Boomkat Product Review:
Another eye-opening comp from Honest Jon's, "Leaf-Playing in Quito" invites us into the world of Brazilian Dilson de Souza, who played tropical jazz using leaves from the ficus tree.
Leaf playing isn't unique to Brazil - in China they've been exploring the musical possibilities of the leaf for 10,000 years, and it's still popular in Cambodia, and with indigenous Australians. But Dilson de Souza had his own spin on the instrument, using it to lead a Brazilian jazz band alongside friends in the CAIFE label's studio. Later known as Biluka, Dilson grew up in Barra do Pirai in the Brazilian countryside, eventually moving to Rio for work. In 1957 he moved to the Ecuadorian capital Quito, where he met local folk duo Gonzalo Benítez and Luis Alberto Valencia, who introduced Dilson to CAIFE. The stage was set for Dilson, now Biluka, to bring his unusual sound - an expressive, naturalistic wail over quirky spaghetti Western backdrops - to Ecuador and beyond.
Biluka named his new band Los Caníbales in reference to Brazil's 1920s "Cannibalist" movement, an artistic method that involved cannibalizing other cultures to fight against Eurocentric hegemony. And his music represents this perfectly, pulling in sounds from across the world - most noticeably Afro-Latin jazz - and leading with his characteristic leaf whistles. A single fiscus leaf was playable and held its tuning for about ten hours, and Biluka could play about eight compositions (four at each end of the leaf) before it needed to be replaced. He would fold it in half and play the leaf open, not using his hands, amplifying the wails with his mouth. Accompanied by drums, chirpy electric organ and classical guitar, Biluka composes songs that are more than just curiosities.
'Leaf-Playing in Quito' is the documentation of a craft that's barely understood in our corner of the planet, juxtaposing the sound with Los Caníbales' quirky instrumentals that hacked together the kind of 1950s music that could be heard blaring from radios and coffeeshops across South America. Completely unique music, other-worldly in the best way.