The title of my second album, “Blues in my Blood,” expresses my affinity with blues as a musical genre – something that is lived out with such intensity that it seems to circulate through my veins and arteries. My identification with blues is deeply related to my upbringing, and my social and cultural influences.
I grew up in a period marked by the civil rights movement of the 1960s in the US. A mixture of blues and folk music dominated my musical background during adolescence. The voices of such singers as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell filled the spaces of my house almost every day. I loved to listen to these songs, filtered through the female voice and given an emotion-laden interpretation. In such a way, I clearly perceived the valuable contribution that women have left as their heritage in the musical form that we consider to be blues.
My passion for blues as a musical form grew to an extent where I was able to understand the social and political context in which it emerged and acquired its diverse meanings. Raised in a family environment that, to a large extent, reflected the social and political struggles of the period, I grew up believing that music can also be a form of protest. For this reason, I have always been attracted to work songs, spirituals and blues, that, while expressing the tribulations of the Afro-American people in the unjust conditions of slavery, strengthened their collective will.
When I hear the voice of Nina Simone- one of the greatest “divas” of blues—I enter in contact with intense emotions, which is a distinct characteristic of this particular form of musical expression. Blues is able to enter into the human soul and connect with deeply seated emotions, such as desire, love and bittersweet sadness, with intensity and truth. What I find to be most fascinating is its capacity to adapt and interact with other cultural influences, flowing with the current of the times. Since the beginning of my artistic career, I dedicated myself to investigating the multiple expressions of blues, so as to comprehend the diversity of its origins, as well as its expansive quality, as a musical form.
Rooted in Brazil for more than 12 years now, today I perceive with greater clarity what unites the blues (and the work songs and spirituals that came before blues) with so many other musical expressions in Brazil, such as congados and sambas. I believe that the African matrix is present in blues, in samba, in choro, in jazz, in reggae and in congado, despite the different cultural contexts in which each one of these musical forms finds expression.
I can testify to the fact that the feelings that are clearly conveyed in the most ancient expressions of African-American music (spirituals, work songs), and that were incorporated in what is considered to be Blues, are present also here in Brazil - in the congados, sambas and candomblés - created and re-created by the afro-brazilian populations.
As a singer, composer and anthropologist, I desire to dedicate my energies towards the preservation of blues and the recognition of the special role that women have played in this historical construction. However, I also recognize that each type of musical style enriches itself by the exchange and interaction with other forms of musical expression, resulting in the creation of something entirely unique and equally beautiful.
Both my first CD, “From Mississipi to São Francisco”, and my second one, “Blues in my Blood”, testify to the potency of blues, as if it were a substance that runs through my veins . However, it cannot be considered a pure substance, since its richness is derived from the process of intermingling with other elements. In the same way, I claim that my musical identity is formed from these eclectic and diversified encounters. My proposal at this moment is not to dilute the essence of blues, but to show in which way it can communicate with so many other musical genres, in such a way that it continues to evolve and flow with the times, like the Mississippi River.
“Rodica is a point of convergence. Independent, committed, she ventured into different parts of the world throughout her life journey and her powerful voice filtered in what was most precious in each place she lived. Her music is honest, never covering up regional accents, and ever traveling in search of lost connections.” (Titane)