Thursday, February 28, 2008

TITINA - Cruel Destino (Astral)

Comparisons with Cape Verde’s Queen of morna, Cesaria Evora, are inevitable and hard to avoid. But if there’s one thing better than having one evocative interpreter of the islands’ soulful folk music, that’s being blessed with two of them.

The similarities between Abertina ‘Titina’ Rodrigues Almeida and her illustrious compatriot are plentiful — well past the first flush of youth, she possesses a smooth, yearning, laid-back vocal style that sings mournful songs of love and longing for the Cape Verde islands over guitar, piano and bass backing. Just the occasional mid-tempo number is dropped in to remind the listener of the islands’ links with the bossa-nova and samba of Brazil.

Titina, too, looks like receiving worldwide favour at a relatively late stage of her career, having ditched recording for live performances over the last decade, before eventually being persuaded to record this lushly arranged (by guitarist Bau) set of Cape Verdean standards.

The differences? Well, much more use of clarinet, played with understated mellifluousness by Daniel Salomé, particularly on the jaunty, mid-tempo Saia Travada where he weaves his notes over a stop-start piano rhythm as Titina croons about her desire to return to her country of origin. There’s real feeling in that song, not least because Titina is now based in Lisbon, and the Portugese influence is apparent on tracks such as Desgosto Profundo, with its light dusting of fado guitar work by Osvaldo Dias.

If I’m allowed one more comparison with Cesaria it’s that if you like that great lady’s smoother recordings, where the light, lilting rhythms and subtle acoustic guitar or piano fills are ridden by her voice of limited range but bottomless feeling — and the sound of that being mixed with snaking, soulful clarinet and violin appeals to you — then Cruel Destino is an album that comes highly recommended.

This review first appeared on

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