Danç-Êh-Sá (Dance of the Heirs of Sacrifice)
n music, age is either a barrier or an excuse, and always a gross explanation. You see it everywhere. Among the final ornaments in Fishscale’s fanfare: “and Ghost is 36 years old!” But when Kingdom Come ruffled our fantasies of Jay-Z’s transcendence, we retaliated by cracking on his imminent forty-ness. Punditry for new Dylan albums always celebrates his longevity as soon as verbally possible. And everything written about the Rolling Stones is divided between cultural validations—“they still rock!”—or metaphors about the undead and bush league exercises in the grotesque crafted to try to make their toned wattles wag right up out of the page. But when you sum all this hilarious boomer panic and virile gerontophobia, you end up with a lot of noise and a useless device. Qualitatively, age is only good or bad depending on who’s talking and how close they are to dying.
Tom Zé is 70. Older than World War II and rap and computers. At the end of last 2005 he released Estudando o Pagode, one of the best albums of his forty-year-long career. And Danç-Êh-Sá contains some of the most brutal music he’s ever recorded.
On Pagode, Zé let some of his lyrics, ideas, and rhythms be vetted by Brazilian teenagers in a weird effort to try to bring his music closer to the youth. It was, I hope, a failure. When Miles Davis made On the Corner in 1972, he said it was an “effort to get [his] music over to young black people,” a project that could only hinge on the belief that young black people had been anxiously waiting to swap early funk for abrasive, polyrhythmic anti-jazz. And read odes to Karlheinz Stockhausen penned by a doper with a Jheri curl—you know, something cool. (Not even God knows whether On the Corner is actually good or not.)
But what’s great is that Zé, like Miles, is looking out for the kids. Danç-Êh-Sá was composed after reading a report conducted by MTV, stating that youth has turned sharply toward “the hedonism, the consumerism and the social irresponsibility.” And because youth is predisposed to fetishize freshness, Zé’s appeal comes in the form of seven wordless tracks of restless, dissonant music ranging from samba to baile funk to traditional forro to mongrelized reggae. All self-respecting kids know that the song is dead and dig that covered-in-bugs feeling.
And really, the only problem with Danç-Êh-Sá is when he doesn’t show the honey they’re after; when the group choirs and melodic crisscrossing stop being catchy, his music can get nerve-wracking and hard to digest. But with Zé, concessions are made to the extreme and not the MOR—sometimes he’s too radical for his own good.
Danç-Êh-Sá goes to show that he thinks something’s at stake—okay—and that music can actually—ta ha ha—change it, an idea so out of touch that only a bonkers septuagenarian could’ve forged it.