MART’NALIA / “Mart’nalia Mixtape”
Before Bossa Nova there was Samba and after Bossa Nova, Samba was still happening. Most of us in America have heard Bossa Nova but not so much Samba. Samba is the music of the favelas (akin to our ghettoes), the music of the working poor, especially those of African heritage. The Bossa Nova was a cool variation on the hot rough and tumble of Samba.
The relation between Bossa Nova and Samba is the same as that of cool jazz (and later smooth jazz) to bebop/hard bop. It is a logical extension that cool jazz icon Stan Getz was one of the jazz musicians of popularized Bossa Nova in the United States.
The Bossa Nova also popularized the light, airy female vocal style but Samba has another vocal tradition: husky voice women, even when they whisper there is a deeptitude to their voice, an unmistakable earthiness that is ultra attractive to many of us.
Back in the late eighties when I was in Brazil I learned something else about Samba when I saw that it was organized literally at the street level from neighborhood to neighborhood. I recognized the underlying structure form my experiences in New Orleans with our Social, Aid & Pleasure Clubs. In both cases procession with music was the core public expression but there was a lot more going on.
Mart’nalia is one of the major custodians and purveyors of Samba culture. She is the daughter of Martinho da Vila, Brazil’s leading contemporary Samba composer/producer/performer. Mendonca Ferreira was born in Rio de Janeiro on September 7, 1965. Her stage name is a combination of her father’s name and her late mother’s name (Analia Mendonca).
Mart’nalia literally grew up surrounded by Samba, probably dancing before she could walk very far and singing before she was fully conversant as a speaker. I have seen it among New Orleans musicians who were reared in musical families—for many of them they did not choose music, fate and their cultural environment made them musicians.
When last we at BoL looked in on Mart’nalia that was four years and a month ago (go here) and we highlighted a handful of tracks, this time we are doing a proper overview and are featuring tracks from all of her albums.
Here you will taste Samba in a multiplicity of varieties. It is noteworthy that Mart’nalia’s body of recordings features three live recording, each of which as its own strength from the Samba jam sessions and guest appearances by major Brazilian musicians on Ao Vivo (2004); to the raw, intensity of her performance in Berlin, Germany on Mart’nalia em Berlim (2006); and wrapping up with the new release Mart’nalia em Africa (2010) documenting a tour to Africa.
The Portuguese connection between Brazil and Angola is deep and far stronger any connection that we in the United States have with any grouping of Africans on the continent or in the diaspora. The African aesthetic base of Samba is especially evident in the percussion heavy essence of Samba music, which often is just drums and voice. And in regard it is not surprising to know that Mart’nalia is an awesome percussionist.
Every time I think the live recordings are the best of Mart’nalia, I check out the subtle richness of the arrangements on Mart’nalia’s studio work, I am forced to make a reassessment. The truth is that Mart’nalia is one of those musicians who knows how to work both in studio and in performance, so much so that you are hard pressed to choose one way over the other.
If you are new to Samba, hopefully this Mixtape will serve as a major, easy to enjoy, entry point. A word about the first track on the Mixtape, which is just voice and guitar, I think it is from Mart’nalia’s self-titled debut album, a 1987 recording that is near impossible to find. I have a selection of tracks that I acquired but aside from Mart’nalia there is absolutely no information: no track names, no year, no other identification whatsoever. All of the tracks are just voice and guitar without even hand percussion. I wish I knew more about the selections, but alas I just have to give thanks for favor of receiving the music.
There are so many other interesting tidbits of information such as the plethora of guests vocalists, guest musicians, and other deep cultural connections that run through Mart’nalia’s music. One oddity that you will undoubtedly enjoy is Mart’nalia’s Samba interpretation of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” which could be a Samba theme song.
I wish I knew enough about Samba to fully contextualize Mart’nalia’s music but I’m not a visitor gaping at a New Orleans secondline, The music’s got a hold of me. I don’t know what all is happening but I sure do like all that is happening.
Enjoy this wonderful taste of Brazil, this new world flavor of ancient Africa.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Mart’nalia Mixtape Playlist
01 Unknown selection
Pé do Meu Samba
04 “Pé do Meu Samba”
07 “Pé Do Meu Samba” (w/Caetano Veloso)
08 “Calma” (w/Zelia Duncan)
09 “Celeuma” (with Djavan)
10 “Tudo Menos Amor/ Sob A Luz Do Caneeiro” (w/Marthinho da Vila)
11 “Sonho Meu/ Todo Menino É Um Rei/ Vazio”
Menino Do Rio
13 “Soneto Do Teu Corpo”
14 “Essa Mania (Rest La Maloya)”
15 “Origem Da Felicidade”
Em Berlim Ao Vivo
16 “Pra Mart'nalia”
17 “Menino do Rio”
23 “Don't Worry Be Happy”
24 “Não Encontro Quem Me Queira”
25 “Tava Por Aí”
Em África Ao Vivo
28 “Para Comigo”
29 “Tava Por Ai”
30 “Batucada Final So Sei Que Sou Vila Isabel”
32 “Na Forma Da Lua”
33 “Odile, Odilá”
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