Ramiro Musotto's ambitious and sprawling album Civilizacao & Barabarye fuses Afro-Brazillian folkloric sounds with newer electronics in a way that seems too rare these days. His main axe is the berimbau, a gourd-and-string instrument that could very well be the Brazilian cousin of the West African kora (recently brought into vogue on releases by Steve Reid as well as Toumani Diabate). Musotto pushes the application of the berimbau as far as it's going to go, perhaps, but in addition to the instrument’s surprisingly wide range (as heard in the album's contemplative opening track "Ronda”), Musotto often uses his instrument as a beacon to signal the beginning of the proceedings, which are as multi-textural and far-reaching as an entire afternoon of public radio.
Throwing every conceivable western-hemispheric-cultural-identifier into the mix, such as the expected samba chorus as well as samples of Subcomandante Marcos (where the hell has he been lately?), one of the secrets of Civilizacao is a subtle underlayment of groove, not unlike the bland South Beach electronica they play in the hotel bar. This thin membrane stretches beneath the more exciting and more globally-informed percussion, vocal, and futurefolk instrumentation, subtly filling in the spaces and gaps where they'd otherwise stick out and hobble the music's momentum. What would otherwise run the risk of rendering the album a sappy, glossy mess instead acts as a contrapuntal tone test which reminds the listener how exotic and unique some of these sounds actually are.
In addition to the occasional chugging samba break, Musotto pays homage to Brazil by honoring a few of Brazil's patron deities, including "Ogum" (known in Nigeria and Cuba as Ogun) and "Ochossi.” Whereas other multiculturists – including Philly's Sonic Liberation Front and house maestro Osunlade – have experimented with grafting Afro-Latin religious music onto more modern, regional rhythm sections, Musotto's forays tweak the rhythm and harmony a bit further to create something that sounds more seamless and original. Another of Musotto's nods in the direction of Africa is the track "Mbira,” mostly gentle interplay between Musotto's berimbau and the eponymous thumb piano, but, in a contrast to the electric fury of Konono No. 1's likembe (also thumb pianos), the restraint actually allows space and time for the instruments to be heard, along with a wider dynamic range.