What Nai Palm learnt from exploring the Brazilian Amazon
No rebel yell
Comfort in vacant waters
And I awake
Purging all fear
A task that you wear
Dormant valiance it falls around
– Nai Palm (Get Sun, Hiatus Kaiyote)
To make their first album in six years, Hiatus Kaiyote went to Brazil to connect with nature, indigenous tribes of the Amazon, and musical legend Arthur Verocai.
Verocai is a Brazilian composer, singer, and producer whose self-titled album from 1972 is considered a masterpiece. It blends 20-string accompaniments with jazz soloing and organic sounds with electronics for a phenomenal, experimental record that has served as a source of inspiration for many musical artists.
The now 75 year old Verocai has arranged music for a string of artists, the latest of which is Hiatus Kaiyote. Upon listening to his album it is easy to see why Hiatus Kaiyote would be inspired by it— heck, it could probably inspire anyone.
His orchestrations have that characteristic je ne sais quoi that I always associate with Brazilian jazz: a certain luminosity and breezy openness that is also rooted in a rhythm you can’t help but move to.
Even if you’ve never been to Brazil (yet!), when his album plays you can envision the experience of being there clearly, whether moving through the colorful chaos of Salvador or soaking up sun in Fernando de Noronha.
All this is to say that we can surely expect something special from the fruit of this collab: Hiatus Kaiyote’s upcoming album Mood Valiant.
We were stoked to go to Rio and sit in on the session for [Verocai’s] orchestrations of “Get Sun.”Nai Palm via Facebook
The vibe was pure sun and the team were both acutely efficient and deeply warm and playful. We stayed in the studio all night drinking Cachaça and tracked 2 additional cuts for Mood Valiant which initially were not gonna be in the mix.
We were all weeping in the control room at the beauty and it is with the utmost joy that we can share it with you all.
Nai Palm’s journey into the Amazon
In addition to collaborating with Verocai last year, Hiatus Kaiyote’s front woman Nai Palm went on a cultural and spiritual journey in Brazil. She spent time in the Amazon with the Varinawa tribe and learned about their traditions of peaceful environmental co-existence, along with the natural wisdom that stems from it.
As part of her exploration of the environmental harmony— and vulnerability— of indigenous communities, she watched a gut-wrenching documentary directed by Vincent Carelli called Corumbiare: They Shoot Indians, Don’t They
Carelli allowed the band to include a sample from his documentary in the outro to “Get Sun,” the first single released from Mood Valiant. Nai Palm hopes that it might lead listeners to find out more about the suffering of indigenous communities at the hand of corporations and globalization.
“There is a lot of intention embedded in the layers of our music,” she wrote.
Nai Palm’s time with the Varinawa tribe led to a realization that it’s not enough to travel and be inspired creatively. She also needs to educate herself further and use her platform to support indigenous communities.
“I found it super disassociating to return to regular western everyday life.” Nai Palm wrote in a Facebook post. “The imbalance and disconnect to nature. The ever churning grind of ‘progress’ moving us further and further away from a healthy magical planet.”
Reading this message struck a particular chord with me, as it came during a time when I’ve been reflecting deeply on the harmful and unsustainable practices of western society. And I’m certainly not alone. The climate crisis has forced us all to acknowledge the dying environment around us, and it’s devastating. I think we are all sharing a collective grief and frustration for the state of nature, and art is one method to help process this existential threat and to normalize conversations around it. Music can be a vessel for channeling concerns and giving voice to unspeakable sentiments — like any type of art.
Even if the songs on Mood Valiant aren’t explicit in addressing ecological themes, what’s beautiful is that the listener can derive their own meaning from the music’s subtleties.
Learnt more about true valiance
Interestingly, the band’s relationship with the Varinawa tribe continues a pattern of respect for and interest in indigenous cultures. One of their most famous songs, “Nakamarra,” is about a friend who worked in a remote community of indigenous artists in central Australia. This woman was given a tribal name, or nakamarra.
Nai Palm said in a 2014 interview that it is rare for an artist living in a rich cultural city to drop everything and go to such an extreme environment.
“So for me it was a song about her courage to go and explore that and do that for a while. I really respected her for that. And I really wanted to do something like that but it was kind of like my band was the priority.”
Flash forward six years later, and Nai Palm seems to have lived out this personal dream of hers to spend time with an indigenous community in a remote environment; the fulfillment of this long held desire might make her and the band’s journey to Brazil even more meaningful.