Traveling out West last year, Challenge Records' Anne de Jong, from The Netherlands, found Boston-born Maria (Jameau) Bija and her Blue Brazil band performing outdoors at a farmer's market in little Healdsburg, in the heart of Northern California wine country. He signed the singer on the spot. "I was amazed by the purity of her Latin-American voice in a jazz setting," says de Jong. "Not commercial hustle, but passionate music sung with devotion." Bija studied music and dance in Brazil, West Africa, Europe and Northern India. A former faculty member of the New England Conservatory in Boston, she also teaches classes for children, grownups and teachers out of her studio in St Helena, CA."I am constantly grateful for the ... abundance of amazing music (and dance, and visual arts) out there for us to tap into at any time," Bija blogs. "It can touch us in the deepest and most healing ways, whether alone or together in sorrow or joy." Her new album with Blue Brazil, GEMA (Challenge, 2011), lets the world hear some of the songs performed at the market.


Monday, October 3, 2011
Maria Bija and Blue Brazil Bring Us “Gema”Singer Maria Bija comes up with an eclectic mix of Brazilian bossa-samba standards plus African, Latin American folk and miscellanea on Gema (Challenge 73304). It’s Maria with a strongly pleasing delivery, vocal harmonies, plus percussion and as warranted, flute, guitar and bass accompaniments.The song choice is good, Maria can sing, the backgrounds sometimes have the bossa-samba groove, sometimes Afro-Cuban clave, sometimes a combination of various elements.The group is based in California. Bob Afifi plays solo flute with a Herbie Mann-meets-the-world sort of agility and lightness.Summer is coming in Brasil. Those of us facing fall and winter up north will find this a nice way to escape. After you dig this one you might want to search a little for the original bossa-samba-classic recordings from Brazil. But this one stands on its own in a distinctive way.

-Posted by Grego Applegate Edwards


JAZZTIMES 10/02/11 • Albums • By Wilbert Sostre CD Review: Maria (Jameau) Bija & Blue Brazil - Gema
Music that takes the listener from Brazil, to Portugal, to Africa and back to Latin America. All those flavors are included in the new album from Maria Bija and Blue Brazil. Maria Bija's soothing voice is at ease either singing brazilian bossas and sambas, or fados from Portugal.The album starts with the title track Gema, one of three bossas included in the release, the other two are classics by Tom Jobim, “Triste” and “Garota de Ipanema”. Maria ventures into the danceable beats of samba on the tracks “Tristeza pe no chao” and the internationally recognized song “Mais que nada”.On the tracks “Fatou Yo” and “Malaika” the contagious rhythms and wonderful chants takes us to Africa. On “Malaika” the rhythm clave is very similar to Caribbean music. But one of the highligths of the album is the heartfelt interpretation of the fado “Casinha Pequenina”. It would be nice to hear a fado album from Maria. In the last two tracks Maria sings in Spanish the lullaby “Nana de Cuna” and an upbeat version of “Gracias a la vida”.


PARENTS CHOICE AWARD 2008 -   In her first children’s album, Maria Bija displays a graceful empathy for sounds, rhythms, and music that are just right for young to older children. World Family Folk Celebration features a multicultural mix of folk favorites which draw from a wide range of traditions including West Indies (“Tingalayo”), Ghana (“Fi Ka Netso/ Mano Efe Dusi Me”), French (“Au Claire de la Lune”), Yugoslavia (“Sto Mi e Milo”), Korea (“Arirang”), and Mexico (“De Colores”), among others. Her arrangements are fresh and lively, backed by professional World musicians such as David Darling (Paul Winter Consort), Paul McCandless (Bela Fleck and Flecktones) and the superb percussion of Kendrick Freeman (Joe Craven Trio). 

At the center is Bija’s gorgeous voice, which is equally at home with American standards like “Oh Susannah” as it is with traditional South African songs such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” As an added treat, her own musically talented daughters Ismena and Lucia Jameau contribute some lovely backing and chorus singing. Bija’s love and enthusiasm for the music come shining through on every track as she celebrates both musical and cultural diversity. 

- Review written by Lahri Bond, 2008 Parents Choice Awards