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Issue No. 475, November 4-11, 2004

Top live show
MÔNICA SALMASO
Joe's Pub, Fri 5


She looks like a sweet Brazilian country girl, with her long brown hair, white peasant dress and smiling face.  But Mônica Salmaso comes from São Paulo, the world’s third biggest city.  And her calm, earthy, impeccably musical voice is tied to a sophistication that has made her a connoisseur’s delight in her homeland.  With trash pop even more pervasive there than it is here, Salmaso, 33, has managed to win three prestigious awards as Brazil’s best new singer.

Now she's touring to promote the American release of her fourth album,
Iaiá, on World Village (the title is a term slaves used for their female masters, pronounced “ya-YA”).  A tapestry of Brazilian culture and folklore, Iaiá shows Salmaso’s dedication to her country’s master poets and melodists, including Chico Buarque, Dorival Caymmi, Paulo César Pinheiro, and Jobim.  A no-frills storyteller, she confides their haunting tales of the sea, the sertão (Brazil’s arid hinterlands), the orixás (mythic deities) and bittersweet love, infusing everything with that ache of longing called saudade.  The artful arrangements, flavored with samba and choro, are by pianist Benjamin Taubkin, who will be her sole accompanist at Joe’s Pub.

Years before Salmaso was born, a tradition was launched by João Gilberto’s ex-wife Astrud—it continues with his daughter Bebel—of mediocre artists coming here from Brazil to be lionized by a public that doesn’t know how a great Brazilian singer sounds.  Go to Joe’s Pub and you’ll hear one of the finest.—James Gavin