KUNM

Lucas Santtana: Bossa Nova With A Brand-New Beat

Sep 20, 2011
Originally published on September 20, 2011 3:53 pm

Lucas Santtana is a Brazilian artist who has been hiding in plain view for years. I came across a record by Santtana back in 1999, EletroBenDada, which updated the experimental and political pop music of the 1960s and '70s Brazilian Tropicalia movement for a new generation. I heard nothing more from Santtana for more than 10 years, but it turns out he's been busy making great music in Brazil, even if hasn't been making it up to North America. His latest record, Sem Nostalgia, has just been released in the U.S.

Santtana is of no relation to Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana. But Santtana does do incredible things with a guitar on Sem Nostalgia, his tribute to the spirit of bossa nova. Bossa nova is the musical movement during which Brazil's greatest artists often performed using just their voice and an acoustic guitar, traditionally known as voz e violao. Santtana continues that tradition here — but with the help of sampling software and some creative friends, his songs can sound as much like modern electronic music as they do like "The Girl From Ipanema." Using this method, Santtana can take something as simple as the sound of a hand rapping against the side of a guitar and flip it into something like the once-familiar sound of an IBM electric typewriter — a rhythm simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic.

The processing may strike some as a gimmick, but it seems to me that Santtana gives each song just what it needs. The album title translates as "without nostalgia," and that's the approach Santtana takes. He draws inspiration from the past — not as a way to escape the present, but as a way to embrace it, and maybe even improve on it.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

For his latest album, Brazilian musician Lucas Santtana turned to the traditional Brazilian arrangement of acoustic guitar and voice. He then took it in a nontraditional direction with the help of electronics and studio trickery. The result is the album "Sem Nostalgia." It's just been released in the U.S. And Will Hermes has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WILL HERMES: I came across a record by Lucas Santtana back in 1999, "EletroBenDada," which updated the experimental and political pop music of the '60s and '70s Brazilian Tropicalia movement for a new generation. It was a great record. But I heard nothing more from Santtana for over 10 years. It turns out he's been busy making great music in Brazil, even if it hasn't been making it up to North America.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHO CAN SAY WHICH WAY")

LUCAS SANTTANA: (Singing) It's getting out of hand. It's all mixed up. Free copy machine. Count me in. Go, go, go, go. Go, go, go, go. Go, go, go, go. Who can say which way?

HERMES: Lucas Santtana is no relation to Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana. But he does do incredible things with a guitar on "Sem Nostalgia." The album is his tribute to the spirit of bossa nova, the musical movement during which Brazil's greatest artists often performed using just voice and acoustic guitar. Santtana continues the tradition here. But with the help of sampling software and some creative friends, his songs sound as much like modern electronic music as "The Girl From Ipanema."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HERMES: My favorite electronic mutation on the album is when Santtana takes the sound of a hand rapping against the side of a guitar and flips it into something like the once-familiar sound of an IBM electric typewriter, a rhythm simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANTTANA: (Singing in foreign language)

HERMES: The processing may strike some as a gimmick. But it seems to me that Santtana gives each song just what it needs. The album title translates as without nostalgia, and that's the approach Lucas Santtana takes. He draws inspiration from the past, not as a way to escape the present, but as a way to embrace it and maybe even improve it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANTTANA: (Singing in foreign language)

BLOCK: The album from Lucas Santtana is called "Sem Nostalgia." Our reviewer is Will Hermes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANTTANA: (Singing in foreign language) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.