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Daniela Mercury

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No Brazilian musician has done more to popularize the sound of contemporary Bahia than Daniela Mercury. She's long been a huge pop star at home, but over the course of a decade her frothy, high-energy music has gained some real depth, and that's earned her broader respect. On 2000's terrific Sol da liberdade (BMG U.S. Latin) she interpreted work by some of Brazil's most sophisticated songwriters (Caetano Veloso, Lucas Santtana, Lenine), chipped in a few tunes of her own, and made the best recording of her career. The album is dominated by the ferocious, irresistible rhythms of samba reggae, pioneered by groups like Olodum and Ile Aiye--the blocos afros that saturate the air at Carnival with man-made thunder. But samba sunnies up nearly every tune, and Mercury also draws on funk, merengue, and countless regional Brazilian styles. While purists once dismissed her as a light-skinned beauty putting a commercial face on Afro-Brazilian music--and there is no denying her market savvy or slickness--the inventiveness of her recent recordings, the power of her throaty voice, and the strength of her repertoire has silenced most doubters. Mercury again chooses work by strong writers--including Chico Science, Carlinhos Brown, and Gilberto Gil--on the more recent Sou de qualquer lugar, but her experiments with electronic grooves are disappointing. The chill complements Lenine's simmering title track, but elsewhere there's an unfortunate disconnect between her voice and the instrumental attack. Still, she's a must-see live performer; her appearance at last year's World Music Festival was canceled after September 11, so this is her long-overdue Chicago debut. Friday, August 30, 8:30 PM, African Festival of the Arts, Washington Park, 55th and Cottage Grove; 773-955-2787.

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