Posts Tagged ‘mariza’
Songhoy Blues and Sam Lee & Friends have been added to the Songlines Music Awards Winners’ Concert line-up
The 2016 Songlines Music Awards Winners’ Concert will be held at the Barbican on October 3, and celebrates the variety of musical talents highlighted in Songlines magazine.
Malian desert blues band Songhoy Blues and folk singer-songwriter and co, Sam Lee & Friends, join fado singer Mariza and Indian classical guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya on the evening’s bill.
Songhoy Blues’ impressive and adventurous debut, Music in Exile, was released last year on Transgressive Records. The music showcased the band’s raw and rocking sound, and highlighted them as one of Mali’s most exciting musical exports of recent times. They won the Newcomer category in this year’s Songlines Music Awards.
Folk troubadour Sam Lee has rambled far and wide across the nation, learning the songs of Travellers and Gypsies, absorbing plenty of stories along the way. He brought these stories to light on The Fade in Time, and with his band provided a bold musical backdrop to tell them against. He won the Europe category in this year’s Songlines Music Awards.
Votes for the awards came in from readers, contributors and the general public. View the full list of winners here.
Tickets are available on the Barbican’s official website.
Mariza won the Best Artist category in the Songlines Music Awards 2016. Following the release of her first album in five years, Mariza makes sure fado is not a limitation. Mundo, she tells Gonçalo Frota, is her way of saying these are happy times.
Mariza was born prematurely. Her mother was six months into her pregnancy when on a fine Sunday afternoon in 1973 she interrupted a family gathering, demanding to be taken to the hospital as she was feeling her first contractions. Mariza’s father didn’t take his wife seriously and dismissed her appeal as a false alarm, an occasional anxiety symptom – due to previous miscarriages – and kept on preparing the feijoada everyone was waiting for. But she knew better than that and came back with her maternity bag ready to leave. He then took her to the hospital in Lourenço Marques (Mozambique) but had so little faith in an untimely birth, he returned to eat the feijoada and have a drink with the rest of the family. When he finally got back to the hospital the baby had already been born, although in such a fragile condition that after first laying eyes on his still unnamed daughter, he headed to the hospital chapel. And there he made a promise: if the tiny girl was to survive, she would be named after the Brazilian singer Marisa Gata Mansa, and she too would be a singer. “Up to this day,” Mariza confides to me, “I’m still keeping my father’s promise. It’s his promise but it’s my job to carry my luggage all around the world.” She may look serious for a couple of seconds, but we all know she’s not really complaining about her life. There’s no suffering or sacrifice involved in this decision of choosing music as her daily commitment.
Mundo (World), her new album, is Mariza singing as a woman overcome by happiness. And so we head back to motherhood. A lot has changed in Mariza’s life since she released Fado Tradicional in 2010. She gave birth to her son four years ago, got married and drastically changed her lifestyle. Farewell those fado nights stretching from dinnertime to dawn – now she’s welcomed a new wellbeing into her life and her music. Music stopped being an obsession and became more of a pleasure. “Before all this,” she says, “all I had was my music. But that has changed now.” This new state of mind first started to come forth in the comeback tour where Mariza revisited the Terra (2008) repertoire. Instead of staying on the stage, she suddenly felt the need to get closer and share her happiness with the audience. The concerts turned into “something more intimate” and she started to shorten the distance between the stage in big halls and the spectators: stepping down, talking to them, getting them to answer her questions, seeing their faces, being totally aware of their presence. “I feel that it’s important to do this, because when one likes an artist and they keep his or her distance, it feels impersonal. And music doesn’t have to be impersonal. It’s a give and take.”
This wish for intimacy is spread all over Mundo. When Spanish producer Javier Limón, with whom Mariza had previously worked on Terra, sent her the first mixes, she felt the record didn’t match the sound she had envisioned. When she called him up saying it wasn’t quite right, Limón prompted her to take the next plane so they could work together on the album’s ultimate shape. And so it happened, but it still took some time for them to work out an understanding. Limón proposed various solutions, yet Mariza declined them all. “That’s not it,” she maintained. “What is it then?” Limón asked. “I don’t want any effects on my voice; I want people to feel I’m singing just next to their ear, like I am right beside them, having each listener as my solo audience.” The producer was so astonished with the no-effects ruling he even asked Mariza if she really wanted to go back to the ‘pre-history’ of studio work. But she was so sure of what she was after, he finally gave in and assisted her in achieving this intimate and enveloping music.
It now seems inevitable that Mariza should look for a new direction in her comeback. She recorded Fado Tradicional in 2010, as a tribute to her fado favourites and a celebration of the tenth anniversary of her career, which placed her in a kind of bubble in relation to her previous discography. From the very beginning, although fado will always have a special place in her musical universe, she was never the type of fadista to refrain from experimenting with more daring approaches or to abide to the restraints of the tradition. “Lyrics and songs have a time of their own,” Mariza claims. “There are songs that used to be really important to me and every time I sang them it meant something rather painful for me; but when I sing them nowadays, in spite of obviously connecting to that time in my life, I no longer feel the same. That moment is gone.”
“I want people to feel like I am right beside them, having each listener as my solo audience”
Mariza acknowledges that the sheer fact of singing these songs built on her suffering helped ease the pain and acted as an emotional catharsis, a cleansing of sorts. Mundo, on the other hand, called for a different backdrop. It could not mirror a sadness or melancholy she didn’t feel in tune with. And that is why, not being a songwriter, she had doubts about a lot of the material other musicians were sending. “Everyone who was offering me songs and poems was thinking of fado.” She felt they were responding to a particular idea of her and limiting her to what she had already proven to be capable of. “It was all too heavy and dramatic,” she confesses. “Of course drama, melancholy and saudade will always be present in my music, but I was – and still am – living a period in my life that is so happy, relaxed and romantic those songs didn’t make sense to me. So I started to talk to these songwriters and told them about where I am right now. This way, Mundo turned out to be a tailor-made record, a perfect fit. Mundo is my world.” Among other things, this meant that when Jorge Fernando – producer of her 2001 debut album, Fado em Mim, prolific songwriter and a fadista himself – called her up and asked Mariza to hurry to the computer and open a file he had just sent with a new track, the singer was startled with the verse ‘como é que eu hei-de matar esta paixão’ (how can I kill this passion). “I don’t want to kill anything or anyone,” she responded. But Fernando insisted and convinced Mariza to show the track to Limón. Still she wasn’t sure of the song, and it would be the last of more than two dozen of compositions Limón was shown. The producer’s enthusiasm was so contagious, Mariza called Fernando back to work out a little detail: would he agree that instead of matar (kill) she’d sing instead apagar (erase)? With his approval they started to work on the album’s first single ‘Paixão’.
Known for his sharp eye for new talent, Jorge Fernando played a major part in Fado em Mim, Mariza’s stunning debut appearance before the world. ‘Chuva’, along with ‘Ó Gente da Minha Terra’, were two of the key tracks that made Mariza an instant star in Portugal and boldly opened the doors for fado to a new international generation, after the genius of globetrotting Amália Rodrigues. The immediate recognition of Mariza’s singularity quickly led to working with Carlos Maria Trindade (from Madredeus) on Fado Curvo, Jaques Morelenbaum (Brazilian collaborator who has also worked with Caetano Veloso and Ryuichi Sakamoto) on Transparente, and Limón (who is known for his work with Buika, Paco de Lucía and Estrella Morente) on Terra.
Little by little, Mariza absorbed all the music cultures she came into contact with on her extensive travels, meeting with musicians from all over the planet and acknowledging that her nature was that of mixture. When still a child she left Mozambique and moved with her parents to Lisbon, Portugal, where they settled in Mouraria, one of the city’s most traditional neighbourhoods. There could probably not be a more appropriate setting for her musicality to flourish. She recalls “everyone singing in the street, listening to records through the neighbours’ windows,” in such a cheerful, popular environment that different singing voices came from each building, transforming the streets into a competition for the loudest recording. “The women were often doing their house work while battling with songs by Fernando Maurício and Artur Batalha,” she remembers. At home Mariza’s father was the big fado fan and he soon started to take the little girl to weekend musical get-togethers.
Although it was her dad who led to the discovery of Argentinian tango singer Carlos Gardel (his repertoire makes it onto Mundo through her rendition of ‘Caprichosa’), Mariza often says that it was her mother who was absolutely pivotal to her broad musical scope. Back then she already listened to Cape Verdean singers such as Cesaria Evora or Bana, but also to music from Brazil, Guinea and the Antilles. And so it should come as no surprise that she feels closer to the sounds of her African roots than to any other music. During the 90s there was an intense Cape Verdean live music scene in Lisbon that Mariza witnessed firsthand and ‘Padoce de Céu Azul,’ a morna she fell in love with while listening to Tito Paris, stands for that lineage on the new album. It was one of the surviving tracks after Mariza and Limón put them to the infallible test of voice and guitar.
Accompanied by the skilful classical guitarist Pedro Jóia, Mariza sang each of the potential songs to feature on Mundo, and she and Limón only let through the ones that left no doubts as to whether it fitted wholly into her singing style and her voice. It was a cruel process; Mariza had to let go of a couple of compositions she absolutely loved but had to concede were not a perfect match. “We spent three whole days just choosing,” she says. “But every time I came back to the studio I had second thoughts about some of the songs that I was eliminating. Javier finally told me I had to make up my mind because we weren’t working on a double album. I almost cried then, because it was so hard parting ways with some of that stuff.” When Mariza first started to have conversations about a new album with her label, a bunch of names was suggested, trying to entice her into taking a different musical approach. But each and every time she always went back to Limón. They had kept in touch since the recording of Terra, and communication was easy with him. She knew it would be tiring trying to explain the sound in her head to anyone else who probably did not share the same musical language. The way Terra was done, allowing for any unconventional ideas to be included, had instilled a trust in Mariza that she felt she absolutely needed for Mundo – this was not the time to start anew.
What Mariza had not anticipated was that in the heat of the moment, while already in studio with Limón, a sudden urge to record two fados would sneak up on her. Mundo had already secured a Brazilian flavour and a Latin and African twist, but Mariza’s world could not be completed without a small display of her worth as a fadista. ‘Maldição’ and ‘Anda o Sol na Minha Rua’ came along at the last minute but they still managed to make a strong and lasting impression. This flexibility is an acute example of how things have changed in Mariza’s life since she embraced motherhood. “I feel like I have a different and lighter way of dealing with everything in my life,” she says. “I used to be highly competitive – with myself and other fadistas. I felt I had to be the best. I wanted to be on top because I had nothing else, music was all my life. Of course I still need music now, but that situation has changed.” And that is exactly what Mundo sounds like. Mariza is not chasing the stars anymore. She’s looking at them from afar and peacefully enjoying it.
This article originally appeared in Songlines #113. Mariza’s album Mundo is out now on Parlophone.
We’re delighted to announce the winners of the eighth Songlines Music Awards which aim to put a much-deserved spotlight on some incredibly talented artists from around the world.
This year we’ve shaken up our awards, so as well as our usual Best Artist and Best Group awards – as voted by Songlines readers – we have five new geographical awards based on our reviews sections, as well as the World Pioneer and Newcomer Awards chosen by our editorial team.
Join us on October 3 at the Barbican in London for this year’s Songlines Music Awards Winners’ Concert, featuring performances by Mariza, Debashish Bhattacharya and others still to be announced. Tickets go on general sale at 10am on Friday (For more details visit www.barbican.org.uk or call 020 7638 8891
Hear editor-in-chief Simon Broughton introducing and playing music from all of this year’s winners, on the Songlines podcast, available as a free download on iTunes.
Words by Nigel Williamson
Mariza (Mundo on Parlophone)
Back after a five-year recording hiatus, Mariza returned in 2015 with an album that was not so much a reinvention as a bold expansion of her role as fado’s foremost global ambassador. Adding sparkling pop ballads and subtle washes of electronica to her traditional roots, Mundo was an unalloyed triumph, her artistry hitting dynamic new heights and her voice expressing every emotional nuance, whether singing a gentle and intimate lullaby for her young son or melodramatically letting rip on the high notes with the force of an operatic diva.
Sympathetically helmed by the Spanish world music producer Javier Limón – whose previous credits include Buika and Anoushka Shankar – it’s an album that she describes as “the most personal I’ve ever made” and an invitation into her most private world. “I didn’t want any effects on my voice,” she told Songlines. “I wanted people to feel I was singing just next to their ear, like I’m right beside them, each listener as my solo audience.” Now in her early 40s, she emerges not only as the finest fado singer of her generation, but one of the world’s most charismatic artists, bridging traditional and popular forms in transcendental style.
Africa Express (Terry Rileyʼs In C Mali on Transgressive Records)
The notion of unleashing a group of West African musicians playing traditional instruments on the music of the American composer Terry Riley was an audacious piece of lateral thinking and arguably the most satisfying project yet to emerge under the banner of Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Dispensing with the conceptual score and allowing the Malian musicians to interpret German conductor André de Ridder’s violin notations as they saw fit, the results were revelatory as centuries of African trance ritual add a warm looseness to Riley’s minimalist 60s composition. Albarn, Brian Eno and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs represent the Western contingent but it’s the African cohort on kalimba, balafon, kamelengoni and kora who provide the magic and fill the work with light and space as flutes, strings and chiming guitars join the African percussion as the ensemble reach the most thrilling of climaxes.
Although it sounds like no other version of Riley’s work, it remains true to its spirit as shifting polyrhythms and tonal and timbral changes create a sense of constant evolution, even though the same base note repeats insistently throughout the performance. Riley himself was delighted with the result, enthusing that it sounded as if his composition was “taking flight with the soul of Africa.”
Songhoy Blues (Music in Exile on Transgressive Records)
We have the armed jihadists who banned music when they took control of northern Mali in 2012 to thank for the existence of Songhoy Blues. Guitarist Garba Touré – whose father was a percussionist in Ali Farka Touré’s band – realised it wasn’t going to be a safe or pleasant thing to hang around Timbuktu, and like thousands of other refugees, he grabbed a bag and his guitar and boarded the first bus to Bamako. There he formed Songhoy Blues with fellow exiles Aliou Touré and Oumar Touré, subsequently joined by drummer Nathanael Dembélé.
Their first recording with American guitarist-producer Nick Zinner was trailed on the Africa Express compilation Maison des Jeunes, to which they contributed the standout track. Music in Exile, their full-length debut – again produced by Zinner, with assistance from their French manager Marc-Antoine Moreau, fully lives up to their promise as the new, rocking sound of Mali, dramatically propelling traditional African desert blues into a 21st-century urban setting. It earned them the front cover of Songlines, but the dynamic rock’n’roll heft of the recording also crossed over to receive rave reviews in rock mags such as NME, Uncut and Mojo.
Africa & Middle East
Seckou Keita (22 Strings on ARC Music)
Having won the Cross-Cultural Collaboration award in the 2014 Songlines Music Awards for his album with Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, the Senegalese-born but UK-based kora player Seckou Keita picks up another richly deserved award for 22 Strings, a mostly instrumental set of exquisite solo kora playing, full of meditative grace, sublime poise and consummate elegance and which combines traditional tunes with his own compositions. Born into a griot family in Casamance in southern Senegal in 1978 but now living in England, he started playing the kora when he was seven and after backing various other acts including Baka Beyond, he released his debut solo album in 2000.
After his current solo kora album, his next project will find him returning to the collaborative path on an album of duets with the Cuban pianist Omar Sosa. “Everything in music has to be honest, and the deeper meanings of the songs and melodies must be preserved,” he says. “This is why it’s important that collaborations should be right for the music. There are connections between, say, Cuban and Indian and Welsh sounds and the repertoire of the kora. They can be explored without losing the distinct flavours of the different traditions and styles.”
Lila Downs (Balas y Chocolate on Sony Music)
Born in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, the daughter of a Mixtec Indian mother and an American university professor, Lila Downs grew up with a multicultural vision drawn from both sides of the Rio Grande. Her nine studio albums over the course of a 22-year career have defied categorisation, weaving traditional Mexican and native Mesoamerican music with blues, jazz, cumbia, rock and finding her singing in Spanish, English and various native tongues.
Inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, her current release Balas y Chocolate is a sizzling, gutsy, joy-giving dance album, as martial beats, rousing choruses, mariachi moods and agit-pop raps lend a festive brio. Her expressive, multi-octave voice arcs impressively from airborne falsetto to sultry contralto as she sings about subjects ranging the erosion of civil rights to political corruption, while the title-track is dedicated to migrant children. “I’m an artist and not a politician,” she says. “But music offers us the ability at desperate moments to feel the emotion that we haven’t been able to express.” Superlative sax, accordion and brass accompaniment provides a robust soundbed with stirring cameos from guest vocalists Colombian superstar Juanes and Mexican crooner Juan Gabriel as additional bonuses. Lila Downs features on the cover of the new issue (June, #118).
Asia & South Pacific
Debashish Bhattacharya (Slide Guitar Ragas from Dusk Till Dawn on Riverboat Records)
The pioneering Indian slide guitarist has been playing for more than half a century; his father gave him a Hawaiian lap steel guitar at the age of three. By the age of 15 he had designed his own Hindustani version of the slide guitar, which he called the chaturangui. He’s since created the 14-string gandharvi and the anand, a four-string lap steel ukulele, to forge what he calls “the Trinity of Guitars” and with which he has created a new instrumental language for traditional Indian music.
His 2009 album Calcutta Chronicles earned a Grammy nomination and he’s recorded collaborative discs with the late Bob Brozman and with John McLaughlin. On Slide Guitar Ragas from Dusk Till Dawn he traces a musical journey from dawn to dusk. As emotionally compelling as it is technically impressive, his creative virtuosity makes it easy to forget that he’s playing a guitar rather than a more traditional Indian stringed instrument. “The music I play is universal, rooted deep in thousands of years of tradition,” he says. “It has the essence of peace, harmony and bliss. But it’s essentially modern, engulfing the mood of reggae, hip-hop, rock, jazz and blues. That’s what my music is all about.”
Sam Lee (The Fade in Time on Nest Collective Records)
Born in North London to Jewish parents, after studying at Chelsea art college and working as a burlesque dancer, Lee discovered the arcane but resonant heritage of the UK and Ireland’s Gypsy culture and then ‘went native,’ spending several years collecting and learning songs and ballads from Traveller and Gypsy communities all over the UK and Ireland. He also picked up the lilting vocal style of Gypsy song and the fruits of his research were heard on his 2012 debut album Ground of its Own, which was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize.
On The Fade in Time he gives the stories and melodies he collected an ambitious and imaginatively modern platform, backed by a band that comprises violin, cello, piano, percussion and Japanese koto (zither), and adding everything from Bollywood beats and Polynesian textures to the reek and smoke of our own island’s living traditions. “There’s a difference between songs the Gypsies sang and songs you learned at Cecil Sharp House,” he says. “I decided I’d throw flames on what tradition is left out there. I’m a tree-climber and this music is for me like being up in the branches, knowing you are connected by its roots, deep into the earth.”
Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal (Musique de Nuit on No Format!)
Malian kora maestro Sissoko and the French cellist Segal were first heard playing together on 2009’s exquisite Chamber Music. Their second album of stringed magic, Musique de Nuit, sparkles with an even greater lustre, drawing organically on the twin heritages of West African oral tradition and European conservatoire classicism, spiced by the innate musical curiosity and openness of two musicians who appear to respond almost telepathically to each other. That’s hardly surprising as between the two discs they toured the world, playing more than 200 concerts as a duo and refining and developing their collaboration in countless hours spent jamming, experimenting and improvising. “We wanted to go further with the second record,” Sissoko told Songlines. “The magic of the first album lay in the meeting itself and our coming together. We didn’t know how it was going to go. This record has come out of our shared experience since then, although it’s also very improvisational and natural.” Mostly recorded under the stars on Sissoko’s rooftop in Bamako, the setting lends an exotic ambience to an album of subtle arrangements and inventive improvisational interplay that feels as fresh as it is timeless.
World Pioneer Award
Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 for having discovered and signed Jethro Tull, Free, Roxy Music, Grace Jones and U2 among numerous other rock legends. But his citation also described him as ‘the person most responsible for turning the world on to reggae music’ and it is for his incalculable contribution to promoting Jamaican and African artists for which he is honoured here. He launched Island Records in Jamaica in 1958 and was soon exporting early ska recordings to the UK, topping the charts in 1964 with Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’, arguably the first ‘world music’ crossover hit.
His signing of Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1973 was a seminal moment and he then went on to introduce Nigeria’s King Sunny Adé to an international audience. After selling Island he established the Mango and Palm Pictures imprints with a stellar roster that included Salif Keita, Baaba Maal and Angélique Kidjo. Blackwell’s 80th birthday next year is certain to prompt a host of industry tributes that will inevitably concentrate on his rock’n’roll triumphs –hence our decision to recognise separately his immense contribution to world music by making him the inaugural recipient of the Songlines World Pioneer Award.
Words by Nigel Williamson
Classic fado, gorgeous pop ballads: showstoppers galore
Mariza’s last album, 2010’s Fado Tradicional, was, as its title implied, a relatively conservative affair that lovingly restated a firm commitment to her heritage. After a five-year hiatus, to return with another trad-oriented album might have implied a lack of progression. But there’s no chance of that here: this is a set of bold and expansive ambition, brilliantly produced by serial world music collaborator Javier Limón (Buika, Yasmin Levy, Eleftheria Arvanitaki and Anoushka Shankar among others). It combines deep fado roots with sparkling pop ballads and subtle washes of electronica.
The heartbreaking ‘Sombra’ and the upbeat ‘Missangas’ are both reassuring examples of Mariza’s status as the queen of traditional fado. But the gorgeous pop balladry of ‘Melhor de Mim’ and ‘Adeus’, the ethereal ‘Sem Ti’ and the stunning, shimmering ‘Saudade Solta’, composed by brothers Pedro da Silva Martins and Luís José Martins from the Portuguese award-winning group Deolinda, find her dramatically spreading her wings. There’s a newly expressive maturity that lends her voice greater nuance than ever before. Given that she occasionally sings Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ in concert, perhaps the pop-fado fusions of Mundo should come as no surprise. But she’s pulled it off with a poise, artistry and self-assurance that is simply breathtaking.