Toni Tornado – Toni Tornado (1972) 320kbs
This album has one major deplorable flaw — it is too damn short! Only 26 minutes of pure bliss may be all some of you can take, but I find myself playing this one twice in a row, and I almost never do that… Oh my what a fine record this is! Toni Tornado is associated with the Black Power movement in Brazil (the English phrase was actually used — even today, someone sporting an Afro here is referred to as having “cabelo Black Power.”) Along with people like Tim Maia, Cassiano, Hyldon, Jorge Ben, Banda Black Rio, *whew* I’m out of breath… Well, all these folks were taking cues from black music in the US, which made them rather polemical at the time, culturally speaking, in a place where the gatekeepers would scream bloody murder about cultural imperialism and “alienation” ever since the Jovem Guarda and “ia ia ia” bands started pulling out electric guitars and copying The Beatles. A variety of cultural nationalism that celebrated the heterogeneous population(s) of Brazil in a way that ironically promoted what in crucial ways was a homogenous image of “The Brazilian People” — this type of stance did not tolerate anybody pulling out claims of a distinct ethnic identity (except for Brazil’s indigenous people, who were not considered citizens until fairly recently.. but that’s another story). For the cultural nationalist, “The Brazilian People,” one and all, were ALL equally African-Indian-Portuguese. Brazilians were supposed to only listen to samba and chorinho and bossa nova. I am simplifying and being droll, as I am wont to do. Hey, it’s my blog.
So, embracing black music from North America was one way of shaking up this attitude and asserting a black identity in a place where people had always tended to aspire towards the ideal of whiteness, which is where and how social mobility happened. But all of what I have written here thus far is just cultural critique and interpretation, in very important ways it MISSES THE WHOLE POINT of great music like this, the kinetic energy, the movement.. Although you will hear a few yelps of “good gawd” ala James Brown on this record, songs clearly influenced by sixties and seventies US soul, by blues music, by more James Brown, and Toni Tornado looks remarkably like Al Green on the cover of this album — you won’t just be hearing imitation of music from the US, but innovation. This musical community, like others in West Africa and elsewhere, was building an aesthetic of its own, embraced and celebrated by the DJs of the big ‘funk’ parties of the favelas — as featured memorably in the film Cidade de Deus (City of God), this was Brazilian funk before its bundalização in the last few decades.*
What makes Toni Tornado stand out from his contemporaries is that his music is wilder, maybe even unhinged at times, more raw. This album, issued on CD in 2002, is already out of print again. Treat yourself, get twisting and do the Tornado!
*The term “bundalização” is a translation of the term “assification”, a neologism coined by The Frankfurt School in a treatise on cultural production titled “The Commodity Fetish and The Crappification of Everything.”