Об исполнителе (англ.) | About Artist (en)
On her fourth album, Lovely Difficult, Mayra Andrade
draws a world map that runs from her native Cap Verde to European pop and Tropicalist dreams. A confidential, generous, multilingual album.
Mayra Andrade is lovely – adorable, generous and radiant. Her firmly-rooted, distinctive, poetic, topical voice was immediately described a few years ago as “the other Cape Verde” – the sound of a Cesaria Evora freed of the twists of fate and patina of tradition.
Soon to be released, Lovely Difficult is the fourth album by this twenty-eight-year-old singer, who makes it plain that her life and aims are not as straightforward as you might think. She is not just a neo-traditional artist. She may be adorable, but she is strong-minded, bold and determined, too; adorable, but a free spirit in both her music and life. The album’s title, Lovely Difficult, is her partner’s pet name for her.
Mayra’s singing is a blend of radiant, dancing colors, velvet beats and spicy melodies. Her voice is subtly seasoned with pepper, as if the Europe of pop had always been a tropical archipelago. The songs conjure up an eternal summer that disperses the mists and chills, but never resort to the tinsel of exoticism. Sung in Cape Verdean creole, English and Portuguese, they carry us away in their warm, adventurous unpredictability. Mayra’s pop spans the world’s entire vast sweep from Western romanticism to Southern sensuality, and domestic reggae to African 3/4 time. It is topical, tropical, traveling pop. Her aim was simply to make “music that reflected my life”.
And her life has been very colorful. Her father fought for Cape-Verdean independence, a struggle supported by Cuba. When there were fears for his wife’s health during pregnancy, she left to have her child in the “brother country”. So Mayra was born in Havana. She spent her early childhood in Praia, Cape Verde. Then, at the age of six, she went with her mother and diplomat stepfather to Senegal, Angola and Germany. When she returned to Cape Verde at the age of forteen, she began to sing and won a gold medal at the 2001 Francophone Games contest in Ottawa.
Cesaria Evora made her country (“Cape Verde – not a cape and not green”, as Véronique Mortaigne of the Le Monde newspaper pithily put it) and the mulatto beats of the island of São Vicente, morna and coladera, famous worldwide. Mayra Andrade is from the island of Santiago, where the musical styles are more percussive, rhythmic and African – funana and batuque, genres that were frowned upon by the colonial elite and so never traveled. Mayra is passionate about them.
Her first decision as a singer was to put off recording. She performed a great deal on stage, but stayed away from the studio. One day, she said something to Orlando Pantera, the archipelago’s most independent and innovative artist at the time.
“I don’t know what to do with my music. I’d like to do something different.”
“Well, my dear, stop looking, you have the answer. Do something different!”
She remained determined to achieve that difference, but lost Pantera, who fell sick and died at the age of thirty-three on the very day when he was due to start recording her first album.
In 2006, she finally released that first album – Navega, a “roots” production acoustically recorded at the rate of three songs a day. She called the second album, Stória, Stória…, “a princess’s album”. It was made in Paris, Brazil and Cuba, and she took the songs on tour with eight musicians. She then recorded a trio concert for FIP radio. It provided the material for the following album, Studio 105. “After that, I decided I wanted to make a poppier album.”
She freely admits that Lovely Difficult is a paradox. “It’s a more varied, personal album. I’m a woman of my times, affected by so many influences. I’ve never written or sung so much in so many languages.”
Yes, Mayra Andrade speaks and writes “in four and a half languages” – Cape-Verdean Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, French and English (the half). She is part of a generation strongly attached to its Cape-Verdean identity. Now the time has come to broaden the spectrum. There are twice as many Cape Verdean citizens abroad as there are at home. This diaspora makes the small nation one of the most culturally and intellectually dynamic in Africa. “But Cape Verde hasn’t yet embraced modernity as much as other countries have. We’re kind of where Brazil was in the days of samba and bossa nova.”
Mayra wanted the album to be revolutionary yet accessible, pop and quirky, eclectic and personal. She admits “not liking albums that sound like vegetable salad. The greatest humiliation would be to make a record that sounds like a compilation of languages and styles.”
Lovely Difficult is the exact opposite. It shines with an independence and individuality that care nothing for stylistic and linguistic borders. She brought in friends from very different backgrounds: Yael Naim and David Donatien, Piers Faccini, Tété, Benjamin Biolay, Hugh Coltman, Krystle Warren, Pascal Danae, Mario Lucio Sousa and others. Each of the songs on the album mentions love – “except Rosa, which is about loneliness, so not too far off.”
Mike “Prince Fatty” Pelanconi (Lily Allen, Graham Coxon, etc.) produced the album in Brighton, achieving miracles of equilibrium. He had never recorded an album of world music and she had never done pop. Mayra describes it as “the meeting of two sensitive illiterates with only their antennae and instincts to guide them.”
She likes to think that her album conveys the same sense of adventure to be found in the work of Caetano Veloso. “Why not let yourself grow, change and move on? Why not get the public used to expecting the unexpected?” Yes, absolutely lovely and candidly difficult.