Amaro Freitas, a Brazilian composer and pianist, announced his new album, Y’Y (pronounced eey-eh, eey-e), set to be released on March 1, 2024, on Psychic Hotline. The album's title is a word written in the Sataré Mawé dialect, an ancestral indigenous code that means 'water' or 'river.' His musical signature, thus far, he explains as 'trying to rescue things that came before colonialism,' as evident in his last two projects: 'Rasif' (a colloquial spelling of Freitas’s hometown) and 'Sankofa' (a Ghanaian term that roughly translates to 'using lessons from the past while moving forward'). Regarding this new album, Freitas explained, 'It's a call to live, feel, respect, and care for nature, recognizing it as our ancestor. It's also a warning about the need to be aware of the impact we cause, based on the concepts of civilization and modernity that keep us away from this connection and its importance for the balance of life on the planet.' Side A of the album pays homage to the earth and the ancestors, with a focus on the forest and rivers of the Northern part of Brazil. Side B is dedicated to the Black avant-jazz community.
Y’Y reflects Amaro Freitas’s journey in 2020 when he was captivated by Manaus, the capital of the Amazon state. Its wildlife and connection with the Sateré Mawé community led him into a new realm of musical creation. On November 7th, he presented a sneak peek of the upcoming album with its concluding song and lead single, “Encantados,” featuring Shabaka Hutchings (flute), Hamid Drake (drums), and Aniel Someillan (acoustic bass). The title is a reference to the idea of enchantment while invoking enchanted beings. Freitas made it clear that rather than attaching any one specific meaning to the work as a whole, he ultimately wants listeners 'to feel touched by the spirits, the enchanted spirits of the forest.'
Listening to 'Encantados' provided me with a unique blend of immersive and sensory experiences. The sound combines authentic Brazilian rhythms with jazz and flute, representing two of the different social groups that are part of the country's diverse heritage and strong part of the Brazilian culture, Africans and Indigenous.
Its accelerated tempo provides a sense of immediacy and urgency, harkening back to the Amazon rainforest situation, which has been neglected by one politician after another, especially Jair Bolsonaro. Since 2021, Manaus has been facing an oxygen crisis that has claimed lives, yet it has been consistently ignored by the former president. On January 14, 2021, chaos ensued in the Manaus health system when there was a lack of oxygen in hospitals. At the time, the units were overcrowded due to record numbers of hospitalizations caused by Covid. In the first weeks of January of that year, there were 1654 cases in the Amazon state. Lately, Manaus has been covered in smoke and peaked last Monday, November 6. The soft flute in the background symbolizes the indigenous voices, often disregarded throughout Brazilian history, and at contemporary times completely silenced by extreme-right supporters, miners, deforestation, global warming, and environmental crises.
Additionally, the song's infusion of jazz with African roots aligns with the mentioned urgency. It's worth noting that Brazil was the last country in Latin America to abolish slavery in 1888, and it failed to implement inclusive policies for former slaves. The lack of historical reparation has led to extreme poverty and the ongoing injustices faced in the present day. Paradoxically, Brazil has the largest Black population outside of the African continent, yet 74.4% of deaths in the country are Black individuals. On average, a Black person dies every 23 minutes. Black lives are still being unjustly taken, justice remains elusive, hate perpetuates as a weapon, and white privilege prevails.
Y’Y is essential in redeeming these overlooked influences and significant contributions for Brazil of the natives inhabitants and the victims of slavery traffic. The seeds of Brazilian culture. It serves as a means to reconnect with the past, understand the present, and prevent repetition. These voices have stories to tell and a history to recreate.
Main image photo credit: Helder Tavares