Carpe Diem, Dude | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Carpe Diem, Dude 

Salt Lake City’s Jinga Boa just want to pagode all night and party every day.

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There are few things more grating than a rock band singing about rock. Sure, the occasional group might score a hit about rocking ’round the clock, rocking like a hurricane or liking rock despite its limitations, but in time all that rocking inspires pretty severe motion sickness. Hell, even country artists rotate subject matter, swapping heartache with trucks and rain. Why, then, is it perfectly acceptable for George Brown, lead vocalist for Salt Lake City’s Jinga Boa, to pen so many freaking tunes about pagode?

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“It’s a different mindset,” Brown says of samba’s less-percussive offshoot, noting that Brazilian music in general is free from American Top 40’s competitive edge. “It seems like with rock & roll, you have to prove something'especially in lyric writing. A lot of pagode songs, at least the ones I write, are just funny stories or jokes basically. Some are silly love songs.”

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Most of Jinga Boa’s debut album, however, contains lines about pagode. It’s not Lennon, Dylan or Andrew W.K., but in Brown’s lilting Portuguese, each word sounds like making love on the beach or getting crazy at Rio’s Carnaval.

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Born out of extreme poverty, the genre celebrates a less gentrified version of Petula Clark’s classic “Downtown,” with revelers forgetting their troubles and cares regardless of age, race, gender, class or income. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow a young street gang might shoot up the favela where your kids attend school.

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Things aren’t so rough for Jinga Boa. Brown, Lorin Hansen, Mason Aeschbacher, Aaron Nelson, Ai Fujii and Pierre Dufresne lead rather privileged lives (for a bunch of struggling musicians), not to mention they’ve only been aware of pagode for at most five years. They first discovered the genre through a music camp in Brazil designed to enhance skills for Samba Gringa, a loud, fierce drum troupe whose regular gigs included pounding skins at Real Salt Lake soccer games. One night of backyard pagode and they were hooked.

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“I was like, ‘Damn, I’ve gotta do that,’” Aeschbacher says. “I mean, if you can have a party like that and get away with it in a house, that’s something special.”

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So special, Jinga Boa paid careful attention to the way they channeled South American culture, working to maintain authenticity and avoid turning it into an irreverent frat party. They rejected urges to incorporate personal influences including rock, opera, classical violin and African drums. They purchased unique instruments from Brazil, like the cavaquinho, a four-string banjo tuned one octave higher than its American counterpart, then spent years trying to master traditional tones.

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“A lot of the instruments have a very particular, very foreign technique to them,” Hansen says, cupping her hand and rolling it in a wave, playing the table like a pandeiro. “You just don’t find that anywhere else.”

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Even when found, the perfect sound is hard to duplicate. Despite good intentions, Jinga Boa had a hard time mimicking old-school pagode back home. Their honorable tribute became an adaptation. In studio, they made a conscious decision to fold in traces of bossa nova and capoiera-influenced expressions. The record is still heavy on traditional sounds, only the layout betrays marks of an outsider.

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That said, local Brazilians consider Jinga Boa a welcome part of their community. They pack each concert, paying ultimate respects by shaking it all night long.

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“I was pretty overwhelmed at our first show,” Hansen says, adding that she’s watched her friends’ bands play to sparse crowds who’d rather watch each other than the stage. “Right off the bat, they were into it. They come and support us show after show.”

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While pleased with the response, Nelson thinks audience satisfaction is secondary to what the band gets out of generating positive vibrations.

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“One of my favorite things about pagode is that we can play a show that sucks and have a great time. We can play for two people, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “It’s not about rehearsing for the next rock show.”

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But would they mind all of the sweet perks associated with rock stardom?

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“Would it be cool if we got famous and toured around and signed to a major? Sure, but it would be better to help everyone have a good time'to be able to go to a bar, sing, dance, go home and screw,” Aeschbacher says, adding that besides pagode’s necessary instrumentation, ingredients for a successful Brazilian party include vodka, gin, rum and cachaça. Think of it as spiritual hedonism: “We’re trying to enrich people’s lives.” nn

JINGA BOA
nRose Wagner Black Box Theater
n138 W. 300 South
nSaturday, Sept. 16
n7:30 p.m.
nArtTix.org

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