Maria Bethânia’s backyard is full of Brazilian tradition. Just like Brazil’s backyards. As one of the country’s most popular vocalists, she loves to share with her audience a repertoire that represents the social and ethnic diversity of Brazil. At this particular moment in her life, Bethânia ventilates her emotions in a masterful way. It’s commonly known that Maria Bethânia’s illustrious mother, Dona Canô, always has been the strong force in the life and career of her daughter. She was always there. When Dona Canô passed away on Christmas Day 2012, at the age of 105 years old, Bethânia needed to adjust; to find a way to live with the unreal distance between her and her beloved mother. Music provided an answer. It wasn’t planned to do a new studio album. First Bethânia wanted to go tour with her previous studio work, Oásis. But an inner voice told Bethânia to add new songs to her repertoire. Songs about Brazil’s mixed population; deep in the country’s ethnic history. About the Indians, the Caboclos (mixed Indigenous Brazilian and European), the Xavante (indigenous people from Mato Grosso, the state near Bolivia), about Iara (or Yara, a mythological nymph, based on ancient Guaraní (Indian) stories). They’re voices of the past that formed part of the creation of Brazil. It all seems to be personified in Bethânia’s artistic life. Composer/Singer Chico César (1964, Paraíba), who has Indian blood running through his veins, supported the idea and came up with two amazing compositions, “Xavante” and “Arco da Velha Índia.” The rest of the repertoire followed soon. Bethânia never recorded the songs before, with the exception of “Mãe Maria” (1943), which she recorded in 1976 on the album Pássaro Proibido. The rendition we have here is clearly dedicated to her late mother. It’s performed in a very personal way, only accompanied by the acoustic guitar from Maurício Carrilho. The most surprising song on the album might be “Dindi,” added as an extra song. The world famous bossa nova standard (with interpretations by Frank Sinatra, Wayne Shorter and many others) is something like the odd duck in the repertoire here. Antônio Carlos Jobim composed the song (with lyrics by Aloysio de Oliveira) in 1959.
Music, history, folklore, positive force: Dona Canô was a constant inspiration for Maria Bethânia’s performances. And all these qualities are here, in 13 extraordinary beautifully interpreted songs. The accompanying instrumentalists certainly deserve a special mention. The album opens with “Alguma Voz” in which pianist André Mehmari (1977, Niterói) creates an emotional and extremely beautiful foundation for Bethânia’s voice and makes the song sound even more vulnerable. It’s hard to imagine that the unique quality of the opening song can be continued in the following tracks. But it can, in each and every song. João Gaspar (1976, Rio de Janeiro) is a master on a diversity of guitars. Listen how perfectly he plays the Portuguese guitar on “Xavante.” Also note the way he plays the electric guitar and dobro on “Uma Iara/Uma Perigosa Yara”: it’s hauntingly beautiful. Both Mehmari and Gaspar are present in Brazil’s main jazz scene. Accordionist Toninho Ferragutti has a breathtaking appearance in “Casa de Caboclo,” in duet with guitarist Maurício Carrilho (1957, Rio de Janeiro). Of course the samba tradition is also present on this album: from the younger generation of samba composers, Bethânia chose “Povos do Brasil,” which honors the Indian tribes in Brazil. Also very traditional is the samba “Candeeiro Velho” that got a wonderful arrangement by Luciana Rabello, who also plays the cavaquinho in this song. Another samba is the cheerful “Folia de Reis” about a celebration of Three King’s Day, brought to Brazil by African slaves. The music sounds so Brazilian with accordion, trumpet (Jessé Sadoc) and background vocals that include happy children’s voices. It closes the official part of the CD; a festive end of the stroll through the cultures that mark Maria Bethânia’s career.
Maria Bethânia found a good musical partner in bassist Jorge Helder, an artist who also treasures the Brazilian music tradition in a healthy way. He assisted Bethânia in creating this very special, almost retrospective album. It’s like an explanation about what Maria Bethânia has been doing all her life: singing the music that she found in her emotional backyards. Touches from her childhood, influences from her exploration through Brazilian cultures, her interest in spiritual forces and most of all tradition. This album seems to have turned out into a confirmation for Maria Bethânia that her mother Dona Canô still is as present as she always has been. And always will be.
Biscoito Fino BF304-2 (2014)
In the USA released as:
DRG Brazil DRG-CD 31636 (2014)
- Alguma Voz (Any Voice) (Dori Caymmi – Paulo César Pinheiro)
- Xavante (Chico César)
- Casa de Caboclo (Caboclo’s House) (Paulo Dafilim – Roque Ferreira)
- Lua Bonita (Beautiful Moon) (Zé Martins – Zé do Norte)
- Candeeiro Velho (Old Candeleer) (Roque Ferreira – Paulo Cesar Pinheiro
- Imbelezô Eu/Vento de Lá (Embellished Me /Wind from There) (Roque Ferreira)
- Mãe Maria (Mother Maria) (Custódio Mesquita – David Nasser)
- Uma Iara/Uma Perigosa Yara (A Iara/A Dangerous Yara) (Adriana Calcanhotto)/Text by Clarice Lispector; edited by Fauzi Arap and Maria Bethânia)
- Moda da Onça (The Little Jaguar’s Way) (Folkloric song, adapted by Paulo Vanzolini)
- Povos do Brasil (People of Brazil) (Leandro Fregonesi)
- Arco da Velha Índia (Bow of Old India) (Chico César)
- Folia de Reis (Folly of Kings) (Roque Ferreira)
- Dindi (Bonus track) (Tom Jobim – Aloysio de Oliveira)