Reviews December 13, 2018
Now Hear This: Léo Leobons’s "Ritual"

Ritual, the new release from Kafundo Records, is percussion-driven semi-traditional Brazilian music that's at turns serious and playful. It is also rooted deeply in fertile, sacred soil.   

Sacred music from Afro-Cuban Yoruba religion has a way of showing up in other musical places—post-disco workouts, adapted for outsiders, post-modern electronics.  Often these adaptations come from Cuba and Puerto Rico where Europeans called the religion “Santeria,” but Yoruba religious practice shows up all over the Western hemisphere, wherever enslaved Yoruba people were taken. In Brazil, elements of Fon and Bantu beliefs, brought over at the same time, mixed with Yoruba practices like orisha worship comprise what is called Candomble.

Léo Leobons is a percussionist and composer who practices Candomble. He is something of an expert in Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban religion as well, which is evident on both his 2014 release, Ba, and his latest, Ritual, which you can hear right here.

I especially like the contrasts on the album. “All of Those Things” has vibes chiming, sounding ethereal and heavenly, undercut by the earthy, physical scratch and twang of the berimbau. The album opens with raunchy electric guitar but it’s never dominated by it. “Ogun” is led by a steady bass line, with the guitar waiting until the second verse to come in on a reggae back beat. “Arara” has a slinky minor-key acoustic guitar lurking around, flipping in little choro licks, which sounds like classic MPB and not like Candomble at all, until you remember that Candomble has always been the water that Brazilian music floats on.

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