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Nikos Portokaloglou Brazilero (Original Soundtrack)
Mercury, Greece (www.nikosportokaloglou.gr)

Nikos Portokaloglou used to be the singer with the well-known Greek group Fatmé back in the eighties, followed by a solo career that, after a slow start, has recently seen him going from strength to strength. Brazilero is another link in his ongoing effort to combine Eastern and Western influences into one coherent pop whole, negating all the inherent contradictions of present-day Greece as it finds itself between East and West, progress and history, European integration and national pride and it largely succeeds in that.

The plot of the movie is relevant to the music score, so it's worth summarizing it. A forty-something businessman, the eponymous Brazilero soccer player in his youth, has used the grant he received from the European Union to build a cultural center, to get an expensive Brazilian football star for the soccer team he manages. When two European controllers show up at his doorstep demanding to see the center, he embarks on an inner journey of self-knowledge, and rapid center-building to avoid paying a dilapidating fine.

The soundtrack is a smorgasbord of musical styles. The title of one of the songs ("The Defeated' Ones Celebration (Sousta-rave)") is self-explanatory, sousta being a Cretan male-only dance, as ferocious as a Maori haka, and rave being a form of club dancing, complete with heavy use of illicit substances. Somehow, it works. It is this "somehow" that points to the eminence of his talent to just pull this difficult balancing act through.

The title instrumental track, introduces the main theme of the score that combines a faint Brazilian flavor, rock riffs, a strong Balkan rhythm section and "fat" (ie. deep-bass) beats. The instruments used betray this meeting of East and West: guitars, mandolin, djuras, bass, piano, keyboards, percussion, Cretan lyre, nay, flogera - shepherd's pipe, tenor and soprano saxophone, tambourine, tumberleki - a small drum, canonaki - a metalophone. Eleftheria Arvanitaki guest sings on two of the five songs of the record, that still retain the characteristic Portokaloglou sound.

It is quite natural to compare this CD to Hoarse Prophet, the recent CD by Thanasis Papakonstantinou, (reviewed in Rootsworld). Instead of the intricate entechno tradition of that record, however, Brazilero has a wide-open pop heart that shines through, even when the lyrics sound quite dark and ominous (as in the hit single: "My Dark Sea": Once upon a time I had everything/but I wanted more./What use is all that to me/tonight when you walk away from me.). This is a record that while being hummed in the streets, getting decent radio airplay and swapped around schoolyards still manages to almost shock with the sheer unreasonableness of the musical fusion performed.

So, next time you are in Greece and you are thinking of buying "Ouzo Syrtaki Dance Hits" from the local tourist shop as a souvenir, remember to go instead to the local record store and snap up this CD. Believe me, it will give you better insights into this country and its people. - Nondas Kitsos

Available from cdRoots


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