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08/01/2016
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Uai Sô Benji Kaplan

Uai Sô
Benji Kaplan

We say: A whimsical take on the Brazilian musical landscape

If you didn't know any better you might reasonably assume that this collection of contemporary Brazilian music is the work of a native of that country. The truth is, Benji Kaplan is an American composer and guitarist whose first visit to Brazil came at the age of seventeen. Inspired by the Brazilian composer Guinga, whom Kaplan met whilst studying at a music camp in California, Uai Sô has a whimsical quality that is hard to categorize.

The concept behind this work is to evoke an imagined musical landscape that relates to the streets of Brazilian cities (the title of one of the songs, "Valse da Metrópole, gives a clue to this). Do not expect anything too raw or rootsy: while elements of jazz, samba and forro can be discerned on all of the dozen tracks, this is generally more classical-leaning in character and features a lush woodwind ensemble behind Kaplan's voice and acoustic guitar. It's true to say that Uai Sô may not be to everyone's taste: Kaplan's voice is on the light side, and the melodies tend to be meandering and hard to get a grip of. All the same, there is little doubt about the quality of the musicianship on display here or the sincerity behind this project.