Nearly 25 years ago, Gilberto Gil hit big in Brazil with a Portuguese version of Bob Marley's anthem "No Woman No Cry." Now the Brazilian legend pays tribute to the Jamaican legend once again, this time with an entire album honoring the king of reggae. In Brazil, Marley and reggae music continue to have a huge impact on musicians. In states such as Bahia, where there are large Afro-Brazilian populations, reggae is a cultural reference point. There is even samba reggae.
A genius at blending music from around the world, Gil has long been an admirer of the Jamaican sound. Just as Jamaica has become a subtle influence in Gil's music, traces of Brazil on Kaya N'Gan Daya are lightly interwoven throughout the slow, asymmetric pattern characteristic of 1970s reggae, with the melodic flute, the accordion of northwestern Brazil's forro music, the Bahian berimbau, and the traditional tambourine.
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Gil, who recorded songs with the Wailers in Jamaica in 1984 that were never released, returned to Tuff Gong studios to cut his latest album. It features the I Threes (Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt) singing background vocals on several tracks, riddim masters Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare supplying drum and bass on "Could You Be Loved," and the Brazilian band Paralamas do Sucesso adding homeland flavor on Gil's new version of "No Woman No Cry." The combined force of two of the world's most powerful musicians is reason to smile indeed.