Mart’Nália at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London | Live Review


My summer so far has had a distinctly Iberian flavour with artists from the former Spanish and Portuguese Colonies delightfully colouring my musical landscape.  Thanks to the Barbican Centre’s Blaze and the Festival Brazil hosted by the Southbank centre this Aestival Latin exposure looks set to continue for the months to come.

Keeping in step with this theme last Saturday 10 July, Brazilian Samba queen Mart’Nália took to the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage flanked by her airtight band and with a cornucopia of percussion instruments at her disposal (of which she made ample use).

The atmosphere was charged with high levels of positive energy from the get-go.  The audience sprang to their feet at any given opportunity with absolutely no coaxing needed from Mart’Nália.   And it’s not hard to understand why.  Whilst not necessarily having the sweetest voice in the world, she is blissfully uninhibited.

This is an artist who can give so much during her performance precisely because she is not afraid to show how much fun she’s having.  Coupled with the chemistry Mart’Nália shares with the other musicians-so versatile and astute themselves, this makes for an explosive mix.

In turn her audience can’t help but respond to all the passion and joy that emanates from the stage.  The Brazilians in the crowd represented well by singing along enthusiastically.  There was dancing in the aisles, couples twirling at the front of the stage… It didn’t even matter if you sat in your assigned seat or not.   The only rule seemed to be that when the rhythm called, the body must answer; I’ve never seen the Southbank Centre so relaxed yet so alive.  Then again, there was something so atomic about tracks such as ‘Mulheres’ (Women) and ‘Cabide’ (The Hanger) it was impossible not to move.  It was as if everyone in attendance-musicians and fans alike-had brought some of the London heatwave inside with them. The lack of adequate air-conditioning merely added to the sentiment.

Mart’Nália’s downtempo numbers were just as stirring.  As is the case with so much of the vast Brazilian songbook, the sheer beauty of the melodies transcends any linguistic barriers non-Lusophones might face.  Drawing inspiration not only from her native land but from Portuguese-speaking Africa as well, Mart’Nália’s repertoire consisted of original compositions, covers of her fellow countrymen such as Djavan and tunes penned by her producer and songwriting legend in his own right, Caetano Veloso.  One such ‘Pé Do Meu Samba’, possibly one of Mart’Nália’s best known, is a failsafe crowd favourite and was a highlight of an already dynamic show.  She also used the occasion to show off her skills on the guitar at this point, which got the audience going even more.

If venue time restrictions weren’t a consideration Mart’Nália and co could have gone on entertaining us all night with no objections from the crowd.  Alas, after a rigorously enjoyable set and encore the show drew to a reluctant end.  A jubilant evening from start to finish.

–Tola Ositelu

www.martnalia.com.br

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