In 1980, Brazil still held some semblance of a military government. Public life was, in some ways free, although one could be sure that the eyes and ears of Big Brother were always near. Strong notions of machismo prevented women from assuming positions of societal power or influence. And the carioca singer, Joyce Silveira Palhano de Jesus released Feminina. The album’s creation was no act of innocence. Joyce’s music had been censored amid Brazil’s tense political situation through out the 1970’s; forcing her to record offshore in Italy and New York. Feminina initially met a similar reception, through its confrontation with political and social authoritarianism, even though the album stabbed at the eye of repression in Brazil without uttering a syllable of contempt. In fact there’s no rancor to be found in her words at all. Rather, Joyce used a far more cunning confrontational device: celebration.
Feminina, with its infusion of samba and jazz into a palate of jubilant traditional folk, celebrates being a woman; as well as being Brazilian. It’s an ode to the souls and the intellect hidden away by failed governments and their over zealous censorship. The quick, merry acoustic guitar of the opening title song warms us to Joyce’s cause. There is the sweetest plea in her voice as she asks “O mao/Me explica/Me ensina/Me diz/O que e feminine (Oh mother/Explain to me/Teach me/Tell me/What is a woman).” All the while flutes and a Latin rhythm section climb and fall like gulls above the ocean. “Banana” and “Aldeia de ogum” continue in this vain with thrilling cascades of Joyce’s vocals and frenetic strum patterns. The album’s centerpiece, however, is the thoroughly enchanting, “Clareana.” Written as a lullaby for her two daughters, (Clara and Ana) the song wisps and soars with Joyce’s idiosyncratic gentleness. It’s easy to imagine Joyce sitting at the side of her daughter’s bed, lightly stroking her hairs telling her, “No sol de manha/Novelo de la/No ventre de mae/Bate o coracao de Clara, Ana (The morning sun/A ball of yarn/In the mother’s womb/It beats like the heart of Clara, Ana).”
Upon the release of Feminina, Joyce was already an accomplished musician, playing in bands since the mid 1970’s and having performed with such stars as Gal Costa and Vinicius de Moaes. To say that she adopted elements of jazz, bossa, samba, and blues into her bare acoustic melodies would be a gross miscue. Instead, she bore these styles into something new. For this reason Feminina, as well as many of her other albums retain a fresh identity; undergoing a perpetual evolution and never aspiring to record anything static and crystalline. In 1985, the moribund military government of Brazil was voted out of power. Democracy returned and Brazilian’s could be left again to collectively determine the course of their country. As a rich culture heritage re-emerged to the world so did the carioca singer, Joyce.
5. Revendo Amigos
6. Essa Mulher
7. Coração De Criança
8. Da Cor Brasileira
9. Aldeia De Ogum