Monica Salmaso,
(World Village, 2004)

Monica Salmaso is a Brazilian singer in her 30s. She straddles contemporary and traditional styles, performing a mixture of old and new songs. Even the new songs, however, have a connection with the rich tradition of her country's music. Although she sings in Portuguese, the CD sleeve has an explanation of each lyric, telling its story and background.

These are quiet songs, closer to folk tunes than many of the upbeat, polyrhythmic Brazilian music genres. Of course, since it is Brazilian, you can always feel the rhythm. This is appropriate for Salmaso's beautiful, understated singing. Each of the 13 tracks has a wonderful, complex melody, another trait associated with Brazil.

Most of the songs have only a few musicians on them, some just a guitar or piano, while others add a percussionist, accordion, baritone sax, bassist or cellist. "Cidade Lagoa" has only three clarinets and two bass clarinets (the quintet Sujeito a Guincho).

Others have a bit more. "Cabrochinha" and "Na Aldeia" are easygoing sambas with seven-string acoustic guitar, flute, clarinet, cello, cavaquinho (plucked lute), bandolin (mandolin) and percussion.

An example of her contemporary interpretations is "Sinhazinha (Despertar)." On this Chico Buarque song Salmaso is accompanied only by piano, which is played in a free-form style. Andre Mehmari complements, rather than accompanies her, as Salmaso sings the story of a black slave who comes from the past to visit the little daughter of her owner.

Salmaso's interpretations should appeal to a wide range of listeners. This is a fine example of music that deserves a much wider audience in the U.S.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 27 August 2005

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