Sara Tavares: Xinti
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Sara Tavares
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During the early years of the emergence of world music, the rootsy, old national traditions were the first to grow into the light. In recent years, though, artists that hybridize traditions have been the understory that's risen. A good example is Sara Tavares, who is of Cape Verdean ancestry, but was raised in Portugal, the daughter of immigrants who left the rocky islands for greener economic pastures. Though her early influences were actually American soul, she has moved to a sound that has more in common with modern Africa.

Her third album, Xinti, which means "Feel It," shows her maturation as an artist. Xinti ("ZHIN-tee") finds a rare balance: upbeat but gentle, soulful but sweet. Tavares uses her velvety voice creatively, departing from the basic lyrics to scat alternate melodic lines that push, pull and punctuate the percolating polyrhythms underneath. She sings in Portuguese and Cape Verdean creole on an album of songs that she wrote, produced and arranged. In addition to playing guitars, she often accompanies herself on vocals, overdubbing layers of her honeyed rasp to great billowing effect. This sure-handed album is an impressive, though not surprising, step for a performer who has been slowly building an international following.

As a teen-ager in Portugal, Tavares became enamored of music from the African diaspora, principally American soul artists such as Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway. In 1994, she won a national TV competition in Portugal and went on to represent her adopted homeland in the highly watched Eurovision song contest. Xinti, though it urges listeners to "feel it," is a somewhat subtle album, so folks have to listen closely to capture a full sense of her soulfulness and musical spirituality. She is not a classic soul belter, but is more in league with later generations of R 'n' B singers whose music can get on smooth jazz playlists.

The album opens with "Quando Dás Um Pouco Mais [When You Give a Little More]," a balmy, swinging tune that recalls Brazilian artists such as Djavan. On "Pé Na Strada [On the Road]," she sings "The way is made on the way….You yourself are the creator of your life's dance," and to illustrate, her vocals take flight from the expected melody. Unfortunately, this album comes too late in the season to soundtrack many of your days at the beach, but a bit of breezy warmth might be just the thing as the winds turn chilled. - Marty Lipp

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