Ihu or the Music of the Amazon Indians

ihu.jpg (14583 bytes)Ihu is a word from the Kamayurá language of Brazil. It means "sound", "all that reaches the ear, including the sound of the spirits and the magical entities of the forest." This is how Marlui Miranda explains the title of her CD, the product of two decades of research, experiments, arrangements, etc. She is quick to point out that it is a work of artistic interpretation, non-ethnographic in nature. In spite of that, she is faithful to the tones, vocal traditions and sonorous speech sounds of the Amazon Indians.

Marlui Miranda is an authority on native Brazilian music and its consummate performer. She worked with Hector Babenco in the film At Play in the Fields of the Lord, and is a recipient of several grants including a Guggenheim. In Ihu Todos os sons, Marlui recorded 17 songs from 12 different Indian nations, with guests Gilberto Gil, Uakti and Grupo Beijo, among others. In addition to adapting and arranging all of the music, she sings and plays guitar and an Indian bamboo flute, called Kukuta. What a treat. Marlui made her American debut in November of 1996 on a tour that included Miami and New York. And she's coming back! We talked to Marlui in Florida and fell in love with her! You can read her interview too!

Marlui also makes sure the Indians benefit financially from the recording. The tribes receive the money, because the music belongs mostly to their tradition and not to a specific person. The hard part is getting the money to them...no bank accounts, as you can imagine, and for the most part, no mail service. So, she has to wait until someone goes to wherever they are to bring them the money. And sometimes, they ask to be paid in pencils or books or any need they have.

This is the Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings CD of choral music performed by groups of men and women of the Kayapó Indian nation of Brazil, more specifically from the Xikrin villages. The Kayapó live in the southeastern part of the State of Pará, between the rivers Tocantins and Xingú. The Xikrin live on the river Cateté, uncomfortably close to the Serra dos Carajás, where all those minerals - think gold! - reserves are located. These are recordings of initiation and naming rituals. I recommend that you listen to some of them, then listen to Marlui's - accompanied by the choral Grupo Beijo - rendition of a Kayapó rite song called Kworo Kango.

The Smithsonian CD comes with a 76 page booklet, telling the history of the kayapó and describing their culture. It is very informative reading.

The kayapó are well-known for their elaborate and colorful featherwork. The Smithsonian in Washington, DC, has a magnificent collection of nine feather headdresses that were seized by US Customs from the importer, because the feathers came from birds considered endangered species. To see the photographs and find out how the Smithsonian ended up owning the headdresses, click here.

Brazilian Cds