Ocean Memories

SAMBA 890524 SAMBA 890524

"Long overdue CD reissue of one of the seminal solo guitar albums -- in any genre -- ever recorded. Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete (Djalma de Andrade) settled on the West Coast in 1959. Throughout the '60s he toured widely with various jazz artists and recorded for such labels as Verve, ABC-Paramount, Fantasy and Columbia. In 1972 he recorded Ocean, a departure so far afield from anything else he'd ever done that Fantasy declined to issue it. In 1975 Fahey purchased the tapes and issued the album on his Takoma label. A second volume drawn from the same sessions was planned but it never materialized. Ocean Memories (issued by Bola's widow, Anne Sete) restores to print the complete Takoma album (CD 1) and the eight previously unissued songs that would have comprised Ocean II (CD 2). I could listen to this music forever -- it's deathless, perfect, ecstatic. It's interesting to compare how different Bola is from Baden Powell and some of his more technically accomplished Brazilian brothers: he's more of a sensualist, a fantasist, and he's looser -- more rock 'n' roll." -- Glenn Jones. The following is a quote from an article John Fahey wrote about Bola Sete in 1976: ""Few living people have had such an enormous influence on my life, my music, my soul, my religion -- you name it -- as has Bola Sete. I first saw him playing -- solo -- in early 1972 at David Allen's Boarding House in San Francisco. That night, I was high on drugs as I had been for several years, and -- as also had been the case for years -- I felt that I was one isolated example of an experimental species that God had forgotten about (I was wrong here). I felt I had been -- and was still -- walking and talking among shadows: 'People' who had no depth, who were not related to themselves, did not know anything about themselves -- endless, phony, shadow-people. And I was one of them. Bola played for about 45 minutes and grimaced and grunted through the whole set. Something was wrong. He couldn't 'get it out.' I knew how he felt, and I understood. Something was wrong. I was intrigued by his obvious frustration having felt that way myself almost all my life. The performance had been mediocre so far. However, the audience gave him a long ovation, and he reluctantly got up and started to play an encore, still looking frustrated, impotent, mad, seething. I knew that feeling well. But then suddenly he got hot. He got so cooking, he played song after song for another 45 minutes, forgetting (or not caring) that he was doing an encore, playing many of the same songs he had just played. My first impression that night, as I told a friend at the time, was this: Here is a man who has lived through hell and somehow miraculously got out of it. I went back to the Boarding House several times that week. I found that Bola's sets have an interesting 'plot.' They all begin and end with songs whose emotional contour is pretty, happy, light, peaceful, or ecstatic. But after the first two or three songs, the terrain gets rougher and darker, heavier and weirder. By the middle of his set, Bola is giving you pictures of hell, memories of perdition, demonic music. But then Bola gradually lightens up the spectrum of feeling and leads you out of the cave and into the sunlight, and life is paradise. Only now, one is so changed that one is temporarily aware that life really is paradise after all, the world is an ocean, etc. It is like a breath from the 19th Century or before; a breeze from times when people had passion and significance and were not mere shadows. It is as though something has finally changed. I talked to Bola's wife (I was too shaken to speak to him at the time). 'How does he keep from going crazy,' I asked her, 'when he has so much energy and tension? You can hear it in his music -- a lot of passion and tension. How did he get out of hell?' ('How can I get out of hell?' That's what I really wanted to know.) His music is so good it's eerie -- eerie because it comes from a different time, a different place, when men felt different things that we can no longer love or experience except as an echo or phantom in the best of art works. Most of Bola's music is eclectic and nongeneric. Take a song like 'Black Mommy.' Now, if you didn't know anything about Bola . . . what musical tradition, period, or era would you guess this song came from? Tasmania? Easter Island? Next door? It comes from everywhere and nowhere. The subconscious really is universal. Bola Sete's music is the best reminder of this that I have ever heard. He is a man of great spirit and great depth. Bola plays percussively, vertically, with a very heavy and insistent thumb. His playing is very masculine (the word is an anachronisism). He plays erratically and restlessly like Boll Weavil Jackson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, or Bill Monroe. But he also has inner peace and breadth . . . rhythm and dynamics are constantly changing. Bola's playing gives the impression (and like my playing it is a false impression) of being very improvisatory. His songs, on the other hand, tend to be very short and terse (unlike mine), without undue repetition. But like me, he tries to recreate each song each time he plays it, which is in effect to destroy it. . . . The only elements of a song, which change from one performance to the next, are the number of repetitions of each idea. The order of the ideas stays pretty much the same. But the speed and intensity at which they are played may vary; if Bola doesn't like the room he is playing in, or the people he is playing for, he tends to play lousy. I do the same. We both play the way we feel, but within a rigid structure. We play that way because we have to -- we can't do anything else. God help us." -- John Fahey, "Bola Sete, The Nature of Infinity, And John Fahey," Guitar Player, February 1976.