BY Josh Grossman at torontojazz.com
What's so good about Carmen Souza?
Submitted by Josh Grossman on Wed Jun 19 4:20pm Vocal Jazz Vocals World/Latin/African/Ethnic
Artist: Carmen Souza
It may sound a bit odd to say "a good singer has to have a good voice". But, without getting too much into critiques of certain singers and styles of music (how much time do you have?), ultimately, it's true: a good singer is set apart by his or her voice, and how that voice is used. Carmen Souza not only has a great voice, but an interesting one too.
Delving into the music of Carmen Souza requires a bit of delving into the history of her home country, Cape Verde. Located in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 kilometres west of Senegal, Cape Verde was colonized in the 15th century by the Portuguese. It was ideally situated as a stopping point between Europe and the Americas (including, in a less ideal part of its history, the slave trade) and as a result influences from a varieties of cultures are evident in everything from the languages spoken to the music to the food: Portuguese, Caribbean, African and Brazilian.
Carmen Souza's music very much demonstrates this wide variety of influences. As a young woman she spoke both Creole and Portuguese, and sang in a professional gospel choir. Then, when Portuguese producer and bass player Theo Pas'cal heard her early in her performing career, he introduced her to jazz. Ever since, her music has been a fantastic mix of genres - I can hear Brazilian samba and bossa, straight ahead jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and more.
The mix of styles which have influenced Carmen is intriguing on its own, and means that one can never totally know what to expect - one minute she could be singing a mellow bossa, and the next singing "Donna Lee". But what especially intrigues me about Carmen Souza is the way she uses her voice. The clip above shows off a deep, rich voice; she also sings to great effect with a higher, more nasal sound. Her technique is also impressive - I wasn't kidding about "Donna Lee"! She can move around as nimbly as a great instrumentalist.
Carmen's most recent album, Kachupada, is named, appropriately enough, after a West African stew that blends a variety of ingredients. Her music is much the same. She was asked, for a CBC blog, about her various musical influences, and she said:
"They are so natural that I don't really think too much about them, it's almost as if it was other native languages that I speak. Music is about communication, and you express yourself in the language that is familiar to you. So when I'm composing I just express whatever comes from the inspired moment and then I play with these ideas together with the lyric and the message that I want to send out. And that's how music flows."
Carmen Souza performs on Wednesday, June 26, 8 and 10 pm at the Jazz Bistro. Buy tickets now or for more information go to the concert page. Hers is sure to be one of the more unique performances of the festival.