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REVIEW: Gilberto Gil at Dominion-Chalmers United Church

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Tuesday November 20, 2012

from Ottowa Citizen

Gilberto Gil at Dominion-Chalmers United Church (concert review)
By Peter Hum

Normally, we sit still in church. The exception: when Gilberto Gil is leading the congregation.

It took a little while for the Brazilian music star to work his magic at Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Tuesday night. But eventually, the exuberance of his visceral, deeply rhythmic music as well as the lanky, seemingly tireless 70-year-old’s charisma brought most of the people to their feet. The most enthusiastic among them, including many Brazilian expats, were only content if they could crowd the front of the stage to shake and shimmy as if nothing but the uplifting music mattered.

For the uninitiated (as opposed to the fans gleefully singing along), Gil’s music had at once the sound of the familiar and the foreign. As Gil explained during some of the breathers between his high-energy numbers, he was performing music, written by himself and others, that was rooted in the folkloric sounds of Northeastern Brazil. During the course of Gil’s two-hour set, his powerhouse seven-piece group ran through about 20 songs that at times would have brought accordion-driven Cajun music to mind or violin-centred Celtic reels. But meanwhile, insistent Brazilian percussion — the pounding of the zabumba drum, the tapping of the pandeiro, a shallow, tambourine-like instrument and the brisk chiming of the triangle — pushed the ever-surging music forward.

Gil owned the front of the stage, singing so potently in Portuguese that the emotion and timbre of his voice shattered any linguistic barriers. The spirited lusophones, it must be said though, were in fine form when they joined in on several numbers, chanting along to Assim, Sim‘s catchy refrain “Voce vai me comer, vai me saboriar” – “You’re going to eat me, you’re going to savour me.”

The veteran musician, who also recently served as Brazil’s Minister of Culture, was as fine a cultural ambassador as his homeland could ask for, winning over listeners in the church with genuine exhortations to sing, clap and stomp along. At the Ottawa Jazz Festival concert, the former politician also might as well have been the Minister of Fancy Footwork, so frequently did he shimmy and dance across the stage to the delight of the crowd.

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