Here on Mares Profundos,
Rodrigues creates her own superb versions of sambas
written in the 1960s by the illustrious team of lyricist Vinícius de Moraes and
composer Baden Powell. This includes all eight of their famed Afro-sambas, which
emphasized samba's African roots by using rhythmic and lyrical content
appropriated from the chanting invocations of Afro-Brazilian religious
polytheism. As a great singer and a black woman from Bahia (a coastal area of
Brazil most impacted by arrival of African slaves), Rodrigues brings an innate
sense of musical understanding to the material (and its social implications).
The timeless arrangements of Luiz Brasil add immensely to the album as well,
beautifully complementing her world-class voice with spare but tasteful
accompaniment that alternately includes samba's rhythms and acoustic guitar
underpinnings, as well as a rich vocal choir (particularly on the stunning
"Canto De Ossanha"), a festive horn section, and a sublime mid-size string
section. This deserves an honored spot in any Brazilian music fan's collection.
The Bahian region of Brazil has sent the world some invaluable music, much of it expressed to the widest audience through artists who aren't native to the region. So the drummers of Olodum propel Paul Simon's Rhythm Of The Saints and deeply inspire Caetano Veloso and untold other Brazilian artists. Virginia Rodrigues, though, is the quintessence of the region's aesthetic pricelessness. Her Sol Negro won global accolades, and its follow-up, Nós, is an even more precious gem. Rodrigues melds Bahian rhythmic aesthetics and a pop feel that ranges from evening-gown jazz hybrids (with choral background vocals!) to sheer displays of her broad-winged midrange vocalizations. Produced by Veloso, Nós opens with a song for the African deity Exú and invokes periodic ritual energies, swirling languidly through Rodrigues's vocals and finding refractions in the layers of pristine production beneath each song's surface. It's a rare find, something this special. --Andrew Bartlett
Rodrigues's sophomore album, Nos, is the sort of session that sends
chills up the spine--and a warm gust straight to the soul. Her version of Bahian
music employs the Brazilian region's percussive traditions in almost
subterranean ways so that her voice can soar across the top of the rhythms.
There's a mysticism and spiritual core to Nos that's of course connected
deeply to Bahian traditions but has global relevance. --Andrew Bartlett
With her rich contralto voice dripping with operatic intonation, African Brazilian Virginia Rodrigues' 12-song Sol Negro has a fresh and delightfully idiosyncratic take on both new material and some standards from the Brazilian lexicon. With guests Gilberto Gil, Djavan, Milton Nascimento, and artistic director Caetano Veloso, you know the results can be nothing but classy. It is also magical as the sparse arrangements (sometimes with string quartet), cool-school jazz arrangements, solitary harp, or bossa nova guitar set elegant backdrops for her startling but gentle vocals. "Noite De Temporal," with her aria evoking voice set to skeletal berimbau and percussion, is as spine-tingling as it gets, while "Israfel" with solo harp accompaniment has all the emotion of the best Fado or Morna from Cape Verde. In between is a sophisticated range of material and musical disciplines that never strays from being totally Brazilian and utterly absorbing. --Derek Rath