At the age of 11, Kleberson Calvacante Gomes aka Criolo fell in love with making rhymes and writing poems. As Criolo Doido, he became one of the most celebrated voices in São Paulo’s rap game. Today, at nearly 40, the MC, singer and urban poet from Southside São Paulo goes by the stage name Criolo and is definitely one of Brazil’s critically most acclaimed artists. After the global success of Criolo’s LP Nó Na Orelha in 2012, he surprised his fans with his third studio album Convoque Seu Buda, which is available as a free DL on his official homepage. Would Criolo match the musical beauty and diversity of his breakthrough album? We caught up with him to find out.
What makes “the Criolo sound” so special?
Our band project is young, but full of struggle and willpower. I believe that music is something wonderful – and [our band] lives this wonder. It’s a great honor for me and my fellow band members to live this life, to approach music as though it were alive, and not as an LP or a product. There is human life and ideas behind [our sound]. [There are] people sacrificing all of their energy. So it goes beyond.
Why did you choose the name ‘Call on your Buddha’ for your LP?
We wanted to get people to reflect with the title of the LP – to focus on their meaning and be aware about how important it is to think positively. No matter how bad the situation might be, don’t forget yourself. You are a good person and you can give love through your actions.
After your LP ‘No Na Orelha,’ which was a perfect album, what was the most difficult task for the new album?
The most difficult task on this album was to find out why I should sing again. Why should we go back to the stage? ‘No Na Orelha’ made us all so happy. We had the opportunity to travel around all of Brazil and to get to know the world, even if the songs were really serious. I got the chance to get to know all these wonderful musicians. And the best thing was to realize that we are a musical unit, each and every member is necessary. And that’s what we tried to keep alive on the new album.
What changed in your personal and professional life after the success?
What changed in my life? I had the great pleasure to meet and share moments with spectacular personalities. People who dedicate their life to music. I developed a lot [as a person] because of them, and I’m really grateful for that, and for all the people who work so hard to make this music happen. But aside from that, I’m still my parents’ son, and I’m still chasing a dream that we can do something good for this world.
If you were the president of Brazil what would you try to change?
To change something in this huge country means to change the whole planet: the financial and economic realities, all these political deals, [basically] everything that’s happening right now. We probably know 5% of what’s really going down, and are in the dark about the other 95%. If there isn’t be a rigorous change in the way we treat our planet, and a move toward a more human future, then it’s over!
Criolo’s album is a perfect synthesis of concrete-jungle beats and traditional Afro-Brazilian elements, full of metaphorical lyrics that sharply criticize today’s social realities. His emotional and strong voice, spitting sharply or singing smoothly, is an effective and multi-faceted tool. Convoque Seu Buda was produced by Daniel Ganjaman and Marcelo Cabral, two of São Paulo’s rap and funk connoisseurs. Musically, the LP ranges from alternative hip hop to dubby reggae, from Afrobeat and MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) to psychedelic influences here and there. Thematically, Criolo speaks about issues like the flood of crack in the streets of São Paulo or the protests against the rise of public transport prices. He criticizes vanity and materialism and makes fun of hierarchical and status orientated thinking. Stream the LP here.