New Times, May 17, 2001
- Los Angeles
Everything that Vida Vierra is (singer, dancer, choreographer, mother, chef, healer) comes into play in her band -- which is why the group formerly known as Deja Voodoo took her name when they required a new one. She's their alchemist, using her many talents to bring life to and stabilize their often volatile brew. Only a woman like her, possessing a spirit as boundless as her voice is powerful, could guide this ship as it travels through sounds near and far.
World fusion is about the only label that comes close to describing the material on Woman of the Waters, but that seems way too limp, falsely implying that its elements have been melded into each other and have lost all distinctness. Here, every ingredient -- from Brazilian, African, Asian, Latin, European, Arabic and Indian rhythms through jazz, funk, rock, soul and pop -- manages to complement every other one while retaining its individual flavor. It's a rare combination of bravado and sensitivity that enables Vierra (the band) to show respect in their use of sounds from across the world while creating something new with them, forging a continuum between all music that has as much to do with religious fervor as it does with musical dexterity. Vierra (the woman) refers to the dance classes she leads and the meetings of her Swing Brazil dance company (which usually performs live with the group) as "church," but in truth, all that she does is holy and full of ecstatic joy.
Usually more of an ever-morphing collective or roaming house party than a standard group, the Vida Vierra lineup is fairly stable here: Vierra's husband, Doug Lunn (who's worked with Wayne Kramer, David Torn, Mark Isham, Sting and Bruce Springsteen, among many others), is on bass, Jimmy Mahlis (Waternoise) is on guitars and bouzouki, Giovanna Imbesi is on keyboards, Brock Avery (Wayne Kramer, Joykiller) is on drums, and Bryon Holley, Steve Forman and Cyrus Aliakari are on percussion. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to this. The songs can seem a little polished and restrained compared to the free-flowing spontaneity and mercurial energy of their live performances, but they also benefit from the structure they're given on disc. During their gigs, when the dancers are strutting their stuff, people from the audience join in, and the whole thing becomes Carnaval and Mardi Gras rolled into one. But in such a frenzied atmosphere, it's easy not to notice that there are actual songs here, and good ones at that. So while Woman of the Waters may dispel the happy illusion that all of this comes out of pure improv, it also provides a better appreciation of the incredible skill it takes to craft such cross-cultural gems -- and to perform them.
BAM, June 4, 1999
- Los Angeles
"The whole spirit of Deja Voodoo is about the drums and the voice," explains Doug Lunn,
"It's a rhythm band ... a global carnival type of band, we want a real international
kind of sound where it draws on the African, Brazilian, Asian, and European and also
on funk and jazz."
Global party band, Deja Voodoo [the name of the band has been changed
to the same as the singer, Vida Vierra, after this article was written]
is the project of Lunn, a five-string
fretless-bass wonder, and his wife of 21 years, Vida Vierra, a
singer/dancer/choreographer/actress/healer/chef. Lunn's seemingly endless list
of credits include work with Wayne Kramer, Mark Isham, Andy Summers, Sting, Bruce
Springsteen, FireMerchants, David Torn, Zappa alums Mike Keneally and Ed Mann, and
Peter Buffett's Native-American musical opus "Spirit." Similarily, it's impossible
to list all the work of self-professed "Renaissance woman" Vida. She's sung with Torn,
Mann, Jimmie Spheeris and John Abercrombie; acted as artistic director for the Swing
Brazil Dance Company; was a longtime member of the Friends and Artists Theatre Company;
worked with the dying, and collaborated with her husband in many groups including Left
Right Left and Perfect World. The two have also found time to raise a daughter, Dani,
who takes after both of them by studying dance and choreography at Cal Arts and playing
Formed in 1994 with one of their mutual collaborators, the late Paul Delph, a
keyboardist who succumbed to AIDS in 1996, Deja Voodoo have continued as if almost
on a holy mission. "I want it to be a sacred act," Vida admits, "because the band
was birthed [during Delph's illness], in that immediacy of everyday counting, it's
spilled over into what the band's about."
The other core partners in the group are drummer Brock Avery (who played with Doug
in Wayne Kramer's band), percussionist David Mendez (a musical partner of Vida's
dating back to the mid-'70s), and guitarist/bouzouki impressario Jimmy Mahlis
(Doug's former cohort in the group Waternoise). Proving the band is an unstoppable
entity bigger than its individual parts, the line up might be augmented by additional
percussionists or altered when necessity demands one of its member's tour with a
Shows at their adopted home, Fais Do-Do, produce what Lunn aptly calls "a
ritual frenzy ... where we blur the distinctions between performers and spectators so
that people will be climbing out of the audience and dancing on stage and sitting in,
and people from the stage will hop into the audience." Vida adds "It's like a big
village." Drawing from tribal rather than music biz models, the group seeks to be
"a celebration of community" according to Lunn. [...]
- Sabrina Kaleta
for BAM Media
© 1999. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.
- Los Angeles
When you see Vida Vierra, you'll finally understand the trance state
of voodoo practitioners who let their bodies be filled, quite
literally, with their gods. Deja Voodoo was, in fact, the original
name of the group, before they discovered someone else had claimed it.
Now they simply go by the name of their singer, Vida Vierra, also a
dancer, choreographer, actress, healer, and chef. As her husband and
frequent musical collaborator Doug Lunn explains, "She's the
soul of it," and the group's only truly permanent fixture.
Bassist Lunn (whose lengthy credits include work with Wayne Kramer,
Mark Isham, David Torn, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, FireMerchants,
Zappa alums Mike Keneally and Ed Mann, and serving as musical
director on Peter Buffett's Native American opus Spirit), drummer
Brock Avery (Wayne Kramer), and guitarist Jimmy Mahlis (Waternoise)
join Vierra most of the time, as do her dance troupe, Swing Brazil
(who accompanied Perry Farrell on his Jubilee 2000 Tour).
Many percussionists, vocalists, and other players are part of the
extended family -- and it really does seem like a family. As hokey
as it may sound, each show is an expression of the love the members
have for each other and the world. There's no lines drawn between
cultures; African, Brazilian, Asian, Latin, and European rhythms
blend with funk and jazz seamlessly. Nor are there boundaries
between spectator and performer, which results in what Vierra calls
a "ritual frenzy," with the audience sometimes ending up
on stage and the performers, off. These events are guided by what
can only be called pure spirit, an element as necessary as the one
referenced in the title of Vida Vierra's CD, Woman of the Waters.