It’s not often that a new star emerges on the international music scene with a fully formed and very personal vision expressed through contemporary rhythms and musical eloquence, but such is the case with Paula Santoro. A star of the concert stage, musical theater, and Brazilian television, Santoro’s grasp of the modern Brazilian musical vernacular is nearly as complete as her deeper understanding of artistic expression employed to express a full range of human emotions.
On her latest release, Mar do Meu Mundo (The Sea In My World), Santoro’s compelling and sophisticated vocal abilities shine brightly in a series of thematically linked compositions interpreted through dance floor-ready, jazz-based arrangements. Light and breezy on the surface, Mar do Meu Mundo is also typically Brazilian in its consistent ability to simultaneously contain deeper levels of meaning that are poetic and profound while at the same time remaining personal and universal.
Mar do Meu Mundo breaks new ground under the banner of Música Popular Brasileira (MPB). Sharing an emphasis with MPB on compositions that depend substantially on highly expressive lyrics. Mar do Meu Mundo departs from the core MPB style with an artistic perspective that is less political and more personal, less socially oriented and more deeply introspective. For Santoro, Mar do Meu Mundo also represents a kind of summing up, integrating a wide variety of Brazilian musical influences within a single, extended song cycle that flows seamlessly from one song to another.
The musical integrity of Mar do Meu Mundo is supported throughout by a acoustic, chamber-jazz ensemble comprised of an A list of Brazilian jazz musicians under the direction of much-sought-after producer, Rafael Vernet, who also wrote all the arrangements and played piano in all tracks of Santoro's album.
“Brazilian female singers have always been key to translate our music to new audiences,” explains Fernando Grecco, who founded the Borandá record label as a platform for new Brazilian music that is both artistically vital and historically important. “Paula Santoro had already collaborated on a recent Borandá release, singing as a special guest on two tracks of Mario Adnet's 2013 Latin Grammy nominee, Um Olhar Sobre Villa Lobos. As Elis Regina did once, she explores the tradition of our music by combining music from established composers alongside compositions from younger composers whose work may not be as well-known. In doing so, Paula Santoro has now become our leading, modern interpreter of Brazilian popular music.”
The first solo album bearing Santoro’s name was released in 2005 and featured collaborations with several of her musical heroes. For Mar do Meu Mundo, she decided to take a very different approach, concentrating on a mixture of compositions from younger, up-and-coming musicians based in her home state of Minais Gerais and some lesser-known works by established composers like Ivan Lins and Danilo Caymmi. Included in that mix, a composition by a emerging young star with a previous release on the Borandá label, Antonio Loureiro (author of the song Luz da Terra).
As she began assembling material for her new album, Santoro began to notice a theme emerging in a number of lyrical references to the sea, a theme she embraced with enthusiasm. “These songs chose me,” she says, “just as much as I chose them. And in concentrating on this theme, I decided the album would not just be about the sea as a natural element, but also as a personal one, meaning the inner sea we all carry within ourselves, with all its turbulences, periods of calm, and its mysteries.”
This personal theme would also reflect her roots in Minais Gerais, hence the inclusion of young composers from the region. “For many of us in Minais Gerais,” she explains, “the sea is a kind of hidden desire. We don’t have the sea at home, so many of my happiest memories, and those of my family and friends, come from when we go to the sea for vacations and special occasions.”
While putting together the compositions she would feature on Mar do Meu Mundo, Santoro also decided to sequence the songs as if they were part of a single narrative, one flowing into the other and advancing a very personal story without losing its identity as unique composition. “I wanted this album to reflect who I am at this moment, like snapshot of my life” she says. “I am in a phase in my life where I’m very happy with who I am, with what I do, and what I care most about. For me, now, every song has become like an individual person, with a soul all its own.”
Santoro’s diverse musical experiences and lessons learned from collaborations with many of her musical heroes have now begun to come together, the high-profile vocalist says, in “another way of looking at the world. I am very curious about many things and have been fortunate to have experienced many cultures around the world. Now in my life, everything I do and all of the many things I’m interested in have begun to help me better understand the meaning of life, the meaning of my life, what my mission is and what I want to give to people musically in my lifetime.”