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FAME Review: Paula Santoro - Mar do Meu Mundo

Paula Santoro's backing band opens Mar do Meu Mundo in a gorgeous lush intro underscored by hypnotic percussives until Santoro glides in like a very mellow trumpet, singing as one with the instruments before transitioning into laryngeal norms. As the song, Gaunabara, proceeds, it takes on an almost Sade-esque timbre, cutting the ground between that exquisite Nigeran-born British chanteuse and Astrud Gilberto. In truth, though, Paula's solidly in the Astrud vein: cool, calm, and collected down to the bone, as refreshing as an afternoon breeze, as soothing as the sun setting slowly into the Pacific.

As the track titles show (below), the lyrics to the songs remain untranslated from their native tongue, something I'm highly in favor of. All languages have their native musics and inflections, and to force them to adapt to another dialect often damages subtleties. More, "latinate" vernaculars contain more inherent music than most other languages, so pitch-poetics can also be surrendered when translating (I do wish, though, that the 12-page booklet contained the English print versions alongside the Portugese; woulda been nice to know what's being addressed by the vocalist).

Samburá de Peixe Miúdo, with its streetwise chorus, gives away something not as critically noted in samba and other musics as should be: they're very close to proletarian modes and ways, to folk music. My favorite cut, Mar Deserto, however, ventures almost in a classical direction with quite a progressive intro, containing elements resonating very nicely with Terry Riley and gamelon musics…showing quite plainly that the extensive percussives of Central and South America find common ground with other cultures. The arrangement is beautiful, here executed by Artur Andres (Rafael Vernet attends the remainder of the songs and acquits himself with equal grace; Santoro possessing refinement in her choices of accompaniment), as picturesque as a painting. A very solid recording, Mar joins the current wave of top-shelf efforts revivifying once more those oh-so-hip cool modes from below the hot equator.