Balancê (Times Square Records TSQ-CD-9054, 2006)
Let me first disclose that I haven’t the computer knowhow to type this album’s title with the proper accent mark. So I’ll clarify- it’s pronounced bal-on-SAY. And according to Sara Tavares, the title track is all about the balance necessary to live a well-adjusted life, a message that’s applicable throughout the disc.
Tavares is a young Cape Verdean artist, currently living in Lisbon, who knows how to put forth the dual melancholy and peppy sides of Cape Verdean music.
Balancê is built around the Afro-Portuguese rhythms found throughout Lusophone Africa, rhythms that Tavares bends and shapes but obviously respects.
Acoustic guitars and percussion- both of which Tavares plays with notable skill -assume a major role along with an open, spatial quality that expands upon familiar structural elements heard in such Cape Verdean greats as Cesaria Evora, Tito Paris, Teofilo Chantre and Fantcha.
While likely influenced by that lot, the freshness of Tavares’ sound also puts her alongside more recently emergent artists like Lura and Maria de Barros. Her vocals take on a scatty eccentricity from time to time (check “Novidadi” and the rapid-fire voice and percussion break on “Bom Feeling”), though she can play it straight and sweet, as with the fado-influenced “Muna Xeia.”
The melodies likewise have the right stuff, breezing above guiding grooves that form an ideal framework. By the final track, “De Nua,” on which her warmly insistent tones blend with those of guest vocalist Ana Moura over a backing of pure African drumming, it’s clear that Sara Tavares has made the already-vibrant Cape Verdean music scene even more so.