Band of the Day

2012.04.23

Luisa Maita

Sensual, chilled bossa nova from a Sao Paulo songstress
And when life gets tough, it’s just, "Hey, What’s up?" And a glance eye to eye, and I’m back to all right.
lyrics from Lero-Lero (translated)

Luisa Maita is a Brazilian singer and songwriter who creates a unique style of music that is a blend of Brazilian Pop and World Music. Maita comes from a family of musicians as her mother was a producer and her father was a composer. Born and raised in the culturally vibrant Bexiga neighborhood of Sao Paolo, Luisa learned music at an early age from her family and the surrounding samba and bossa nova influences around her. Maita formed her first band Urbanda in 1999 and the group recoded and released an album in 2003. She released her debut solo album Lero-Lero in 2010 and subsequently won a Brazilian Music Award - The Brazilian equivalent of a Grammy - for Best New Artist. She then toured North America selling out concert halls, appearing at festivals, and earning rave reviews.

Bossa nova must be made from strong stuff. Maybe it's all in the hip swinging beat or smooth flow of the Portuguese, but it's amazing how the Brazilian genre can incorporate helpings of jazz, blues, hip hop, electronic music, soul, pretty much whatever you can throw at it, and still sound undeniably bossa nova. On Luisa Maita's debut album Lero-Lero she does just that, adding her own eclectic touches while still staying true to bossa nova. Born in Sao Paolo to a musical family (she was named after a song bossa nova singer Antonio Carlos Jobim), maybe it was in her blood all along.

Maita encapsulates the core of what makes legendary bossa nova practitioners like João Gilberto and Jobim so great in the first place. First of all, it would be gross negligence to complete this review without using the world sensual. Her silky jazzy vocals glide from soft coos to confident declarations, and are always pretty damn sexy. Her music is both utterly relaxed -perfect for lounging- and pumped full of toe-tapping rhythms provided by percussionists with half an eye on hip hop.

Title track “Lero-Lero” rides an irresistible groove provided by that quintessential alluring bossa nova instrument, the classical guitar. The song is a glimpse into the lives of two friends on the outskirts of Sao Paulo's ghetto who team up when trouble rears its head, and the song has an underlying sense of menace to it, rendered through Maita's beautifully resigned vocal performance. Other moments are more up beat, but with equally great melodies. “Fulaninha” is a swinging samba with that style's classic dance beat and stuttering stabs of rich acoustic guitar. Maita's on confident vocal mode, directing her sultry pipes at a powerfully repeating, almost tribal chorus.

The songs on Lero-Lero shift subtly, some are hip hop inflected, some more dance-y, some more chilled and sensual but they are all irresistibly Maita, grounded in Brazilian tradition.