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Bia – singer, composer, interpreter

Bia

Bïa Krieger, often known simply as Bïa, is a fascinating and beguiling singer with a voice of milk and honey who has released nine CDs over the past 18 years. Bïa is nominally Canadian, from Montreal Quebec, but it’s more complicated than that.

Her parents and she were eventually forced to flee from the military dictatorship that took power in Brazil in 1964, reigning, with terror, until 1974, and not completely ousted until the amnesty of 1980. The regime didn’t like dissent, and when the dissent took form in popular music, reprisals were made. One of the most admired cultural figures in Brazil, Chico Buarque, fled to Italy in 1970. Leading Tropicalismo artists Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were exiled, and gloomed around London for two years, 1970-72. In Chile a similar reaction on the part of a military dictatorship in power there took place, with barbarous savagery. In 1973 prominent teacher, playwright and composer Victor Jara was tortured, beaten with clubs and the bones of his hands deliberately broken because he had written and performed on the guitar songs of protest. Then he was machine gunned to death. The situation was not as extreme in Brazil, but the threat was there. In these cultures performers could be poets, poets could be leaders, and singers could be politicians. It is a dimension to be aware of.

Bïa’s family escaped first to Chile, then left Chile for Peru and finally went to Portugal. Bïa spent the age between three and 12 as an exile, and returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1980 to finish her schooling and start university. Her upbringing must have been unsettling, because she then left Brazil again to travel around Europe, finally settling in Paris, where she began her music career. French producer Pierre Barouh offered her a contract which resulted in Bïa’s first album, La mémoire du vent, largely a tribute to Chico Buarque. In 1998 Bïa appeared briefly in a film by Claude Lelouche, Hasards ou coincidence, and performed a song of Chico’s on the soundtrack. Concert tours followed, in Japan, Italy and Quebec. Bïa was particularly popular in Quebec, and gave more than 100 performances there. Other studio albums followed, Sources, recorded in Rio in 2000 on which she emerged as a songwriter, and Carmin in 2003 on which all but two tracks were her own compositions.Coeur Vagabond of 2006 reprises the tour de force of her first release by showcasing Brazilian composers (Djavan, Buarque, Veloso) whose songs are sung in French, and French ones (Gainsbourg, Brassens, Keren Ann), performed in Portuguese. These albums resulted in promotional tours, and Bïa travelled further than ever, from western to eastern Europe and then Turkey. Bïa’s sixth CD, Nocturno, was released in 2008. It is an album of her own compositions, sung in Portuguese, with some tracks in Spanish and English. Bïa’s 2015 album appropriately titled Navegar continues her voyage, of exploration, of self discovery, of her musical history. Largely, like Nocturno, a collaboration with Erik West-Millette, with whom she wrote the music, with lyrics by Bïa, as well as songs from Tomas Mendez, Villa-Lobos (“Melodia Sentimentale”), Gianmaria Testa and Lennon and McCartney.

Like a lot of performers, Bïa is talented in several fields. She is a skilled guitarist, dances on stage at professional level, has a warm and expressive singing voice just different enough to give her songs greater depth without drawing attention to itself, and can compose and sing in several styles (and languages), Afro-Brazil, bossa nova, chanson, pop, MPB, samba. What I enjoy about Bïa’s CDs is that they’re put together with good taste. No virtuoso showing off, no trip-hop overlay, no downbeat chill (thank god: go home, Ibiza). Just melody, rhythm, a tight band, and a door into traditions and cultures accessed in an unexpected way. Imagine, a song by Brassens in Spanish with a bossa arrangement! Talk about cross-fertilisation. That’s what Bïa’s music is all about. Circumstances dictated that she grew up influenced by many cultures (remember how much it meant to you when you were growing up?). Now Bïa gives her listeners the opportunity to broaden their world while enjoying that most precious of things, good music. For some reason my mind jumps to Woody Guthrie’s slogan “this machine kills fascists”. However unlikely it appears, maybe Bia is a politician after all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayYlb6iMISg

The music

BiaNavegar_Cover

Bïa’s 2015 album Navegar was recorded partly in Rio and partly in Montreal. It continues the collaboration with bassist Erik West-Millette seen in Nocturno, with all but five tracks featuring lyrics by Bïa and music by Bïa and West-Millette. The theme of the voyage is referenced, but not over emphasised, with the title song telling of misadventure, a fate known to sailors from Odysseus onward, followed by a quotation from a  Camões poem. “My inventory” lists all the inappropriate things we take with us as we go. The haunting “Cucurrucucu paloma” with  Alejandra Ribera is followed by the beautiful “Medodia sentimental” by Villa-Lobos and Vasconcellos, two of the highlights of the album for me.  One of Bïa’s best songs is there, “Risada”, with guitar by Joe Grass, melody and words reinforcing one another to do what a song does best. There are several collaborations with other artists on the album, the standout one for me personally is “La Tua Voce”, a song by Gianmaria Testa on which he sings with Bïa and plays guitar accompaniment.  Overall the album is more upbeat than the meditative Nocturno and very varied in tempo, with laments, love songs, chanson and what could be a children’s song. The arrangements are simple, guitar, bass, violin, accordion, trumpet, harmonica, usually just two instruments accompanying, giving support to Bïa’s sweet voice, which yet manages to unobtrusively catch the range of moods conveyed by her material. Bïa sings in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English. The journey we all take through life intersects on this album with Bïa’s journey from South to North hemisphere through the cultures of Brazil, Spain and France to produce one of her most melodious albums. The CD booklet features some stunning photographs of Rio from Tina Alonso, who must be a famous photographer but is certainly a talented one.

more information at biakrieger.com

Nocturno

Nocturno was released in 2008, a collaboration between Bïa and her producer and bass player Erik West-Millette. The two wrote seven of the album’s 15 songs (including an instrumental number, “Coffee in bed”), and Bïa alone another seven. Also included is a reprise of Yupanqui’s “Los Hermanos”, heard on the 1996 CD La mémoire du vent. The album is a departure from Bïa’s earlier work, a sign she is still developing as a songwriter, with arrangements that make use of horns, organ and what sounds like a synthesiser. The album is a low-key, introspective collaboration, as befits its title. Stand out track for me was Bïa’s “Personne”, one of her best songs, backed by clarinet and oboe and withThomas Hellman, a singer from Quebec with a hit album in France, L’Appartement, to his credit, accompanying Bïa on vocals. Also notable was the collaborative-written “Venha”, a very melodic number with a skilful guitar accompaniment. The album highlights the fact that an important strand of Bïa’s work has been collaboration with other musicians, often seen on concert, as in the recent one with Yves Desrosiers. Nevertheless, on this album, despite the co-writing with West-Millette, listeners will find Bïa’s most personal statement, a melodious, rhythmic, expertly performed meditation.

more information at biakrieger.com

Coeur vagabond

Coeur Vagabond of 2006 (“My vagabond heart wants to hold the world inside me” Veloso and Costa, Domingo 1967) looks like a reprise of Bïa’s first album, La mémoire du vent in that it features a mix of Brazilian and French composers whose songs Bïa has translated, singing the Brazilian songs in French and the French ones in Portuguese. It is in fact a very focused album, one whose style is very Brazilian, in the bossa/early MPB style. Composers represented include Laurent Voulzy, his sometime songwriting partner Alain Souchon, Serge Gainsbourg, Henri Salvador, the marvellous Keren Ann Zeidel, Georges Brassens all from France and Michel Rivard from Quebec, and that’s a selection from someone who knows her music. From Brazil, the country of a thousand great singer/songwriters, are composers such as Caetano Veloso (who contributes the album’s title track, a title from the Shy Moon end of his spectrum, not the Estrangeiro end), Chico Buarque and Tom Jobim, Vinicius De Moraes and Baden Powell, and the great Djavan. And Bïa Krieger, whose one track is called “Bilingue”. Standout tracks for me were Buarque and Jobim’s “Portrait en noir et blanc”, De Moraes and Powell’s “Appel”, Djavan’s “Amour secret” and Brassens’ “A má reputaçåo”. The publishers have tried to make things clear by providing first the song’s title in the language it is sung, then in brackets the original title, so you can see at a glance for example that the Brassens title was originally “La mauvaise réputation”. Arrangements are minimal, at times only an acoustic guitar, letting the singer’s voice and the melody of the song do the job of gaining the listener’s attention. Dominique Bouzon’s flute is used sparingly but effectively on some tracks. Like a lot of Brazilian music, this is an album that repays more concentrated attention, smooth as a capuccino on the surface, revealing a shy and sudden beauty on repeated listenings.

more information at biakrieger.com

Carmin

Carmin, an album released in 2003, is Bïa’s announcement she has come of age as a songwriter. She has had a part in the composition of 11 of the album’s 13 tracks. Even more, the seven tracks that stand out on the album (for me) are all her compositions, “Helena”, with a gentle bossa beat, “Je n’aime pas”, “Lobo”, “Andei procurando”, “Endereço”, in lively dance tempo, and “Ilhabela”, which has a touch of tango in the arrangement. And there is a version of fellow expatriate Silvano Michelino’s “Sábio Rei”. While I don’t know what she’s saying, as music and as performance this is a substantial achievement. As this is a Bïa CD there is also present the now expected acknowledgment of influences and admiration, a Gianmaria Testa song (“Polvere di gesso”), a poem by Chico Buarque (translated as “Dans mon coeur”), a Henri Salvador composition (“J’ai vu”) – in Portuguese of course. The most striking track of all is a traditional hymn from the Andes, which Bïa calls “Inti”, a drum based invocation to the sun which is quite hypnotic to listen to. Most well known of the tracks is a Bïa composition, “Mariana”, which found its way onto a Putumayo compilation of so-called ‘lounge music’ but is not as bland as that makes it sound. Overall this is much more focused than Bïa’s previous releases, which were all bursting with the richness of the three cultures of Latin America, France and Brazil. Here, on Carmin, we have a Brazilian woman expressing her roots. But unlike other Brazilian music, it’s played by a band of French and French Canadian musicians, and sung partly in French, and features French and Italian and South American composers as well. This is something only Bïa can do.

more information at biakrieger.com

Sources

Sources was released in 2000, recorded partly in Rio de Janeiro. Bïa emerged on this album as a composer: five of the 12 tracks are by her. These include two outstanding compositions, “Baby Neném” and “Sous le vent du monde”, the latter with a very effective piano accompaniment. The mix of languages is still there, extended this time to include a track in English (Paul McCartney’s “Golden Slumbers”, from Abbey Road and from a Thomas Dekker poem); and one in Italian, Gianmaria Testa’s “Piccoli Fiumi”, from his 2000 album Il valzer di un giorno. Testa is apparently one of Bïa’s heroes, as he is of mine (seehttps://phillipkay.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/gianmaria-testa-sotto-voce/). This is easily the best track on the album, a great song sung extremely well, and with a wonderful accordion and guitar backing that makes the most of the song’s atmosphere of gentle melancholy. There’s another version of Duino’s “Complainte Africaine”, heard on Bïa’s first album in a very different arrangement, and I guess there’s a story about this to track down. Another outstanding track is “Araurum Kim Kim”, written by the prolific and multi-talented Adão Xalebaradã (who had a small part in Meirelles’ City of God, though he died only a year after the film’s release), a reminder that in Brazilian music, under the exuberance of samba and the sophistication of bossa there lies the rhythm of Africa. Jacques Higelin’s “Ballade pour un matin” is bracketed with “Golden Slumbers” in a medley that’s one of the highlights of the album. Higelin is apparently one of Bïa’s influences, as he is for many other singers. This is another eclectic mix of ‘singer/songwriter’ material, bossa, samba and chanson, songs that must mean a lot to Bïa, and she interprets them so they mean a lot to the listener. An album with six of the 12 tracks standing out as exceptionally good is hard to put down, and Sources remains one of my favourites.

more information at biakrieger.com

La memoire

Bïa’s first released CD was called La mémoire du vent and it came out in 1996. It’s been reissued several times. This is an album that will appeal to fans of the great Brazilian singer/poet Chico Buarque de Hollanda. The album features six of his songs, most of them in French translation. This was a momentous thing to do. Chico, some feel, is Brazil’s answer to Shakespeare. For an unknown singer to adapt (!) his words might have seemed presumptuous. In fact Bïa was not only a fan of Chico’s, but his protégé, and he may even accompany her on one of the tracks (I think). The best track on the album is Chico’s “Barbara”, a soulful rendition with a superb guitar and flute backing. The album skilfully melds the three cultures important to Bïa and which are part of her background: France, Spanish America and Brazil. She frequently translates lyrics between the three languages (Chico in French, Brassens in Spanish for instance). Another featured composer on the album is Jean Duino, a singer/songwriter from Port de Bouc on the Mediterranean coast of France. Each of his three tracks is an outstanding example of fine songwriting: “Le miroir aux oiseaux”, “La tour de Constance”, and, most especially, “Complainte Africaine”, a man’s lament on waking to find himself on a ship loaded with African slaves and bound for America, and presented in soukous style with a rocking guitar and improvisational flute accompaniment. The great Georges Brassens is represented by a translation of one of his songs (“Por una muñeca”), with a mesmerising jazz guitar accompaniment. There is a version of “Los Hermanos” by Atahualpa Yupanqui. And Bïa contributes her own composition, “Un million d’étoiles”, a bossa flavoured number that in this company must be a salute to Jobim. The accompanying music backing all this is underscored and expertly played, with a sophistication English speakers associate with jazz but which in the cultures the songs come from are not part of any genres. They are all songs expressing a personal view of the world, protests at injustice, irony about fate, fantasy and regret. Represented are some of the giants of South American and French musical culture. This is a very autobiographical mix, music chosen, I think, because it has meant something in Bïa’s development, and it’s a very successful presentation.

more information at biakrieger.com

Composers
Georges Brassens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Brassens
Chico Buarque http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chico_Buarque
Djavan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djavan
Jean Duino http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4bayy_jean-duino-la-complainte-africaine_music
Serge Gainsbourg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serge_Gainsbourg
Jacques Higelin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Higelin
Bruno Martino http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Martino
Michel Rivard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Rivard
Henri Salvador http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Salvador
Alain Souchon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Souchon
Gianmaria Testa https://phillipkay.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/gianmaria-testa-sotto-voce/
Caetano Veloso http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caetano_veloso
Laurent Voulzy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurent_Voulzy
Adão Xalebaradã http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adão_Dãxalebaradã
Atahualpa Yupanqui http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atahualpa_Yupanqui
Keren Ann Zeidel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keren_Ann_Zeidel

Bia 9

Discography
Bïa’s CDs are available through CD Universe, Amazon, or downloaded via iTunes or Amazon.

Navegar (2015, Biamusik)

1 Navegar (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:21

2 Mon inventaire (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:03

3 Beijo (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:22

4 Ondas (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:46

5 Besame mucho (C.Velasquez, E.Granados) 3:59

6 Cucurrucucu paloma (Tomas Mendez) 4:05

7 Medodia sentimental (H.Villa-Lobos, D.Vasconcellos) 3:50

8 Laranja (Krieger, West-Millette) 4:42

9 Eleanor Rigby (Lennon, McCartney) 4:19

10 Risada (Krieger, West-Millette) 4:19

11 La tua voce (Gianmaria Testa) 3:04

12 Sai (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:37

13 Petit voyou (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:08

Pyjama Party (2012) children’s CD/book with illustrations by Caroline Hamel and songs by Bïa

Concert intime (2010) with Yves Desrosiers

Nocturno (2008, Audiogram)
1 Feio (Krieger, West-Millette) 4:10
2 Caminhar (Krieger) 3:19
3 Nocturno (Krieger, West-Millette) 1:52
4 Venha (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:13
5 Personne (Krieger) 3:46
6 Vento (Krieger, Papasoff) 4:16
7 Momento de Graça (Krieger) 1:52
8 Sombres (Krieger) 0:58
9 Revolta (Krieger) 3:32
10 Coffee in Bed (Krieger, West-Millette) 1:24
11 Madalena (Krieger) 3:06
12 Los Hermanos (Yupanqui) 3:27
13 Exil (Krieger, West-Millette) 5:03
14 Foi a Flor (Krieger, West-Millette) 3:48
15 Mes Zaricots (Krieger, West Millette) 7:41

Le Géant de La Forêt (2007, children’s musical)

Cœur Vagabond (2006, Sony BMG)
1 Cœur Vagabond [Coração Vagabundo] (Veloso) 3:52
2 Ilha Do Mel [Belle Île En Mer] (Voulzy) 3:01
3 Tão Sentimental [Foule Sentimentale] (Souchon) 3:16
4 Portrait En Noir Et Blanc [Retrato Em Branco E Preto] (Buarque, Jobim) 4:26
5 Água Na Boca [L’eau À La Bouche] (Gainsbourg, Goraguer) 2:44
6 Comme Une Vague [Como Uma Onda] (Motta, Santos) 3:32
7 À La Fontaine [Lavadeira Do Rio] (Lenine, Tavares) 3:48
8 Appel [Apelo] (DeMoraes, Powell) 3:12
9 Como Eu Sonhei [J’ai Tant Rêvé] (Michel, Modo, Salvador) 3:39
10 Amour Secret [Meu Bem-Querer] (Djavan) 2:57
11 Estrela Do Mar [Bille De Verre] (LeForestier, Rivard) 4:09
12 L’ L’échelle De La Douleur [a Dor Na Escala Richter]  (Faraco) 3:01
13 Jardim [Jardin D’hiver] (Biolay, Biolay, Keren Ann Zeidel…) 2:26
14 Bilingue (Krieger) 2:54
15 A Má Reputação [La Mauvaise Réputation](Brassens) 2:34

Carmin (2003, Saravah)
1 Carmin (Intro) (Galdino, Krieger, West) 0:53
2 Mariana (Krieger) 3:12
3 Polvere Di Gesso (Testa) 4:03
4 Helena (Krieger) 2:39
5 Eu VI (J’Ai Vu) (Krieger, Modo, Salvador) 3:37
6 Je N’Aime Pas (Krieger) 2:41
7 Lobo (Krieger) 2:59
8 Andei Procurando (Krieger) 3:26
9 Sábio Rei (Krieger, Michelino) 3:52
10 Endereço (Krieger) 3:24
11 Ilhabela (Krieger) 3:57
12 Dans Mon Cœur (Terezinha) (Buarque, Krieger) 2:44
13 Inti (Traditonnel Aymara) 11:41

Sources (2000, Audiogram)
1 Araurum Kim Kim (Xalebaradã) 4:03
2 Baby Neném (Krieger) 3:22
3 Les Mures Sauvages (Krieger) 3:43
4 Piccoli Fiumi (Testa) 5:56
5 Minha Andorinha (Krieger) 3:43
6 Olga Maria (Krieger) 3:13
7 La Nuit de Mon Amour (Barouh, Duran) 4:06
8 Ballade Pour un Matin (Higelin)/GoldenSlumbers (Lennon, McCartney) 3:18
9 Sonho Meu (Carvalho, Lara) 3:36
10 Complainte Africaine (Duino) 4:59
11 Aunque Es de Noche (de la Cruz, Pradal…) 4:06
12 Sous le Vent du Monde (Krieger) 4:13

La Mémoire Du Vent (1996, Saravah)
1 A Volta Do Malandro (Buarque) 2:40
2 Mon Amour (Barouh, Vallejo) 3:01
3 Photo! (Barouh, Mille) 4:42
4 Bárbara (Bia, Buarque) 4:52
5 Estate (Bruqhetti, Martino) 5:23
6 La Nuit des Masques (Barouh, Buarque) 3:24
7 La Grán Péraida de Alhama (Anonyme, Ibañez) 5:15
8 Le Mirior aux Oiseaux (Duino) 4:04
9 La Tour de Constance (Duino) 4:52
10 Un Million d’Etoiles (Bïa) 5:29
11 Los Hermanos (Yupanqui) 3:28
12 Rémi (Bïa, Buarque) 3:19
13 Hasards ou coïncidences (Buarque) 3:50
14 Le Chevalier (Bïa, Buarque) 4:34
15 Por Una Muñeca (Brassens, Pascal) 0:45
16 L’ Horaire et le Temps (Barouh, Vallejo) 7:16
17 Complainte Africaine (Duino) 6:02

©2011, 2015 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation. 

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One comment on “Bia – singer, composer, interpreter

  1. Bïa Krieger
    Sunday, 4 January, 2015

    Hi, Philipkay,
    I just stumbled upon your page on me, which is so perfect, thank you!
    Would you allow me to use this on my website?
    I’m releasing a new album on march 2015 and building a new site (biakrieger.com), and your bio and reviews are like any artist’s dream!
    I could provide a link to your blog or do it any other way that suits you,
    please let me know
    best regards, happy new year
    Bïa

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This entry was posted on Thursday, 20 January, 2011 by in music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .
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