Friday, January 20, 2006


Near the end of the nineties I heard about a band from Brazil on NPR. The reviewer compared them to Frank Zappa. Based on just that I ordered the album. Of course, once it came, I didn't hear ANY relationship to Frank's music - but I fell in love with the album.

The band's name: Karnak. The album's name: Karnak. I couldn't stop listening to it - it is still one of my (very few) favorite albums. It actually makes ME dance around (people who know me will confirm that one of my life mottos is "Musicians Don't Dance.") This music makes me happy.

The music is both very Rock & Roll and very Brazilian, neither genre is a particular favorite of mine. There are lots of catchy pop-style melodies. Luckily I don't understand a word of Portuguese, but I suspect some songs have a political attitude. The music is exceptionally eclectic with all sorts of ethnic and pop styles, classical quotes and lots of found sounds. And it's an extraordinarily well performed and produced studio recording. Okay, that is a bit like Zappa.

Years went by. Thanks to a colleague of Leslie's from Brazil I acquired two more Karnak albums. Well, I gave those only an A-minus, but they were still wonderful. I've been known to put all three discs in the player and listen continuously.

More years went by. About a week ago I found a new Karnak double live album on Amazon - it came yesterday. It's called Os Piratas Do Karnak (I think that means the Pirates of Karnak). I've only listened to it three times. Of course live recordings can be "tweaked" to sound better but this is one extremely tight live band.

They were once booked to play at the Santa Monica pier - I would have been there, but the concert got canceled. I wonder if the Karnak song "3 Aliens in LA" is about that. Now I've learned that Karnak has disbanded - and they only get together once a year in Brazil. But apparently their following in Brazil is still strong.

I wasn't sure what to expect from live recordings after listening to all the studio tracks so often. But some things are really better live. Plus the helicopter at the beginning sounds amazing. And they seem to be doing some humorous stage business. Okay, the NPR guy was right - it is like Zappa. Only the sounds and music are completely different.

I've been intending to create a little list in the sidebar of my favorite albums. This is going to be the first entry. It may be a while before I add another entry.

Estamos Adorando Tokio is a Karnak album - you can apparently hear the whole thing on this Brazilian website.

Music Reviews


Anonymous said...

Another Zappa connection: two members of Karnak also plays in "The Central Scrutinizer Band".
As you might guess, "The Central Scrutinizer Band" plays Zappa songs.

David Ocker said...

Those members would be Hugo Hori and Marcos Bowie, huh?
I found the Central Scrutinizer website at