”Written byNick Trethowan
A beautiful and unexpected joy, Kavita Shah leaves her touch on ‘Joia’.
Mornings have been a little difficult for me lately. Maybe it has been because of the icy grasp Winter has had on the start of my days for the past few months, but as the sun comes out earlier and for longer, as we leave the dead of the cold and creep towards Summer, I’ve struggled still. Three days ago, I listened to a song that made me. as I stood in the misty morning while the sun was still attempting to warm the earth, burst into dance and hop from step to step, with a smile on my face and happy to be alive. Kavita Shah‘s cover and tribute to legendary Senegalese composer Boy Ge Mendes‘ song “Joia” has many levels, and all of them are good.
‘Joia’ by the esteemed composer Boy Ge Mendes is a melodious tribute to the resilient women of the Cape Verde islands. Sung by a New York-based Jazz singer, its rich melodies intertwine traditional Cape Verdean musical elements with contemporary Jazz nuances. As the second track from the album “Cape Verdean Blues,” this song stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of Cape Verde’s cultural and musical heritage. The recording process of ‘Joia’ was graced by the collaboration with Bau, the iconic musical director who once lent his talents to the legendary Cesaria Evora. This track not only encapsulates the spirit of Cape Verdean women but also showcases the transformative power of cross-cultural musical fusion.
So now who is Kavita Shah? Well, in short, she’s incredible. Kavita is a vocalist, composer, polyglot, and lifelong New Yorker hailed by NPR for possessing an “amazing dexterity for musical languages”. Her projects blending modern jazz, new music, and folkloric traditions include “Visions” (2014, co-produced by Lionel Loueke), the interdisciplinary work “Folk Songs of Naboréa” (named by NPR as a Top 10 Jazz Concert of 2017), and “Interplay” (2018) in duet with bassist François Moutin, which was nominated for France’s prestigious Victoire de la Musique for Jazz Album of the Year. Her work with composer Miho Hazama’s m-unit on “Dancer in Nowhere” was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Jazz Large Ensemble Album in 2020. Kavita is currently working on an album of traditional Cape Verdean music based on her ongoing ethnographic research on the island of São Vicente, due for release in 2021. She is also working on an album of original music with her jazz quintet, inspired by her recent travels to her ancestral villages in Gujarat, India. Kavita regularly performs her music at major concert halls, festivals, and clubs on six continents, and her work has been supported by Chamber Music America, Jerome Foundation, Camargo Foundation, New Music USA, and Asian Cultural Council. She speaks nine languages and holds a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Harvard and a Master’s in Jazz Voice from Manhattan School of Music.
“Cape Verdean Blues” comes out September 15th. For the past six years, Kavita has been busy on the Atlantic island of São Vicente, immersing in the traditional mornas and coladeiras of her idol Cesária Évora. The result is “Cape Verdean Blues”—a carefully curated love letter to Évora’s breathtaking archipelago alongside Évora’s longtime collaborators, master guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Rufino Almeida, aka Bau, and virtuoso percussionist Miroca Paris. Resonating with the music’s language of loss and the universal story of diaspora, Shah, herself the daughter of immigrants, has achieved a rare feat: creating a world music album that feels like home.
“Agradezco a Cesária por me levar neste caminho, e gostaria de dedicar este disco ao povo cabo-verdiano. (I thank Cesária for bringing me on this journey, and I would like to dedicate this album to the people of Cape Verde).
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!” – Kavita Shah