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Graham Weekly Album Review #1352

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Daúde: Neguinha Te Amo
by George Graham

(Realworld 18128 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/21/2004)

While World Music has been making an impact on American audience since the mid 1980s, the music of Brazil has been attracting attention in this country for about 40 years. It was in 1963 that the late jazz saxophonist Stan Getz collaborated with Brazilian composers and performers Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, along with vocalist Astrud Gilberto and had a surprising hit with The Girl from Ipanema, which started something of a bossa nova craze by the mid 1960s. Groups like Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 appeared and achieved some popularity in the US.

On the current world music scene, there has been no shortage of Brazilian sounds, some from venerable performers like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, along with younger generation artists who are weaving traditional Brazilian sounds like the samba and bossa nova into much more contemporary musical settings. And with the proliferation of cross-cultural amalgams that has been the hallmark of the contemporary world music scene, Brazilian sounds have been mixed with everything from hip-hop to electronica to African.

This week we have CD by a fairly young Brazilian singer who engages in a lot of musical culture mingling, with the emphasis on contemporary sounds. She calls herself Daúde (pronounced "dah-oo-jee"), and her new release is called Neguinha Te Amo.

Maria Walderludes Costa de Santana Dutilleux was is a native of Salvador in Central Brazil, where she spent her first years in a tropical Amazon setting before her family moved to Rio de Janeiro. Her parents were both big music fans, and in Salvador she heard some of the traditional Brazilian styles. But when he moved to Rio, she began to hear American soul music and British blues-rockers. She absorbed all those influences, along with her African-Brazilian culture. It was not long before she decided that being a singer was what she wanted to do. After graduating from college with a degree in Portuguese and literature, she began singing in theaters and cabarets. It was in that scene that Daúde came to be known at first, and recorded her debut album in 1995 called Eponymous Daúde. The record won the Premio Sharp, the Brazilian equivalent of a Grammy Award in the new artist category. For her second release in 1997, Daúde #2, she began a collaboration with pop producer Will Mowat, who also worked with Soul II Soul and Angelique Kidjo. Mowat served as producer of Neguinha Te Amo, her first CD to be formally released in the US.

It has been observed that Daúde is one of the first black women Brazilian singers to emerge as a popular artist, and her African facet plays prominently in the new CD, with several of the songs pertaining to African-Brazilian culture. In fact the title of the CD translates as "Young black girl, I love you." Daúde is not a writer of any of the material on the CD, though she did select what she performed, including some older songs. Mowat said he considered it his job to give completely different interpretations to them, and I infer from an interview excerpt supplied with the publicity for the CD that there was some creative tension between the two over the direction of the arrangements, but in the end, they both thought it a better CD for the process.

Although there is an undercurrent of the Brazilian rhythms, the instrumentation is rather high-tech with synthesizers dominating. And the music can often hint at techno and electronic dance, but the tropical Brazilian sounds soon act as an antidote to the technology, and there are some horns and human-played percussion. The CD was recorded partly in São Paulo, Brazil and partly in England, and there are musicians from both countries, including guitarist Webster Santos and drummer Chris Wells, who are the most frequently featured backing musicians. Producer Mowat plays most of the instrumentation from his synthesizers, combining some retro sounds with more contemporary electronics. The result is a rather wide-ranging mix that can run from traditionally Brazilian to a sound that could be from anywhere, were it not for the Portuguese lyrics. But she also sings in French on one track, and there are occasional English words inserted for spice. Speaking of lyrics in other languages, the CD booklet provides translations of everything, and once translated, the words are often quite interesting.

Leading off is a piece that epitomizes the eclectic sound of the CD. The title translating as Really Hot is a kind of whimsical set of boasts about being the next big thing. The piece combines a hip-hop beat with jazzy horns and the vaguely Brazilian undercurrent. <<>>

The following track brings in some unexpected Middle Eastern influence. Alá-Lá-Ô has lyrics that pray to Allah for water in the Sahara. Adding the Middle Eastern sound is the oud played by one Mustapha Lik. <<>>

What amounts to being the title track is Uma Neguinho, or "Little Black Girl," written by Paulo Padihal. The upbeat sounding song has lyrics dealing with the unease which people of different races can still have with each other. <<>>

Brazilian singer Jorge Benjor makes an appearance on a piece he wrote called Creole, whose lyrics essentially say "black is beautiful." It's an interesting mix of Brazilian, African and hip-hop influences. <<>>

Much more toward traditional Brazilian in sound is Canto de Ossanha, a song by the late Brazilian jazz composer Baden Powell. Daúde and company keep the samba beat but add some interesting sonic touches. <<>>

With a decidedly more retro sound is Without Saying Goodbye, which borrows from 1960s pop, specifically the theme from the French film A Man and a Woman. The result is a curious, quirky, spacey, tropical mix that is both intriguing and fun in sound. <<>>

With some African influence is a piece called Ilê Ayê (What Bloco Is This). The lyrics also deal with race relations. <<>>

One of the most outright danceable tracks on this rhythmically infectious recording is Dora. The mixture of an almost African beat with the small guitars that are reminiscent of music from the Andes, tells the story of a love triangle, with a fellow who according to the lyrics "lusts after his cousin's wife." He is admonished in the story to drop the idea. <<>>

In Brazil they have an acronym for the music scene from which Daúde emerged, MFB or Música Popular Brasiliera, many of whose artists have turned increasingly toward contemporary North American sounds like hip-hop for influence. Daúde is distinctive in that she is one of the few young black Brazilian women on the scene who has drawn upon the African roots of some of the Northern Brazilian music, and integrated it into some of the more traditional samba and bossa nova influences from Rio. Recording partly in England with producer Wil Mowat, the result is thoroughly enjoyable cross-cultural amalgam that is both appealing musically, especially from Daúde's vocals, and often quite danceable.

Our grade for sound quality is about a "B plus". The electronic and acoustic instruments are integrated well, and Daúde's vocals are given a pleasing quality, but the recording suffers from the common malady of inadequate dynamic range, or everything at more or less the same high volume.

After attracting a lot of well-deserved attention in her home country for her debut album nine years ago, and more than six years after her last CD was released in Brazil, Daúde's American debut release Neguinha Te Amo, on the Peter Gabriel-founded Realworld Records, provides an excellent opportunity for North American audiences to hear one of the bright lights on the active Brazilian music scene.

(c) Copyright 2004 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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