An Interview with Deolinda and Nelson Carvalho

Photo of Andy VanDette with Deolinda(This post is also available in Spanish.)

Andy VanDette (pictured with the band in the photo to the right) has been mastering music from Portugal and Brazil for years. One of his clients is the quartet Deolinda, who are now on tour in their native Portugal, as well as the UK and Germany, until June. Deolinda is Pedro de Silva Martins, his brother Jose Luis Martins (guitars), their cousin Ana Bacalhau (voice) and her husband Jose Pedro Leitao (bass), and together they play an optimistic and faster-tempoed version of the classically fatalistic fado. Their second album, Dois Selos e Um Carimbo (Two Stamps and a Seal), released in April 2010, hit the Portuguese charts at #1.

I spoke briefly with the band and their producer Nelson Carvalho, who also works with other chart-topping bands in Portugal such as Wraygun, Clâ, Virgem Suta, Sergio Godinho, David Fonseca, Ornatos Violeta, Rita Redshoes, Christina Branco, and others.

MW: How did you find Deolinda?

NC: They chased me for a while. I was not feeling too keen on working on what someone told me sounded like fado. Then I was sent a demo with a very nice booklet and the music was a very refreshing way of playing the old tired Portuguese fado. They knew what they wanted, all of the songs were good, and I connected quite easily with the members of the band.

MW: How is it to be a family quartet? Is the music-making more enjoyable? Or more complicated?

Deolinda: It is quite nice, actually. Being in a band is like being with your second family, because you travel together and go through so many things together. For us, because we are related, the process of getting to know one another, musically and personally, happened way before we were in Deolinda. When the band started everything just went faster and easier. The sound was already there, perhaps because the human connection was already there.

MW: How was this recording different than the first album?

Deolinda: With Dois Selos e Um Carimbo, we wanted to try out new things in terms of song structure, themes and sound, but we also tried to maintain some of the characteristics of our debut album, Canção ao Lado. So we decided to record all the songs live on tape, with all the musicians playing and recording at the same time.

NC: It was a live setup, with clear eye communication between them. Deolinda is more jazz ensemble, and less pop group.

MW: How did you find Andy VanDette?

NC: Pedro Tenreiro, A&R from Valentim’s label, introduced me to him on the first Suzana Felix album we did together. I like how he works and we have built a solid working relationship. He is great, and I don’t talk about people this way very often!

MW: Did your lives change because of the #1 song in the Portuguese charts? The Beatles say that people started treating them differently, did this happen for you, even in small ways?

Deolinda: Well, they did change. For the better, of course. We had other side jobs we had to ditch, much to our content. We became full-time musicians and did nothing but music, so it was quite a thrill to be able to do that. We did not feel that people in general started treating us differently. However, we can say that all our technical requirements for the live shows started being met by promoters without much negotiation, which has made life on the road quite a lot nicer.

MW: What’s next for Deolinda?

NC: Touring and touring and the next CD maybe, with me I hope.

Deolinda: Lots of mileage on our part, which means a solid and dynamic show, with every ounce of feeling and delivery we have inside of ourselves put into it.

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Susana Baca’s Afrodiaspora

Cover of Susana Baca Afrodiaspora(This post is also available in Spanish.)

Afro-Peruvian music experienced a second revival around the time when David Byrne and Yale Evelev of Luaka Bop released the compilation album The Soul of Black Peru (mastered by Masterdisk’s Scott Hull) in 1995. The release granted world-wide recognition to artists such as Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Chabuca Granda, Peru Negro, Eva Ayllon and Susana Baca among others, launching the careers of several into the World Music limelight. Eva Ayllon and Peru Negro were both nominated for three Grammys each and Susana Baca won a Grammy in 2002 for her first solo album Lamento Negro.

If you catch her live or listen to her latest CD, Afrodiaspora (mastered by Scott Hull in 2011), you’ll be impressed by the music, but also by the energy and spirit with which she sings. Even before there was a Luaka Bop, David Byrne’s first impressions of Susana Baca were lasting. He heard her singing the song “Maria Lando” of the well respected Chabuca Granda on a cassette, and some years later when it came time for the compilation album, David remembered “the haunting intensity of her voice.” (As quoted on the Luaka Bop website.)

In fact, it took David and Yale some effort to track her down. But eventually they did. David was on tour in Austin, Texas, and happened upon an exhibition of Afro-Peruvian photographs in a gallery. They contacted the photographer, Lorry Salcedo, about providing photos for the compilation booklet, and asked him if he knew a Susana Baca. “Amazingly enough,” recounts Yale, “she was his neighbor in Lima!”

Afrodiaspora is a unified album filled with diverse popular tunes from the African Diaspora in the Americas. This is music that Baca remembers as distinctly part of her own heritage in Peru, if only because many of these genres were being played on the radio when she was a child. (The following quotes are from the Afrodiaspora page at the Luaka Bop site.)

At that time there was actually “little Peruvian music on the radio,” she remembers, so “when I heard Celia Cruz play ‘Palo Mayimbe,’ it felt like something very much ours, even though it was Cuban.” There are tunes on this album from Venezuela to New Orleans, and somehow they all have Baca’s signature Afro-Peruvian flavor, yet remain a tribute to the origins of the music. She says “this is how I feel about this record, it is our celebration of the African presence in the Americas and the way it has become a part of Latin America.”

I asked Yale Evelev about the appearance of popular bands Calle 13 and Quetzal on Afrodiaspora, and he said “it’s a roots thing.” He said it’s done on hip hop albums all the time, but apart from that, it’s important for the different audiences to know more about the roots of the music they are listening to.

Calle 13 has included Baca as well as Totó la Momposina and Seun Kuti on their recordings, and now Calle 13 and Quetzal both appear on Baca’s album. It’s a shout out to a different audience, a way to acknowledge how so many musicians are influenced by each other.

Calle 13 celebrates pan-latinamericanism in their song and video “Latinoamerica.”

…and Susana continues the party with Afrodiaspora.

Recent accolades for Susana Baca include being named Peru’s official Minister of Culture and the President of the Commission of Culture for the OAS (Organization of American States) for 2011-2013. Pomp and circumstance aside, she’s still on the road and planning to perform at New York’s Joyce Theater April 17-22 in collaboration with the dance troop Ballet Hispanico.

Here are some of Susana’s notes on the songs on Afrodiaspora (from the Luaka Bop site):

1. Detras de la Puerta: a cumbia written by the great Columbian singer/songwriter, Ivan Benavides (Bloque, Sidestepper, Carlos Vives)

2. Bendiceme: written by Javier Lazo, a young Peruvian singer-songwriter

3. Yana Runa: means Black Man in Quechua. This song honors the Afro-Indian tradition so common throughout Latin America.

4. Plena Y Bomba: Javier Lazo added some lyrics to this song to give it a Peruvian flavor; it also includes the beautiful poetry of Rene Perez (Calle 13).

5. Reina de Africa: This song weaves the flamenco, tango and panalivio rhythms, evoking the image of the African goddess who survives in our continent.

6. Baho Kende Y Palo Mayimba: Susana visited Cuba and saw Merceditas Valdes sing songs to the orishas with 35 drummers, playing as one.

7. Coco y Forro: rhythms from the Northeast of Brazil, it features Wagner Profeta, on percussion, ex member of the group Ile Aiye from Salvador, Bahia.

8. Takiti Taki: from Venezuela, one of the many complex rhythms played by the drummers of Guatuire.

9. Que Bonito tu Vestido (Featuring Quetzal): homage to Amparo Ochoa, one of Mexico’s great voices who introduced Susana to the Son Jarocho style of Veracruz.

10. Hey Pocky Way: “I saw the families in the park on Sundays [in New Orleans], cooking, singing and dancing and it brought back memories of my own experience in Chorrillos the way the culture is passed on through the generations.”

11. Canta Susana: written by Victor Merino, and sung by the famous Peruvian salsa singer, Carlos Mosquera.

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