Album Review: Zuco 103 - Whaa!
Last year, I discovered this band that blew my mind. They completely challenged my ideas of how world music could sound. I had always thought that all world music either had a salsa beat or some archaic instrumentation. Little did I know that some of the most innovative music I would come across would be from a Netherlands-based band with a dynamo Brazilian singer named Lilian Vieira. This band is none other than Zuco 103. Their release that first knocked me out was Tales of High Fever, released on Six Degrees records in 2002. It was an interesting mix of hip hop, electronic, tropicalia, trance, and traditional world beats that was bliss to my ears. Now Zuco 103 is back with the equally innovative release, Whaa!. This band is never boring...they can roll from a reggae-themed song to samba beats to booty-shaking electronica. What surprised me was the diversity of world fusion on this album. Tales of High Fever had a tone, but this album is energetically sporadic. Whaa! starts with "Na Mangueira", a track with shoulder-shaking beats and an almost sarcastic delivery in the vocals. Vieira even sounds a bit nasaly on this track, but it somehow fits the overall tone of the song. The next standout cut is "Mayfly" where Lilian sings sweetly to the listener over a mildly jazzy beat. "Vivinte" is a 3 minute, 36 second seduction with some great electric guitar moments. My favorite track on the album, "Futebol", is actually sung in English. It is a well-crafted Pop song that hits you with a shimmy-inducing chorus. All in all this is a solid album that delivered what this group had proved to me last year: world music does not have to sound traditional. It can be modern, innovative and surprising. I recommend this CD highly to anyone who enjoys a smooth voice, world fusion, and a fascinating mix of slow melodies and hot beats to keep you guessing. -Megan Timmons