Catarina dos Santos: Rádio Kriola

An Ocean of a Neighborhood

Listening Post 185. The subtitle of Catarina dos Santos’ second album is “Reflections on Portuguese Identity,” a subject as big as the ocean that touches Portugal, Africa and Brazil and as small as the working-class town where she grew up. Facing Lisbon across the Tagus, Barreiro is home to families from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea, Mozambique and inland Portugal. From an early age, Dos Santos—whose father was a radio-show host and programmer for the town cultural center—had a backstage view of the music cultures bubbling in the melting pot of her country’s post-empire personality. Rádio Kriola is a virtual broadcast station playing 14 works she wrote herself or with friends, inspired by childhood and informed by her musical education and career, from Lisbon to London, from Recife to New York. It encompasses Brazilian samba, lundu and afoxé, Cape Verdean morna and funaná, Angolan semba, Portuguese fado and Latin jazz. Singing in Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole and Spanish, her gently radiant voice knits sounds into an integral universe. Her songs cover facets of life’s journey, but the central image is one of water—seas that carried explorers, slaves, voluntary migrants and travelers; rains favoring some lands over others; tears born of struggle; and lyrics that often run like rivers. Plus the mocking mermaid of Canto do Pescador (Fisherman’s Chant, video 1), a frenetic tale of identity forming, like land from cooling lava. Caminho (Path, video 2) looks at the landscape through a softer lens, while Yoru (video 3) evokes Afro-Brazilian religion and music. Dos Santos leaves and returns to her home town in Menina Barco (Boat Girl, video 4), describing the sense of community as she seemingly sails through the streets—an artist who roamed the world to create an album that flows with the ease and intimacy of a walk around the block. (ARC Music)

 

Canto do Pescador/Fisherman’s Chant
Lyrics & Music: Catarina dos Santos
(from the Portuguese lyrics)
How many houses on the beach rose from the sea?/How many a fisherman has a mermaid who never came for him?
How many people have so much, yet see nothing, feel nothing?/How blind is your song/
yet it sees more/
And will show you the way.

I am from a gentle land/Here one speaks in silence
Here we are amazed/Here is always… there.

How many slave ships sailed from the womb of my nation?
And before that, how many of those people were teachers of the winds, of the land?
We summon truths, wage great campaigns with the force of our will
We are more than sin, and all sin… makes us human.

We are ocean/Glory in contradiction
And from the sea did we fashion/The beating of our hearts.

It is just one/You’re a world, so go deep
Enter this dance of life/Breathe and go for it.

You can come now, mermaid, I’m not afraid/You can you sing all you want, I’m made of sand
My home is perpetual movement, and the truth? The wind blew it away.

 

Caminho/Path
Lyrics & Music: Catarina dos Santos and Dom La Nena
(from the Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole lyrics)
They wear blood-colored clothes/Explosion colored, war is their day-to-day
Their time lived in a hurtful world/There is no happiness
Run run! The one who rules this land/Is a blind golden-eyed man, he owns all things
Even crying sounds twisted, and all I want/Is to find a new path
The solution, my sister:

Where is it? Looks confusing, hard to make out/Unpleasant? Look for peace in your heart
My body, like a guitar/Sings this finason, finason

Eyes blood colored, in my skin the smell of explosives/And you
I walk the world crossed by others’ lives/And hearing painful stories
Run, run. But where to?/With the trust of a blind woman who feels beyond sight
Find your own path

A path of imagination/A path of compassion
A path, listen to this song/A path, hand on your heart
Where is it? Looks confusing, hard to make out/Unpleasant? Look for peace in your heart
My body, like a guitar/Plays this finason, finason

I think about this world, the struggles, loves/The joys and the twists
Leave your fears aside, those inner fears you have
Believe in life’s beautiful side, this skyscraper grid won’t take your heart away
There is no cage that can mute the bird’s song

 

Yoru
Lyrics: Catarina dos Santos/Music: Eduardo Nazarian
From the album notes: “Yoru is a short version of the word Yoruba and it alludes to African traditions in Brazil. A song with abstract lyrics that are a blend of Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole — an invented language.” Allusions in the chant include God (Nzambi) and the spiritual entity Jurema; among the ritual dances are alujá, coladeira and jongo.

 

Menina Barco – Eu sou do Vale/Boat Girl – I’m from the Vale
Lyrics: Catarina dos Santos and Chullage/Music: Catarina dos Santos
(from the Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole lyrics)
Catarina:
I’m going/I’m out of here
Going somewhere I can take care of myself …
So good/Friends, I’ll leave
Dropping everything/I’m going to sail like this …

In a boat/Sails, boat girl
I want to see beautiful, intense smiles/True contact
We are together in this venture/Warm people, deep love
Deep down 

You are/Semba, Kuduro and Sal
Island – full house/Without light, without anything
So much/Starlight
My firmament/Your beat knows how it sounds in the wind
I’m using all my strength to push the boat forward/Sails, boat girl

Chullage:
Struggle is part of  life, every life in the valley
It’s s a beautiful story of/dealing with life
To change things/Vale da Amoreira is the place!
Everyone involved/I help my mother
I’ll be a good man/I have to work, my sweat comes from music
I don’t want to rest/I’m tired of stopping
I want 
to move, helping each other/always, for good
This valley has value/we have to invest in this scene 

The valley is our pride/Always parties and noise
we learn and play/above all, we love
One big heart/the valley is our turf
our communal space/Space where ideas fly like
wind, our foundation is attitude/our ceiling is our talent
In sickness, in the dark/in struggle, in bitter times
Spell of mixtures, of flavors/of cultures, seeds in cement to reap future lives
I leave the valley/to climb mountains, overcoming hardship
My dream is higher/I’m not afraid of heights
I’ll sprout wings to fly/looking for adventures
from life’s sunrises to its darkest hours/And leave my mark on this clean slate

 


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