disc.gif (10660 bytes)Joao Kahuna - Rio de Janeiro
Parece Que Existo
By Frank Shines

Joao Kahuna is the first S.American artist linked with our site, and as we open up the world market, I want to experience and promote good music from all over the world. I took a listen to all of the tracks at Joao's MP3.com site and enjoyed all of them. The song genres ranged from jazz to flamenco, to trance/dance, with the quality of the arrangements, musicianship and engineering of the songs showing professionalism. Because I couldn't understand the lyrics and am making my critique based upon the music and arrangment, I relied on one of HotBands affiliates, Morango.com, to assist in the interview.

Joćo Kahuna’s "Parece Que Existo" is a brilliant CD of eleven songs. It opens with the sounds of a storm in A Chuva (The Rain). Later, Uma Noite (An Evening) evokes those powerful emotions of loneliness that we have all encountered during a quiet evening of isolation and retrospection. I recently chatted with Joćo about his music, his life, and his perspective on the future of digital music. As you will see, not only is Joćo a masterful artist, he is also intelligent, insightful and very candid.

MORANGO: When did you first start playing music? How long have you been in the industry?

JOĆO: I had a band in the 80s called Tonton Macoute; it was one of the first Brazilian bands to mix electronics with acoustic instruments. I'm proud of the sound we achieved at the time. In the 90s I had a band called Tatanka Dandara, but I worked mostly in studios at the time, as arranger and producer for other independent artists.

MORANGO: How did you get started? Who inspired you to get into the music industry and how did you know this was what you really wanted to do?

JOĆO: There was a big underground scene in Brasilia, where I grew up, everyone had a band. It was the thing to do when I was a teenager. Once I started performing there was no way I would go back to a regular job.

MORANGO: Where are you from? Tell us about your town.

JOĆO: I'm from Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. I've been in Rio de Janeiro, the big cultural city, for the past 10 years. Brasilia was a great place to grow up, lots of space, influences from the whole country, information from abroad. The city was built in the 60s, with a revolutionary project, and there was a feeling of freedom, of creating a new civilization in the air. Many dreams have died, but the atmosphere that shaped our minds cannot be denied. Brazil is a huge country, in Brasilia I was exposed to all sorts of music, from the blind man who played cans at the bus station, to punk rock.

MORANGO: Have you ever been to the US...to other countries? What did you like/dislike?

JOĆO: I went to the US once. It's an amazing place! I made great friends there. As a rich country, it is able to support several artists that wouldn't be able to do the same work anywhere else, especially in the film industry, from Spielberg to Spike Lee. Contrary to what most North Americans think, the US is not regarded as the keeper of freedom by the people of most other countries, but rather as home of corporations who corrupt governments of smaller economies and exploit cheap labor abroad. Being there I could realize that the average citizen couldn't be held responsible for their country's foreign policy.

MORANGO: I think Ralp Nader would agree with you. We have our Presidential election here in the USA tomorow. How do you write your music...Where does the inspiration for your songs come from?

JOĆO: The original idea usually comes from walking in the streets, riding on buses, being alone, improvising. Then I need to write down something, so that I don't forget the theme. When I get home I try to work on the chords and structure, either on the guitar or the piano. Lately, playing the djembe drum from Africa has become a powerful source of inspiration for vocal works.

MORANGO: Could you please explain the phrase “Parece Que Existo” to our American audience.

JOĆO: It seems that I exist. It's a Portuguese pun with the phrase "I think therefore I am" (Penso logo existo). It has that existential doubt about it: It seems that I am...In a more practical circumstance, it says a lot about being alone, in a room or looking at the ocean, and writing songs. No one knows that the writer really exists before the songs are recorded, put on a CD, made available for purchase. This was my first solo album; first part of a trilogy that should continue with "I Don't Exist" and "I Own My Dream."

MORANGO: Tell me a bit about Uma Noite and A Chuva. Where did the ideas from these songs come from?

JOĆO: I remember I had an old Volkswagen and I was riding it under heavy rain, paying attention to the water on the windshield, when I wrote the first chorus for A Chuva. Later I had the idea of this character, walking at night, thinking about his life, when the rain starts to fall. This is something I tend to do: late evening long walks. I always get emotional when I sing the part where I know that he is thinking about someone he loved who's already dead. I know the inside of the character, even though the lyrics only says "someone who won't return", not too specific. It's not meant to be a sad song though. It was meant to be light, easy to sing, a song about getting over the past and letting the water wash away whatever it was that was making you look back.

Uma Noite was written at a single stroke. I came home at 4am from a nightclub, I was sad with the end of a relationship. I wrote it on the guitar, by 11am I had finished recording it. I love the original take, it's very emotional, though not technically perfect; it has that feel of being sad and thoughtful in a place where everyone is having fun. I redid it for the CD, the drum and bass bit came later, it's one of my favorite electronic tracks in the album. When the material was about to go to the factory, my friend Claudio made the video, and we ended up including it in the package as a multimedia track.

MORANGO: Yes, I love that video. I popped the CD into my computer and loaded the video to my computer -- fascinating shots and colors racing to the sound of your music. Your English is exceptional. Do you plan to "cross-over" to English in any of your upcoming albums?

JOĆO: Thank you. I don't know if my English is that good. I love writing in English. I get more emotionally detached cause I didn't grow up on it; maybe the language of Shakespeare and Ice-T inspires me. : ) I'd love to do an album in English.

MORANGO: So, what are you working on right now?

JOĆO: Besides concerts, I'm working on an instrumental electronic/dance/Brazilian-beats album. I have already mixed 5 tracks for it; they are part of a soundtrack I did for a Circus number that is about to start touring Europe. I also have the songs for two more albums in Portuguese, though I don't want to start recording until I'm ready to release.

MORANGO: Who is your favorite American artist(s)? Who is your favorite artist worldwide? Who is your favorite Brazilian singer/group and why?

JOĆO: Favorite is a tough word. I love Prince, Beck, Miles Davis, John Coltrane,Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Gershwin, The Doors, Velvet Underground, Laurie Anderson, Igy Pop, Nirvana, Dead Kenedies, Public Enemy...Worldwide? You must be kidding, I've been listening to a lot of Indian Music and tribal music from Brazil and Africa, most recordings don't even state the name of the musicians, it's a different perspective, they are not tooworried about their egos. Well, if I had to name one person, it would haveto be Hermeto Pascoal. He's also Brazilian, so that kind of answers the third part of the question. Why? Just listen to him and you'll know why.
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MORANGO: Why should Americans listen to your music?

JOĆO: Because it's great music. Also I believe that there's something about Brazilian music in general, the way we look at life and how we deal with differences that could bring an important contribution to mankind in the big picture.

MORANGO: What advice do you have to independent musicians who are just getting started in the music industry?

JOĆO: Work hard, don't work too much.

MORANGO: Excellent advice. For a share of my life, I did not appreciate the wisdom of such words. Who or is the most important person in your life today?

JOĆO: My mother, Myrtes Mattos, who is also an artist.

MORANGO: I can certainly appreciate that. My parents are my greatest supporters. So how do you think the Internet is going to affect the music industry? How has it affected you?

JOĆO: The Internet is already changing the shape of the industry. Music industry started in the 30s, made by people who loved music and wanted to preserve and spread it. Lately it had become a kind of business that has nothing to do with love. I prefer to have my music copied on mp3 files than paying for radio play. The Internet opens a path where the business can go back to the hands of the ones who love what they do.

MORANGO: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

JOĆO: Yes. Visit http://www.joaokahuna.com. You can order CDs online or by e-mail