Sol Negro

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Less than five years ago Virginia Rodrigues was an impoverished cook who occasionally sang for her family and friends in Salvador, Brazil. But one day she was overheard singing the Latin song Veronica in church by a local theater producer. Oh, all you who pass along the road, she sang in her bone-dry mezzo-soprano voice, Look, look, and then see if there is pain like my pain. Brazilian star Caetano Veloso, who produced Sol Negro, claims to have shed tears upon first hearing Rodrigues sing the song in a subsequent play.

A thoughtfully curated album, Sol Negro features Veronica in addition to a variety of sambas and material by such well-known Brazilian songwriters as Veloso, Djavan and Dorival Caymmi. The album paints a portrait of Rodrigues and her past, with music from all stages of her 35-year life. She sings Adeus Batucada, a samba made famous by Carmen Miranda that typifies nearly all the happiness and sadness of the Brazilian people, as well as Ary Barroso's quaint yet powerful primitive samba, Terra Seca (Dry Land). Modestly yet tastefully produced, Sol Negro bubbles with the subtle rhythms of Bahian percussion and the talking berimbau. Brazilian notables such as Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento occasionally lend a hand, but it's Virginia Rodrigues' transcendent voice that rightfully dominates.

FromEscape(Dec. 1999). Subscriptions: $18/yr. (4 issues) from Box 462255, Escondido, CA 92046.