Every morning, singer/songwriter Mylene Pires goes to a local Rio de Janeiro bakery for coffee and inspiration, watching to see what happens in this picturesque environment.
There was a time when her friends wondered about her rushing home without notice to write down an idea for a song or poem. It wasn't until after her friends had already resigned themselves to this odd habit saying, "oh well, it's a writer thing" that Mylene started carrying a notebook in her purse at all times.
For her debut album, Mylene intentionally sought out the universe of what a new generation of Brazilian musicians was creating, melding it to the experience of everyday people.
"I went to various raves and traditional Brazilian parties, I talked to DJs and producers," says Mylene. "I read a lot of poetry by contemporary writers and I went to Lisbon, too, looking for our roots."
"I searched for a possible reconciliation of Portuguese and Iberian music with Brazilian music, since we were colonized by Portugal and this influence and all its inherent peculiarities got kind of hidden in the corners of our history," Mylene says.
One of the biggest myths about 'creatives' is that they're eccentric, she says. But everyone has a ritual that works for them: "I have to organize all my office stuff before writing. I need a lot of quiet time. I have a favorite sofa where I lie down to relax and cleanse my mind. Sometimes," she says, "I dream melodies while I'm sleeping --that's why I always keep a tape recorder on the nightstand next to my bed."
For instance, the first part of "Clareou," which means "It Lit Up," came to Mylene in a dream:
Tua pele que eu acho t�o rara
Foi feita s� para mim...
Your skin that I find so rare
Was specially made for me...)
Mylene's songs are based on her poetry.
"Sometimes it takes just few minutes -- when that happens, the melody seems to come, pre-made. Sometimes I never finish the song. In general, I write the lyrics before the song."
While producing an album is difficult, Mylene almost never experiences creative block. "I believe it happens, but I've never experienced it. What happens to me is a kind of excitement that interferes with the process, that doesn't let me work well."
Although none of her songs are laced with the quality of confessional navel-gazing common in many singer/songwriters, most of Mylene's songs are actually inspired by real life.
"My trip to Lisbon is described in the song 'Rio-Lisboa'; my wanderings on the streets of Rio de Janeiro at night are captured in the lyrics for 'Longa Longa Noite'":
� t�o longa longa a noite e suas luzes
Um sinal qualquer nessa cidade que me pare
E eu liguei a luz do seu olhar e acendeu�
Such a long, long night and her lights
Any traffic light can stop me
I lit your eyes and they brightened�)
Some songs on the album grew out of more internalized personal credos or experiences, like "Clareou", "Promessas", and "Pipoca Contemporanea".
� quando a areia se espalha que eu penso em voc�
porque o gr�o se separa sem se arrepender...
(English translation: It is when the sands spread that I think of you
Because the grains separate with no regrets...)
from: "Pipoca Contemporanea/Contemporary Popcorn"
"I think some people are born with an innate 'music skill' and can either develop that with time and practice, or choose not to. Others have to study music and find out their own way to express their art," she says. "Music is the language of God; in general, artists express in their art something that they can't express in any other way."
The song "48 Horas" combines Brazilian and Moorish sonorities, subverting its Spanish roots in 6/8, with a meeting between Brazilian regional northeast instruments and samplers and electronic programming. This is reinforced by the drama of the lyrics that speak of jealousy, anguish, fear, and the wait for someone who never comes.
"Rio-Lisboa" makes the connection between Brazil and Portugal, this time turning colonization inside out.
The lyrics tell two crisscrossing stories, an imaginary meeting of Portugal's Tejo River and Brazil's Rio de Janeiro.
O meu amigo, ele tem uma janela
E ele v� o Tejo e o tempo passar por ela
E l� na frente virar mar...
My friend has a window
From which he watches the Tejo river and time passing
Flowing into the sea far ahead...)
On "Coracao Tonto," which translates to "Dizzy Heart," Mylene makes her way into a mantric dub with a lot of open space and 1970s-style keyboards.
"Nela Lagoa," or "Lagoon Along Her," integrates drum 'n bass with the samba-reggae that is characteristic of Bahia.
Eu novelinho que ela desenrola...
(English translation: She's a novel
And me, the skein that she unwinds...)
from: "Nela Lagoa/Lagoon Along Her"
The song is inspired by the African legends of the Orix�s and Candomble, an Afro-Brazilian religion. Mylene calls on Oxossi in search of a lost love.
Featuring an exotic blend of traditional samba and bossa nova, mixed with folkloric elements and electronica, Mylene sings the soul of Brazil itself.
Read more about this music artist in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".