Mio Matsuda: Flor Criolla

Mio Matsuda’s newest album Flor Criolla was released earlier this year on Tokyo’s Omagatoki label and is her 4th original studio album. She also has a compilation album, Luar, which is available on Victor. Matsuda is from Japan and currently lives in Tokyo, but she sings mainly in Portuguese and first gained attention as an unusual Japanese singer of fado. I interviewed her in 2006, shortly after the release of her debut album Atlantica, and the subsequent magazine article is now on the Features page of the Power of Okinawa website. In it she tells the story of her musical travels and her discovery of the music of Portugal, Brazil and Cape Verde.

Matsuda’s fascination with Portuguese fado meant that her earlier albums were quite strongly influenced by that style but since then she has gradually embraced other genres too and has widened her musical sphere considerably, in addition to recording and playing with a large number of musicians from different countries. It’s not just Latin music either, because in October last year she came to Okinawa and performed, all too briefly, with Toru Yonaha on a superb blend of Okinawan and Latin styles supported by musicians Ricardo Sandoval from Venezuela and Matthias Collet from France. Sadly, this rare collaboration was rather too much of a well-kept secret and they played in front of a shamefully tiny audience. Whether Matsuda and Yonaha get together again remains to be seen but this appetizer ought to be followed up.

On Flor Criolla she dispenses with the more familiar guitar backing and is accompanied on most songs by just two musicians. They are the veteran Hugo Fattoruso from Uruguay, who plays piano, accordion, and bass, and Japanese percussionist Tomohiro Yahiro. The compositions are by a number of different songwriters, and include two songs by Fatturoso – one of them the lively title track. Just one song was written by Matsuda and it’s also the only one she sings in Japanese. The piano and arrangements sometimes lead this album into jazz territory, while Matsuda’s often wistful vocals are always sympathetic to the needs of each song. Flor Criolla is subtly different from her previous recordings and may be her best album to date.

Mio Matsuda is currently touring mainland Japan in support of her album. Her website, which is in Japanese, Portuguese and English is at http://www.miomatsuda.com

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