freak folk and naturalism: devendra banhart

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Innovative sounds, uncommon themes and vocal registers never used before -- at least on singing. No one sings like Animal Collective: the Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart themes bring back nature to the city, and the new instruments they all use are a blast of fresh air to the alternative music. Freak-folk is an innovator musical genre which joins the traditional acoustic instruments of North-American folk music to new electronic and psychedelic elements.

But there are more: Six Organs of Admittance, Feathers, Vetiver, Joanna Newsom, Antony And The Johnsons, Bright Eyes, Iron & Wine, Coco Rosie. The Wired Magazine baptized these and many others as "New Weird America", on a parallel with Old Weird America, which integrated since the musicians before the Second World War until Bod Dylan.

First name of the American freak-folk scenery (or any other name you wish to call it), the 29-years-old Devendra Obi Banhart is an explosion of colors, glass pearls, beard and psychedelia. His first name may seems weird: it's a synonym for Indra, Hindu god of rain and storm, and was suggested by Prem Rawat, a religious leader used to go along with his parents. The second name -- Obi -- is a Star Wars character.

First name of the American freak-folk scenery (or any other name you wish to call it), the 29-years-old Devendra Obi Banhart is an explosion of colors, glass pearls, beard and psychedelia. His first name may seems weird: it's a synonym for Indra, Hindu god of rain and storm, and was suggested by Prem Rawat, a religious leader used to go along with his parents. The second name -- Obi -- is a Star Wars character.

acustica banhart caetano devendra folk musica natural tropical veloso

When he came back to USA, he assigned with Young God Records, which recorded his first three studio albums: Oh Me, Oh My, Rejoicing in the Hands and Niño Rojo. "I consider him an antidote, some kind of narcotic -- a rare case when we fell at home when we listen a music" -- those were the words of Michael Gira, responsible for this publishing company, referring to Devendra after his contract had finished.

acustica banhart caetano devendra folk musica natural tropical veloso

Concerning about his musical style, Devendra only calls it "the family". Listening any of his albums is a double journey: on the space, we're transported to an androgynous place among the Caracas developing chaos, in Venezuela, and the Californian (libertinism) liberty, in a sunny harmony with the developed world. On time, we travel over our childhood ("I feel like a child" is an authentic baby whim) at the same time we're took to a time before the yuppies supremacy at the great metropolises -- when there were only hippies and those who wore suits and ties were narrow-minded people; a time when there were no cellphones and when you roamed America on a driving-seat, on a Christopher McCandless' style.

At this amalgam, where probably many astonishing elements (read acids), he is self-defined as naturalist. He believes on mysticism and has an anthropologic attitude -- mother nature governs and links everything. For example, his forth studio album, at XL Recordings, is called Cripple Crow and it's founded at the karma notion: "On a greater scale it is about karma, which I believe in. It's ripples - what you put in and what you take. Karma is an act of balancing. Also, karma, for me, exists outside the realm of time. You never know. We exist in the world of time and karma doesn't. So that's why something then might hit you now", he said on an interview about this album.

The beard and the tattoos are marks of this musician, who listen a lot of rock music and has always his portable MacBook on his side. Influenced by Tropicalismo -- a 1960s Brazilian artistic movement --, Caetano Veloso really is his favorite musician and he listens a lot of Brazilian music. However, his musical interests don't stop here: he listen a little bit of everything, since Indian music to bripop and he insists on offering CDs with his musical choices to friends and musicians -- including Lindsay Lohan.

If Cripple Crow brought Devendra to the limelight of the North-American alternative music, the two following albums consolidated this work: Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon and What Will We Be have cleaner musics -- mainly the last one -- and the New Weird América artists get their voices louder and louder, guided by Devendra's persistence and talent. Unpredictable, he's also a plastic artist and his works are exposed on many galleries: San Francisco, Miami, New York, Brussels and Modena (Italy).

acustica banhart caetano devendra folk musica natural tropical veloso

devendra banhart


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