Karina Buhr’s two previous solo albums, 2010’s Eu Menti Pra Você and 2011’s Longe de Onde were exquisite experimental pop albums, establishing her as one of Brazil’s most adventurous voices. Her latest, Selvática (available for free download or purchase on iTunes from ybmusic), is a fierce, fearless statement of female empowerment. Inspired by the female warriors of Brazil and Dahomey (modern-day Benin), Buhr poses topless with a dagger in her hands on the album’s cover.
Buhr was enmeshed in the music scene of Recife at the same time that Chico Science and the mangue movement swept through the city in Brazil’s northeastern province, Pernambuco (for more on that story, check out our show “Crabs With Brains: The Mangue Revolution and New Sounds of Recife”). She started her career in 1992, playing in the maracatu groups Piaba de Ouro and Estrela Brilhante. Buhr went on to form her own band, Comadre Fulozinha, while also playing with some of the most important mangue acts, Mundo Livre S/A and Mestre Ambrósio.
Although the new album contains some of the most aggressive moments of Buhr’s career, it begins with a lovely laid-back reggae track, “Dragão.” The following song, “Eu Sou Um Monstro” (I Am a Monster) channels PJ Harvey, as guitar distortion from Edgard Scandurra (a longtime collaborator with fellow Brazilian art pop innovator Arnaldo Antunes) backs up Buhr’s claims to savagery, and the frenzied power of the album truly kicks in. “Conta Gotas” is a shimmery synth-driven track that begins with Buhr growling and kicks up to a trumpet-blaring finish. Though known for her melodic singing voice, Buhr turns out to be a talented rapper as well, bursting out some furious bars on “Pic Nic.”
Selvática is highly varied stylistically, but is driven around a feminist punk rock ethos that is fully unleashed on the almost Bad Brains-sounding “Cerca de Predio,” which features a singer with the very punk-rock name, Cannibal. Buhr gets back to her Recife roots with “Rimã,” a track whose Kraftwerk-style synths, ciranda rhythm, and swirling guitar captures the original mangue spirit. Buhr caps off the album with the title track, a raucous call-to-arms, on which she snarls incantations, cackles maniacally and vanquishes all opponents. Karina Buhr is a badass, and Selvática is her thrilling feminist manifesto.