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
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Mayra Andrade - Dispidida
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