By Mayra Andrade
Cat: Sterns STCD 1110/11
Already, the young Cape Verdean artist Mayra Andrade has established for herself a solid reputation as a significant singer-songwriter. By her early teens, she was collecting international awards, most notably, at just 16 years of age, winning the highly prestigious song writing prize at the Francophone Games in Canada. But although clearly a rising star, she has always sought her own artistic path. That is perhaps understandable - her home country has produced a huge number of female singing stars (but very few male voices). Inevitably, comparisons are always being made to the barefoot diva, Cesaria Evora, and the plethora of younger singers like Titina, Teofilo Chantre, Tcheka, or the Lisbon-born Cape Verdeans Sara Tavares, Lura and Carmen Souza.
Andrade's father fought the Portuguese colonialists in Cape Verde's war of independence, and she was, in fact, born in Havana, Cuba. After her parents' divorce, her mother married again, to a diplomat, and her semi-nomadic upbringing saw her grow up in Senegal, Angola and Germany before she returned to her homeland. Moving to Paris in 2002, she took formal singing lessons but was determined to retain her Cape Verdean roots.
Performing throughout the Portuguese-speaking world, taking the stage in Praia, Mindelo and Lisbon, she won many fans for her individual and especially fluid vocal style. She often sings in Kriolu (a fusion of West African languages and old sPortuguese) with performances that are imbued with tradition - yet are, at once, both subtly and dramatically modern.
A key influence was the Cape Verdean composer Orlando Pantera who did so much to promote a more contemporary approach to his country's musical heritage before his tragic death in 2001, aged just 33. "Orlando had the courage to do what I expected to do one day: use our roots to do something new," Andrade says. The release of her debut album Navega in 2006 gave her music an international window. It was well received, picking up the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik (the German record critics award) from a jury comprised of more than 100 musical journalists and, in 2008, she was short-listed for best newcomer in Britain's BBC...