Friday, April 16, 2004

Friday music: Marisa Monte

I am a casual fan of Brazilian music.  By that I mean that I like very much the Brazilian music I own--I enjoy how its rhythms are infectious but somehow they don't evoke sweaty dance floors the way dance music does here.  It's coolly rhythmic.  Or something.  It's not on the make, it's not trying to impress; listening to this music is more like the effect that having a funky melody in your head has on your walk down a street or in the mall.  But as I said, I'm a casual fan: I don't speak Portugese, and I wouldn't call myself a fan of any one singer (though Bebel Gilberto may be an exception).  Most of the Brazilian music I own, I've sort of stumbled on it in the bins and, curious sort that I am, I buy it. At any rate, I mention all this because yesterday after class, one of my students, who is originally from Rio, came up to me and gave me a CD she had burned with only the name Marisa Monte written on it.  "I hope you like this," she said.  It's playing now, and I do.
I had never heard of her before, so I have spent the morning poking around the Net, looking for information. Hereis a link for those interested in her bio.
As for what my student gave me yesterday, literally the only information I have about this disc is the singer's name.  No song titles (though one is a cover of a song I do have elsewhere, "Danca de Solidao"), much less what album(s) they are on.  Judging from the way the crowd noise on the live cuts abruptly cuts in and out, I'm going to guess it's a compilation of her own making.  She was generous, though, putting 14 songs on it.  Still, it's frustrating not to be able to give you titles; Susan, who rarely reads the cards in museums that accompany paintings, teases me about my sucking those cards dry of any information I can get (the curse of grad school, I fear), and I feel, oddly, just a bit deaf without those titles.  "What is this one called?" I ask myself.  "What album is it on?"  And as I query the air, I stop listening.
Anyway.  I would have to say that what you'll read at the link and what I've read elsewhere is true: she is indeed musically adventurous, arranging traditional Brazilian genres into something sounding avant-garde (she has worked with people like Laurie Anderson and John Zorn), doing straight-ahead pop, jazz, even art song . . . what anchors all this virtuosity is her voice: light and agile yet creamy and never sounding forced but always with a great deal of presence (indeed, what great Brazilian singer, male or female, does NOT sound like that?).  What I've heard (and read) today makes me want to visit the record store and pick one to hear what she can do when SHE determines the songs' sequences.
Tomorrow (Saturday movie day): Some thoughts on viewing Vertigo for the umpteenth time.

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