Alluring Lura goes all out

Boston Globe, September 14, 2005

Bostonians whose awareness of Cape Verdean music begins and ends with Cesaria Evora had the chance to expand their horizons Saturday evening when singer Lura, the rocky archipelago’s current chart- topping sensation, visited the Berklee Performance Center.

Hers was a total performance. She covered styles ranging from ballads and batuku, traditional women’s music, to the fast-paced, Africanized funana, delighting an ebullient, multi-generational capacity crowd who came prepared to holler back and sing along.

To call Lura alluring is more than wordplay. In fact, she is fierce. Though petite, she gave out a commanding stage presence, underscored by lithe dance moves and her exuberant natural coif. She showed tremendous vocal strength and range, and worked both the room and her band with sexiness, grace, and authority.

For centuries the Cape Verde islands have been a crossroads of slaves and their captors, long-distance traders, fishers, whalers, and merchants on their way to or from Portugal, Brazil, North America, and nearby Senegal and Guinea. Cape Verdean faces and the language, Kriolo, reflect this exceptional diversity. So does the music.

The five-piece band was suitably versatile. Jair, on congas, could have graced a top salsa outfit; Aurelio made the guitar sing West African-style, and pianist Toy Vieira deconstructed the rhythms like a disciple of Thelonious Monk.

But the straw that stirred the drink was Lura. After early efforts in a more pop-oriented vein, she has landed, at 30, on a personal combination of classics and new compositions also in evidence on a terrific new CD, “Di Korpu Ku Alma” that delivers what the title promises: body and soul.

The crowd was entranced and involved. Several times the balcony turned choir, taking over the songs with full throat. Two young men approached the stage, one to hand Lura a Cape Verdean flag, another with a bouquet that earned him a kiss.

It was refreshing to see a major downtown venue turned over to one of Boston’s largest ethnic communities, who, like other immigrants, usually find their music in neighborhood restaurants and suburban function halls with limited capacity and poor sound.

Lura seemed genuinely moved and invigorated by the welcome. When she returns soon, one hopes both she and the wider Boston audience will know what to expect.