Djavan, the Brazilian singer, poet and songwriter, is making a stop at UCLA's Royce Hall next week.
"Acelerou," which won the best song award in the Brazilian category at the Latin Grammys in September, was recorded in the studio as a bonus track to be included with the two-CD live album "Djavan Ao Vivo," released in late 1999. The Royce appearance next Friday will include all the material from the album--a literal greatest-hits lineup--performed by the same band present on the album.
For the veteran artist, one of the youngest of the MPB artists of the late '60s and early '70s, the program will have a bittersweet quality as the final event in a tour that began at the Joao Caetano Theater in Rio in October 1999.
"The program commemorates the best of my songs," Djavan says. "Different successes, different formats, different repertoire, all put together in a new way, with no oxygen, so to speak, to give them a new push.
"It has really been a great experience because we were able to fuse lots of different things. My music has a bit of the Beatles, some flamenco, some jazz, some bossa nova, and we were able to experiment and mix it all within this repertoire."
For those familiar with Djavan's hits, the sound may be strikingly different. "Fato Consumado," for example, one of his earliest songs, emerges here with a distinct jazz feeling, with a trombone solo by Francois De Lima countering Djavan's distinctive vocal.
But Djavan, who was born Djavan Caetano Viana in Maceio in the northeast coastal state of Alagoas in 1950, has always been open to new ideas in his music. The first band he led as a teenager, in fact, was a Beatles-style ensemble bearing the name LSD (for Luz, Som e Dimensao or Light, Sound and Dimension). Since then, he has never hesitated to embrace whatever stylistic elements he feels are appropriate to any song or project.
"The critics always used to ask why, coming from my region, my music was always so different from the others from the Northeast," said Djavan. "But I was always interested in other music--in French music, in flamenco, in the African music that has had a tremendous influence in Maceio--and even in every sort of black American music. I was curious. I wanted to experience it, and hear it, and see what I could do with it."
But Djavan is quick to add that the synthesis of different elements in his songs always retains a connection with his traditional roots.
"At the end, it all comes back to that. I like to talk about love in my songs, and social issues as well, and I like to express those feelings in many different ways. But it always comes back to the roots, to the rich, varied foundation that makes Brazil such a continent within itself."
* Djavan, at Royce Hall, UCLA, next Friday, 8:30 p.m. $25 to $48. (310) 825-2101.
Flamenco Forever: Paco de Lucia, another veteran Latin music artist--flamenco in this case--also comes to Royce Hall this month. A masterful artist almost since the day he arrived on the scene in 1962 as a 14-year-old prodigy, De Lucia is now arguably the foremost figure in contemporary flamenco.
To a large extent, he deserves credit for having carried the torch for the traditional music through the rock 'n' roll years, beyond disco, dance and trip-hop. Today, when nuevo flamenco players are strumming New Age versions of flamenco all over the world, De Lucia simply chuckles and tries to look at the brighter side.
"There are many people now who are trying to do new music in new ways," he says. "I don't expect them to be right all the time, but if they are right 1% or 2% of the time, that's good enough for me, because it helps to keep the tradition alive forever."
De Lucia's way of keeping the tradition alive, however--like Djavan's--involves expanding it to include new ideas without sacrificing its traditional roots. The ensemble he will bring to Royce, for example, includes a dancer, a singer, two guitarists, a bassist, a percussionist and a saxophonist-flutist.
"What we play is always flamenco," he explains. "But sometimes I find a place where I want to include a flute or a saxophone passage, where Jorge Pardo, my saxophonist, can play flamenco melodies and do some improvisation. The improvisations have jazz qualities, but he is playing flamenco chords and flamenco rhythms, with flamenco spirit."
De Lucia grew up in a family with a father and a brother who played guitar, another brother who was a singer and a sister who was a dancer.
"I learned from listening to them and watching them. When I was 7 or 8 years old and my father put a guitar in my hands, it wasn't new to me. At that point I had already heard all the rhythms, the feeling and the spirit and the tempo of flamenco, so I had only to practice and learn where to put my fingers."
He learned quickly, winning contests and releasing his first album (with his brother) when he was 14. That early mastery of the form inevitably led to the sort of expansion of ideas that will underscore his Royce performance.
But his open-mindedness was not initially met with much acceptance in the hidebound flamenco community.
"When I tried to do new ways and new things, they looked at me as though I was strange and crazy, and it was very difficult for me," he says. "Then one day I decided, 'OK, if they don't like it, I like it and I'm going to do it my way.'
"And, after many records, a younger generation came along, understood what I was doing and started to follow my way. So I'm happy that I was able to open a door in that way, not to make money, but to keep the music alive. Because that's the only way it can be done if it is not to become a museum art: play new notes, but keep the spirit of the music."
* Paco de Lucia, Royce Hall, UCLA, April 20-21, 8 p.m. $25 to $45. (310) 825-2101.