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Kaya N'Gan Daya

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Album Review

Perhaps no one in the world outside Jamaica is better equipped to perform a Bob Marley tribute than Gilberto Gil. The two are very nearly equals; Gil meant as much to residents of Brazil as Marley did to Jamaicans — even though popularity in Brazil means competing in a very crowded field. Gil is also an exact contemporary of Marley's (he is three years older, but began recording at the same time) and, like Marley, arrived at a distinctive sound only after years of working in the local vernacular. (For Marley it was ska and rocksteady, while for Gil it was bossa nova and samba.) He does owe a debt of gratitude to Bob Marley, however, for it was Marley's global stardom during the '70s that enabled Gil to begin making an impact overseas (especially in Africa). For Kaya N'Gan Daya, his second tribute album in two years (after the Luiz Gonzaga songbook Me, You, Them), Gil astonishingly supplants the formidable personality of Bob Marley and interprets his songs with a strength and vitality that would've found any of his contemporaries lacking. Though he traveled to Tuff Gong studios and worked with the seminal backing vocal group the I-Threes (including Marley's wife, Rita), Gil kept his own band, and they prove their resilience by never deserting their Brazilian focus. Bassist Arthur Maia has a command of the low frequencies that certainly evokes the rocksteady rhythms of reggae, but there isn't much else that sounds Jamaican, besides a sense of space and swing to the arrangements common to many South American forms. The only caveat to Kaya N'Gan Daya is Gil's inability to summon the rebel authority necessary for the classic protest songs "One Drop," "Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)," and "Rebel Music." He certainly makes up for it, though, on his versions of lighter material like "Positive Vibration," "Three Little Birds," and the title track (each of which could easily be a Gil composition). In the end, it's largely because Gilberto Gil and Bob Marley meet as equals that Gil is able to take on the difficult task of paying tribute to one of the most important artists of the 20th century.


Born: 29 June 1942 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Genre: MPB

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A leader of the Tropicalia movement in Brazil in 1967 and 1968, along with artists like Caetano Veloso and Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil and other musicians mixed native styles with rock and folk instruments. Because Gil fused samba, salsa, and bossa nova with rock and folk music, he's recognized today as one of the pioneers in world music. A multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, Gil joined his first group, the Desafinados, in the mid-'50s and by the beginning of the '60s was earning a living as...
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Kaya N'Gan Daya, Gilberto Gil
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