Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Catarina dos Santos, Radio Kriola, Reflections on Portuguese Identity

The Portuguese roots and Afro-diaspora flowerings over time have been beautifully significant from a musical point of view. The Portuguese musical transplantations (in many directions) sowed fruitful seeds with everything from Portuguese Fado to the diaspora developments in Brazil, Cape Verde, and Angola. We hear reflections on Portuguese identity and its transformation on a lively new album Radio Kriola (Arc EUCD2802) featuring singer Catarina dos Santos and a worthy assemblage of acoustic instrumentalists in a program of songs that touch on essential grooves and melodic beauty.

In a program of some 14 memorable songs we feel the gentle but insistent plunge of acoustic guitar, percussion, bass and accompanying instruments in a world where pan-African rhythms gently pulse with samba and folk strains in a poetic mixture, and Catarina's swinging sweetness ultimately carries the day.

So in "Ondja" a Brazilian afaxe turns into an Angolan semba while the lyrics pay tribute to the Angolan writer Ondjaki. The liner notes map out what we are hearing and when, and we can learn while we appreciate the music in itself, deeply soulful, filled with lyric melody, music of the highest caliber.

Both those who might know something of where this music comes from and those who do not can get much pleasure from this set. It does not matter if we come prepared or just open to musical adventure. 

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sarah Bernstein Unearthish, Crazy Lights Shining

Violinist-vocalist-recitationer Sarah Bernstein never ceases to engage me with her special dark and expansive music. The Sarah Bernstein Unearthish album Crazy Lights Shining (Phase Frame PFR004) is now upon us. This latest is a duo featuring Sarah as the violin-voice-text-composition person and Satoshi Takeishi on drums and percussion.

I have followed Sarah's musical unfolding and blossoming for around a decade I believe at this point. This new one continues logically what has come before. There are free-ish episodes, full-blown and memorable downtownish songs, soundscapey broods, and text-sound work. The 35 minutes of the program is very well-paced and poetic. Satoshi can lock into a folksy pulsation or weave sound color webs that correspond to Sarah's moodish forays.

Perhaps this is the souundtrack of our lives if you are NY Metropopologistically oriented. It is not especially a happy sound but it is exacted and brilliant, contemporary modern in its unfailing insightful soundings.

She to me is a treasure, albeit a local treasure but everything in the end has some locality attached to it, no? I recommend this unfailingly.  She is an original, a true original. Get this one.