Rão Kyao has a new album, and Gandhi’s on it
The same, yet different. That’s Rão Kyao in 2021. Unalterable, due to the identity matrix of his singular art, perennial, as he is. Renewed, due to the existence of new elements adding to his unwavering sound. “Respeito Pela Natureza'' (Respect for Nature) was released as a single. Now, the entire album is available, entitled Gandhi, that manifests a man connected to the environment, spiritually connected, and a humanist able to recognize a futuristic legacy, global and pacifistic, of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi (1986-1948). There is also the man behind the music, the composer and flute player, using all his resources, offering music with a sense of duality as a whole, that is not only universal but also Portuguese.
It’s a thematic album, organic, made to be experienced at home or live, that can not only envelope and delight faithful admirers, but can also open doors to a new generation that identifies with the music and the values it radiates. In “Respeito Pela Natureza” (Respect for Nature) there is an environmental appeal from Gandhi, whilst “Deus É Amor” (God is Love), is a mystical reflection that culminates with said phrase that unifies us. In “Regresso às Origens” (Return to Roots), self-sufficiency and spiritual independence, and in “Paz é o Caminho” (Peace is the way), we are recall Gandhi himself, as he once said “There are no paths to peace, peace is the path”.
The theme “Misericórdia” (Mercy) alludes to the fundamental point of his religious wisdom, while “Satyagraha” underlines the philosophy of love and non-violence that always guided Gandhi, and that would result in the withdrawal of the British. Martin Luther King Jr, would one day rephrase it to “Christ is the message, Gandhi is the method”.
In “Marcha do Sal” (The Salt March), we recall the march to the salt pans, organized by Gandhi, who was joined by the masses, in favour of the right to salt by the natives, whilst “Independência” (Independence), refers to 1947, the year of India’s independence. “Vaishnav jan to tene Kahiye je” is one of Gandhi’s personal favourite pieces of music, about the choices of humanity, having become one of India's favourite hymns over the years.
The final theme, “Mahatma”, in its literal translation means Large Soul, name given to him by the Indian people.
If on the thematic side of this project it breathes globality, from a musical perspective it makes one travel to the Orient, without ever removing ourselves from the textures and identity of the Portuguese rhythms, with such diverse influence, from popular folklore to fado, on a trip, that is in fact, within ourselves. Peaceful music, but active and charming as only Gandhi knew how to be.
“He created a new mentality for the natives of India, a benign pride in relation to their origins”, says Rão Kyao, “that prepared them to respect and understand the richness of their traditions. Not only was this successful in relation to their heritage, but also in recovering their economic independence, and consequently political independence in relation to the British. Therefore, a theme like “Regresso às Origens” (Return to Roots), is worth note, as it sums up the sequence of sowing peace, in the midst of a conflict, giving no quarter to aggression, but in an active way whilst always, promoting equality between all human beings. His creed was (and is still!) so current, that two of his greatest followers were Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
In Gandhi, there is also the message of Rão Kyao himself, framing himself within the Gandhi philosophy: “We need to return to our roots, looking to what is universal, not forgetting our own peculiarities and differences. This illustrates my posture in relation to music”.
Music, that on stage, requires participation of five gifted performers, to be rendered in its best form.
“The album was recorded in its entirety without ‘added sonic quality’, so as to best be performed and enjoyed in a live setting. It’s a record about the story of a man who won a war whilst using peace as a weapon. As such, this story needs to be told, live, musically to people.” Let it be said that the project began as a challenge. Indian official entities pitched an invitation to 124 countries, so that each one would recreate/rearrange the track “Vaishnav Jan to Tene Kahiye”. “It was then that the Indian Embassy in Portugal, invited me to create my own version of the track, knowing my link to Indian music” says Rão Kyao, that once finished, drew an immediate, and surprising, reaction from Narendra Modi (India’s Prime Minister) who commended him on all of his personal social media.
From then on, Kyao was able to dive deeper into the contemporariness of the Gandhi thinking, conceiving an album almost instantly.
Hence, here we are, before one more album, from someone who started in the jazz spectrum of music, and from then on enthusiastically flung his musical identity from the Orient to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, equipped with bamboo flutes. An Indian ambassador with a Portuguese soul. A long career, filled with records, loads of features and collaborations, filled with teachings and inspiration, that made him the most universal of Portuguese musicians.
Last but not least, Rão Kyao, never stopped collecting positive reviews from the critics, not ovations from the audience, with records like Fado Virado a Nascente, 2001 (Fado turned to the East), Porto Alto, 2004 (High Port), or Coisas que a gente sente, 2012 (Things that we feel), and Aventuras da Alma, 2017 (Adventures of the soul), always moving around the world. Now he’s back, with some great music inspired by the life and work of Gandhi.