, she seemed like someone I should get to know.
Elza Soares: Mastering jazz fusion
Soares rose from her humble beginnings in 1937 to become a voice for Brazil. My introduction to her came via a listen to her 2017 release. The album features remixes of some of the singer’s best-known tunes. Unfortunately, as a new listener, I had difficulty keeping up with where Soares stopped and guest artists began. So, I did what any modern listener would do: I watched a video.
As it turns it out, “Luz Vermelha” sounds different in its 2016 version. That version is categorized as “dirty samba.” The new album is considered “DJ/Electronica Jazz.” Dirty samba sounds like punk and jazz mixed together. The result is a heady, exotic mixture that some fans of punk and other forms of rock will find fascinating.
Truthfully, I liked the video version better. This is probably because I am new to the artist and new to what her vision is. The video shows who Soares is at this point in her life and how she interacts with her band. Also telling is the crowd. At one point, someone cries out and calls her “Mama!” in a manner replete with admiration.
The crowded venue moved like one massive body when the band hit its groove. The hypnotic guitar creates rings of sound that sit atop the clacking rhythm of the drums. The vocals present almost like call and response between Soares and her musicians. Soares sits on a futuristic-looking chair and the smoke machine pumps out clouds, which shrouds the singer in mystery.
“Luz Vermelha” portrays the edgy theme of the blurring of demographics during Brazil’s legendary Carnival. Essentially, differences in race and gender are erased in the crush of Carnival.
The song is a mix of punk and jazz. The jazz is most evident in the arrangement of the instrumentation, and not necessarily playing styles, except for drums. When jazz and punk are mixed, and samba is the controlling factor, the result is an intense form of grunge that unlike the rock form that was devoid of groove, finds its groove. The enthralling music encourages new listeners to continue.
The world of Soares and dirty samba is one where strange and wonderful things could happen, like the fusing of jazz and punk. Another thing that could happen is new listeners get a fresh perspective about life in a world far removed from their own.