M'bem di fora (I've Come from Far Away)
(Times Square, 2007)

M'bem di fora (I've Come From Far Away) is the second North American release from Lura, a Portuguese singer whose roots extend from the northwest African islands of Cape Verde. Much of the music has more of a Cape Verde sound vs. a Portuguese sound. In the promotional material, Lura explains the rhythms from each of the 10 islands is quite varied and she has taken the liberty of exploring all the islands have to offer, musically speaking.

Much of the music is similar in spirit to what you might hear from Cesaria Evora. Where Lura's vocals differ from Cesaria is that Lura seems fresh. While I truly enjoy Cesaria, she sounds older and more weary with the world at times. Lura has more of a joy-of-life feel extending from her music.

The first track on the CD, "Bida Mariadu (Bad Life)," is a very pretty introduction to Lura's music. Her vocals are crisp, yet light. The intro -- "Ah ah ah / Eia eia eai" repeated several times -- is quite a hook. I may not understand the language, but can appreciate how Lura's tongue flits over the words. Fortunately, the liner notes have English translations. The title of the track belies the emotions invoked by the piece. In fact, the melody to me is very positive and not indicative of a bad life at all.

The flamenca guitar playing on "Ponciana" adds a certain European flair to this track. Pedro Joia has very nimble fingers. (With two dozen or more musicians playing on various tracks on this CD, I won't be listing them all in this review). Lura matches that nimbleness as she occasionally speeds up her vocals to an olympic pace. I'm surprised she doesn't mess up as the words sound like a tongue-twister. Ponciana is the name of a girl who is expecting a child out of wedlock. Her parents have promised her to one man while she is in love with another. You can see a video for this track on Lura's website posted at the end of the review. It will help if you read Portuguese or French.

"No Bem Fala (Let's Talk about Them)" definitely has a Cape Verdean sound. If I didn't know better (since I have the liner notes) I could almost swear this is a Cesaria Evora song. There is something about the melody that sounds so familiar. The "them" that Lura is refering to are the people of Cape Verde.

The final track on M'bem di for a, "The Enchantment of the Funana," has a more mainland African feel to me. The beat is very fast-paced, marked by what sounds like tribal drums. What I found amusing is that from the moment this track starts, I have found myself bouncing along to the rhythm. The song impacted my toddlers the same way. This is simply a dance tune. If you read the English translation of the lyrics you find out the funana is a type of dance and the song is about how the music and dance can cast a spell, so to speak, on the crowd.

While Lura might currently be a Portuguese citizen, you can definitely tell her parent's Cape Verde roots had an impact on her! If you like Cesaria Evora and/or Cape Verde music in general, you should seriously consider checking Lura CDs out. I will continue to listen to my Evora CDs, but I think there is room for some Lura as well. I look forward to seeing what else Lura releases.

review by
Wil Owen

22 December 2007

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