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Finding the Seduction in Madness

Brazilian star Lenine deftly connects his country's past and present.
Brazilian star Lenine deftly connects his country's past and present.

Add "Alzira e a Torre" to the canon of songs that celebrate, and maybe even glorify, madness. Brazilian singer and guitarist Lenine, a star who's been compared to Prince in his homeland, grew up in Recife, where among the local legends resided a woman named Alzira. Like many of the spirits and mystical forces on the loose in Brazil, Alzira was a little unhinged: She believed that the levees of the city would eventually be submerged under water if the residents would consume enough vodka. Evidently wanting to see such a flood, Alzira led a crusade of sorts, doing her part by imbibing daily. Eventually, Lenine writes in the liner notes, she died of cirrhosis of the liver.

Lenine finds something seductive about this type of madness, and he immortalizes Alzira in a song that deftly connects bits of old and new Brazil. The beat has funk in it, but also elements of maracatu, the northeastern Brazilian rhythm Lenine has helped to modernize with percussion loops. Though the music moves at a measured, processional gait, it incorporates lots of crunching and distorted guitar — the kind heard at arena rock concerts — and the burbling synth textures associated with electronic dance music. The elaborate layering creates a noisy, hectic sound, but Lenine glides effortlessly through it. His sanguine and sweet voice seems totally poised, in the classic Brazilian way. The subject might be madness, but he makes it sound like a love song.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.