M'Bem di Fora

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Funana, batuku, and mazurka are Cape Verdean words -- the names of traditional island rhythms. They don't exactly roll off the tongues of most English speakers, but Lura, whose ancestors are from the region, is an especially capable and captivating translator. The songs collected on M'Bem di Fora, the Portuguese singer's second North American disc, sound less like examples of a new exotic strain of music than a pot stirred with pinches of samba, flamenco, jazz, R&B, and conjunto; it's a pan-Latin sound that alternately makes you want to twirl seductively and shop for fresh tortillas. Lura's voice is also an accessible thing, throaty and warm and confident. According to the album notes, the songs tell stories of life on Cape Verde: "Bida Mariadu" is about the limitations of island living, "As-Água" explains the summer thirst for rain, and "Fitiço di Funana" explores the potency of a traditional sensual voodoo dance. You don't need a grip on the culture or its values, though, to fall in love with the music. Lura presents a range of moods and styles any listener could get lost in. She also lends them a singular depth that should keep world music fans awaiting her next dip into foreign climates.

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