Mil i Maria

Mil i Maria

Mil i Maria’s stage act is as much drama as it is music, with costumes and props playing their part in what is always a very physical and emotional experience.  Rocio, the singer, is a character. It’s a bit like she’s daring you to feel the extremes that are in life, whether they be anger and sadness or laughter and joy.  Her voice, and her songs, make you realise that we all spend most of our time with psychological buffers between ourselves and the world, and that, whilst those buffers keep us functioning sanely, it can be really good to shrug them off for a while.  Good music does that, and Rocio does it particularly well.  Without wanting to get too pretentious about things, there’s a really striking example of that in the song ‘Sao Paulo’.  If you’ve heard the track you’ll realise that the album title: ‘Nadie es Nadie’, comes from a section of the song where a Brazilian streetchild refutes the accusation that he is no-one, worthless.  The first time I heard the song was in a small bar, where Rocio and Coca were both performing without amplification.  It’s about streetids in Sao Paulo killing themselves on crack, and every time Rocio sings it you could swear that she was right there watching it happen, the voice is so committed and outraged.  Powerful stuff by anyone’s standards.  The funny thing though, is that when I first heard it with Rawle Bruce’s bassline added, it took me a completely different way.  Alone, it was challenging and stark, you felt the pain and the anger but were removed from it, like watching a tv report on an African famine and just being charity-jaded by it.  Yes, bad things happen, but I don’t do them and I can’t really do much to help.  Where did I put my drink?  Then Rawle came along and put this incredibly jaunty, almost calypso bassline on it and it just transformed.  That song is now a really compelling, bouncy track that makes you want to dance.  OK, so far, so normal.  The weird thing is that it actually gets more powerful, more inclusive.  You bounce along with the beat and you’re involved, implicated.  Somehow it becomes something that you can’t wash your hands off, that streetkids in Brazil are as much my problem as they are the Sao Paulo mayor’s, that we can bounce along to a nice bit of music and feel outraged that the interest rates have gone up and the property prices have gone down, but that there’s a world out there where just making it alive to the end of the day is a triumph, and that we all have responsibilities and that one day we’re all going to have to go and do something constructive and genuinely good.  And then she starts a new song and you feel relieved, and affected somehow, and incredibly, incredibly fortunate.

Mil i Maria, ‘Sao Paulo’

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