Published May 29, 2011In Toronto, Aline Morales is the anti-Weeknd. She's no semi-mysterious figure on a rocket ride of blog buzz and co-signs; instead she's performed in front of many thousands of people who would be sure to recognize the face if not necessarily her name. As the former leader of Brazilian drumming ensemble Maracatu Nunca Antes, Morales has been a fixture of the wildly popular Pedestrian Sundays in Toronto's Kensington Market, as well as innumerable outdoor festivals. She's also been in Ontario tourism commercials. In short, she's hidden in plain sight and her grassroots popularity sets the stage for a major breakout. Morales' debut album Flores Tambores E Amores is an outstanding example of evergreen Brazilian pop spiced with unusual and creative instrumentation. Her clear, confident voice shines through finely crafted arrangements that balance folklore, pop, jazz, funk and a dash of Tropicalia. If there is still such a thing as world music (your guess is as good as mine), this would be one of Canada's world music discs of the year.
This is a much wider ranging album than a lot of people would have expected, was that your intention from the start?
I never really had an intention. It was just a natural process of being an artist, a will to grow my career, it was a very organic creative process. So even if it's different from what people are used to, it just feels natural.
This is a different beast than Maracatu Nunca Antes. What are the biggest differences about getting this together?
With the drumming groups I've been involved with they've been community-based. People that are part of it and even the music that we play ― let's say you don't need to be a musician to play that. It's very traditional. Of course there's a musical aspect but it brings together the community that music has to have. But with this album it's quite a bit different. We did everything from scratch; of course we have influences, but it's me and Dave being quite specific about what we wanted. With Maracatu it was more like fun, fun fun.
Tell me about working with [producer] David Arcus? What was the creative process like for this album?
Me and Dave have been working together for a while before this album. Before we used to covers and things like that. Both of us decided to write some material together, so we locked ourselves in the basement during the winter writing music. He would come up with an idea, I would come up with a melody. He has very different influences than me. (the instrumentation and arrangement ideas) were his and mine. He's a vintage nerd so he's in tune with all the vintage equipment; he's really particular about the sound he wanted on the CD. I learned a lot from him in that aspect. But the balafon [a West African xylophone-type instrument on "Um Cherio Que Arrepia"], for instance, was one of my ideas. We had the song and it felt so raw, that it shouldn't have much [adornment]. But then I came up with the balafon. We did everything together. It was very nice working with him. The whole process was almost two years to write record and do everything.
It sounds like a long-lost MPB album from the 70s; it's got folkloric elements, funky bits and very creative arrangements and unusual instrumentation. Was that period a touchstone for you?
Oh yeah, for sure. David is a big lover of Tropicalia and that movement of Brazilian music. And that's a big part of this whole production for sure is the influences both me and Dave have.
This is almost like a singer-songwriter album, so how does your drumming experience feed into these songs?
I can't be detached from my drumming experience because that was my big school. In music, I'm rhythm head. So it's hard not to take that in consideration with what I do and with everything I will do in the future. It's part of my soul, my heart, the drum the drum brings that thing from inside. Even thought this album is completely different with these soft melodies and a little funk, I still want that roughness that I got from the drums that made me fall in love.
Toronto's Brazilian community is fairly small but there's a much larger community of Brazilophiles. That described Maracatu Nunca Antes ― you'd get Brazilians and non-Brazilians playing together in this community. How would you describe the Toronto experience for Brazilian music.
By the way, I have a new [drumming] group called Baque De Bamba. More and more there is this Brazilian thing, this movement which is growing here in Toronto and in North America and in Canada. There are a lot of lovers of Brazilian music and culture. More and more people are realizing that Brazilian music is more than "The Girl From Ipanema," not that I want to say anything bad about that ― bossa nova is amazing ― but if you look at what's happening at the musical scene in Brazil it's so different than what people here are used to. And this CD has a little bit of that, artists there are often connected to what's going on inside and outside Brazil and I think this CD a little of that it's for Brazilians, brazilo ― how did you say it?
Yes. Brazilian lovers!
Do you think this album could this have been made anywhere else?
I think it's hard to say. The music that you write and the art you put out depends a lot on the circumstances where you're living, the people that you're talking to and meeting. Maybe if I was in Brazil it could've been different, but I'm glad that it was recorded in Canada. Even though it was the winter and a rough time, it didn't affect what we were doing there in the basement. Or not in a bad way, I should say.