Renata Rosa cuts a colourful figure from the very beginning as she sweeps onto the stage at Glasgow City Halls to perform with her three-piece band ahead of Duncan Chisholm‘s Celtic Connection performance – The Gathering (reviewed here).
The hypnotic beat of Afro-Brazilian percussion and the archaic cry of Renata’s rabeca, a short-tuned fiddle from Northern Brazil, are soon joined by her arresting, powerful vocal for a dance of growing intensity. Born in Sao Paolo but with musical influences that began in Brazil’s northern state of Pernambuco; Renata embraces music from a world of sources that, as well as South American, envelopes European, Middle Eastern and North African cultures.
Whether she’s accompanied only by percussion, or by a collection of exotic 10 and 7 string guitars, her dramatic delivery owes as much to the theatre as it does to her Brazilian coco samba and toré roots. In one notable piece, inspired by the poetry of her father, Carlos De Rosa, her performance seems to work through a procession of joy, pride, regret and fear. The intricate timing is all in the vocal, with an accompaniment of bass, percussion and guitar that seems to provide a backdrop to the vocal rhythm, rather than guide it.
Having played together for 16 years, Rosa and her band flow through their set in a relaxed, almost telepathic empathy; their unhurried preparations contrasting sharply with the driving energy of the music. Almost like a Brazilian cousin to Portugal’s Fado music, language itself begins to take second place to expression, body language and theatre.
Whether performing a song of grief that seems to pour from the tormented soul of a woman who has nothing left to fear, or revelling in a joyful dance, shaking her maracas like a benediction, Renata Rosa brought to the Celtic Connections stage a thrilling, enchanting taste of Brazil.