Formed in a Rio de Janeiro hippy refuge in 1999, Ponto de Equilíbrio blend traditional aspects of roots reggae with musical flavours from across Brazil into an utterly distinctive and highly refreshing individual sound.

The group’s second album, Abre a Janela, conveys a similarly diverse selection of moods and emotions, from deep, mellow grooves such as ‘Janela Da Favela,’ to summery upbeat songs like ‘Verdaderio Valor’ or ‘Tão Bela’ and a delightful cover of Bob Marley’s classic ‘Soul Rebel’.

Lead singer Helio Bentes plays the expected principal role with a richly animated and passionate voice, perfect for reggae. However, this does not deprive other band members of opportunities to express themselves. All the songs are finely structured with verses often sparingly allocated, augmented by the hovering ghostly presence of sweet female backing vocals and sharp horn arrangements. It is certainly more than a sum of its musical parts, tailored wonderfully by producer Chico Neves.

‘Ponto de Equilíbrio’ translates as ‘Point of Equilibrium’ – an excellent reflection of the myriad of musical characters present, all balanced and brought out in equal measure. No single element is dominant or overriding. Afro-Brazilian dance rhythms such as maculele, capoeira and maracatu, as well as dub and ska, are all underpinned by the constant spirit and feel of roots reggae.

On another level, the band name references the balance point between equality and love, injustice and war, and political messages are present on several tracks. ‘O Inimigo’ (The Enemy), for example, is an attack on the Brazilian establishment. It represents a fervent cry for people to fight the well-documented social segregation and racial discrimination which ravages Brazilian society. Spiky horn stabs punctuate the opening verses, and a later passage of rapped lyrics over minimal dub background provides an interesting contrast.

Abre a Janela is a set of tunes as colourful and striking as its album artwork. It captures the sheer diversity of history, culture and life in Brazil – each track has its own distinct personality. Neves has succeeded in harnessing the considerable powers of this talented band and making them sound great: the CD has been on daily rotation since it arrived, which is possibly the greatest praise any record can receive.

Published @ Fly, 30/5/08 – click here for original.