A woman of enormous girth (a sign of "soul" in Bahia), Rodrigues boasts a contralto voice nearly operatic in depth, yet so pure and unstudied that Brazilian musical star (and fellow Bahian) Caetano Veloso burst into tears when he first heard her--an encounter that culminated in her wildly acclaimed 1998 debut, "Sol Negro."
Here on "Nos" (Us), Rodrigues returns to her roots in the rhythms of Salvador's Carnival as well as the lyrics of candomble, the Afro-Brazilian version of voodoo that invokes deities known as orixas via drum-induced trance. Far from chaotic frenzy, however, "Nos" raises folkloric tunes to the level of art, on par with the most sensuous repertoire of the country's greatest classicist, Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Backed by exquisite acoustic arrangements, Rodrigues' full-breasted voice moves seamlessly from chant to ballad to romantic cancao--supported sometimes only by a bare drum, an a cappella chorus, a sparse guitar; other times backup strings are so sumptuous, they tug painfully at the heart. Throughout, tamboura, bottles, berimbaus, and chimes delicately accent the music with Bahian spices; on the achingly beautiful "Jeito Faceiro" (Happy Manner), the toy-piano sound of the kalimba perfectly evoke the lapping ocean of Salvador's shores.
Yet like Nascimento, Rodrigues, by staying true to her roots and yet deifying them, humbly but brilliantly arrives at the universal. Like a great primal mother, she leaves us--nos--her audience, wishing to be part of her family. This classic album is part prayer, part dance, part communion. It will stay on your turntable forever.