“The African Diaspora”—a rather academic phrase used to refer to the range of influence that spread out from the African continent, not by the roads of ancient trade roots but mostly in the slave cargoes of ships sent across the Atlantic to the Americas. The United States is currently going through a very remorseful self-examination of its part in this enterprise, but in fact an examination of shipping records [watch the remarkable animation] shows the vast majority of slaves went to the Caribbean and Brazil. And of course the European plantation owners were the greatest benefactors of all. Why is this pertinent? Because the artist Yndi is of French and Brazilian heritage and is fusing many aspects of all these cultures together on Noir Bresil, and does so to very individual and creative effect.
There will be some purists who will recoil in horror at the idea of candomble rhythms and percussion being garnished with electronics, classical string arrangements and songs informed by pop sensibilities. But unlike many cross pollinations that result in root musics being sublimated at the alter of commercial success, Noir Bresil retains its integrity with thoughtful songwriting and intelligent arrangements. Yndi (formerly known as Dream Koala, a moniker she has thankfully retired) is serious about her business and, although at first her vocal style appears to border on the wistful anemic style so prevalent in female pop singers, you soon realize there is a firmness and passion and conviction in her material that comes out as very beguiling.
It works with the Brazilian aspect of the project very well, especially with acoustic guitar prominent behind her in the mix. This is not a lightweight enterprise at all, but rather a gentle, sophisticated and very personal expression from a young lady living in several cultures at once, singing French and Portuguese poetry. She is addressing both the problems that the children of African descent are suffering everywhere, and a reverence for her ancestral traditions. This is saudade at its most exemplary, created and made for the ears of today.
The musicianship, arrangements and especially the production are extraordinary, especially on the uptempo title track, the yearning “Amazona” and the lush “Reliques” correlate perfectly with her message throughout.
All cultures are constantly moving and developing with people and the place and time they are in. Yndi has put down a worthy place marker on the world’s music—and it’s one to which we all should listen and enjoy.