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As seen in the Transitions Abroad Webzine September 2008 Issue

"Maré" by Adriana Calcanhotto

Reviewed by Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl

Adriana Calcanhotto is among Brazil’s most successful singers/songwriters of the past decade and a half. In Brazil she has won several gold and platinum awards for her albums, but outside Brazil her albums are only available as expensive and poorly marketed imports. She is also popular in Argentina and Portugal, where she has recently toured, but she is otherwise not well known on the international stage.  One of the reasons may be that, unlike some of her contemporaries among Brazilian singers such as Bebel Gilberto, she sings exclusively in Portuguese, which makes her music less accessible to international audiences.

Adriana Calcanhotto has proven her talent as a musician, singer, and songwriter in the nine CDs she has released since 1990. She is part of a younger generation of musicians devoted to the broad Brazilian genre “MPB” (Música Popular Brasileira or Popular Brazilian Music), a movement that started in the early 1960s. MPB fuses traditional Brazilian rhythms and music with modern rock elements, while emphasizing engaging and thoughtful lyrics. One of the inherent qualities of Brazil’s popular music (MPB) is its adaptability and openness to new influences and directions, and Calcanhotto definitely incorporates this openness and penchant for experimentation into her own music. She combines new and old material with her own lyrics and new experimental arrangements, showing that she is not bound by tradition, but by a quest to experiment with new forms of musical expression.

Adriana Calcanhotto’s latest album “Maré,” which means “Tide” is part of a series of releases in which she explores themes and music related to the sea. Just as with her previous CDs, she has assembled a great group of musicians--including Moreno Veloso (son of Brazilian music legend Caetano Veloso)--who skillfully back up her guitar and vocals. Her own songs stand out with their poetic lyrics and slightly melancholic melodies, but she also performs songs of other Brazilian songwriters, among them Dorival Caymmi and Caetano Veloso, two of Brazil’s most popular stars of the twentieth century.

Despite the varied repertoire from a number of composers and collaborators, “Maré” is a cohesive musical effort, thanks to the creative talent of Calcanhotto and her producer Arto Lindsay, a U.S. producer and experimental composer, who worked and played with New York avant-garde musicians during the 1980s. Even though she performs songs by other songwriters, Calcanhotto succeeds in giving each song her own unique interpretation and musical arrangement, never copying another artist’s sound, but always turning other material into her own unique musical expression, often with unusual and experimental arrangements.  The songs on “Maré” also stand out for their lyrics, which are often complex and abstract. They are more about describing a state of mind, a sensation, or feeling, in poetic terms than about telling a story or relating a message. Here is an example from the album’s title song “Maré,” for which Calcanhotto wrote the lyrics:

“One more time
The sea comes
To give itself
As an image,
A landscape,
From arid to a mirage…”

In contrast to recent CD releases by some of her better-known contemporaries, who often include well-known Bossa Nova classics, “Maré” introduces new and recent material by the younger generation of Brazilian songwriters, which brings a new fresh wind to contemporary Brazilian music. For anyone interested in Brazilian music beyond Bossa Nova, Andriana Calcanhotto’s new release “Maré” is definitely worth checking out. The CD was released on the Sony BMG Brazil label, and is available as an import.

For more information, check out Adriana Calcanhotto’s website: www.adrianacalcanhotto.com.