bïa’s music 

 

A review by Phillip Kay

 

Bïa Krieger, often known simply as Bïa, is a fascinating and beguiling brazilian singer with a voice of milk and honey who has released five CDs over the past 15 years.

 

Previous albums (1997-2012):

 

La mémoire du vent

Bia’s first released CD was called La mémoire du vent and it came out in 1997. It’s been reissued several times. This is an album that will appeal to fans of the great Brazilian singer/poet Chico Buarque de Hollanda. The album features six of his songs, most of them in French translation. This was a momentous thing to do. Chico, some feel, is Brazil’s answer to Shakespeare. For an unknown singer to adapt (!) his words might have seemed presumptuous. In fact Bia was not only a fan of Chico’s, but his protégé, and he may even accompany her on one of the tracks (I think). The best track on the album is Chico’s Barbara, a soulful rendition with a superb guitar and flute backing. The album skillfully melds the three cultures important to Bia and which are part of her background: France, Spanish America and Brazil. She frequently translates lyrics between the three languages (Chico in French, Brassens in Spanish for instance). Another featured composer on the album is Jean Duino, a singer/songwriter from Port de Bouc on the Mediterranean coast of France. Each of his three tracks is an outstanding example of fine songwriting: Le miroir aux oiseaux, La tour de Constance, and, most especially, Complainte Africaine, a man’s lament on waking to find himself on a ship loaded with African slaves and bound for America, and presented in soukous style with a rocking guitar and improvisational flute accompaniment. The great Georges Brassens is represented by a translation of one of his songs (Por una muñeca), with a mesmerising jazz guitar accompaniment. There is a version of Los Hermanos by Atahualpa Yupanqui. And Bia contributes her own composition, Un million d’étoiles, a bossa flavoured number that in this company must be a salute to Jobim. The accompanying music backing all this is underscored and expertly played, with a sophistication English speakers associate with jazz but which in the cultures the songs come from are not part of any genres. They are all songs expressing a personal view of the world, protests at injustice, irony about fate, fantasy and regret. Represented are some of the giants of South American and French musical culture. This is a very autobiographical mix, music chosen, I think, because it has meant something in Bia’s development, and it’s a very successful presentation.

 

Sources

Sources was released in 2000, recorded partly in Rio de Janeiro. Bia emerged on this album as a composer: five of the 12 tracks are by her. These include two outstanding compositions, Baby Neném and Sous le vent du monde, the latter with a very effective piano accompaniment. The mix of languages is still there, extended this time to include a track in English (Paul McCartney’s Golden Slumbers, from Abbey Road and from a Thomas Dekker poem); and one in Italian, Gianmaria Testa’s Piccoli Fiumi, from his 2000 album Il valzer di un giorno. Testa is apparently one of Bia’s heroes, as he is of mine (see https://phillipkay.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/gianmaria-testa-sotto-voce/). This is easily the best track on the album, a great song sung extremely well, and with a wonderful accordion and guitar backing that makes the most of the song’s atmosphere of gentle melancholy. There’s another version of Duino’s Complainte Africaine, heard on Bia’s first album in a very different arrangement, and I guess there’s a story about this to track down. Another outstanding track is Araurum Kim Kim, written by the prolific and multi-talented Adão Xalebaradã (who had a small part in Meirelles’ City of God, though he died only a year after the film’s release), a reminder that in Brazilian music, under the exuberance of samba and the sophistication of bossa there lies the rhythm of Africa. Jacques Higelin’s Ballade pour un matin is bracketed with Golden Slumbers in a medley that’s one of the highlights of the album. Higelin is apparently one of Bia’s influences, as he is for many other singers. This is another eclectic mix of ‘singer/songwriter’ material, bossa, samba and chanson, songs that must mean a lot to Bia, and she interprets them so they mean a lot to the listener. An album with six of the 12 tracks standing out as exceptionally good is hard to put down, and Sources remains one of my favourites.

 

Carmin

Carmin, an album released in 2003, is Bia’s announcement she has come of age as a songwriter. She has had a part in the composition of 11 of the album’s 13 tracks. Even more, the seven tracks that stand out on the album (for me) are all her compositions, Helena, with a gentle bossa beat, Je n’aime pas, Lobo, Andei procurando, Endereço, in lively dance tempo, and Ilhabela, which has a touch of tango in the arrangement. And there is a version of fellow expatriate Silvano Michelino’s Sábio Rei. While I don’t know what she’s saying, as music and as performance this is a substantial achievement. As this is a Bia CD there is also present the now expected acknowledgment of influences and admiration, a Gianmaria Testa song (Polvere di gesso), a poem by Chico Buarque (translated as Dans mon coeur), a Henri Salvador composition (J’ai vu) – in Portuguese of course. The most striking track of all is a traditional hymn from the Andes, which Bia calls Inti, a drum based invocation to the sun which is quite hypnotic to listen to. Most well known of the tracks is a Bia composition, Mariana, which found its way onto a Putumayo compilation of so-called ‘lounge music’ but is not as bland as that makes it sound. Overall this is much more focused than Bia’s previous releases, which were all bursting with the richness of the three cultures of Latin America, France and Brazil. Here, on Carmin, we have a Brazilian woman expressing her roots. But unlike other Brazilian music, it’s played by a band of French and French Canadian musicians, and sung partly in French, and features French and Italian and South American composers as well. This is something only Bia can do.

 

Cœur Vagabond

Coeur Vagabond of 2006 (“My vagabond heart wants to hold the world inside me” Veloso and Costa, Domingo 1967) looks like a reprise of Bia’s first album, La memoire du vent in that it features a mix of Brazilian and French composers whose songs Bia has translated, singing the Brazilian songs in French and the French ones in Portuguese. It is in fact a very focused album, one whose style is very Brazilian, in the bossa/early MPB style. Composers represented include Laurent Voulzy, his sometime songwriting partner Alain Souchon, Serge Gainsbourg, Henri Salvador, the marvellous Keren Ann Zeidel (Jardim), Georges Brassens all from France and Michel Rivard from Quebec, and that’s a selection from someone who knows her music. From Brazil, the country of a thousand great singer/songwriters, are composers such as Caetano Veloso (who contributes the album’s title track, a title from the Shy Moon end of his spectrum, not the Estrangeiro end), Chico Buarque and Tom Jobim, Vinicius De Moraes and Baden Powell, and the great Djavan. And Bia Krieger, whose one track is called Bilingue. Standout tracks for me were Buarque and Jobim’s Portrait en noir et blanc, De Moraes and Powell’s Appel, Djavan’s Amour secret and Brassens’ A má reputaçåo. The publishers have tried to make things clear by providing first the song’s title in the language it is sung, then in brackets the original title, so you can see at a glance for example that the Brassens title was originally La mauvaise réputation. Arrangements are minimal, at times only an acoustic guitar, letting the singer’s voice and the melody of the song do the job of gaining the listener’s attention. Dominique Bouzon’s flute is used sparingly but effectively on some tracks. Like a lot of Brazilian music, this is an album that repays more concentrated attention, smooth as a capuccino on the surface, revealing a shy and sudden beauty on repeated listenings.

 

Nocturno

Nocturno was released in 2008, a collaboration between Bia and her producer and bass player Erik West-Millette. The two wrote seven of the album’s 15 songs (including an instrumental number, Coffee in bed), and Bia alone another seven. Also included is a reprise of Yupanqui’s Los Hermanos, heard on the 1996 CD La memoire du vent. The album is a departure from Bia’s earlier work, a sign she is still developing as a songwriter, with arrangements that make use of horns, organ and what sounds like a synthesiser. The album is a low-key, introspective collaboration, as befits its title. Stand out track for me was Bia’s Personne, one of her best songs, backed by clarinet and oboe and withThomas Hellman, a singer from Quebec with a hit album in France, L’Appartement, to his credit, accompanying Bia on vocals. Also notable was the collaborative-written Venha, a very melodic number with a skillful guitar accompaniment. The album highlights the fact that an important strand of Bia’s work has been collaboration with other musicians, often seen on concert, as in the recent one with Yves Desrosier. Nevertheless, on this album, despite the co-writing with West-Millette, listeners will find Bia’s most personal statement, a melodious, rhythmic, expertly performed meditation.

 

Concert Intime

2010: Collector album live with Yves Desrosiers

 

 

Pyjama Party

2012: Children's album

 

 

Navegar

2015: New release

 

 

 

Discography

 

Bia’s CDs are available through iTunes, Amazon’s stores, and via several mp3 sites.

 

La mémoire du vent

[1996, Saravah]

 

1. A Volta Do Malandro (Buarque) 2:40

2. Mon Amour (Barouh, Vallejo) 3:01

3. Photo! (Barouh, Mille) 4:42

4. Bárbara (Bia, Buarque) 4:52

5. Estate (Bruqhetti, Martino) 5:23

6. La Nuit des Masques (Barouh, Buarque) 3:24

7. La Grán Pérdida de Alhama (Anonyme, Ibañez) 5:15

8. Le Miroir aux Oiseaux (Duino) 4:04

9. La Tour de Constance (Duino) 4:52

10. Un Million d’Etoiles (Bïa) 5:29

11. Los Hermanos (Yupanqui) 3:28

12. Rémi (Bïa, Buarque) 3:19

13. Hasards ou coïncidences (Buarque) 3:50

14. Le Chevalier (Bïa, Buarque) 4:34

15. Por Una Muñeca (Brassens, Pascal) 0:45

16. L’ Horaire et le Temps (Barouh, Vallejo) 7:16

17. Complainte Africaine (Duino) 6:02

 

Sources

[2000, Audiogram]

 

1. Araurum Kim Kim (Xalebaradã) 4:03

2. Baby Neném (Krieger) 3:22

3. Les Mures Sauvages (Krieger) 3:43

4. Piccoli Fiumi (Testa) 5:56

5. Minha Andorinha (Krieger) 3:43

6. Olga Maria (Krieger) 3:13

7. La Nuit de Mon Amour (Barouh, Duran) 4:06

8. Ballade Pour un Matin (Higelin)/GoldenSlumbers (Lennon, McCartney) 3:18

9. Sonho Meu (Carvalho, Lara) 3:36

10. Complainte Africaine (Duino) 4:59

11. Aunque Es de Noche (de la Cruz, Pradal…) 4:06

12. Sous le Vent du Monde (Krieger) 4:13

 

Carmin

[2003, Saravah]

 

1. Carmin (Intro) (Galdino, Krieger, West) 0:53

2. Mariana (Krieger) 3:12

3. Polvere Di Gesso (Testa) 4:03

4. Helena (Krieger) 2:39

5. Eu VI (J’Ai Vu) (Krieger, Modo, Salvador) 3:37

6. Je N’Aime Pas (Krieger) 2:41

7. Lobo (Krieger) 2:59

8. Andei Procurando (Krieger) 3:26

9. Sábio Rei (Krieger, Michelino) 3:52

10. Endereço (Krieger) 3:24

11. Ilhabela (Krieger) 3:57

12. Dans Mon Cœur (Terezinha) (Buarque, Krieger) 2:44

13. Inti (Traditonnel Aymara) 11:41

 

Cœur Vagabond

[2006, Sony BMG]

 

1. Cœur Vagabond [Coração Vagabundo] (Veloso) 3:52

2. Ilha Do Mel [Belle Île En Mer] (Voulzy) 3:01

3. Tão Sentimental [Foule Sentimentale] (Souchon) 3:16

4. Portrait En Noir Et Blanc [Retrato Em Branco E Preto] (Buarque, Jobim) 4:26

5. Água Na Boca [L’eau À La Bouche] (Gainsbourg, Goraguer) 2:44

6. Comme Une Vague [Como Uma Onda] (Motta, Santos) 3:32

7. À La Fontaine [Lavadeira Do Rio] (Lenine, Tavares) 3:48

8. Appel [Apelo] (DeMoraes, Powell) 3:12

9. Como Eu Sonhei [J’ai Tant Rêvé] (Michel, Modo, Salvador) 3:39

10. Amour Secret [Meu Bem-Querer] (Djavan) 2:57

11. Estrela Do Mar [Bille De Verre] (LeForestier, Rivard) 4:09

12. L’ L’échelle De La Douleur [a Dor Na Escala Richter]  (Faraco) 3:01

13. Jardim [Jardin D’hiver] (Biolay, Biolay, Keren Ann Zeidel…) 2:26

14. Bilingue (Krieger) 2:54

15. A Má Reputação [La Mauvaise Réputation](Brassens)2:34

 

Le Géant de La Forêt

[Secret Mountain, 2007, children’s musical]

 

Nocturno

[2008, Audiogram]

 

1. Feio (Krieger, West-Millette) 4:10

2. Caminhar (Krieger) 3:19

3. Nocturno (Krieger, West-Millette) 1:52

4. Vehna (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:13

5. Personne (Krieger) 3:46

6. Vento (Krieger, Papasoff) 4:16

7. Momento de Graça (Krieger) 1:52

8. Sombres (Krieger) 0:58

9. Revolta (Krieger) 3:32

10. Coffee in Bed (Krieger, West-Millette) 1:24

11. Madalena (Krieger) 3:06

12. Los Hermanos (Yupanqui) 3:27

13. Exil (Krieger, West-Millette) 5:03

14. Foi a Flor (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:48

15. Mes Zaricots (Krieger, West Millette) 7:41

 

Concert Intime avec Yves Desrosiers

[2011, live, collector]

 

Pyjama Party

[Secret Mountain, 2012, children’s songs]

 

 

 

Useful info:

Composers

Georges Brassens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Brassens

Chico Buarque: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chico_Buarque

Djavan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djavan

Jean Duino: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4bayy_jean-duino-la-complainte-africaine_music

Serge Gainsbourg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serge_Gainsbourg

Jacques Higelin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Higelin

Bruno Martino: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Martino

Michel Rivard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Rivard

Henri Salvador: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Salvador

Alain Souchon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Souchon

Gianmaria Testa: 

https://phillipkay.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/gianmaria-testa-sotto-voce/

Caetano Veloso: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caetano_veloso

Laurent Voulzy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurent_Voulzy

Adão Xalebaradã: http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adão_Dãxalebaradã

Atahualpa Yupanqui: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atahualpa_Yupanqui

Keren Ann Zeidel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keren_Ann_Zeidel

 

 

©2011 Original material copyright Phillip Kay.