MART’NÁLIA: THE ART OF LOVE AND BEAUTY IN MUSIC
Mart’nália’s eyes are like large, limpid pools. They draw you into their world. Once you’re in, the quietude of this portal opens out into the vivacious world of song and dance – the world of samba – into which she was literally born and raised by her illustrious father Martinho de Vila. Then her mouth draws you in; the smile that adorns it is wide and beckoning. And it seems omnipresent. She laughs a lot too – shyly when she’s talking about herself, with a burst of pride when talking of her father and of Brasil and with reverence when she remembers Vinicius de Moraes to whom she pays homage on her most recent and celebrated recording Mart’nália Canta Vinicius de Moraes.
Amid laughter she tells you how much music – which is her all-consuming thrill – means to her. She speaks as she sings – in cadences not dissimilar to samba. She is also singing at the top of her game. When she does so on the repertoire of this album, her seduction is complete and it feels as if that a smiling Vinicius is also in the room with her. Seduction, after all, is what Vinicius was famous for; his poetry was filled with it. Remarkably, Mart’nália’s interpretations of Vinicius’ songs bask in seduction especially in the manner in which the lyrics whisper huskily as they come to life in the rhythm of her enunciation of the words and the hypnotism of the metaphors.
I had always hoped to speak with her; to hear what she had to say about this extraordinary project that she shared with the incomparable Arthur Maia, who has since, sadly, left us. But as Brasil struggles to find its way back to health and alegria, I knew that it was going to be a challenge. David McLoughlin – my friend, the Irishman who has gone native in São Paulo – was more than forthcoming in putting me together with Márcia Alvarez, Mart’nália’s manager, co-producer and friend.
Mart’nália herself took time off to answer my questions and listen to my effusive praise of her music and the album which some Brasilian critics seem to think less of when compared to her other work – which is where I beg to differ, of course. The album is brilliantly conceived and exquisitely executed with Mart’nália and Arthur Maia directing an ensemble of sublimely gifted musicians, who have given their all in honour of a beloved Brasilian icon, Vinicius de Moraes. What follows is an excerpt of the interview, followed by my review of the recording itself.
Raul Da Gama: Congratulations to you and Arthur and Marcia for this beautiful new album. I love it and I’m sure millions do too…
Mart’nália: Thank you very much. I’m so glad you liked the CD. Our production has been done here with so much love!
RdG: Tell me what does Vinicius mean to you – not what he means for Brasil – but for you personally?
M’n: [Without hesitating for a moment] For me Vinicius means love. He idolises and praises the woman in his lyrics. Our sufferings as women is translated and transformed into beauty! His poetry is life-giving to me!
RdG: How difficult was it for you to select only 14 songs from Vinicius’ [very large] songbook?
M’n: It wasn’t really difficult because I knew what I meant to do. We live in a time of madness which is expressed in discrimination and violence against women. Every day there are stories of women being subjected to physical and emotional violence – and frequently killed. But Brasilians are not naturally like this. Vinicius and his music is a great example. He glorifies women in his music. He puts us women on a high level. He shows us how to treat women and I wanted to capture this aspect of his work. I also wanted to show – both in the selection of the songs and how I sing them – how much beauty there is in women; how we yearn to be treated and how we can be loved [just like Vinicius does]. We are incredible human beings and we are capable of great love and light and this is fundamental to people’s lives – to all of humanity.
RdG: Are there any songs that you feel especially sad about having to leave out?
M’n: I have already recorded other songs by Vinicius. [Mart’nália suddenly becomes thoughtful here; even philosophical as she tells me] No, I don’t feel sad about anything in life. I refuse to give in to sadness. Why should I cry my dear? Life has a way of making everything right in the end… But to your question, if I did leave any songs out – singing on stage or on this CD, I will perform and record on another CD or on many other CDs; you can be sure of that.
RdG: How did you, Arthur and Marcia start putting this project together? Did you manage to meet regularly? Did you and Arthur rehearse the songs?
M’n: All of us would get together regularly at my house… Márcia, Celso Fonseca, Arthur and I… We made lists of songs and the only one I thought that I wouldn’t record was “Eu Sei Que Vou te Amar” because it was already recorded by many people. But Arthur was insistent; he thought we could do a version that was unique – and of course he was right: listen to the beautiful piano on what we recorded. Now I believe that this song was meant to be for him – for Arthur… As for rehearsals, there were none. We didn’t rehearse anything; we just went into the studio and we played… [She laughs, the husky “Mart’nália” laugh…]
RdG: Did you play these song on stage before entering the studio and recording the album?
M’n: As I said, I always love to play and sing Vinicius… but I have not played or sang any of these songs that ware on the CD before. This is all new.
RdG: How did you choose the musicians – Carla Bruni, for example? Whose idea was it to bring her to the recording?
M’n: The musicians… it was a group decision; and as it turned out, each musician brought his own class and gift with him… Some ideas had their own special charm and came to us in the studio, just like Milton Guedes, for example.
Carla Bruni was Marcinha’s idea and it worked … [laughs again] We sent the music to Paris with Celsinho Fonseca and he recorded with her there. I couldn’t go because I had to finish mixing the tracks.
RdG: Does your father have a big influence on your music? I’m sure it helps to have grown up in a house with so much music.
M’n: Yes, he was a major influence in my music and I love and cherish all the experiences with him. At home, growing up there were other influences as well and I love them all. In my teenage years there was a lot of listening to music from Motown… And there was also a lot of Caetano and Gilberto Gil, and, of course, Djavan…
RdG: As for yourself, where do you think the music comes from? The heart, the head or the whole body?
M’n: I love dancing… and so for me, I am going to say: ‘from the whole body… [Now she lets out a long and melodic laugh].
RdG: I asked that question because you are a creation of samba… no?
M’n: Yes! You got it! See… I still play percussion, right… [more laughter]
RdG: Is it more difficult or less difficult to make music today [since your father’s time]?
M’n: No… It’s not difficult at all… Making music… the creation… that is never difficult. I mean, look at my father; he just keeps composing even today!
RdG: Does the environment in Brasil make things difficult?
M’n: To begin with I think Brasil has an excellent geography. I mean we are blessed; we don’t have earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanoes… We love life and live according to the times. It is true that there are a lot of bad people responsible for directing the country right now… that’s so true!
RdG: Besides your father, who do you most admire?
M’n: There is a long list of musicians, but to mention a few: Djavan, Gilberto Gil, Caetano, Steve Wonder, Ella [Fitzgerald]; and then there’s also Nana Caymmi and Alcione… as far as people outside of music I do admire Pope Francis and Dr. Martin Luther King.
For me Vinicius means love. He idolises and praises the woman in his lyrics. Our sufferings as women is translated and transformed into beauty! His poetry is life-giving to me!
RdG: How is the record being sold today? [Too bad you can’t travel a lot to promote it because of COVID-19 …]
M’n: Right now, there is almost no sale of CDs, but it still managed to fulfill my every expectations in terms of awards* and the public’s response. I even managed to tour a bit to promote it.
RdG: Are you already thinking about the next project? Or is it too soon?
M’n: It’s a bit soon right now; we still have to see how this one works out. This one still has to have its time to be studied and so on… Maybe release a few tracks on an EP… we shall see.
RdG: I want to acknowledge that you are also a brilliant percussionist. Will you make someday make a recording where you are singing and playing percussion?
M’n: First of all, thank you for your kind words. Yes, it’s true – I do play percussion and I love to. I have already done so on several of my CDs and DVDs of live performances.
RdG: Abraço, Mart’nália… Abraços ao Mestre Martinho também… [Hug, Mart’nália… Hugs to Mestre Martinho too…]
M’n: Muito obrigado vou dizer a ele… [Thank you very much I will tell him …]
Mart’nália Canta Vinicius de Moraes
Mart’nália sings in a voice like seda crua cara – expensive raw silk – and she makes the words of Vinicius de Moraes songs wrap around your entire body before they pierce your heart. Clearly the songs speak to her in secret and in turn she whispers their seduction back at you. Canta Vinicius de Moraes puts Mart’nália in a rarefied realm among elite Brasilian musicians. As a vocal musician she reveals herself as an artist of the first order broadening out from the samba repertoire for which she is best known. Her voice is gorgeous: lustrous, precise and feather-light. Her musicianship is fierce as she digs into each word, brings ceaseless variety to soft dynamics and gives every phrase a special grace.
On this recording she sets the music aflame with the incomparable Arthur Maialeading a group of celebrated musicians that include Celso Fonseca on violão and guitar, Toquinho on violão and vocals on “Tarde em Itapoã”, Paulo Bragaon drums, and Humberto Mirabelli on percussion as well as Jorjão Barreto on violão and guitar. The album also includes the sylphlike and beguiling French vocalist Carla Bruni, who duets with Mart’nália on “Insensatez”. Mr Maia who provides spacious co-arrangements has pulled off a production miracle [before his tragic demise] in the layered and textured sound, and each musician brings deeply interiorised readings to the music of the legendary Vinicius de Moraes, while Márcia Alvarez helped produce this wonderful album.
The songs on this album have been selected from Vinicius’ oceanic poetry and songs. It features beautifully crafted arrangements of beguiling variety and sensuousness, in every phrase lovingly caressed phrase by Mart’nália. These magical interpretations of Vinicus’ songs have raised the bar on the most cherished music of Brasil. Mart’nália’s chosen material focuses on Vinicius’ most iconic works such as “Deixa” and “Insensatez”. Listening to the way in which she seductively bends the notes of the former song and how she sculpts the sustained inventions of “Tarde em Itapoã”, it’s clear that there’s not a semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered. The result is that the black dots of music fly off the page and swirl in the air in the room before finding their way to your heart.
Clearly every musician – especially Arthur Maia, who delivers a hugely powerful performance on what was to become his swansong – is completely attuned to Mart’nália’s vision and artistry. Make no mistake Mart’nália is clearly an artist to reckon with well beyond the arena of Brasil’s ubiquitous samba.
This album is a 20th Latin Grammy Awards Winner for Best Samba/Pagode Album
Video credits: Directed by: Jodele Larcher; Screenplay and co-direction: Márcia Alvarez; Director of photography: Bernardo Scotti; Assistant cameraman: Peter Estácio; Lighting: Miro Light; Assistant to the director: Kelly Toledano; Production executive: Lucilia Coelho; Dancers: Kadu Vieira and Dandara Ventapane; Set design: Vini Fabretti; Editing: Diego Gonzalez and Rafael Baptista; With gratitude to Circo Voador.
Track list – 1: Intro to Samba da Benção; 2: A Tonga da Mironga do Kabuletê; 3: Deixa; 4: Um Pouco mais de Consideração; 5: Minha Namorada; 6: Eu Sei Que Vou te Amar; 7: Sabe Você; 8: Onde Anda Você; 9: Você e eu; 10: Insensatez; 11: Tarde em Itapoã; 12: Maria vai com as Outras; 13: Canto de Ossanha; 14: Finale to Samba da Benção
Personnel – 1: Vinicius de Moraes: spoken word; Mart’nália: text and spoken word; 2: Mart’nália: voice and vocal; Arthur Maia: bass, vocal, arrangements and musical production; Fernando Caneca: violões, guitar and arrangements; Paulo Braga: drums; Macaco Branco: pandeiro, tamborim, congas and effects; Analimar Ventapane, Marcello Ferreira and Raoni Ventapane: background vocals; 3: Mart’nália: vocals and pandeiro; Celso Fonseca: violão, guitar, arrangements and production; Jorjão Barreto: keyboards; Alexandre Cavallo:bass; Flavinho Santos: drums; 4: Mart’nália: vocals, reco do trambique, pandeiro and tamborim; Celso Fonseca: violão, guitar, vocals, arrangements and production; Jorjão Barreto: keyboards, vocals and arrangements; Alexandre Cavallo: bass; 5: Mart’nália: vocals; Celso Fonseca: violão, guitar, triangle, batuque no violão, arrangements and production; Jorjão Barreto:keyboards and vocals; Alexandre Cavallo: bass; Flavinho Santos: drums; 6: Mart’nália: vocals and effects; Arthur Maia: contrabass and electric bass, arrangements and production; Renato Neto: grand piano, keyboards and arrangements; Celso Fonseca: guitars; Di Stefanno: drums; 7: Mart’nália:vocals and afoxé; Celso Fonseca: guitar, arrangements and production; Alexandre Cavallo: bass; Jorjão Barreto; grand piano and keyboards; Flavinho Santos: drums; 8: Mart’nália: vocals and pandeiro; Arthur Maia:baixolão, arrangements and production; Humberto Mirabelli: violão, guitar and arrangements; Milton Guedes: gaita; Paulo Braga: drums; André Siqueira:bongõ, shakere and reco; 9: Mart’nália: voice, vocal and bucket; Celso Fonseca: violão, guitar, vocal arrangements and production; Alexandre Cavallo: bass; Jorjão Barreto: keyboards and vocal; Flavinho Santos: drums; 10: Mart’nália: vocals; Celso Fonseca: violão, arrangements and production; Alexandre Cavallo: contrabass; Jorjão Barreto: grand piano; Marcelo Costa:chapa com vassourinha, xequeré and woodblocks; Carla Bruni: French vocals; 11: Mart’nália: spoken voice and vocals; Toquinho: vocals and violão; Arthur Maia: bass, grand piano and vocals, arrangements and production; Celso Fonseca: violão; André Siqueira: effects, cuica, tantan, caixa, garrafinha, tamborim, prato and surdo; 12: Mart’nália: voice and vocals, pandeiro, triangle and effects; Arthur Maia: baixolão, shakere, moringa, vocals, arrangements and production; Fernando Caneca: violões; Tito Junior: flute; Di Stéfanno:drums; Macaco Branco: reco, shakere, cajon, pandeiro, caixa surdo, tarol, sementes and effects; André Siqueira: berimbau; Analimar Ventapane, Marcello Ferreira and Raoni Ventapane: background vocals; 13: Mart’nália: voice and vocals; Arthur Maia: bass and vocals, arrangements and production; Fernando Caneca: violões and guitar; Whatson Cardozo: clarinet; Paulo Braga: drums; André Siqueira: conga, shakere, surdo, pandeiro and cuica; Analimar Ventapane, Marcello Ferreira and Raoni Ventapane:background vocals; 14: Mart’nália: voice and vocals; Arthur Maia: bass, vocals, arrangements and production; Fernando Caneca: violões and guitar; Whatson Cardozo: clarinet; Paulo Braga: drums; André Siqueira: conga, shakere, surdo, pandeiro and cuica; Analimar Ventapane, Marcello Ferreiraand Raoni Ventapane: background vocals; Finale: Vinicius de Moraes: voice; Mart’nália: spoken word
Released – 2019
Label – Biscoito Fino
Runtime – 44:20
Por Raul da Gama, Latin Jazz Network
Foto: Marta Azevedo