Exploring Music's World Divas: World Divas

Global Divas. Those two words say it all. Host Guy Raz takes a spin through the new work of some of Europe and Latin America's great female singers with Betto Arcos, host of KPFK's Global Village in Los Angeles. Betto's favorites include Portugal's Ana Moura, Spain's Mayte Martin, Italy's Carmen Consoli and a Chilean-French singer named Ana Tijoux.

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(Soundbite of song, "Diva")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Na, na, na, diva is a female version of a hustler, of a hustler, of a, of a hustler.

GUY RAZ, host:

Beyonce may be one of America's best-known divas, but have you heard of Portugal's Ana Moura?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ANA MOURA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: Ana Moura is one of several global divas with a new album out, and deejay Betto Arcos is spinning all of them on his radio show, "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. And Betto is with us.

Welcome back.

Mr. BETTO ARCOS (Deejay): Always great to be with you, Guy.

RAZ: So Betto, tell me about this artist, Ana Moura.

Mr. ARCOS: Well, Ana Moura is one of the new voices of Fado in Portugal today.

RAZ: And Betto, we've talked about Fado together on the program before. It's basically the blues of Portugal.

Mr. ARCOS: It is, but she didn't really start singing Fado. In fact, she was a rock singer. But one day, some friends gathered at a club in Lisbon, and they asked her to sing a Fado. She performed it, and ever since, she fell in love, and she decided to drop rock 'n' roll and sing Fado, dedicate herself to Fado.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MOURA: (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: All right, Betto, continuing our journey looking into the global divas, we're going to stay on the Iberian Peninsula, and a track that you brought for us from Spain.

(Soundbite of song, "A Miguel Hernandez")

Ms. MAYTE MARTIN (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARCOS: Mayte Martin is really one of the most important Flamenco singers today, and this is a very special album. It really is a tribute to one of the great poets from Spain, Manuel Alcantara. The title of the CD is sort of a play on words, "Al cantar a Manuel," which means to sing to Manuel.

And in this particular piece, one of the great poets of Spanish letters is paying tribute to another one, Miguel Hernandez, who died in prison during the Spanish Civil War.

RAZ: He was an anti-fascist sympathizer who was, he was eventually imprisoned by the Franco regime.

(Soundbite of song, "A Miguel Hernandez")

Ms. MARTIN: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARCOS: She has this amazing quality to her voice. It's almost crystalline, and she has this great approach to arranging the poetry into music, and it just creates a masterpiece.

(Soundbite of song, "A Miguel Hernandez")

Ms. MARTIN: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: The track is called "A Miguel Hernandez," and it's by Mayte Martin.

Betto, there's a track you brought in by an Italian singer, Carmen Consoli, and it sounds, to me at least, like a lost song from a musical.

(Soundbite of song, "A'finestra")

Ms. CARMEN CONSOLI (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: The song is called "A'finestra," and it sounds incredibly festive. Tell us about the singer, Carmen Consoli.

Mr. ARCOS: She's really one of the big singers in Italy, and in fact, I hate to compare her to anybody in the U.S., but just to give you an idea, something like an Ani DiFranco, a singer that really hit the mainstream, sold millions of albums and then suddenly, a couple of years ago, decided to reinvent herself.

This song is a song criticizing Sicilian culture, particularly the middle class, and it's taken from the perspective of a woman who looks out the window and sees all these people and starts to look into Sicilian society. And by the way, she sings it in Sicilian, not Italian, Sicilian.

RAZ: Finally, Betto, my absolute favorite piece you brought in this week, it's from a Chilean-French singer named Ana Tijoux, and it's called "1977."

(Soundbite of song, "1977")

Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language).

Ms. ANA TIJOUX (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: This has to be a huge hit somewhere around the world right now.

Mr. ARCOS: Well, it's interesting you say that because the album just came out last week, and it's really, in my opinion, the coolest, hippest singer right now on the scene, and she's established herself already in Latin America, but this is really her big debut and finally the first one in the U.S.

RAZ: I love how in the song, it almost sounds as if she's standing to the side of the stage, observing what's going on, and then there's a moment where these horns come up, you know, and she's just, like watching them.

(Soundbite of song, "1977")

Ms. TIJOUX: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: And her biography is really interesting, Betto. She was born in France, I understand. Her mother is French, her father from Chile, a political exile, right?

Mr. ARCOS: That's right. He left Chile during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and so Ana Tijoux grew up in the suburbs of Paris. Her mother was a social worker who used to work with the youth, and pretty soon, Ana Tijoux is listening to hip-hop and rap and (unintelligible) music, (unintelligible), all these great artists, African artists from all over the place in Paris, and of course, on the other hand, she is listening to Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, all these great Latin-American songwriters.

So she's got all that going on. She has an amazing, solid foundation. She's a really terrific writer, really storytelling.

RAZ: The track is called "1977." It's by Ana Tijoux. She is one of several global divas who have released albums in the past few weeks. Betto Arcos has been spinning some of those records on his program. It's called "Global Village." It's on KPFK in Los Angeles, and he often joins us on this program to talk about some of the latest tunes from around the world.

Betto, thank you so much.

Mr. ARCOS: Always a pleasure to be with you, Guy.

(Soundbite of song, "1977")

Ms. TIJOUX: (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Thanks for listening, and have a great week.

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