Elida Almeida - Ora doci Ora margos

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Elida Almeida
Ora doci Ora margos
Lusafrica (www.lusafrica.com)

Cape Verdean singer/songwriter Elida Almeida has been making a bit of a splash since the release of her debut album, Ora doci Ora margos, last spring. Over the summer she toured Europe and in September she was a finalist in the prestigious Prix Découvertes RFI — a kind of worldwide talent search sponsored by Radio France International. While in November Almeida was selected to showcase at Morocco's influential "Visa for Music" and made her NYC debut later in the month.

One listen to Ora doci Ora margos ("Sweet times, Bitter times") will tell you why she's blowing up on three continents right now: it's a smart, confident debut from a talented 22 year old with a big future ahead of her. The album's 13 tracks are a self-assured mix of traditional Cape Verdean sounds — mostly swinging, midtempo funanas and the slightly faster batuque rhythm from Almeida's home island of Santiago — and breezy pop production. The arrangements by her guitarist Hernani Almeida are smart, subtle and contemporary, and tracks like "Lebam Ku Bo" and "Nhu Santiago" and shot through with gorgeous, layered guitar work that includes sly flourishes of soukous and coupé décalé.

But the real focus here is on Almeida as a singer/songwriter, and there are plenty of slower tracks, such as the piano-driven ballad "Storia Ki Nkontardu" or the atmospheric "Nha Violão" that showcase her original material. Her bio stresses that these originals are based on "the singer's early life and the sweet and bitter experiences that shaped her humble existence," and the album provides lyrics for each song. Unfortunately, no English translations are provided, so non-Kriolu speakers will have wait to judge her merits as a songwriter.

Almeida, though, speaks volumes. Though her voice still betrays the brightness and lightness of her age, it's nevertheless soulful and lived-in. She's got depth as well as range and she can turn it urgent for the up-tempo dance floor killer "Txiku Branku" or luxuriously sad as on the morna "Mar Sagrado."

Almeida is not quite in world class diva territory, yet, and there are occasional missteps on the album —the screaming, '80s hair metal guitar riffs that punctuate "Txuputin," to name one — but she's well on her way with Ora doci Ora margos. — Tom Pryor

Performing "Joana" live at Club B.Leza in Lisbon, on August 27, 2015.

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