Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In review--Carmen!

Carmen Souza
Protegid (Protection)
Galileo Music

Imagine if Billie Holiday sang in Creole and revisited her African roots then you would be half way to describing the voice of Cape Verdean Carmen Souza. The globetrotting musician possesses one of the most out-of-this-world voices to come along in a long time. On her album Protegid Carmen gives her vocals a tour of the African Diaspora, leaping back and forth between Cape Verdean music and American jazz. She sings in half-scat and half glissando uttering phrases in alto and then trilling in the soprano with her heavy vibrato voice fluttering like nervous birds. I recall Zap Mama more than I do Cesaria Evora, the Queen of Cape Verdean song.

Protegid feels more like world travel than world music. The album possesses everything from heavily syncopated Manhattan cabaret jazz to Afro-Latin grooves and energetic funana rhythms that introduce the song Afri Ka. Accordion, double bass, syncopated piano, various percussion, an Arabic oud (Adel Salameh) and guitar offer a backdrop for Souza’s spiritual-tinged lyrics. She sings about spiritual tests and challenging topics such as child abuse in Mara Marga which ends the otherwise uplifting album on a somber note.

My favorite track, Horace Silver’s Song for My Father recalls another virtuoso, Stevie Wonder’s Afro-Latin-tinged songs. The effervescent piano interlocking with the Afro-Latin percussion and double bass contributes the perfect canvas for Souza’s meanderings. In contrast Sodade (made famous by Cesaria Evora) features haunting piano and soulful vocals. Decision sounds like it hailed from the heart of tribal Africa with its whispery grunts and poly rhythms that introduce the song.

Protegid has a lot going on musically from dense percussive grooves, jazz idioms, vocals journeying up and down scales, scat, and a variety of musical styles. It’s not an easy-listening album by any stretch and the only relaxing song on the album is Sodade. Therefore, this album invigorates, but would not be beneficial to a stressed out listener. I had to wait until I felt relaxed to give this album a good listen. If you’re in the right frame of mind Protogid could take you on an enchanting ride across the African Diaspora. And if you're not, it could overstimulate an exhausted nervous system. Not suggested for bedtime.

http://www.galileo-mc.com or http://www.galileo-mc.de/

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