March 2016 is proving to be a sad month for music aficionados. This is the third “In memory of” post I am writing this month, and it is only March 13th. Four days ago the great Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos passed away at the age of 71. A master of the Berimbau, a single-string Brazilian instrument with a gourd resonator played by striking the string with a wooden bow, Vasconcelos also played many small percussion instruments such as shakers, caxixi and talking drum. He used his voice to sing and vocalize, adding incredible atmospherics to music by the Pat Metheny Group, Jan Garbarek and others.
With Collin Walcott of Oregon and Don Cherry, known from his association with the Ornette Coleman quartet, he formed the band Codona in the late 70s. The name was formed from the first 2 letters of the trio’s first names: COlin, DOn, NAna. This is truly a world music ensemble, prior to the term being abused by folding into it random pop acts around the world who happen to utilize an ethnic musical instrument and sing in a language other than English. I picked an example from Codona’s second album that showcases Vasconcelos on Berimbau and vocalizations, accompanied by Collin Walcott on sitar and Don Cherry on trumpet. RIP, Naná.