A local musician is bringing the sound of Samba to the Gainesville scene.
Hermogenes Araujo, a composer and percussionist from Brazil, is set to release “First Poem,” the lead single off his upcoming album “Portao,” early next month. The album will follow Araujo’s 2018 debut “Sonho” and will feature a more electronic soundscape on top of traditional Brazilian instrumentals.
Araujo has lived in Gainesville for the past two years, but his musical experience spans decades. He began playing percussion in his home state of Bahia, Brazil. When he was just 11 years old, he performed in small groups of other local musicians.
“I learned everything about percussion with them,” he said.
Araujo graduated with his bachelor’s degree in music from the Federal University of Bahia and went on to perform all over the world before settling in Gainesville. He’s appeared in festivals and in Germany, Spain, England and other countries, both as a soloist and as part of a group.
Araujo said his travels impacted him personally and professionally, allowing him to incorporate different lessons and techniques from other parts of the world into his work.
“Different cultures, you learn from this,” he said. “You can use that experience in your life and in your music.”
Araujo’s first trip to Gainesville was in summer 2015, when he taught a master class at UF’s Brazilian Music Institute. He visited twice more after that, and on his last visit, he was convinced by a friend to move permanently. Araujo officially became a Gainesville resident on July 9, 2019 — a date he said he remembers because of how monumental the move was for him.
“It was a big change in my life,” he said.
As a percussionist, Araujo’s primary instruments are different types of drums. He said he’s especially proficient on the vibraphone, a percussion instrument with two rows of tuned metal bars. “Sonho,” Araujo’s 2018 debut, heavily centers on the vibraphone, with a focus on the Brazilian music that influenced Araujo in his youth.
But where “Sonho” plays to traditional standards, Araujo said “Portao” will expand into more modern sounds. Electronic additives from synthesizers and drum machines make up the majority of the instrumentation on the new project.
“Maybe 60% of the album is from electronic music,” Araujo said.
“First Poem,” the first single from “Portao,” is expected to drop in early August. The lyrics were written in both English and Araujo’s native language of Portuguese, which he said was done to allow listeners of all backgrounds to understand the song.
“First Poem” was originally written entirely in Portuguese, but Araujo has since translated some of the lyrics to English. He also recruited Tampa jazz and folk musician Patty Kenoly to contribute some guitar passages to the song.
Kenoly, who performs under the name Noan Partly, first met Araujo when they both performed at Heartwood Soundstage, and she said their mutual admiration was instant.
“We just sort of came across each other in passing, and we were like, “oh, you’re so good,’” she said.
Kenoly said she immediately jumped at the chance to work on “First Poem” after Araujo played it for her. Though she couldn’t understand the Portuguese lyrics, she said the track resonated with her because of Araujo’s natural expressiveness.
Following the themes of “Portao,” or “gate” in Portuguese, “First Poem” is an account of Araujo’s life experiences through the lens of self-reflection. Despite the song’s bold instrumentation, Kenoly said the track’s somber side is what makes it an intriguing listen.
“It’s such a bright and colorful song, but also, there’s such an amount of introspection in it,” she said.
Araujo isn’t a trained guitar player, but he picked up the instrument for the early demos of “First Poem.” Since then, Kenoly has contributed her own musical stylings to the track and other instrumental layers have been added.
Kenoly said Araujo’s performance on “First Poem” showcases not only his musical talent but also his capacity to convey his emotions through his art.
“He loves to cover the whole gambit of musical expression,” she said. “He’s so brave in that way. He’s so courageous when it comes to expressing himself.”
But, according to Araujo, these expressions aren’t all of his own design. As for where the inspiration behind “First Poem” and his other compositions came from, he said he had some help.
“The universe gave it to me,” he said. “If gift, I write.”
Contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @hgrizzl.