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August 20, 2009

Otto: High Energy Brazilian

A Fellini cast of characters frolic on Copacabana beach in the video to Otto's jazzy drum and bass tune "Bob." (And don't worry, the first 33 seconds are meant to be silent.)

by John Oseid

Brazilian percussionist/singer Otto has the air of an ancient Greek pugilist, and he bounds around a theater with so much energy that he might spontaneously combust. Last winter I discovered the Pernambuco native at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Red Hot + Rio 2 benefit concert, where his turbulent act stole the show from a handful of major artists.

The title of his top-notch new album, Certa Manhã Acordei de Sonhos Intranqüilos ("One Morning I Awoke from Uneasy Dreams"), echoes Kafka's opening of "The Metamorphosis." Otto has put together a hodgepodge of electronic symphonies with nods to his Tropicália forebears; he's thrown in some psychedelic organ and rock guitar riffs, and, of course, he uses samba's squeaky cuíca drum. (The album comes out September 1.)

And the vocals are splendid. CéU, another hot young Brazilian singer of the moment, performs a duet with Otto on the sweet, slow-tempo "O Leite" (Milk). He's joined on "Lágrimas Negras" (Black Tears) by my favorite Mexican pop/rock star Julieta Venegas, who also sings on "Saudade" (Nostalgia). Only a Brazilian could make longing sound so desirable.

More music:
* Tomorrow night Otto will be joined at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in NYC by a few Brazilian DJs. And it's all free.
* Today's New York Times has a great piece on Otto.
* Here's a nice video of a berobed Otto performing the song "Por Que" live for Brazilian MTV.
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world.


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