Various Artists: City of God OST
if you like this you'll like: Various - Samba Soul 70!, Trio Mocoto - Samba Rock (six degrees records), Various - Brazil Classics 2.
REVIEW: Various Artists: City of God OST
Various Artists: City of God OST [Warner, 2003]
Three words? funky favela fever
Fernando Meirelles' new film Cidade de Deus (City of God) recounts the evolution of the gang warfare in City of God, a favela, or slum, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Set during the time span between the 1960s through the 80s, the film is just as much the story of the favela itself as the gangs who inhabit it. Sometimes referred to as the Brazilian version of GoodFellas, City of God is a violent, colorful romp of a film, gliding effortlessly from decade to decade and crime to crime among a vibrant background of parties, beaches and back alleys. A film this grandiose is in need of a soundtrack that can effectively complement the story line and showcase the relationship between the characters and Brazilian pop culture without becoming a distraction.
Fortunately, the City of God soundtrack delivers, and with room to spare. Antonio Pinto and Ed Côrtes are the masterminds behind this excellent collection of original score and vintage Brazilian pop songs, and provide a history lesson in their selection of both. As stated in Pinto's brief but comprehensive liner notes, he and Côrtes strived to create a soundtrack that showcased the music popular in Brazil at the time, a mixture of American soul and funk and Brazilian samba and funk-samba.
The very first downbeat of Track 1 sets the tone for the whole album. "Meu nome é Zé" (My Name is Zé) is a punchy combination of the tight horn instrumentation typically found in American funk with traditional Brazilian samba instruments. The two subsequent tracks are in the same vein, and the result is a gyrating union of funky polyrhythmic intensity and tropicália, as if James Brown, the Commodores and Trio Mocotó were all in the same room together. Wah-wah guitars, trombones, cowbells and the cuica (a whining drum that is the quintessential samba instrument) intermingle in a delightful, high-energy fusion, all without abandoning the somber overtones of the film's content. "Estoria da Boca" especially reminds us of the morbid plot, with a horn riff that sounds a bit like an unintentional nod to the Godfather theme.
In addition to the original material written by Pinto and Côrtes, the soundtrack also features a few songs by other artists from the time period of the film. All of the songs are related in their lyrics of self-analysis and melancholy, smoothly connecting them to the rest of the soundtrack and theme of the film as a whole. Brazilian pop connoisseurs will recognize Raul Seixas' rock hit "Metamorfose Ambulante" and Wilson Simonal's Brazilian soul standard "Nem vem que não tem." Cartola's "Preciso me encontrar" and "Alvorada" are both traditional vintage samba pieces, and contrast nicely with the rock, funk and soul found on the rest of the album. "Convite para Vida," a full-throttle traditional samba, plays during the closing credits and serves as the film's theme song, telling the story of the City of God's feuding gang members.
The only low moment in the City of God soundtrack is the puzzling inclusion of the dreaded "remix," which fortunately comes at the end of the album and is soon over and forgotten. Even that track is fairly harmless, as it plays a few memorable dialogue clips and samba riffs, approaching cleverness but missing it by mere inches.
On the whole, the soundtrack to City of God is a highly memorable tour of the most popular genres of Brazilian music, and can function equally well for those who have seen the movie and those who just like to get down to some good old Brazilian-toned funk.