Devendra Joins Gilberto Gil at Hollywood Bowl

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Monday June 06, 2011

Gilberto Gil has released more than 50 albums in his career — the latest is “Banda Larga Cordel,” which came out this month. That puts him about 45 ahead of Devendra Banhart, but the Brazilian musical icon, 65, and the Los Angeles-based folk-rock eccentric share a passion for eradicating distinctions among musical genres, as they’ll demonstrate when they play at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday as part of the KCRW World Festival series.

Gil, who also has served as Brazil’s minister of culture since 2003, made a crusade of eclecticism when he spearheaded the Tropicalia movement in the 1960s, and his intoxicating example resonates in the free-spirited approach of Banhart. The 27-year-old son of an American father and a Venezuelan mother might come off as an innocent, but in a conference call with Gil he showed that he’s a serious student of his hero, and of South American music overall.

Devendra, can you tell us how Gilberto has influenced and inspired you?

Banhart: When I think of Gil, it’s so generous, his music. When one person can make music that turns you on to a plethora of genres and cultures, that’s education, man; that’s what opens your mind. It’s one-stop shopping in this weird way too, where you don’t have to go to a bunch of different records. On one record you traverse the globe.

Gil: It’s been like that since childhood. I’ve been always interested in different approaches to music coming from different cultures. It’s been a natural thing. We Brazilians are very diverse from the very beginning. Not just me. Maybe I expose it a little more obviously than other musicians, but it’s natural in Brazil, influences from all over, from European culture, from African culture, from American culture.

Devendra, you spent much of your childhood in Venezuela — what’s the cultural relationship between that country and Brazil?

Banhart: It’s two incredibly different things. In Venezuela we think of Brazil as another world.

Gil: But at the same time, I think all the South American countries relating to the Caribbean area, they’ve been very influential on Brazilian music. The different styles — the cumbia, the mambos, the rumbas, the cha-cha-cha — all those passed from the Caribbean islands and [on to] Venezuela and Ecuador, and even Peru and Colombia. It’s in our musical DNA.

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