Guest Blogger Doron Klemer: Jorge Ben – Africa/Brasil

10 Nov

Time for some more guest post-y goodness, this time from my jet setting brother, coming to you from wherever it is he has woken up and found himself today.  I have often said that Doron is a music fan who blogs about books, while I am a book lover blogging about music . . .


I have been following my brother’s blog of beats since it began, and meant to write a guest blog for some time.  Things kept getting in the way, (work, books, ending up in new countries by mistake, etc), as I watched some of my favourite bands and albums drift by without any comment from me.

And then, a month after I returned from northern Brazil for a prolonged vacation taste-testing caipirinhas and making sure the World Cup took place without (too much) incident, my brother prodded me to maybe write something, and what album was coming up shortly?  Jorge Ben’s 1976 album,  Africa / Brasil.

Since I was, at that very moment, working on a book about visiting both Africa and (South) Brazil, this seemed too good to pass up.

D in Brazil

D in Brazil

I usually immerse myself in a country’s music when I arrive there, as a way to both pick up its language and intonations and also some cultural background.  This time in Salvador de Bahía I somehow never got around to it, a strange state of affairs given that one of the only reasons I ever wanted to learn Portuguese was to be able to sing along to ‘Más Que Nada’ and the Lusitanian Manu Chao tracks I loved so much.

That is to say:  I had no idea who Jorge Ben was/is, (although this record was voted by Brazilian Rolling Stone as being one of the Top 100 Brazilian records of all time), and so here are my unadulterated thoughts on this album as I listened to it for the first time.

Enjoy the ride.

Track 1:  kicks straight in with a jangling rock guitar and shakers, before vocals roll over the top with some Umbabarauma’ing.  I then hear Ben’s voice for the first time, an infectious rising and falling of fun, backed up by a female chorus.  He sings, chants, talks and babbles his way through the opening number: “Joga bola, joga bola…jogador…’  A football fan!  How fitting!  And the song is just fantastic…

Track 2:  Starts slowly and funkily, and tells the story (in Portuguese naturally) of a mystic from 4,000 years ago – not the most obvious subject for a 70’s disco track, and not quite as much fun as the opening tune, but Ben’s voice, cracking on the high notes, is highly listenable.  What’s next, what’s next?

Track 3:  Suddenly, I’m listening to a Portugese-speaking Bob Dylan, with backing music by Serge Gainsbourg.  This is, as it sounds, a very, very good thing.

Track 4:  For the first time, the album feels to have gone off the boil a little.  Even a repetitive refrain of ‘Jogador do futebol’ cannot quite keep my interest in this slightly dull track with warbled lyrics.  Next!

Track 5: …and suddenly we’re back in cartoon-music territory.  There’s lots of talking, and it feels like things are getting a bit same-y…  I’m feeling a little disappointed.

Track 6:  Talking of things getting a little samey…  surely I recognise that chorus?  Halfway through this number I reach for the interwebs:  yes indeed, I am listening to Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?  (there’s a pretty simple answer to that questoin, surely?).  It turns out this track is where Rod got his chorus from.  Unfortunately, the song itself is not very good.

Track 7:  Like Manu Chao decades later, there is a running theme throughout all of these songs which, not having learned much in music class at school, I can only describe as the ‘whoopie whoop’ instrument.  This is all over the stripped-down tune ‘Xica da Silva’ (a ‘negra’ as we are told: such epithets are apparently commonplace in South America, even these days, as any football/soccer fans will know if they followed the Luis Suarez saga).  I find the song a little boring.  Next!

Track 8:  The story of Jorge next, and it’s great:  a female backing choir, a gnarly-voiced spoken tale of George who flies, apparently.  Toe-tapping fun is back again!

Track 9:  Things have slowed down a little for another sung/spoken tale of a footballer which gets me interested in the music again, (although I am sick of ‘that’ instrument, whatever it is).  The song is called The Number 10 From Gávea, which I believe is a reference to Zico when he played for Rio team Flamengo, a Brazilian legend and a guy I once stalked at a hotel in Japan when he was their national manager.  True story.  And a sweet song.



Track 10:  Some funky guitar and African drums liven up this upbeat track.  I am flagging, though.  This started out as so much fun, but it’s ending by exhausting me, the aural equivalent of drinking caipirinhas on the beach:  the first half dozen are great, but by the tenth, you are pretty sure you shouldn’t be doing this anymore…

Track 11:  Lots of shouting to start this one, and it doesn’t calm down, which actually gets a little grating after a while.  This is a slow-burning goodbye track, heavy on the sax, fade out to end the album.

And there I am, left with the feeling that it would have been good to listen to this on vinyl so I could just listen to the first side.

Some final thoughts:

-I could feel the Brazilian sun on my face again listening to this, but by the end I felt sunburned.  In my ears.

-This album for a while made me wish I had an afro.

-You should read my bookblog, and read my upcoming book ‘Benfica to Brazil: a year of football.

Owned before blogging? No.
Heard before blogging? No.
Heard of before blogging? Not even.
Recommend? How do I know what you like? Sure, why not, there are some funky tracks, and Portuguese is a gorgeous language, (at least when sung or even spoken by Brazilians: Portuguese spoken by the Portuguese themselves just gives you an idea of how Russian would sound if Russians gave up on pronouncing 80% of the vowels in words). Yes. Let’s go with yes.

Post Script:
I was at my beloved Benfica to see them beat Monaco in a Champions League match days after listening to this album for the first time.  What did I find playing on repeat in my brain throughout the match? “Joga bola jogador…”


Doron is a writer, traveler, tour guide, linguist and (in the interests of full disclosure) the brother of this blog’s author. What, you thought nepotism ended with George W?

Not good enough for England, so tries out for Brazil

Not good enough for England, so tries out for Brazil

Doron was also tempted to put ‘International Man Of Mystery’ on his latest batch of business cards, but decided he wasn’t quite 17 anymore.

He currently resides in Lisbon, Portugal, (since there are no World Cups or Olympics on at the moment), where he gives walking tours of the city to unsuspecting tourists.

He also writes two blogs, one on his book-buying addiction and another on football. This latter has turned into a project to to publish his first (but hopefully not last) book on his travels and adventures following the FIFA World Cup across the globe over the past 16 years, and his newly adopted team Benfica across Europe this year.

The project can be found and funded here.

Doron likes dogs, but does not like squidgy foods.



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