Wonderland (Edge Music, 2006)
Many great artists have endured “blue periods” including, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and don’t forget Pablo Picasso. Brazilian guitarist-vocalist-composer Badi Assad (Bah-Jee Ah-Sahje) certainly possesses the chops to be placed among such noted artists and her latest recording, Wonderland suggests another artistic “blue period.” With razor-edge vocals, and guitar playing that smacks with duende, Badi appears to be exorcizing societal demons on this release.
Badi’s previous release on Edge Records, Verde flowed over with effervescence and childlike spirituality. I have enjoyed listening to that recording. Now, Badi has dove into a black hole, hence the ” Wonderland” title and theme, where mad queens rule the world, but women and children are abused.
However, dwelling on darkness won’t solve any of the problems that society of any stripe faces. Will someone please flip on the light switch so that we can identify our own inner demons and stop projecting them onto the world? I am not saying that we should sweep our problems under a rug and pretend that they don’t exist, but at the same time, I do not feel like listening to music that is problem instead of solution-based. At least the West African griot sing parables about how we can live better lives.
All darkness aside, the musicianship on Wonderland rises above the occasion and Badi’s guitar work proves why she is considered a top-rated guitarist. Her passionate guitar playing on the Eurythmics cover, Sweet Dreams certainly highlights this talent. However, the detached irony of the original song is lost on this CD, with Badi belting out, “some of them want to abuse you!” I much prefer the arrangements of the Brazilian songs and original compositions, which also show off some fine guitar playing. The lovely a banca do distinto certainly lifts a gloomy mood.
An artists such as Badi Assad can be forgiven for this disturbing musical journey. Many folks will be delighted to take the journey with her, I am not among those folks. The hope at the end of this tunnel are the effervescent Brazilian song which thankfully fill up half of the recording. And the stunning one more kiss, dear, adds some sunshine to the mix. It’s my hope that both Badi and the rest of the world experience real sweet dreams so that the next journey we take with the Brazilian musician will be a joy ride. Some of us need an oasis from the world once and awhile and for me that oasis is music.
Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.