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Luedji Luna
Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D'Água

Artist release via Altafonte
Review by Carolina Amoruso

#MeToo and Black Lives Matter are bringing consciousness if not yet change to many societies of the so-called developed world, where entrenched systems of oppression towards women and people of African decent, if not all people of color, prevail. Afro-Brazilian and female, Luedji Luna is in the crosshairs of this oppression. Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D’Água, of which she is singer-songwriter, co-arranger, and co-producer, is her second album. The album is a personal, intimate statement that decries the objectification of Black Brazilian women like herself as the most sexually desirable and the easiest to exploit.

There are no throw-away tunes on the album; each one has its message and its own signature, bolstered by bright accompanists with jazz and fusion chops inevitably, but lightly lilted by the Brazilian breeze. Luna enlists other women’s words of poetry and song to amplify her own, which she delivers in alluring, tempered vocals that at times graze the coquettishness of Brazil’s pantheon of MPB female vocalists.

“Tirania,” is a languid tune that seems to refer to the inescapability of love, and the tyranny of desire, too, leaving in a listener’s consciousness such evocative lines as,“desire is something in my hair.” Though Luna would demure, it’s hard to find a song on the album that’s not in some way a love song. Her songs don’t always allude to romantic love (she says that she wrote “Tirania” for a young woman with an eye that had been slashed), but they might be more recognizable as the expression of luxuriance filtering through all the senses that could certainly pass for, if not be, love.

The arrangement of “Tirania” is a standout, highlighted by interludes of strings—two violins, a viola and cello. With its full-bellied, seductive voice, the cello is a fine-fitting accompaniment to the sensuousness of her songs. The various players on the album should be lauded for their elegance; they seem to incorporate the singer’s ease and fluidity, and prove a tasteful backlight for her lyrics.

“Chororô" is a lament with dire lyrics; the lament is abject, her tone grim as Luna embarks on a litany of what she doesn’t have, while what’s left is her womb and three children plus an expired passport. The song has the bones of the Kizomba/Zouk dance beat and a bold melodic bass line that’s followed by expanded, yet still spare instrumentation.

As she moves away from her vocals, the electric bass and keys lead the conjunto into some classy jazz-fusion lines that slip seamlessly into Luna’s rendering of “Ain’t Got No,” another accounting of a woman’s hard-scrabble existence made anthemic by Nina Simone, and a clear inspiration to Luna. Continuing in this hear-me-out vein, Luna now cedes “Ain’t Got No” for a sobering poem of women’s woes recited by its author, Conceição Evaristo.

A noite não adormece
nos olhos das mulheres
a lua fêmea, semelhante nossa,
em vigília atenta vigia
a nossa memória.
A noite não adormece
nos olhos das mulheres
há mais olhos que sono
onde lágrimas suspensas
virgulam o lapso
de nossas molhadas lembranças.
A noite não adormece
nos olhos das mulheres
vaginas abertas
retêm e expulsam a vida
donde Ainás, Nzingas, Ngambeles
e outras meninas luas
afastam delas e de nós
os nossos cálices de lágrimas.
    The night does not fall asleep
in the eyes of women
the female moon, our familiar,
in attentive vigil guards
our memory.
The night does not fall asleep
in the eyes of women
there are more eyes than sleep
where suspended tears
break the lapse
of our wet memories.
The night does not fall asleep
in the eyes of women
open vaginas
retain and expel life
where Ainás, Nzingas, Ngambeles
and other moons girls
away from them and from us
our goblets of tears.

Luna masterfully elides into #MeToo on the following track with “Ain’t I a Woman," a screed by Sojourner Truth castigating men for their disrespect and abuse that she put the music to. “You’re gonna pay… Every tear that I shed… You will drink in Hell.” Sojourner Truth was an escaped former slave, abolitionist and champion of Black Women’s rights in the US. Drums and electric bass enhance the jazz-funk-like “I mean business” emphasis of the song. At the same time, the heat is comparatively well-tempered for such mighty words.

“Recado” (Message) is another poem Luna has set to music. Today, borrowing the words of Dejanira Rainha dos Santos, she will neglect her household duties and luxuriate naughtily in herself while lusting for her lover. With “Recado,” Luna is able to strike that elusive balance between asserting her right to independence as a woman, while still vaunting her sexuality; it’s the very balance that she bemoans men cannot yet strike, but the the key to successful sexual politics and relationships.

The piano-led arrangement is fetching and fusiony, with piano and drums pumping just enough energy into the light stepping of the electric bass to challenge Luna, given her Brazilian easy sway, to meet the heat of the day.

Luedji Luna’s Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D’Água is proof positive that Black Brazilian women are so much more than sex objects, charwomen and baby makers. Hers is the first big name in Brazilian pop to address the gender and race issues so cogently and eloquently through song. As Luna described her idealistic yet refreshing mission to The Guardian, “I’m talking about love as healing. I’m talking about love as power.”

Find more about the artist at Brasil Calling

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