When Sepultura — a metal band by all counts — went back to Brazil to record with a native tribe, they broke boundaries. It turns out the music they brought home on their 1996 classic Roots, with the Xavante tribe being immortalized on "Itsári," wasn't exactly composed consciously.
"The coolest thing about the Xavante tribe is — when we were there we found out — that the only way they can write their music is through their dreams. They cannot come up with music on their own," ex-Sepultura drummer Igor Cavalera tells Exclaim! in the midst of a recent tour celebrating the album's 20th anniversary.
"They need to dream and then try to translate the dream into the song. So for me, that was already a trip, when we were doing the stuff and the stuff they were singing, that's actually stuff that they had dreamed before."
Though the event was awe-inspiring, the brothers — the band also included vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera — reveal it might have frustrated producer Ross Robinson that the tribe's lack of recordings (instead passing songs through generations orally) meant that sometimes the songs were shorter or longer.
Though the idea of recording the tribe, inspired by At Play in the Fields of the Lord, seemed impossible at first (then-manager and Max's wife Gloria insisted they couldn't afford it), the band made it happen, going so far as to bring car batteries into the jungle to power the recording equipment.
Ultimately, the Cavaleras agree that the experience was well worth it, though, and beyond just nu metal, it influenced metal as a whole, including Norwegian black metal bands and Melechesh from Israel, to explore cultural themes, while also retaining a heavy punk influence.
Below, watch the Exclaim! TV interview and another where they talk about recreating songs 20 years later, the challenges that includes, what inspired them to try, and which young bands inspire them to say, "Fuck the glory days."