Dendê Macêdo delivers ecstatic percussive incantations to invoke the gods of Afro-Brazilian Candomblé on Agô out May 27th via Ropeadope Records
For world-class percussionist, singer, composer, bandleader, and teacher, Dendê Macêdo, music bridges the chasm between the earthly and heavenly planes — a conversation between matter and spirit, and a life-enriching communion with the divine that he strives to share with his audiences.
The newest emanation of that signature ethos, Dendê’s latest album Agô (out May 27, 2022, on Ropeadope Records) merges themes steeped in the traditions of Afro-Brazilian Candomblé with joyous melodies and ecstatically percussive world rhythms, delivering positive universal messages to inspire the collective consciousness and hypnotic grooves to make the body move.
The title of both the album and its lead track, “Agô” means ‘to ask permission’ in Yoruba, a language used by Brazilian practitioners of Candomblé, in deference to the Orixas, deities in religion’s pantheon. Long before achieving his place on the international music scene, Dendê had a humble upbringing in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, raised by a single mother in a household immersed in the AfroBrazilian faith. As music and dance are fundamental elements of Candomblé practice, its ceremonies served as the earliest foundations of Dendê’s rich musical heritage.
With seven of the album’s twelve tracks dedicated to different Orixas, Agô represents a creative effort to celebrate the deities and the values of the religion that he credits with keeping him on the straight and narrow as a child and eventually leading him to career success he enjoys today.
Throughout, Dendê’s sharp, percussive volleys punch in and out of surging and undulating rhythms, propelling the listener deeper into the psyche’s liminal spaces, while his lighthearted melodies and reflective vocals are punctuated with joyous incantations. The combined elements manifest as nothing short of a sonic invocation of the Orixas.
The second track on the album “Epê Babá” is a song honoring Oxalá, the father of all the Orixas, who is the eldest Orixa known for wearing white and symbolizing purity and peace. Next, “Homem da Justiça” (translating as Man of Justice) invokes the Orixa Xango, god of justice and the song describes the amala de Xango, the offering that is given to him as well as the colors that he wears, red and white. Honoring the goddess of the ocean and mother of all Orixas, the song “Yemanjá” represents motherhood and fertility. Offerings to her are made in baskets full of perfume, soaps, flowers, and other items contributing to her beauty and left for her in the ocean.
While 7 of the tracks on Agô focus on the Orixas, there are a few tracks that diverge from that theme of tradition to address issues of the modern world and see Dendê’ diving headlong into new creative territory.
For example, “You Can Dance” is the first song Dendê ever wrote in English and is a track that grew out of him messing around on stage when playing the funk song “Liga Desliga” from his previous album Back to Bahia. It started as improvisation and grew into a full-fledged song about the merits of just letting go and having fun. And “Black Lives Matter”, a track written using afrobeat as the foundational rhythm of the song which has deep roots in black resistance, pays homage to those lives that have been lost in the US and in Brazil due to structural racism. It pleads for justice and equality and illustrates how these issues impact upon black communities beyond the US in the African diaspora.
The recording process took place at the height of the COVID-19 at Rittenhouse Soundworks and was engineered by Michael Richelle and Jim Hamilton. Dendê rehearsed with a band in Philadelphia, recording the foundations of all the tracks in one day. That lineup included Frances Mbappe on bass, Dariel Peniazek on guitar, Daniel Belquer on piano, Benhur Oliveira on drums, Leslie Macedo on percussion, and Dendê himself doing percussion and vocals.
As most of Dendê’s musical peers in Brazil were not able to work due to the pandemic, he was able to include them on the album as well. These musicians comprise the bands of some of the top recording artists in Brazil including Gilberto Gil, Ivete Sangalo, Carlinhos Brown, Daniela Mercury and Bel Marques. The musicians, including Kaina Do Jêje, Luizinho Do Jêje, Marcio Brasil, Tiago Nunes provided percussion for several tracks that were recorded at Terreiro Pop Studio in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil and engineered by Citnes Dias. Additional percussion on You Can Dance was recorded at Pracatum by Elbermario Barbosa, Lucas Vinicius Xavier Gualberto and Danilo Nascimento Gualberto. Additional guitar and bass tracks were recorded by Gigi Cerqueira and Jackson Almeida.
Special guests on the album include Felipe Hostins (accordion on Feira de São Joaquim), Gerson Silva (guitars on Crioula), Mikael Mutti (keyboards on Crioula), Ximbinha (guitars on Moça), Keinho (cavaquinho on Moça), Dice Raw(rap vocals on Crioula), Antoine Roney (sax on You Can Dance) and Amayo (vocals on Black Lives Matter.)
“The foundations of my musical life were experienced through Candomblê in the Jeje, Ketu and Angola nations as well as through rhythms like samba de roda and baião. This album honors those traditions and asks permission to use them with a more modern and global sensibility. I ask for Ago as I bring this new sound to the world.”
ABOUT DENDÊ & BAND
Dendê is a percussionist, singer, composer, bandleader, teacher, and multi-instrumentalist. He’s been a professional musician since the age of 14, when he appeared in the frontline of Timbalada, Carlinhos Brown’s superstar percussion ensemble. Since 2001, he’s been splitting his time between the US and Bahia, working with his own ensembles.
His flagship group, Dendê & Band reflects the cross-section of his deep roots in traditions like samba de roda and Candomblé and his eclectic musical appetite for other global rhythms like rumba, afrobeat and mbalax. Over the past two decades, Dendê & Band have performed at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK, Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles; the KW Latinfest in Canada; the Penang World Music Festival in Malaysia; the Kalalu Festival in Saint Lucia, Summerdance and Old Town School in Chicago the Lincoln Center Atrium in NYC among many others.