Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Damião Experiença - 1974 - Planeta Lamma

Damião Experiença
Planeta Lamma

01. 1308 Registrou gravou rose Olíria Experiença
02. Que dor eu sinto
03. A vida é sempre assim
04. Linguagem do povo do infinito ao universo de rose 1999
05. Loucura total 1999 a Damião Experiença
06. Amente astrologica 1999
07. Planeta lamma
08. Minha dor
09. Som planeta lamma
10. Planeta bicho
11. Mundo no espaço
12. Meu passado ? meu presente
13. Linguagem do planeta lamma música do planeta lamma

Born in 1935 in a small town in the state of Bahia, Brazil, at the age of 13 Damião runs away from home to escape the violence of his abusive parents, who would hit him with a cane, and thus he travels as a stowaway aboard a ship to Rio de Janeiro. There, he goes to live in the zone amidst hustlers & prostitutes, and discovers the world early; as he starves, he decides to join the Brazilian Navy for a living. He leaves job after job, and it is on the street he becomes a man. He haunts whorehouses & seedy dens, decides to live with a woman in a makeshift house in a slum, and deserts the navy. Regretted, he comes back after a couple of weeks, but is sentenced to one year in prison, one month of which kept isolated in solitary confinement. When released, he is no longer the same; it was there in jail he knew the Planeta Lamma (Planet Lamma). He had gone in as Damião Ferreira da Cruz and went out as Damião Experiença.

He starts painting, paints a canvas titled Planeta Lamma, and learns music while in prison with his cell mates, we are in the Brazil of the early 1960’s, shortly before a dictatorial regime which would rule the country for 20 years following a military putsch, those are the times of hippies, communal life styles, lsd, psychedelia, Tropicalia, student movements, repression, torture, exiles. Damião is in the middle of this turmoil. Also, according to other versions, it is said that he had been imprisoned for pimping.

Released from prison, he gets a new job in the Brazilian Navy, this time as a radar operator, and after a few years on this he retires because of a work accident, being considered handicapped; actually, Damião fell from the mast & hit his head, which for some might have caused his turbulent mental state & the obscurity of his songs, as for others he is gifted with a profound world view, being actually a sage.

Damião is back to the streets & to the profession he had embraced still in his teenage years: pimping. He uses the money gained with prostitution to recording & producing his records, the first of them issued in 1974, titled Planeta Lamma, a one-man vinyl nugget in which he plays an acoustic guitar with only one string, a sort of rattle attached to it so as to create a percussive effect, and a harmonica with a neck rack. Such a superb album, it was thoroughly recorded in the Planet Lamma dialect, a language he himself learnt (or invented?).
For those who ask, such dialect really exists, it is bona fide & Damião himself can talk to you whenever you want to in this language. He sings the songs from all the records, and often speaks in such dialect, even getting to translate whole phrasings. Does he know it by heart? Who knows?

Imagine a hardcore/grindcore Bob Dylan who learnt music while in prison, busking around with an apocalyptic look & dreadlocks in the tropical sun of 1970s Rio de Janeiro, skreighing in a strange tongue he himself invented, pouring out the pains of existence, Dadaist occultism, conspiracies, & defending lesbianism, besides working as a pimp to produce his 100% independent records. Imagine Antonin Artaud, the creator of the Theatre of Cruelty, re-emerging from a nine-year season in hell in psychiatric institutions & being injected into Bongo Joe’s or Captain Beefheart’s veins to shake up & rape all the pillars & panes of all our deepest fears & hypocrisies – Boom. Now forget any associations & try to focus on the real thing, that is, Damião Experiença, the cat who’s been around.

Planeta Lamma (or “Planet Lamma”) is ex-pimp & Navy officer Damião’s debut album , released in 1974, and most intriguingly, this outlandish dada psych folk-core gem recorded with a one-string acoustic guitar, burning with tribal rattles, harmonica, aggressively raw throat vocals alternating with ethereal holler-mood glossolalias, was composed just after Damião was released from prison following a turbulent runaway life of starvation & pimping on the streets; legend says he was sentenced to one year in prison, one month of which kept isolated in solitary confinement, after deserting his job in the Brazilian Navy – it was there, therefore, locked inside the darkest depths of existence, that he first experienced the so-called Planet Lamma (along with its alien language) which would later make up his aesthetics throughout his works. He had gone in as Damião Ferreira da Cruz, his christian name, and emerged as Damião Experiença. (as I’ve just read a recent report on BBC saying: “As two men in Louisiana complete 40 years in solitary confinement this month, the use of total isolation in US prisons is high. What does this do to a prisoner's state of mind?” – can you picture what’s like?) But oh no, compared to Damião Experiença’s track “Planeta Lamma”, i.e., bands such as Ratos de Porão or G.G. Allin sound like spoilt boys playing with Barbies & fake blood!!!

Most known for his innovative art concept, completely stranger to any established paradigms, Damião Experiença’s lyrics as well as his approach on instruments have no parallels in the history of Brazilian art. On the other hand, even with the recent reverential wave from some Brazilian indie musicians & filmmakers over his strikingly way-out work & originality, which helped to pull him back from a 10-year self-exile, the 77-year-old cult legend still remains underrated & hailed by both public & critics, let alone he is often treated as a crusty bum or madman whenever he’s seen in the street (although we have to admit that he himself has somehow “contributed” to such “vip” treatment, which doesn’t justify at all the censorship on his music & person though). Actually, Damião rarely gives interviews & refuses to sign contracts, besides he dislikes journalists & media in general. Also, due to his unyielding attitudes towards music & art, his obscurity, life style & visual, he has also been often linked to other genial “freaks” such as Jandek, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, George Clinton, Fela Kuti & Moondog, to whom I would also add (or mix in) Arte Povera, candomblé, voodoo, psych, punk & grindcore, Mississippi country blues, noise, experimental, and all that is unconventional & outsider. Damião evokes elements & nuances from all these, yet one needs to listen to his records to discover how & where these links intertwine.

According to an unofficial bio, the aesthetic of his musical work also incorporates surrealistic lyrics, a dialect (that from Planet Lamma), an autobiography, collages on his records covers based on his totally out-of-this-world look, which consists of elements picked from the streets & attached to his clothes, kind of banners, packages, lights parts, newspaper cuts, pins & scraps. The themes & characters that haunt his records are beyond any explanations, ranging from faraway marine riots to Isabelita Peron, Bob Marley, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, former Brazilian president Getulio Vargas, all mixed up to Communism, abortion, dictatorship, drugs, music, police violence, virginity, marriage, hunger, semiotics, Rastafarian culture &, of course, the names of planets created by himself.

But whatever, now go & listen to the “Old Sage of the Streets” & help his work bridge the gap between the obscurity & ignorance still surrounding it & some fair degree of recognition. Even if Damião himself doesn’t give a shit…

This, his first record, introduces the universe to Damião's invented Planeta Lamma. On all of his records, D sing-howls exclusively in his own invented dialect---Portuguese with very odd phrasings, and some esoteric borrowings from an uncharted ether. A pop Brazilian Sun Ra with total disregard for tradition.

Here, Damião uses just one string on his guitar, and a bongo tied to the mouth of the guitar for crude percussive effect. He frequently chimes in with screechy harmonica solos. The lyrics seem primarily invested in semi-linear stories of slutty women and cuckolded men. For the parts in straight Planeta Lamma dialect, I'll need an interpreter, and other than Damião himself, I don't know where to look for one.

So, yes, way off the wall...carnival geek gazers may get into this for voyeuristic reasons, while samba adherents may want to leave this iconoclast a wide berth. But what strikes me after a few minutes of listening when my hair has settled back down and my ears have adjusted to the assault, is how the cadences, voice and rhythms are very Sertanejo northeast cowboy Brazilian (Damião's origins) at heart, and that once your brain absorbs that reality, you realize that Damião is to Sertanejo something like the Legendary Stardust Cowboy is to Country & Western.



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