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_About working with Mayra Andrade

A few weeks ago, I got to work on a new and exciting project. Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade got in touch with me to help her put together her new live show. She told me she would be releasing her 4th studio album early next year and that she was starting touring in October. She wanted to start playing the songs of the forthcoming album on stage for this new tour even though the album wasn’t out yet. Her expectations were high as she hadn’t been touring for 3 or 4 years and she wanted to showcase an updated musical identity.

I had been following her work for a long time. I programmed her music on the radios I worked for, I played her songs in my Dj sets and I even gave a shot at remixing her recording of ‘Tunuka’ a few years ago (which didn’t go very far). I also tried many times to sing and play some of her songs on the guitar. Only a few weeks before she got in touch, I had seen her on stage as a part of Gilberto Gil’s live show here in Lisbon and she simply blew my mind. She stole the show all the way through. She had such a unique and powerful way of interpreting Gilberto Gil’s songs. Gil himself is an incredible stage performer in his own right, so having those two together interacting on the same level was a revelation for many people who didn’t know Mayra’s stage personality. Her name was on everyone’s mouth after that epic concert.

The job she hired me for was the following: she wanted me to help her adapt her forthcoming album - which was produced by Romain Bilharz from both electronically programmed beats and acoustic instruments - into a consistent and engaging live show played by a 4-piece band. This meant capturing and sampling the many electronic elements of her album, finding the appropriate way to get those triggered or reproduced by instruments on stage, adapting some of her older songs to the new electronic make-up and suggesting arrangements for the new songs to make them exciting in a live context. 

My job was also to be present during the 3 weeks of rehearsals to give feedback to the band, which turned out to be quite an intense experience. Rehearsals often were over 10 hours long and the timeframe was short to get 15 songs - including 10 or so which Mayra had never played on stage - arranged and rehearsed. On a technical level, we ended up getting all the sequences triggered by drummer Tiss Rodriguez on 2 Roland SPD’s and a sensory percussion kit from Sunhouse. Most of the synth textures were reproduced by keyboardist Nicholas Vella on a Prophet 5 and a Kronos workstation. Bass player Swaeli Mbappe used a Moog Sub Phatty to play the electronic basslines. Also, Mayra wanted to experiment with electronic textures on her voice. We ended up adding an effect rig made of auto-tune, pitch-shifters, filters and a reverb to her live setup. 

I was around for the 3 or 4 first concerts of the tour and all I can say is they smashed it. Mayra’s stage presence and ability to shake the audience’s emotions are legendary. Feedback from the crowd was more than encouraging as people were hearing some of their favourite Mayra Andrade songs (like Tunuka, Lua or Ilha de Santiago) being totally revisited by the hybrid modern band. This project was by far the highlight of my musical year and one of the most exciting yet challenging projects I have ever been a part of.

watch Mayra's new band perform "Afeto" - "Vapor di Imigrason" - "Manga" in Paris on the 3rd date of their "Manga Tour".