REVIEW: Mulamba – Só Será Aos Ares

Mulamba album cover

Oh. My. I was hooked on this album by the first track ‘Phoda’—flirty, playful with a funky lil chorus that basically says if you can, you’re ace. Diving deeper, this album goes both hard and soft: on track 11 ‘Levante’ the Brazilian sextet sing, a cappella, “Those looking from above just sign off and sponsor massacres in Brazil, and those at the bottom are torn apart in the everyday grind and no one sees.” These women are not messing: the songs are sonically stunning; the lyrics are urgent, essential poetry. 

Só Será Aos Ares (It’ll Only Go to the Air) is the second album release by Mulamba, an all-women music collective from Curitiba in south Brazil. Formed in 2015 for a tribute concert for Cássia Eller, the band started writing original songs together and gained attention in Brazil in 2016 for the song and video ‘P.U.T.A’—a stark and seething indictment on the everyday threat of gender-based violence and sexual assault.      

While a current of raw anger runs right through Mulamba’s self-titled 2018 debut album, the tone is somewhat gentler and subtler on Só Será Aos Ares. The band’s exquisite, almost-dissonant harmonies overlay wide-ranging musical influences which encompass rock, MPB (literally Brazilian Popular Music, a vast and rich genre category), samba, hip hop, RnB and traditional Afro-Brazilian and indigenous rhythms. There’s fun (‘Phoda’), drama (‘Barriga de Peixe’), tenderness (Hemisfério), joy (‘Dandara’), and rage (Levante’) in the sonic journey, unified by their sensitive vocals. It’s a captivating, enchanting and compelling listen.

The collabs are particularly strong. Brazilian hip hop legend BNegão performs on ‘Bagatela’, a sexy number with Northeastern Brazilian flavours about environmental destruction in which the former Planet Hemp rapper comes in sage-like: “Locust beings / Almost humans / Devastate the planet”. Afro-Brazilian singer-songwriter Luedji Luna features on ‘Bença’, a sweet and lilting pop song with lyrics that contemplate the experience of children who are forced to work to help sustain their families. 

‘Barriga do Peixe’—a tour de force in and of itself—is a collaboration with indigenous singer, rapper, author and activist Kâe Guajajara that expresses depth and despair at the destruction of the rainforest and rampant environmental exploitation. Kâe’s rap opens: “I keep thinking to myself / How is this going to end? / They want to see the sky fall / So there’s no one left”. She goes on to denounce the theft of land, theft of history, and the invention of Brazil “to afterwards say that we never existed.”        

Bonus track ‘Dandara’ features Os Caramelows, MEL and Agnes and celebrates the life of Dandara dos Santos, a trans woman from the Northeast of Brazil who was brutally murdered on  15 February 2017. Released ahead of the album on the 5th anniversary of Dandara’s death earlier this year, the song exudes a tricksy joyfulness whilst demanding the trans right to life in a country which kills more trans people than any other. An animation video for the song which celebrates Dandara’s life was released on 17 November, imagining everyday scenes with a vision for the future where, according to Mulamba, “the joy of being trans gains focus and [there’s a] move away from the addiction to portraying violence and death”.   

As is clear: Mulamba don’t deal in the superficial. The songs on Só Será Aos Ares explore profound social, political and environmental issues, specifically in Brazil but with relevance worldwide. Sometimes in surprising ways: in ‘Levante’, the line “Everyone is a dangerous element in a hostile environment” struck me hard, given the significance of the phrase in the British context, in a way likely unintended by the group.      

What marks out the band’s second album is a maturity and reflective attitude, an invitation for introspection, care and tenderness, as in the intimate RnB of ‘Lascívia’ and luscious and moving ode to mothers ‘Mãe de Corre’. Written and produced during the pandemic, Só Será Aos Ares represents an expansion to contemplate and care for the internal as well as responding to external conditions. When asked in an interview about the message of the album, vocalist Cacau de Sá said “[..] know to look inside, come back home, take care of yourself, look at others with less coldness, and who knows, go forward more gently with what has to follow.” 

Words by Fliss Clarke

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