Free Tonight: Brazil’s Orquestra Contemporanea de Olinda at the Kennedy Center
It’s a lively time for fans of Brazilian music in the area. Last month Gilberto Gil came to town, Caetano Veloso is performing at Lisner on April 10, and tonight Orquestra Contemporânea de Olinda is making its D.C. debut with a free show at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. This 10-piece group is lesser known than Gil and Veloso, both legends in their country. Hailing from Brazil’s northeastern Pernambuco region, near the coastal city of Recife, Orquestra Contemporânea de Olinda released one album in 2008 on the Brazilian label Som Livre—and it's not easy to find in the U.S.
To judge, however, by the group's MySpace page, YouTube videos, and an enthusiastic review of their New York City debut earlier this month, one can get a picture of what the combo will offer tonight. This is not quiet, pretty bossa nova. Featuring two vocalists, a horn section, two percussionists, guitar, bass, and a trap drummer, Orquestra Contemporânea blends upbeat Northeast Brazilian frevo brass-band bleats and bursts; rock, ska, and maracatu rhythms; and sing-songy, carnivalesque melodies. There are also traces of jazz, funk, and afrobeat. The vocalists sing in counterpoint and offer backing harmonies for each other. Some songs feature frantic, speedy percussion; others move at a more traditional, loping, Brazilian pace, or a skittering Jamaican one. I’m not sure what their Portuguese lyrics mean, but the music feels exuberant.
Orquestra Contemporânea de Olinda performs for free from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday night at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F. St. NW (202) 467-4600 (The show will also be streamed live and archived at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage website )