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Brazzil - Music - July 2004
 

Brazil's Benjor Never Lost His Cool

After 40 years, Brazilian singer Jorge Benjor, still delivers a
high-powered set as he showed in New York fronting his eight-
piece band with his trademark Fender Telecaster, dark shades
and a cool attitude. The fact that Benjor doesn't communicate
much with the audience didn't seem to matter to anyone.

Ernest Barteldes


Brazzil

Picture Jorge Benjor—he used to be called Jorge Ben—, the Brazilian legend whose career spans over four decades hasn't lost an ounce of his energy over the years. He still delivers a high-powered set as he fronts his eight-piece band with his trademark Fender Telecaster, dark shades and a cool attitude.

My first impression as I got to the club was that the band looked a bit cramped on China Club's diminutive stage in New York. I guess having eight musicians on stage is a bit too much for that club, but then again, that venue has been a mainstay for Brazilian performers who had been relegated to stages in Newark in earlier occasions.

The stage's size, however, seemed not to disturb Benjor, who played his funk-infused songs to a large but comfortable audience. The fact that it was a holiday weekend when a lot of people were away seemed to contribute to that. People danced and cheered to the non-stop selection of hits.

Among the highlights was Benjor's tribute to a fallen friend when he performed the late Tim Maia's last hit, "Do Leme ao Pontal" (From Leme to Pontal, references to places in Rio de Janeiro).

You wouldn't have known it was a tribute if you didn't know the song, for the band just started playing the song without any previous announcement, as they did with every song on the set from the minute he got on stage.

The fact that Benjor doesn't communicate much with the audience didn't seem to matter to anyone. Everybody simply sang along to "W/Brasil", "Fio Maravilha", "Salve Simpatia" and "Taj Mahal, "— a song that became notorious for Rod Stewart's plagiarism case in the chorus of "I'm Sexy"—, among others.

My favorite moment in the concert was when he reverted to his samba-infused earlier songs, such as "Que Pena"(What a Pity), which laments about the loss of a girlfriend, and "Mas Que Nada", a tune that became bigger than its composer through its remakes by greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, João Gilberto, Sergio Mendes and others.

The audience was composed mainly of Brazilians who shouted names of songs they wanted to hear. I did notice a handful of American-looking individuals who seemed to be enjoying the music quite a lot, but I did not get a chance to talk to them during the show.

Yes, the great Jorge still got it—and here's hoping that he remains that way for a long, long time.

Salve Simpatia Concert, Jorge Benjor, China Club, New York City, July 02, 2004


Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette since September 1999. His work has also been published by Brazzil, The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island Register, The SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other publications. He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com.




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