Artist of the Week: Devendra Banhart
Devendra Banhart (1981) is a Venezuelan American singer-songwriter and visual artist. His home-recorded debut, Oh Me Oh My (2002), released by Michael Gira’s Young God label, caused quite an impact on a musical scene surprised by the disarming simplicity of its low-fi acoustic approach to songwriting and the utter softness of his voice, which motivated acute comparisons to Nick Drake, Marc Bolan and Syd Barrett.
Though often associated with the New Weird American scene (Six Organs Of Admitance, Vetiver, Joanna Newsom, amongst others) and the legacy of 60s and 70s pioneers such as The Holy Modal Rounders, Pentangle, The Incredible String Band and Comus, the truth is that Devendra Banhart seems to constantly inhabit and develop his own private musical landscape. Elements of blues, ragtime, folk, rock, Native American and Celtic styles, country music, funk, reggae and (more recently) dance music are summoned to form a seamless yet fascinating whole, each of them serving their role in articulating his prismatic, multilingual and loopy vision.
After defining the Freak Folk genre with 2004’s Rejoicing In The Hands / Niño Rojo combo, expanding his sound with two full-band and orchestrated records (2005’s Cripple Crow and 2007’s Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon) and experimenting a (relatively) leaner and mainstreamed version of his sound (2009’s What Will We Be), Devendra Banhart is back with the new Mala, a record that somehow manages to tame his multifaceted muse in what is arguably his most cohesive set of songs.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.