Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mayra Andrade - Navega

Mayra Andrade - Navega - Cape Verde Morna Music
While we're exploring Brazil's biggest talents this week, we make an exception for this album: Mayra Andrade doesn't sing in Brazilian/Portuguese, but in her very own Cape Verdean Creole (for your information, Cabo Verde is an archipelago 500km off the coast of Senegal). The thing is, she is just so good that we want to make sure you don't miss out on her, so prepare for some Cape Verdean vibes!

Although Mayra Andrade's music is clearly marked by the Cape Verdean atmosphere, Mayra herself has had a taste of an enormous variety of cultures: she was born 1985 in La Habana, Cuba, but grew up between Senegal, Angola, Germany and Cape Verde. Since 2003, she has been living in Paris. Her international career is just getting started: after being discovered in Canada when she was 16, she toured in Cape Verde, Portugal and France for a long time and she was also the supporting act for Cape Verdean legend Cesaria Evora, a major influence in her work. Nevertheless, she hadn't recorded anything proper until last year, when she finally released her debut album Navega - the gem we're talking about here.

Although Mayra's exotic Creole singing on the album sounds very seductive, it's actually a shame for us -foreign listeners- that she didn't opt for Portuguese: unlike most Portuguese songs, I couldn't hardly understand a word of what she's saying, until I bumped into English translations for all of the songs on this album, on Mayra's website. And so, I discovered yet another layer of Andrade's music: not only does she have an extremely jazzy, sensual voice and a cute face, judging by her lyrics she also appears to be smart. She sings about real themes, such as failing democracy, poverty, love, etc.

On this album, Mayra Andrade takes us on a trip to her isle. Islands, as we all know, are usually surrounded by water, so we shouldn't be surprised to hear that a marine feeling dominates this album. The title, "Navega" (sail, navigate), says it all. It's as if this album contained two different story lines: one inside the lyrics, the other one inside the music. In the very first track, "Dimokransa", the music almost makes you feel the salty sea breeze on the Cape Verdean coast caress your face, while Mayra is actually singing about failing democracy, referring to important figures in Cape Verdean history. Two completely different sensations -marine atmosphere but seriously political lyrics-, fitted together in such a way that you can only profoundly enjoy this song. And not only this song, because high standards are maintained throughout the entire album: "Mana" is a slow bossa ballad about a girl who followed her ambitions, only to find out that money isn't everything. The French "Comme s'il en pleuvait" is the only song on the album where Mayra doesn't sing in her mother tongue, but that still doesn't take away the marine feeling: just guitars, saxophone and Mayra's hoarse voice, mmm... In the slower "Nha Sibitchi", Andrade describes some of her neighbours in Cape Verde, and in "Navega", the lyrics finally connect with the marine sound: while Mayra sings about how hard it is for a fisherman's wife to fearfully await her husband's safe return, the gracefully rippling music reflects tears of love and the water of the stormy sea at the same time. From this track on, things only get even better: "Poc li dente é tcheu" is about the heart-rending choice between poverty and emigration - the paradisiacal beauty of Cape Verde doesn't take away its misery. To the sound of guitars and cello, Mayra sings goodbye in "Dispidida". But we don't say goodbye to her until the very last note of "Regasu", Mayra Andrade's ode to morna - the Cape Verdean genre full of saudade that Cesaria Evora brought to international attention.

Think of this album as a "navegação": embark in Mayra's boat and sail the seven seas with her. We did it with pleasure. Actually, we enjoyed it so much that we can't wait for the next album to come out! But until then: mommy, can I go again?

Mayra Andrade - Dimokransa mp3 buy@iTunes (Europe only) buy@Amazon
Mayra Andrade - Dispidida mp3 buy@iTunes (Europe only) buy@Amazon


El Guiri said...

On the stats I can see we've had a few Cape Verdean readers here, so I'd like to ask them: is Mayra Andrade famous in any way? And to all readers: did anyone know about Mayra?

Mykah said...

Yes. Capeverdeans love her! She has a great voice, great performance on stage. She known how to sing. Very beautiful also. Some thing that she's Cesária Évora heiress.

El Guiri said...

I'm glad to hear that! And I agree, she is in a way the new Cesária Évora, only younger and prettier ;)

BTW: I'm off to Mexico for three weeks, so see you all in august!

Jessica said...

Thanks for the wonderful review on Mayra Andrade!! I disagree however when you said that "it's actually a shame for us -foreign listeners- that she (Mayra) didn't opt for Portuguese:" (referring to her lyrics).

I must say that being of Cape Verdean descent, I would like to explain the significance of Creole. Cape Verdeans are a very diverse group of people, and "nos terra" (our country)is a paradise. Because of natural circumstances however, many of us have needed to leave the islands to provide a better future for ourselves and/or our families. We are a people with a longing to someday return home, and who have migrated to all corners of the world and who can easily assimilate. Sometimes our music and we as a people are mistaken as Brazilian, Portuguese, Cuban or African etc. All are wonderful, but we are in our own category.

Creole to us, is not only a language, but it is a cultural identity, a race. It is something that we own, and that helps us define ourselves from the rest of the world. Creole is a way to link all Cape Verdeans who are oceans apart. It's our national pride, it's political, it's a language, and it's our identity.

It's what allows us to show the world who we are, and helps us to keep Cape Verde and our culture alive. It's what links us together as a people although many of us are thousands of miles away from our country, families and friends. Because many of us may never have a chance to re-unite with all previously stated, Creole is what keeps us connected and gives us hope that our culture will not die.
There are more Cape Verdeans living outside of the islands than there are in the archipeology.

The beauty of Creole, is that it is mostly a mixture of Portuguese and African phrases with a bit of French, Dutch and Spanish words. This complex mixture tells a story of our past, and so it shows the world our exoticness and diversity.

Thank-you to all foreigners who embrace our music, and who may only be able to pick up a few words but keep on listening. To you people, I Creole is a feeling and the enchanting melodies, a universal language that all can understand.

If you sit and listen with your heart, the raw emotion of the music will reach, and has reached those who do not speak Creole. If Mayra Andrade, Cesaria Evora, Tito Paris and Lura had written there albums in Portuguese, that feeling and connectedness would be gone.

The internaltional success of these artists has shown that all you need when listening to Cape Verdean music, is the ability to feel, whether through the Creole language, the melodies, or both. Open your heart and let yourself get taken away. Viva Cabo Verde and all who keep us alive by supporting our music. We are ALL connected! One Love!