MAYRA ANDRADE / “Mayra Andrade Mixtape”

mayra andrade 28.jpg I’ve yet to figure out how the two small countries of Cape Verde and Cuba produce so many talented musicians. Now along comes Mayra Andrade and she further complicates my confoundment. Mayra was born 1985 in Havana, Cuba to parents from Cape Verde. After a divorce, her mother married a man who was a member of the Cape Verdean independence movement and subsequently became an ambassador. Although Mayra would spend a month or two in Cape Verde every year or so, Mayra grew up in Senegal, Angola and Germany. She currently resides in Paris. In a sense she is quintessential Cape Verdean—a large majority of Cape Verdians live outside of Cape Verde, thereby making Cape Verde virtually a nation in diaspora. Mayra is fluent in three languages (Portuguese, Cape Verdian Creole, and French, and is also conversant in English). The first music she remembers singing was Brazilian and her current band includes Brazilian musicians. She is more urbane, more sophisticated than ninety percent of native born Cape Verdeans yet Cape Verdean roots music is her foundation. mayra andrade 16.jpg In one interview she said she wanted to create music that looked like her, which begs the question what does she look like? She is an example of the African diaspora that defies easy categorization along old fault lines. She’s not simply black as opposed to white. She is not rural in upbringing or in education. If anything she is what most socially conscious, post-colonial Africans in the diaspora are, and this is especially true of the Cape Verdeans: a mix of world-wide influences on the one hand, and fiercely dedicated to her people and culture on the other hand. It can be disconcerting for those who look for simple certainties. She doesn’t sound old, her voice is clearly young but her style respects and represents traditions that were old before she was born. I could name at least five other, young, female vocalists who intimately identify with Cape Verde (Sara Tavares, Lura, Carmen Souza, Maria de Barros, Nancy Vieira) and in all of them there is this same charming nostalgia at the center of their sound, this longing for an embrace of what, for them as individuals, never existed, i.e. their physical oneness with Cape Verde. They mostly live outside of Cape Verde. They all bring other forms to their music, including other instruments and other musicians to sing their expansive repertoire of songs that celebrate their intimacy with a distant heritage that is an essential element of their being. Listening to them is such a quiet ecstasy. Their sound makes your heart smile. It is like receiving a delicious kiss in your sleep: was it a dream or did love really visit your lips? mayra andrade 17.jpg The music is rarely loud but it reverberates, shaking our consciousness, slow caressing our jaded minds, awakening us to the possibility of tenderness in modern life, a possibility which our minds tell us is either rare or not possible because the world is so, well, is so harsh. But for the moment while listening to Mayra we really believe in the strength of softness in helping us to live a better life. Mayra has produced three albums thus far. Her debut album Navega was a quickly produced, acoustic set that was worked out in the studio as they recorded. Navega was critically well received. What most people respond to is the spontaneous gentleness that seems to imbue almost every track, sort of like fingertips tracing your shoulder line or brushing quickly down your forearm, remarkably subtle and at the same time hugely arousing. Her second album Storia, Storia was an international project overseen by Brazilian producer Alê Siqueira and recorded in France, Brazil and Cuba with musicians from Cape Verde, Cuba, Brazil, and Cameroon, along with a plethora of guest appearances which are wonderfully integrated into the sonic fabric, resulting in a unique and unified sound. The album never sounds like a pastiche of thrown together elements; rather this is a colorful tapestry that melds a wide palette of aural colors into a subtle and entrancing sonic montage floating over a cornucopia of string instruments including kora, cello, guitars of all sorts, and firmly resting on a bed of hand played percussion instruments. mayra andrade 09.jpg For her most recent offering, Studio 105, Mayra simply recorded a small performance featuring selections from her previous albums along with a few new interpretations. The supporting musicians are Munir Hossn on guitars, Rafel Paseiro on bass, and Zé Luís do Nascimento on drums. This quiet music is easy to mistake for merely pleasant but in truth there is an intricate intimacy at work in Mayra Andrade’s creations. Whether softly playing a lilting rhythm with a knife blade caressing a metal scrapper resting on the front of her shoulder, or wordlessly humming as one of her musicians solos, the music feels like a lover whispering in your ear: this is how my day went, how was it with you? How does my tongue tip taste in your inner ear? The moon wants to know what shall we do with the rest of this balmy night? Humphrey Bogart had the right idea: play it again. —Kalamu ya Salaam Mayra Andrade Mixtape Playlist mayra andrade cover 01.jpg Navega 01 “Mana” 02 “Domicransa” 03 “Lua” 04 “Regasu” 05 “Dispidida” mayra andrade cover 02.jpg Stória Stória 06 “Stória Stória” 07 “Juána” 08 “Konsiénsia” 09 “Badiu Si" 10 “Morena, Menina Linda” mayra andrade cover 03.jpg Studio 105 11 “Tchapu Na Bandera” 12 “Storia, Storia” 13 “Seu” 14 “Dispidida” 15 “Tunuka” 16 “Lapidu Na Bo”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 at 5:12 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “MAYRA ANDRADE / “Mayra Andrade Mixtape””

tayari Says:
January 19th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Let me make a humble attempt at why Cuba, Cape Verde, and (I would add) New Orleans “produce so many talented musicians.” It’s the African essence pulling in all that is appealing in a dynamic mix of all kinds of musics from a plethora of cultures. Thank you, Kalamu, for continually gifting us with your musical knowledge and passion.

taro nombei Says:
January 22nd, 2011 at 12:21 pm

yes thanks indeed for this — and all the posts!

Timiko Says:
January 21st, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Excellent, EXCELLENT article!

I’ve been a fan of Mayra’s for only a few months. But after accidentally discovering her song “Navega” on YouTube, I’m definitely hooked. I never could quite put into words why I love her music so much. After all, it does completely go against my familiar African-American gospel-hip hop-R&B/Pop upbringing. All I could gather was her sound is richly delicious like grandma’s homemade chocolate cake and my senses were in constant demand for more.

However, with your brief explanation of the culture and your romantic comparisons of her sound to an unexpected kiss, an arousing touch, and sweet whispers in the ear I at least know I’m not alone… or crazy. (haha)

The tenderness of her music boldly commands the full attention of my time, my emotions, and my money. And like a lovesick listener, I freely and HAPPILY give.

Thank you for posting.

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