The release of Luísa Maita’s debut album will inevitably result in the artist being compared to other young, female Brazilian performers such as Bebel Gilberto and Céu. Maita certainly shares a lot with these more established artists. Only a couple of years their junior, she is part of the same generation of musicians that has taken the samba and bossa nova styles developed in the 1960s by the likes of João Gilberto (Bebel’s father) and António Carlos Jobim, and fused them with sounds drawn from contemporary rock, pop, and hip-hop. Like Gilberto and Céu, Maita is the daughter of musicians, her father having released a jazz- and rock-influenced album of samba in the early 1970s. She has also established herself as a songwriter with her work being performed by other musicians.
A native, like Céu, of São Paulo, Maita roots much of her songwriting in the neighborhoods of that enormous city and there is a strong sense of place to her lyrics, from the slang of the album’s title track to the portrait of everyday city life that is “Mire e Veja”. This rootedness is reinforced musically by the inclusion of the four-stringed cavaquinho (an instrument found in various Lusophone musics) and percussion instruments strongly associated with samba, such as tamborim, repique, surdo, and cuíca.
These factors arguably lend a greater sense of Brazilian-ness to Maita’s music and should be borne in mind when tempted by superficial comparisons with the aforementioned electronica- and indie-influenced musicians. That said, it can’t be denied that a song like the “Aí Vem Ele”, with its mellow techno-Braziliana and semi-whispered vocal, is difficult to hear without thinking of the template so successfully developed by Gilberto. Like Gilberto’s, Maita’s is a music of moments, foregoing the more spectacular elements of Céu’s work in favor of a contented basking in the here and now. But it is also the moments within particular songs—the unexpected fiddle that closes “Fulaninha”, the vocal grit employed on the João Bosco-influenced favela tale “Maria e Moleque”—that mark points of departure from the norm and signal an artist capable of making her own mark on the international stage.
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// Notes from the Road
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