An entertaining if sometimes lightweight fourth set from the Cape Verdean singer.
Robin Denselow 2012-04-18
It was the great Cesária Évora, who died at the end of last year, who brought the extraordinary music of Cape Verde to international attention. But there is a batch of other singers trying to ensure that the distinctive styles of these islands off the west coast of Africa reach a wider market. There are male singers including Tito Paris, and a new generation of female artists including the confident Mayra Andrade and the adventurous Lura. And then there’s Nancy Vieira.
Viera currently lives in Lisbon but has been praised for having the finest voice in Cape Verde. Her fourth album proves that she is indeed a great singer – but also shows the limitations of her cool and sophisticated approach.
While Évora spent much of her life singing in bars before becoming rightly hailed as an international celebrity, Vieira has had a rather different life. She was born on the African mainland in Guinea Bissau, the daughter of a former ship’s captain and musician who had once played with Évora, but was now actively involved in the liberation war to force Portugal to relinquish its colonies in Bissau and Cape Verde. When the Portuguese withdrew, he became a minister in the new government and later the Cape Verdean Ambassador to Portugal, where his daughter began her musical career.
It’s a background that perhaps explains her style. While Évora could sound highly personal and emotional, Vieira is relaxed – but at times a little too detached. But No Amá is a classy album all the same, with her effortlessly clear voice backed by an equally cultured band, including the Brazilian cavaquinho, flute, percussion and Portuguese guitar (with fine solo work from Voginha and César Lima).
Many of the songs are lilting and pleasantly easy-going, such as opener Maylen, written by Mario Lucio, a musician and poet who happens to be the current Cape Verde Culture Minister. Then there are more upbeat but still easy-going songs penned by the Paris-based Cape Verdean, Teófilo Chantre, and a handful of slower pieces that show she is capable of more than high-class background music. The finely-sung Dxame Conche, and her treatment of Brasil (Nos Sonho Azul) by the celebrated morna composer B.Leza, comprise two highlights of an entertaining if sometimes lightweight set.