LUCIA DE CARVALHO
“Lucia de Carvalho finely and joyfully carves out the magical melody of the black diaspora, while the beat of the percussion and the pulse of the blowers accompany her radiant ride.”
— Mounidiva Malanda, La Nouvelle République
Lucia de Carvalho is an alchemist, a seeker of sense, a kindle of essence. Her voice transmits vibrations that heal and transform; her drum transmits the voice of the ancestors, inviting us to reconnect with our deepest selves. Voice and rhythms unite in the service of beauty: the beauty that inhabits us and the beauty that surrounds us. For those ready to cast off and set sail, her hybrid universe will act as a beacon, inviting us to hold our course despite winds and tides. Everything is there. All we have to do is get on board and let ourselves go.
The little girl born in Luanda certainly had no inkling of the improbable twists and turns her destiny would take, as she listened to her mother singing to alleviate the burden of long days spent raising her five daughters. The mother took her three youngest daughters with her when she left for Portugal and placed them in a reception center, mostly for children of African origin, while she went off to look for work. Lucia spent some wonderful years there, amongst all the games, the songs, the women who looked after her and her sisters. She was 12 years old when she was told that she would be going to live with a foster family in France, together with her two sisters. That’s how she ended up in Meistratzheim, a little village in the Alsace where she quickly adapted to local life, even though she missed her mother who stayed in Portugal, even though she had no intention of forgetting her African roots.
They resurfaced in an unexpected way: a Brazilian band happened to play in her village, and in their Brazilian rhythms, dances and songs, she found the same joy and force of life she had known in her native Angola. The radio station she had loved listening to as a child used to broadcast Brazilian pop tunes all day long. It was with that band, Som Brasil, that she took her first musical steps, progressing from backing vocalist to lead singer, moving from dancing to drumming and immersing herself for ten long years in a luxuriant bath of traditional Brazilian rhythms. But the joy of singing on stage never got the better of the thirst she felt for her own Angolan roots.
In 2008, she decided to embark on a solo career and write her own songs. The release of her first EP, Ao descubrir o mundo, three years later, revealed an all-encompassing passion for rhythm, a love of Brazilian sounds, and a desire to give her heritage a chance to reach out and travel by clothing it in rock and reggae flavors.
“Quem Sou?” “Who am I?” That was the question she asked herself in one of her songs, a question that had long haunted her as she attempted to navigate between France, her Angolan roots and the promised land in Brazil. She met Edouard Heilbronn, a young bassist from Alsace, who had just spent three years roaming distant parts of the planet, finishing his journey in the city of all the saints and all the rhythms: Salvador de Bahia. What was bound to happen, happened, and they began to share their life and their music, working together on their compositions, playing everywhere they could, gifting audiences with L cia’s dazzling solar energy.
Then, with a demo for a new album in their pocket, they set off together on a long journey, both musical and initiatory, that took them to Brazil and Angola. There they encountered wonderful musicians who contributed to the album. But, above all, they visited Lucia’s mother, whom she had finally managed to track down. Kuzola (‘Love’ in the Kimbundu language of Angola), was the title of the album that was released in 2016, and of a moving documentary that retraced Lucia’s quest for her roots and offered some answers to her questions about her own identity: “All those journeys to retrace my story enabled me to create a picture of who I was: the roots are Angola, the branch is Portugal, and the flower at the end of it is Brazil. And France is the ground in which that flower was given a chance to grow.”
If Kuzola was a quest for meaning, the quest this time is for the essence. “Neither Angolan, nor Brazilian, nor French, I realized I was more than all that...There’s something deeper that defines me, an immutable essence that carries me and makes me feel intensely alive. Once all the ‘you’re black, you’re white, from Alsace, this and that...’ is put to one side, what remains? Well... this remains!”
In this time of constant questioning and identity malaise, Lucia’s joyful and positive experience is worth contemplating. It has enabled her, always in partnership with Edouard Heilbronn, to strike out into new territory on this her third album, recorded and mixed by Jean Lamoot (Mano Negra, Noir D sir, Alain Bashung, Dominique A, Souad Massi) at Studio Ferber in Paris. Of course, Africa and Brazil are still there on Pwanga, forming the heart of Lucia as she lives and writes to the beat of the drum, finding words, melodies and rhythms on the same impulse; a raw diamond that her accomplice polishes, enriching the harmonies and sonic imagery and turning the songs on the album into travel films.
Other outstanding participation in this luminous repertoire are the illustrious Brazilian singer Chico César, the powerful and warm voice of singer Anna Tr a, and two veterans of Angolan music: percussionist Galiano Neto and producer-guitarist Betinho Feijo, known for their long-standing work alongside the great Bonga Kwenda. While the virtuoso Zé Luis Nascimento (Mayra Andrade, Ayo, Cesaria Evora) knew how to enhance the essence of each title with his original and varied vocabulary between Brazilian, Eastern, and Western percussions.