Sound Advice: Sexy language barriers and other beautiful things

Brazil’s Bob Dylan: I wish I spoke Portuguese. Mostly because I so wanted to understand Caetano Veloso’s lyrics—even more so his jokes—at his Mondavi Center performance last Thursday night.

Veloso is a household name in Brazil. He’s a founder of Tropicália, an artistic movement in the late ’60s that the militant government really didn’t like. Veloso fused traditional Brazilian sounds with African rhythms and American rock ’n’ roll. His lefty politics seeped into songs, sending him first to prison and then into exile.

Obviously, he returned and continued his rise to international superstardom. Now at 72, he’s a winner of nine Latin Grammy awards.

He opened his recent Davis show with “A Bossa Nova É Foda,” a rocking, totally not-Bossa Nova track off his 49th album, Abraçaço, which was released in the United States earlier this spring. It quickly set the tone and corrected anyone who thought this would just be a “The Girl from Ipanema” kind of night.

Veloso performed for nearly two hours nonstop with Banda Cê, a trio of young talents with whom he’s been collaborating since 2006. Abraçaço is their last record together, and they played it with breaks for some of Veloso’s earlier, iconic work—the upbeat samba “Escapulário” from ’75 was particularly memorable.

Some moments were clearly somber. Others clearly sensual. At one point, Veloso slowly unbuttoned his shirt and shimmied about. He frequently left his mic to strut across the foot of the stage, pausing so everyone could get a good look at him. He put on bemused, playful, sassy faces throughout and bantered with the audience—again, I wish I understood. But a contingent of Portuguese speakers clued the rest of us in, roaring with laughter again and again.

He paused just once: “A few of you must not speak Portuguese, but I have very little to say. Just thank you.”

His three-song encore began with a breathtaking Spanish song, “Tonada de Luna Llena,” performed a capella with a piercing falsetto. It ended with seven young women deciding it’d be fun to rush the stage, to quickly be joined by an all-ages sea of 60 dancers. The young revolutionary is very much alive.

Beats for permaculture: David Sugalski, a.k.a. the Polish Ambassador, and Ayla Nereo are one of my favorite musical couples. Together they play as Wildlight, a beautiful thing to witness live as Nereo’s vocals soar over the Ambassador’s downtempo, indie beats.

But they’re forces separately, too. Nereo’s the sort of singer who embodies her music, with gorgeous, graceful movements. She shares dreamy images of sacred mountains, talking moons and drying rivers. As a solo artist, she uses live-looping to create harmonies against folk-electronica soundscapes.

The Polish Ambassador’s trademark, indie EDM is always groovy, funky and sunny, but his most recent record Pushing Through The Pavement is the most eclectic yet: soul, hip-hop, jazz, world beats, haunting Indian chants.

They’re kicking off a tour in the Ambassador’s hometown of Nevada City. At the Miners Foundry Cultural Center (325 Spring Street) on Sunday, September 28, The Polish Ambassador, Nereo, Wildlight and conscious hip-hop artist Mr. Lif are all slated to perform. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets start at $20. Check for more information.

But it’s not just a standard tour. Being Burning Man regulars and the type of artists who give away their music for free and whatnot, it’s going to be a Permaculture Action Tour. At every show, there will be educational elements—videos, spoken word—and in some cities audiences will be encouraged to help with a project the following day. For example, in Denver they’ll create a community garden out of an abandoned piece of land.

The Nevada City show doubles as a benefit for Common Vision, a Northern California-based group that plants orchards in public schools.

“People are attending concerts and festivals by the tens of thousands yet it is rare to see this energy mobilizing for a greater cause,” the Ambassador wrote for his crowdfunding campaign, which raised nearly $45,000.

“Can impact and celebration co-exist in the same environment? Can community work parties and projects culminate in ecstatic dance party celebrations? Can we remember that festival culture all began with harvests where people busted their ass for a week[?]”

He calls it an experiment, but it sounds like a challenge.