Album Review: Elza Soares – The Woman At The End Of The World [Mais Um Discos, 3rd June 2016]

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The Woman At The End Of The World is Brazilian singing legend Elza Soares’ most recent release, a socially engaged album that exists to make us conscious of Brazil’s underbelly and unsettle our individual interiors through experimental instrumentation.

It might just be the use of “end of the world” but the album’s title, at first glance, evokes some sort of myth, fairy tale, or some sort of romanticization of reality. What the title means and the purpose of the album is even less apparent to the non Portuguese speaker. What every listener will pick up on however is a poignant, slurry, refined vernacular and style of singing to experimental instrumentation. Further research into the meaning of the title and of the album’s songs will point to the fact that th end of the world in question is Brazil and that the woman in question is a Soares deeply concerned about her country’s future.

The musical category that this album falls under is samba suja which translates into dirty samba. In order to be dirty, samba is mixed with idioms associated by generations with access to radio and television to seedy free living such as rock n’ roll. Dirt and seediness have been embraced as the foundations on which to build an aesthetic in many Latin American countries and we can think of the “crack movement” novelists in Mexico or the Brazilian movie City of God It has, however, not made the international rounds as much as other Latin American musical genres have and remains in Brazil. This style is honestly a surprise.

The songs are not that seedy, relatively speaking, though they do leave one unhinged. They are very similar to indie rock songs. Soares’ age is evident in her singing and leaves the listener sometimes amazed but also occasionally wanting to hear only the band rock. The lyrics are meant to invoke contemporary hardships in Brazil and as it often is, language is a barrier. “Danca” is an experimental rock like song with instrumentation that makes sure never to get in the way of Soares’s singing, as it’s the case in the other songs on this album. “Maria de Vila Matilde” is also a rock song and Soares struggles a bit to sing along to the song’s guitar playing. “Pra Fuder” is experimental Samba and the band’s playing is phenomenal. “Luz Vermelha” is a rock song that matches Soares’ singing style and timbre and where Soares’ dirty samba works.

Though her musical success has made her a privileged member of Brazilian society, Soares is a black woman, two reasons why she would want to turn to seedy expression. She has always been a singer of poignant songs but this brings her into being an almost punk singer. Soares remains a much better singer of slower songs. Perhaps she felt a necessity to release an album of this sort in contemporary Brazil and her courage is commendable.




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