From the wilderness to Europe

Cordel do Fogo Encantado prepares for first European tour and enjoys the success of their debut CD

Mônica Loureiro
They are not able to define their music. People don’t know how to dance to it. But that doesn’t prevent the immediate connection - and perplexity - of the audience at Cordel do Fogo Encantado’s concerts. The group from Pernambuco has performed three times in Rio de Janeiro and is packing for their first international tour. "Our intent is to make inventive music, with a lot of experimentation, yet not limiting ourselves to our roots nor becoming a folkloric exhibit", tips off Lirinha, the group’s singer and tambourine player.

They are off to Europe this week, to perform in Belgium (at the Sphinx Festival), Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris and possibly Lisbon. Lirinha says they’ll make a few adaptations in these concerts, abolishing his usual spoken word routines. "It’s the first time that we are going to observe how our music can evolve without the meaning of the words. I wonder if people will connect to it", he speculates anxiously.

"This trip will somehow be like our arrival from the countryside to Recife", compares Lirinha, recalling the band’s trajectory in 1999 - from their homeland, Arcoverde, lost in the wilderness of Pernambuco, to the capital of the state, to play the Rec Beat festival. "In the countryside, we get a lot of information from the capital, but we are not able to send back any. In the world it’s the same thing, we get a lot of culture from abroad, but we, Brazilians, can’t respond. We’re going to Europe to try to change that."

There’s been excellent rapport between the group and their followers - an entourage that grows at each concert. The album Cordel do Fogo Encantado , wholly independent and distributed by the label Rec Beat, is on its way to become a best seller in the Brazilian alternative market. Released in February 2001, the CD is in its 3rd edition. "We have been selling comparatively well; 8 thousand copies, already", claims a modest Lirinha. 

Until now, the 18-track CD has been sold basically at the group’s concerts. "We sold 270 in Brasilia, 400 the last time in Rio, 500 at sold-out gigs in Recife, and we’ve been selling well in Salvador", numbers Lirinha. A few hip shops also carry the album. Hard to find, it might be easier to order it directly through e-mail: "It’s important to keep in mind that the CD was totally paid for by the band. We paid Naná (Vasconcelos, producer of the album), rented the car that took us to the studio, bought our food… We are very proud of that!", claims the singer.

On their way back from Europe, the group (Lirinha, percussionists Emerson, Nêgo Henrique, Rafa Almeida and acoustic guitarist Clayton) will plan the near future. "There’s the possibility of signing up with a big label", tells Lirinha. "When we recorded our debut album, we received a few proposals and we thought a lot about it. They could harm our attitude, not much by trying to change our sound, but by demanding release dates and designating producers", he says. Lirinha believes their present independence allows a direct contact with everything the band does.

The turmoil the group has been through, in the past 12 months, has disoriented them to the point of not knowing where to return to, when they come back from Europe. "We were living in a hotel in São Paulo, and we just checked out. But we can’t go back home, to live with our families like we did before", says Lirinha, referring to their far away hometown, Arcoverde. The band’s arrival in São Paulo, last year, was overwhelming. "It’s a huge, gray city, full of buildings… the difference was gigantic", recalls the singer. The inadaptability to São Paulo has made them think about moving to Rio. "Rio is more like Recife, people stay on the beach in their shorts, drinking beer…" says a nostalgic Lirinha.

One way or another, the changes in the group’s life won’t influence their musical paths. Cordel will go on with their rustic sound - built upon instruments like the bombo da macaíba, two surdos, ilú (from the African-Brazilian rituals), congas, zabumba, tambourine, maracas and gonguês. "We don’t have a classic education or greater musical academic studies. We had no other choice, we couldn’t study in our town. This made our music very rough and heavy. But we don’t want to change that, it has become our signature", claims the singer.