Once upon a time there was a style of popular music based on Brazilian music derived from the Samba but with a more melodic and harmonic complexity and less emphasis on percussion. As the Brazilian language softened and rounded the Portuguese language at its core, so this new beat softened and rounded the Samba at its core and called itself Bossa Nova, literally new beat. With its beginnings on the tropical beaches of Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s, it was a youthful expression of romance, beach culture and sensual pleasure.
Riva Taylor is one of the UK’s outstanding vocal talents and as such she is always evolving, always developing. Her taken name these days is Riva, and this is a word that can mean so much. In its Latin baby name, it can mean to regain strength, as an Italian surname it is derived from the bank or the shore and those who lived by the river or sea may have been called Rivanis or taken the family name Riva. So it can come as no surprise that Riva Taylor has been inexorably drawn to the fluidity of liquid motion and the step to Bossa Nova is a tiny one.
The last year has seen Riva learning Spanish and writing with Ervin River, a Mexican artist. Again the step towards Portuguese and then the Brazilian version of the language will not be far away. It has seen her find inspiration in Jazz, Bossa Nova and Samba elements and combining her new found Spanish into her music.
There was a hint that this new direction was on the cards when Riva played her sell out gig in London earlier this year as she performed a brilliant version of the classic ‘Girl from Ipanema’, but this new material is a refreshing change of direction that adds yet another string to the impressive bow of an artist that seems to be able to sing any genre with style and class. I’ve long been a fan of music in different languages and remember being hopelessly addicted to Gloria Estefan’s Spanish songs despite not understanding a word. It’s a passion that has continued for me with Zucherro and his Italian songs and so the infusion of Spanish into the hook of Riva’s latest release really resonates. There is something impossibly romantic that cannot fail to take us to a different place; who can forget the Italian in Matt Monro’s ‘On Days Like These’ which will always transport us to the sweeping roads of Italy. Riva’s Spanish in this new release combined with its Bossa Nova influences takes us to the beaches where the genre was born and the collaboration with Mexican artist Ervin River whose hit song ‘Complicado’ has been streamed over 23 million times gives another twist to the genre. Riva says of the track:
“I’ve loved collaborating with Mexican artist Ervin River on ‘Colours of Blue’ and have been learning Spanish in lockdown so was excited to get a chance to bring it to one of my songs. The hook translates: ‘I arrive, you arrive, kisses, bye bye’ brings a light hearted bounce to a classic melody, and the colours of blue refer to the sea, the sky as well as the sadness of transient love. Riva means something similar in many languages: ‘the shore’ in French or ‘from the shore’ in Italian so we are off to some exotic places on the new record for those who want to jump on board! First stop: Mexico City!”
The intriguing teaser of “first stop” hints that this new musical direction may well take Riva in many geographical directions too; her influences have always been far reaching with her writing collaborations with artists from many different places often bringing added nuance to her music. I cannot help feeling that this new direction is a direct result of not being able to physically travel worldwide for so long and that Riva has spent time metaphorically spreading her wings via her music, although in a way it’s a return to her musical roots as she was originally signed in her teenage years to EMI’s Jazz label before crossing over to more pop orientated music.
The single artwork is quite stunning in its own right and is inspired by the work of Matisse and his abstract expression of female form that emerged as part of the jazz movement in the 19th century and is created in collaboration with visual artist Krishna. The single is produced by Juan Valdez and Craigie Dodds, of Amy Winehouse fame, an artist who was also hugely inspired by her Jazz roots.
This new chapter for Riva follows on from the critically acclaimed ‘This Woman’s Heart’ project which was released in two parts over the last two years. The record found commercial success with airplay on BBC Radio 2 and celebrity fans in none other than Sir Elton John and Pete Tong. Personally, I can’t wait to hear more from Riva in this new direction as her previous releases prove that when she decides to embrace a new genre, she does it with an unrivalled passion and dedication; I’m sure that when you have listened to this latest release, you will be filled with the same excitement and maybe a yearning to be on a beach somewhere with a sea breeze and a cocktail and the heady feeling of love in the warm air. Or, maybe with the weather in the UK at the moment you might get that feeling here with the only necessary ingredient being Riva’s ‘Colours of Blue’.