They might look like a couple of average joes, but Jorge & Mateus are actually a platinum-selling act from the Brazilian state of Goiás, riding into town for three dates to showcase their brand of one of the most widely popular musical styles in Brazil: sertanejo.
Though the genre dates back to the 1920s, when it was steeped firmly in the rural life its bucolic practitioners glorified, it’s since been influenced by the likes of Paraguayan polka, Mexican mariachi and US country, leaving us with two main varieties: sertanejo universitário, the more pop-infused version that’s swept up students with its choreographed moves and party-setting themes (think Michel Teló’s 2011 international hit, ‘Ai Se Eu Te Pego’), and the type Jorge & Mateus play.
While their sound is by no means stripped down (the vocalist and harmonising vocalist/guitarist flesh out their consistently clean production with a full backing band), their approach sticks closer to sertanejo’s roots. But despite the scorn of MPB-loving intellectuals and smug indie rock fans, Jorge & Mateus have a kind of honesty about what they do that places them at a safe distance from what anyone could fairly call pretentious: they certainly don’t sound as studied as any newly-touted soft-spoken Brazilian singer or overhyped gang of synth smashers.
And one anachronistic oddity worth noting in this age of analogue-imitating software is that four of the duo’s five gold- or platinum-selling records were recorded live. Couple the constant outbursts of audience squeals and chorus singalongs with the walking accordion lines, unaffected guitars and shuffling drum beats, and the communal feel of simpler times is discernable rising off the thousands that packed into arenas to see the band.
Admittedly, Jorge & Mateus’s predictable arrangements and romantically minded lyrics aren’t going to be to everyone’s tastes, but as one of musica sertaneja’s best-selling acts at the moment, their simplicity may be a worthwhile starting point for the uninitiated.