LIVE: Charlotte Dos Santos @ Village Underground, London

The nomadic soul singer enriches London with themes of femininity, love, and self-worth.
Posted: 12 March 2020 Words: James Kilpin
It may be a somewhat convenient lens through which to view the music of Charlotte Dos Santos – perhaps even a reductive one – but there is value in seeing the places that she has called home, and the variety therein, as emblematic of the indefinable quality that her music exhibits.

Born in Oslo to a Norwegian mother and Brazilian father, Dos Santos studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, an institution world renowned as a hotbed for jazz. These studies also included a period studying flamenco music in Valencia, with time since spent variously in the musically rich cities of New York, London, Berlin, and Oslo.

It’s arguably thanks to (not in spite of) this atypical background that she finds universality with her music. Her sound not overtly tied to any one place. Her lyrics less likely to explore specifics than to call upon imagery of nature and the cosmos in exploring themes of femininity, love, or self-worth.

And this is on display from the outset at Village Underground on Tuesday night. Joined on stage by her band, the assured-yet-introverted performer opens her set with ‘Harvest Time’, the lead single, opener, and title track of her brand new EP, released on 13th March. The delicacy and vulnerability of the song’s lyrics reflect the “very turbulent time” of its creation. And yet here, as throughout the set, the strength of her voice is undeniable. Each note is powerful and pitch perfect, with a quality that brings to mind the legendary Minnie Riperton on more than one occasion (a comparison that also rings true with elements of the musical composition).

The set intertwines intimate and sensual older tracks (‘Good Sign’, ‘Move On’, ‘Take It Slow’) obviously rooted in classic soul and seductive vocal jazz with new, more expansive offerings that call upon otherworldly imagery and boast a more spacious sound.

‘Helio’, we are told, draws from the mythology of the solar system to reinforce the idea that we are the centre of our own universe and must learn to love ourselves before we can allow others in. Similarly, in her introduction to ‘Metamorphosis’, Dos Santos explicitly invokes natural imagery once more, explaining how she imagines this song being sung by insects – the lyrics expressly talking of shedding one’s skin.

Predictably, it is 2017’s debut single ‘Red Clay’ that garners the biggest response on the night – a sultry and assured breakthrough release that introduced many to the talents of its creator, and evidently a song that retains a place firmly in the affections of many in attendance.

But what is most exciting is the obvious progression of an artist who is looking to explore new ideas and develop both as a person and as a creative force. The themes of metamorphosis and transformation are not hollow sentiments. Their tangible effect is evident for all to see.

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