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Lula Côrtes, Zé Ramalho, and an interview with Montibus Communitas

The tongues of the divine converse through music. It is a creative power that trumps all others and paints our waking existence in sonic color, made reality. Just as J.R.R. Tolkien mused in The Silmarillion with Eru, the one creator and his Ainur, subjective eternal spirits that conversed in music to create harmony. It wasn't until Melkor, the Ainur bestowed with greatest power and knowledge, began to sing against the collaborated harmony that life was given vision of any sort. Different harmonies, various colors; giving birth to a vast world of many wonders.
        To a much less dramatically delineative effect, our world and music is very much akin. It is the root of all things; the very root of thought. What happens when we lie in our beds at night? We have melodies―mysterious sounds and rhythms repeating relentlessly. We're never without a melody or rhythm that guides our step. Music is life, there is no escaping it. Evidence is being unraveled every day that pushes the birth of "organized music" back further and further into the horizon of mankind. Imitating bird calls, banging on surfaces, tapping fingers, it all comes down to a melody or beat, whether it be incredibly organized or not.
        Thankfully, we have a world of music now that is available to us on demand, it doesn't have to be reproduced by amateurs or passed along by your grandfather and his old fiddle. We do, however, take it for granted. The art of music is very precise in how we organize it, or even disorganize it. Artists take a melody and run with it whereas in more cultured places of the world, artists may want to perform an autopsy on a melody and see how far they can take it or what heights it can reach with multiple musicians to help them in this surgical procedure. It's the art of improvisation and anticipation that creates other worlds entirely; worlds that make Earth look like a drop in the bucket.
        Where does one go for artists with such a zest for boundless creativity? All you have to do is look to the South Americas. Through their wealth of turbulence and corruption in government, they see some of the finest hands and minds of musicianship. There are two projects that have caught my undivided attention; Lula Côrtes' & Zé Ramalho's Paêbirú from Brazil circa 1974 and the modern day Montibus Communitas from Peru.

        In a time when music was dangerous; seen as a rebellious form of expression by the powers-that-be, Lula Côrtes and Zé Ramalho set out for the jungle with a hefty supply of psychedelics in order to create their magnum opus double album Paêbirú. Divided into four segments: Earth, air, fire and water, it encompasses the divine creative spirit behind every aspect of life. They were completely aware of the divinity music possessed in creation of the world and they expressed it with fourteen beautifully realized tracks. Their ability to play together, improvise, and anticipate one another's next move gives this album a spiritual life that cannot be denied, even by the harshest nay-sayers. A true anomally that lies within the album is the psychedelic western influence that sets it apart from what many would dismiss as simply tribal music. There are moments you'll swear that Jimi Hendrix is chowing down on psychedelics with them in the Peruvian jungle.
        It doesn't matter which God is harkening this music, but it is creation in its finest form. Zé Ramalho renounces credit for his involvement in the recording of Paêbirú for reasons unknown. Unfortunately for Lula Côrtes, the universe must not have willed his recording to see the light of day in his lifetime because the vinyls were all lost to a warehouse fire. Fortunately for us in this digital age, the masters have since been recovered and cleaned up. Sadly, Lula Côrtes passed on in 2011 due to cancer, no longer able to delight in the fantastic world of musical discovery and creation.
        The second project, Peru's Montibus Communitas is very much in the same vein of Paêbirú only more stress is implied on the aspects of improvisation, free form as well as a more formal nod to Psychedelic Rock with its structured percussions and adventurous guitar noodling. This is a truly spiritual gathering of musicians, all headed by Brayan, a peruvian musician, writer and philosopher in all things esoteric. This is music that all of the divine beings, whether they be Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Orpheus, or Apollo can smile upon with satisfaction for the human race. I had the priviledge of conversing with Brayan regarding his fellowship Montibus Communitas:

Can you put into simple terms what Montibus Communitas or Mountains Community is exactly? Is it a band? A fellowship? A literal community of musicians that alternate in and out of the so-called band?

You’re Montibus Communitas. Save this truth within yourself and your question will be answered.

When composing, who are you making this music for? Is it yourself in order to attain some sort of oneness? Is it the people of your "community?" The world? Or something much larger and more divine?

I always dedicate everything I do to her, the beautiful one. That which resides inside me is that which resides inside you. That which resides inside you is the universe. That which is the universe is the divine. That which is the divine is her, the beautiful one.

Do you subscribe to any one set of beliefs? Or is it a combination of many beliefs? How does your music pay homage to your beliefs?

I’ve learned from different traditions in order to answer my doubts and walk my path. I’d say that, from all that learning process, I’ve [come] up with my own belief, which isn’t exactly a new belief, but more like simple thoughts-teachings-symbols-actions that help...remind [myself] how beautiful [life is], how will needs to be use, how everything is constantly changing, how limitations need to be overcome, how to keep my mind concentrate[d], etc.

I’ve gotten into a point in my life that I can’t separate my ‘’inner world’’ from the ‘’outter world’’, so everything I do is connected in some way to my perception of life and my realization as an existent being. I think that those simple thoughts-teachings-symbols-actions can be easily translated to a musical language (also to a visual or a written language) because they emanate a kind of supra energy, so that’s how my music pays homage to my "beliefs:" getting not only inspired by them but originated in them.

May I press you to name some bands that have influenced you and your music?

Of course not! I love to talk about bands that have influenced me in some way. I’d mention bands like Urubamba, Wara, Phurpa, Alash, Jaime Guardia, Manuelcha Prado, Mary Hopkin, Pastorita Huaracina, Älgarnas Trädgärd, Harvester, Sun Ra, Módulo 1000, Os Novos Baianos, The Trees Community, Ya Ho Wha 13, Arco Iris, Aktuala, Los Jaivas, El Polen, Magic Carpet, Spinetta, Pärson Sound, Träd Gräs Och Stenar, Arvo Pärt, Gong, Magma, El Ayllu, Popol Vuh, Yatha Sidra, Tangerine Dream, Manantial, Kluster, Los Hijos de Lamas, Maria Sabina, Pran Nath, Incredible String Band, Terry Riley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, LaMonte Young, Taj Mahal Travellers, Steve Hillage, Quintessence, Mythos and many others.

How are the prospects of touring with your band/community/what have you?

Really good actually! I’ll be travelling to Europe next year to play with my solo project (Brayan), Montibus Communitas and Ayahuasca Dark Trip. Also, I’m already planning a US tour (pretty sure will be early 2015) with my solo project and Montibus Communitas.

When you are composing, do you have a set idea on where you want to take a piece or do you ever just let the music free fall?

It depends [on] the situation. I personally love to compose music as a free flow. It’s like being a vehicle-medium for non-human ideas/melodies/concepts/Etc. However, with Montibus Communitas, we usually do improvisation, but it always happens that the musical pieces we improvise sound like compositions, so I think there’s a kind of magic involve. Of course there are always pre-conceived melodies-harmonies before [we] start playing, but it’s really interesting to see how our pre-conceptions can change from the interaction with other musicians, and how [we] can we guide them into some kind of meta-communication with the others while playing, that way we can improvise something as a unity and not only as a bunch of people, each playing something different and unconnected.

I hold very unabashed beliefs in that music is the foundation of creation; you could even go so far as to say that music was the first whisper of the universe. How do you feel about these ideas?

I consider that music is a form of expression for beings, it’s a vehicle to say ‘’I’m here, I exist, I’m alive’’ or at least that’s how I think music appeared in this planet. I wouldn’t say that music is the foundation of everything in life, but I definitely agree that music is really close to creation (try to imagine it not only visually but also as a mix of sounds) and the beginning of life properly said.

What are your plans for your music in the near/far future?

I just finished my first solo album and it will be released this year . I’m also starting the recordings for my second solo album next month.
With Montibus Communitas, on one hand, we’ll be releasing our first album on tape through ‘’Inner Islands’’ (US) later this year. We’ll be also releasing ‘’The Pilgrim to the Absolute’’ through the great US record label ‘’Beyond Beyond is Beyond’’ next year! On the other hand, we’re working on a new Montibus Communitas album and a collaborative album with our brothers of Ø+yn (Argentina). Hopefully both will be ready for early-mid October. Then we’ll start the recordings for a collaborative album with our brothers of Kikagakau Moyo (Japan).

Also there is the European tour for next year and the US tour, so I’m pretty excited about all these things!

Are you familiar with Lula Cortes' Psychedelic Brazilian album from 1975 titled Paeribu?

Actually yes. [A] friend of mine, Pedro (bassist and singer of the Brazilian band ‘’Necronomicon’’) got me into Lula Cortes.  Such an amazing album.

And thus was my dialogue with the very wise, talented and kind Brayan of Montibus Communitas. His band has a somewhat limited catalogue of recordings so far, but I see much potential for a long lasting life in music. Pilgrim To The Absolute, their sophomore release is so far my favorite serving of Brayans uncanny ability to capture divinity within sonic confines. It serves as both a mellow and at times dramatically rowdy portrayal of the world with the ever present soundscapes of the beautiful one's creations, just as Paêbirú was forty years ago. Nevertheless beautiful are all of Montibus' creations. Providing us with delicate layers of various wind instruments and strings, carefully plucked. I, for one, cannot wait to see what insight Brayan's beautiful muse grants him next.

Interview made by Hunter Gatherer/2013
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