Women of World Music
When it comes to music outside of my usual purview, generally that being for the most part Canada, the U.S. and the British Isles, this is what I’ll refer to as ‘World Music’. Vague definitions aside it is easy for me to decide where to begin.
In 1915 in Belleville, Paris, France, a little girl named Édith Giovanna Gassion was abandoned by her mother at birth and dropped off by her father on his way to fight in WW1 to be raised by his mother in her brothel in Bernay, Normandy. There is a story she (and others) had told that she was blind from the ages of 3 to 7 when she was miraculously cured after a religious pilgrimage. By age 14 she had left the brothel and rejoined her father who was a street performing acrobat. She soon met her half sister Simone “Mômone” Berteaut and in 1930 the two began singing and performing together, earning enough to rent their own room at the Grand Hôtel de Clermont. Soon after Édith’s boyfriend moved in to the tiny room and at the age of 17 she had a little girl. Ill equipped to handle a child, relationship and a more than full time job singing, sadly the little girl Marcelle would die at age two while living with her father, apparently from meningitis.
In 1936 Édith’s now burgeoning career was sidelined after her possible involvement in the death of nightclub owner Louis Leplée. She changed her name to Édith Piaf and in 1944 met Yves Montand at the Moulin Rouge. She wrote “Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai ?” (music by Henri Betti) for Yves. Édith revolutionized cabaret performing while becoming the most popular singer in France. She toured internationally and “La Vie en rose” would become her signature song and is still known word for word in France generations later. With eight appearances on the Ed Sullivan show and two at Carnegie Hall she was an American superstar. Her life was shortened by pain, unbearable tragedy, controversy, alcohol and drugs. She died in 1963 of liver cancer, at age 47. While Piaf wrote the song ‘La vie en rose’ (with the Louis Guglielmi) she first offered it to singer Marianne Michel who recorded it in 1945. Piaf would be the next to record it in 1947. There are over 320 versions of this song of love and happiness. I believe the first english version is by Bing Crosby (1950), Yves Montand (1967), Grace Jones (1977), Michael Bublé featuring Cécile McLorin Salvant (2018) and seemingly the most popular version ever, at least on YouTube at over 44 million views is Daniela Andrade from Montreal.
Astrud Gilberto (born Astrud Evangelina Weinert, March 29, 1940 (age 79) was raised in Rio De Janeiro. She married the bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto, but soon after started a relationship with his musical collaborator Stan Getz. She is best known for her contribution to the cover song “The Girl from Ipanema” (Norman Gimbel wrote the english lyrics) by Stan Getz & João Gilberto (1962). The song was written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, originally performed in a medley tune entirely in Portuguese “Garota de Ipanema” (by her husband João Gilberto and the two writers). From that initial two minutes of memorized english lyrics (as she spoke none) in the song with João Gilberto, Astrud has made a career of singing bossa nova’s, samba’s and American standards. João’s Portuguese was edited out and the song was released as a single selling over 1 million copies while she toured the U.S. and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Some are critical of the fact she was untrained and had never sung professionally before. Those that can appreciated her unassuming and low key style truly understand her talent. Although she looks somewhat terrified in this video clip it was after all her very first television performance. She toured and recorded with Stan Getz for several years but has gone on to record 16 studio albums with songs like “Corcovado“, “Samba de Verão“, “Manha De Carnabal” and “Fly me to the Moon“. She recorded songs in at least six different languages.
Susanne Sundfør was Born and raised in Haugesund, Norway. She is a wonderfully talented and creative singer-songwriter, musician and producer. “White Foxes“, “Fade Away” and “Mountaineers” (featuring John Grant).
Sia Furler (Sia Kate Isobelle Furler) is an Australian singer-songwriter that you have heard before. Her smash hit song “Chandelier” took the world by storm in 2014 with videos starring Maddie Ziegler. This of course was not her first worldwide hit either, “You’ve Changed” came out in 2010. She spent many years in the business including lead singer for Zero 7, before teaming up with the likes of Christina Aguilera and writing songs for the movie ‘Burlesque’.
Ioanna Mouschouri, born October 13, 1934 is known professionally as Nana Mouskouri. Trained as a classical singer Nana gravitated toward Jazz with influences such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. She has released over 200 albums and has singles in at least twelve different languages, including Greek, French, English, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, Welsh, Mandarin Chinese and Corsican. A native of Greece she grew up in Athens and came to national notice for winning at the Greek Song Festival in 1959 and 1960. Where to start and where to end with such an amazing and prolific career, for now just this short note about a remarkable artist. Although she has recorded many original works such as “Je chante avec toi Liberté“. She is perhaps best known internationally for her cover versions of songs like; “Plaisir d’amour” and “The White Rose of Athens“.
Celia Cruz (October 21, 1925-July 16, 2003) grew up in Havana, Cuba. A natural vocalist, her Aunt would take her around to local Cabarets to sing. Referred to as the ‘Queen of Latin Music’ and the ‘Queen of Salsa’. While on tour in Mexico after the Cuban Revolution her band ‘La Sonora Matancera’ all decided to move to the U.S. where she became a citizen in 1961. She has received many honours including seven Grammys, a Star on the Walk of Fame and The National Medal of Arts. She appeared in several movies and produced dozens of albums. “La Negra Tiene Tumbao“, “Bemba Colora“, “Melao de Caña“.
Angélique Kidjo born July 14, 1960 (age 58), Ouidah, Dahomey (now Benin). Know as Africa’s premier Diva, via Paris she now lives in New York City. With over a dozen albums to her credit, she is a humanitarian, an actor and has received countless awards including a Grammy in 2008. “Quimbara“, “We We“,
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