Album Review: João Selva – Navegar [Underdog Records; April 2021]

João Selva spent years as an unofficial ambassador for traditional Brazilian music, touring as part of an ensemble across the world before settling in France. Yet it was here, meeting and collaborating with French producer Patchworks, that allowed Selva to tap back into the roots of his musical upbringing. The result, his second album Navegar (released via Underdog Records on 2nd April 2021), is João Selva’s official full-circle moment.

Born in Ipanema, Selva moved to north-east Brazil where he discovered traditional Brazilian music, but it was through his father’s record recollection that he first fell for more laid-back, bossa nova vibes. In Navegar, Selva incorporates this initial influence with Patchwork’s dance sensibilities to produce a hook-laden concoction of soul, funk, jazz and disco to brighten your spirits. 

Opening with the title track, João wastes no time worming his magic into your brain with flowing samba rhythms. This is followed by the slinky ‘Cadê Você’ with a delightful key change in its Middle 8 that makes it perfect for a lounge or poolside occasion.

Comradery runs deep as João is joined by Flavia Coelho in the playful ‘Meu Mano’, encouraging listeners to be open-minded and grasp opportunities as they come. This is a sentiment many can relate to, and may have previously taken for granted, after a year of pandemic restrictions.

Along similar lines and inspired by a recent trip to Brazil, the mischievous melody and lyrics of ‘Camará’ encourages tired, pessimistic citizens to not give up in the face of divisive leadership and rhetoric.

Things get much funkier with tracks like ‘Meu Mundo’ and ‘Devagar’, before Selva arguably saves the best for last in ‘Se Você’. A change of scenery, this non-dance number neatly ties up any loose ends of this experience with a soft, string-enhanced serenade.

Throughout Navegar, there is an overwhelming sense of familiarity without sounding generic. It treads this line very carefully with a constant rotation of memorable and easily digestible melodies, evoking memories of social situations that have been sorely missed.