Born in Belém but based in São Paulo, the singer-guitarist is releasing his fourth album, Avante Delírio. It marks an ode to positivity in a country that yearns to rediscover its smile.
While the election of an extreme right-wing president has exacerbated the tensions that separate Brazilian society, Saulo Duarte is releasing an album in opposition to the current of gathering clouds: Avante Delírio‘s sunny music warms the freezing wind blown by Jair Bolsonaro since his inauguration last January 1st. A collaborator with artists as committed as Russo Passapusso (BaianaSystem) and Anelis Assumpção, the guitarist and singer undertakes an attitude of positivity while his colleagues express anxiety and indignation. “Today more than ever, it is important to offer music that helps people overcome difficulties,” says Saulo Duarte. “For the three minutes of the song, the listener is able to clear their mind, to smile, and to dance. I want to work in the spirit of Bob Marley, one of my great influences, who took political positions while praising peace, solidarity, friendship, and love. In ‘Concrete Jungle,’ he sings, ‘No sun will shine in my day today.’ But it’s not a complaint. His voice is powerful, and he tells us to stand up, to fight for our rights, and to do it while dancing. Why not? That’s my view, too.”
“I’m like a traveler, a gypsy,” Saulo Duarte says of his nomadic existence, whose steps have provided many sources of inspiration. A native of Belém do Pará, the gateway to the Amazon on the Atlantic coast, he remembers the burning sun, the unity among the people, the tropical fruits, and the generosity of the banquets. “My music is like that.” His grandfather, who was an amateur guitar player, introduced him to the traditions of northern Brazil, irrigated by Latin music brought by the river, and Caribbean music brought by the sea: the carimbó of Pinduca and the guitarrada of Mestre Vieira and Aldo Sena, as well as cumbia, merengue, and zouk.
“I started playing the acoustic guitar on my own,” he recalls. “I was twelve years old and I was practicing on popular songs by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, and Brazilian rock of the 1980s: Legião Urbana, Titãs, Engenheiros do Hawaii. We added the music of the Nordeste when we moved to Fortaleza, my father’s town; then the music of Minas Gerais when we moved to Belo Horizonte, my mother’s town. Without knowing anything about composition theories, I digested all these influences to produce a music that looks like me and whose lyrics express who I am, what I want.”
Saulo Duarte has lived in São Paulo for about ten years. The cosmopolitan megacity forms the epicenter of the Brazilian music industry, as well as being the heart of its unceasing creativity, both contemporary and urban. But he reconnected in Belém in 2011, during a defining stay. “I rediscovered people, rediscovered records, and understood that my roots are there, especially in the relationship between the Amazonian Indians and the black people deported from Africa, which is crucial in my music.”
This heritage permeated Quente (2014), Saulo Duarte e A Unidade’s second album, with which he gained notoriety. The next one, Cine Ruptura (2016), was a darker album, while the removal of President Dilma Rousseff heralded the current disaster. The change of direction is all the more radical for Saulo Duarte, who has freed himself from A Unidade to move forward solo. Produced by Curumin and Zé Nigro, and featuring Marcelo Jeneci on several tracks, it expresses the positivity of an artist “from nowhere and everywhere.” “The people of Belém say I am from Fortaleza, the people of Fortaleza say I am from São Paulo and the people of São Paulo say I am from Belém. I have all of Brazil inside me and that’s why I can play a samba-reggae, a forró, and a carimbó on the same album.”
Even if a song like “Praça de guerra” expresses Saulo Duarte’s concerns about the violence of capitalist and globalized societies, overall, there is a radiant sunshine on Avante Delírio, whose title song is an incentive to let go. “The lyrics were inspired by a very colorful dream, where I saw myself as a child,” says the composer. “When I woke up, I tried to translate a meeting between Saulo the child and Saulo the adult who both thought, “Fight, believe in yourself, be positive and you will achieve your goals.” The artist is visibly radiant. Since it works for him, listen to his music; it may work for you, too.
Saulo Duarte – Avante Delírio (Sterns Music)