The award-winning Cape Verdean jazz vocalist opens her home in Accra, Ghana to Industrie Africa.
Making waves as one of the most recognizable crioulo voices in music, Mayra Andrade—winner of the BBC 3 World Music Award for Best Newcomer—comes from the West African island nation of Cape Verde. The songstress possesses a colorful view on life and music that can be traced to the different cities and cultures she currently calls home, and is informed by an equally colorful and nomadic childhood which saw her grow up in places as diverse as Angola, Senegal, and Germany. Her relationship with music started in her birth country, Cape Verde, where she was exposed to Free Jazz (an experimental approach to jazz improvisation that developed in the late 1950s), and other genres of music from the lusophone world.
Andrade, who is renowned for her idiosyncratic jazz style—the stylings of which were influenced by her mentor, the late Grammy-Award-winning Cesária Évora—moved to Paris at the age of 17. It was here that her career took flight, and she credits the city with affording her space for much-needed personal growth, and guiding her path in music. Her sound, however, digs beyond her Parisian renaissance, reaching into the many places she has called home and the quirks of nomadic life for inspiration. It is no surprise then, that the Universal Music-signed artist sings in four languages.
“Her sound, however, digs beyond her Parisian renaissance, reaching into the many places she has called home and the quirks of nomadic life for inspiration.”
True to her multicultural ethos, Andrade is currently working on new material that experiments with Afrobeats rhythms, a genre she fell deeply in love with while in Ghana 7 years ago where she performed for the first time. Her spin on Afrobeats is best described as a blend of soothing contemporary jazz undertones and the punchy, drum-heavy signature elements of Afrobeats.
Andrade lives in Lisbon, Portugal, but has been on "lockdown" (due to COVID-19 travel restrictions) in Accra, Ghana since visiting the country on holiday in March. Even with the easing of lockdown parameters in recent weeks, she has decided to stay put in Accra just a little longer to close out a few projects. Industrie Africa caught up with Andrade to talk about her unexpected protracted stay in Accra, how she has adapted her work given the limitations of the pandemic, and what inspires her to stay motivated in times such as our current global reality.
How’s Accra treating you, Mayra?
Accra is treating me very well even though the current circumstances haven't been easy on any of us. I however consider myself very lucky being in an environment where people are generally welcoming and kind. It’s not easy being far from home and family, but these past few months in Accra have been great.
How has music helped you get through this lockdown – have you been listening to and/or creating/writing/producing more music than you normally would have before lockdown?
When it comes to music, I think I have been doing a lot more listening and less creating during the lockdown. Even though I have written a few songs, I gather that I am in a more receptive mood. I am taking things in and trying to become a better person. This pandemic has somehow birthed the luxury of evaluating myself as an artist who has to connect to my roots. I would say I am enjoying every bit of it.
Tell us about your album Manga; and the connection with Afrobeats?
I released my latest album, Manga, a year and a half ago. The album was heavily influenced by Afrobeats. My love story with Afrobeats coincidentally started in Ghana seven years ago. I had the opportunity to share the stage with a few local talents during my visit and I was instantly drawn to the organic sound of what I heard that night. I consider my album, Manga, very African. Even though it draws a lot from my appreciation for traditional Cape Verdean music, you can still feel the organic sound of the continent with a twist of a cosmopolitan appeal that I managed to pull from this rich exchange of living on both the African continent and in Europe. I was definitely in an experimental mood when I was creating Manga. After four defined albums, I felt the freedom of creating something new and true to my musical palette. This album is unapologetically feminine and sensual, a true testament of freedom.
Feminine, Sensual, Freedom: these are such powerful words you use. Speaking of words packed with meaning and the style of your album, how do you define your sartorial style in five words?
Bold, elegant, personal, chic, and androgynous. I think these words pretty much sum up my fashion sense.
What role does fashion play in your art as a musician? And what is your take on African fashion and music?
I think fashion is a major contributor to the art of storytelling, especially in music. The visual power of clothing really adds to how a message in a song is conveyed. I have had my own personal journey in realizing this power. Fashion has definitely given me a new avenue to express myself whilst being cohesive with my music. Just like music, I appreciate the bold messages in fashion and I have come to love the brands and designers that I have had the pleasure to interact with. There are so many great African talents coming from the continent. African fashion and music... reflect what is going on in our collective minds... and I love how everyone [on the outside is currently] looking into Africa. Designers like Selam Fessahaye, Loza Maléombho, Angela Brito, IAMISIGO and Adama Paris are my favorite designers. I would love to wear their pieces during my tour and I own some pieces from these designers.
I imagine this year was to be a big one for you in terms of tours and festivals. Have you mentally adjusted to massive shifts in the plans due to the pandemic?
This year was supposed to be the climax of our tour [after Manga]. My team and I had a lot of treats planned for my beloved fans both on tour and through a few reputable festivals that we were very anxious to play, Afronation being one of them. [Having to] cancel 50 shows across the world coupled with the inability to perform for my fans has definitely left a sour feeling, but I am trying to be more positive than ever. I am very much aware of what the world is going through and I count myself blessed. My family and I are healthy; I don’t think I’m in the position to complain regardless of what we may have lost to this pandemic.
And what's your post-pandemic plan?
I think the keyword here for me is “adaptation”. Our ability to adapt will definitely steer us into the discovery of self and this new world. One positive take from this pandemic is the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and add to our community. I want to hope that the world becomes a fair and better place. For now, I want to focus my energy on creating, hopefully, a new album and a reinvented artist will be the love child of this period.
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