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July 17-23, 2008; Issue 668
Martnalia516

MART’NÁLIA
Damrosch Park; Wed 23

In today’s Brazil, young urban musicians update samba by adding hip-hop, electronica and rock. But as the daughter of Martinho da Vila, a venerated composer of samba do morro (samba "from the hills," or slums), Mart’nália is heir to a grand and uncommercialized tradition. Its tools are untrained voices, handmade instruments, simple harmonies and African-based rhythms that work like a drug on the human spirit. Now a headliner in her own right, Mart’nália, 42, is a casual, smiling presence; her husky singing touches lightly on hard truths. Beating a tambourine, she tells, in one song, of the music’s importance in uniting an oppressed and violent society: “Samba is freedom/Without bloodshed, without war.”

Four years ago a champion of hers, Caetano Veloso, presented her in a series he curated at Zankel Hall; now she and her band are back to play for dancing as part of Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing. Brazil sent a qualified ambassador, for Mart’nália learned her art at the feet of the masters. Her father took her to
rodas (jam sessions) in their neighborhood of Vila Isabel, known as the cradle of samba; idols such as the late singer Clara Nunes serenaded her in the family living room. Currently Mart’nália records for the Tiffany of Brazilian labels, Biscoito Fino; last fall it released her first DVD, Mart’nália in Berlin—Live. Nut since samba as authentic as hers rarely reaches our shores, she should be experienced in person.—James Gavin