Lucas Santtana was born in 1970 in Salvador de Bahia, black capital of the militant Nordeste region of Brazil. An early acolyte of tropicalism, the radical movement embodied by Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé and Caetano Veloso, which first appeared in Bahia at the end of the 1960s, Santtana has kept its spirit alive and held true to one of its precepts: every vision of modernity involves a break, a rupture. His eighth album, O Céu É Velho Há Muito Tempo (‘The Sky Has Been Old For A Long time’), follows this logic. After the electronic collages which made his name, Santtana has returned to the simplicity of “voz-violão,”– guitar and voice – of the kind we were acclimatised to by Joao Gilberto, the Brazilian hero who created bossa nova by breaking open the arcane mysteries of samba. Gilberto passed away in July 2019. “Releasing this album just after he left us is a powerful symbol for me,” says the warm-hearted Santtana.
On his two previous albums – the chameleon Sobre Noites e Dias (2014) and the multimedia Modo Avião (2017) – Lucas Santtana used sampled sounds, literary extracts (featuring, for example, the voice of Fanny Ardant), noises and impromptu conversations recorded at the door of an aeroplane. The earlier O deus que devasta mas também cura (2012) included samples of Beethoven and Debussy.
This time round, the watchword is sobriety. “On the one hand, from a personal point of view, I had reached the end of that kind of sonic architecture. I wanted to move away from it and, as you do after the end of a happy marriage, leave everything behind, strike out with just one suitcase and keep things simple. What’s more, politically we’re in an era in which everybody is shouting very loud and nobody wants to listen to anybody else, so I thought it was time to speak very softly into people’s ears.” So the Bahian singer-songwriter sought out the points at which the intimate intersects with the political and the social, both of which have been deteriorating in Brazil ever since the election of the far-right populist president Jair Bolsonaro at the end of 2018.