Monday 10th March - Tuesday 11th March
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.
This is how the Cape Verdean poet Vasco R.A. Pires once described the joy and the mystery of Mayra Andrade’s voice: “Like the constant caress of the ocean waves, Mayra’s voice expresses our soul and spirit, and the world is amazed.”
“Lovely Difficult” – the pet name given to her by her partner – is 28-year-old Mayra’s fourth album. With the first two, she explored the musical traditions of the Cape Verdean islands where she lived, on and off, throughout her childhood and teenage years. With the third, recorded live with only guitar, percussion and double bass to accompany her, the jazzier side of her muse was brought to the fore. Now, with “Lovely Difficult”, she has brought together the many strands of her influences to weave a new musical tapestry that is entirely her own. “With each album, the songs became a little more personal,” she says. “On the first album especially, the lyrics told stories that were based on observations or moods influenced by the people you meet every day on the Cape Verde islands – the fisherman, the farmer, the girl in the street. With “Lovely Difficult”, I became more interested in writing about me, my own life and my own experiences.”
The Republic of Cape Verde consists of ten islands in the Atlantic Ocean, 350 miles off the coast of Senegal. First populated by the Portuguese in the 15th century, the islands became an important staging post for trade – especially the slave trade – between Europe and Africa, and the Americas. Many different cultures came together here, creating a rich new culture where almost every island was able to shape its own, subtly different musical identity.
Mayra Andrade’s father fought for Cape-Verdean independence, a struggle that was supported by the Cuban government. When there were fears for his wife’s health during pregnancy, she left to have her child in the “brother country” where medical facilities were reputed to be much better. Ten years after the Cape Verdean islands had achieved independence, Mayra was born, in 1985, on Cuban soil and thus acquired Cuban nationality. She spent her first years in Praia, Cape Verde, until her mother divorced and remarried. Mayra’s stepfather was a diplomat who took his young family first to Senegal and Angola, then, after a spell back on the islands, to Germany. When this marriage also broke down, Mayra and her mother returned to Cape Verde. Mayra was then fourteen years old and fond of singing. Artistically supported and nurtured by Orlando Pantera, the archipelago’s most important artist at the time, she was blessed with a voice to melt a glacier as well as a fine sense of phrasing. And she was a quick learner. Aged sixteen she won a gold medal at the 2001 Jeux de la Francophonie songwriting contest in Ottawa, Canada. A year later, she moved to Paris in order to take vocal lessons. Here she assembled the musicians who would, in 2006, help her record her debut album “Navega”. For this, she received the German record critics’ award, “Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik”. In 2008 she won the Newcomer award at the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music. Her second album “Storia, storia”, recorded in Paris, Brazil and Cuba, followed in 2009. The live album “Studio 105” was released in 2010.
“Lovely Difficult” was recorded in Brighton with the producer Mike “Prince Fatty” Pelanconi. Prince Fatty might be best known for his work with Lily Allen, Graham Coxon and Adrian Sherwood. In terms of mood, however, the album he produced for the reggae singer Holly Cook is a much better indicator for the beguiling warmth of touch and texture he has achieved with Mayra Andrade. “Musically, I wanted to create an album that was still very much based on what I used to do before,” she says. “But I made the song structures a little less complex this time round. I tried to make the songs a bit more accessible, universal – more “pop”. All in the spirit of opening up. I wanted to invite people who don’t normally listen to world music into my world. In turn, I wanted to connect with a more universal music world.”
Aside her own fine and multi-lingual compositions – Mayra sings in French, English, Cape Verdean Creole and Portuguese – “Lovely Difficult” also contains songs by, amongst others, Benjami Biolay, Krystel Warren, Hugh Coltman and the Cape Verdean artist Mario Lucio whose “Ilha di Santiago” is an ode to Mayra’s home island. “I listened to a lot of songs before I made my choice.” says Mayra. “I judged each song on its own merit, regardless of its background or musical style. I chose the songs I liked the most - songs in which I recognised myself and felt I could add something of my own personality to. Each song contributed something to the overall balance and spirit of the album.”
The musicians who recorded the album came from all corners of the earth - France, Ghana, Brasil, Cape Verde, Jamaica, England, Italy, Guadeloupe and several other places. “The selection of the musicians happened organically.” says Andrade. “Some I had worked with in the past. Some were brought in by Mike Pelanconi.” Recording was always a collaborative process. “We had a general idea of how we wanted the music to sound, but we didn’t prepare any arrangements beforehand. Building the album was a gradual process of finding out who would fit, and in what way, into the musical world we were creating.”
Mayra Andrade likes to think that “Lovely Difficult” conveys the same sense of adventure – and adventurous subtlety – she so admires in the work of the great Brazilian, Caetano Veloso. “Why not let yourself grow, change and move on?” she says. “Why not get the public used to expecting the unexpected?
“Lovely Difficult” is released in April 2014 on STERNS MUSIC
The following UK tour dates are confirmed:
Celtic Connections in Glasgow on Jan 21
Ronnie Scotts on Mon 10 and Tue 11 March