It is amazing how the interest into World Music has grown in the United States.
In a time that is not that far away, it would be hard for anyone outside ethnic
neighborhoods to find any kind of music not performed by English-language
performers. Today, a quick browse at the International section of your local
store can bring quite a few welcome surprises.
Brazil is known for its
beautiful weather, its samba and for it fun-loving citizens, but the pop music
scene hasn't been great. Too many musicians have devoted themselves to making
completely disposable songs that you forget about in a few months, pretty
much as it happens in the U.S.
Recently Brazilians had
their Norah Jones moment, however, and that happened last November when Maria
Rita débuted with her self-titled album, which has just been released
Maria Rita is the daughter
of late bossa nova diva Elis Regina, who died in 1982 from a drug overdose
at age 36, and composer-arranger Cesar Camargo Mariano, and her vocal resemblance
with her mother is astoundingand Maria Rita realizes that.
In every song, she distances
herself as much as she possibly can from her mother's unmistakable style by
singing to jazzy arrangements that were uncommon to Elis Regina. Two
of the best tracks in the album were penned by Brazilian rock queen Rita Lee.
In "Agora Só
Falta Você" (You're All I Need), the original rock arrangement
is replaced by a slap-string bass, piano and drum beat that makes the classic
song her own. "Pagú," co-written by Zélia Duncan,
a humorous take on feminism, receives a Chicago Blues treatment that sounds
much more interesting than the original take on the song by its writers, a
couple of years ago.
There were only two moments
in the album that I didn't quite like: the opening track, "A Festa"
(The Party), which at first sounds laid-back and unrehearsed, and then becomes
too manicand there are far too many instruments into the mix, and that
makes the song sound a bit crowded.
"Encontros e Despedidas"
(Meetings and Farewells) is a well-known song by Milton Nascimento that was
recorded by Elis Regina in the 1970s, but while the late singer's version
was emotional and full of life, Maria Rita's is so cold and subdued that it
seems as if she was forced to remake a hit from her mother's repertoiresomething
she avoids on stage, according to articles from the Brazilian music press.
Maria Rita's début
was one the best selling albums of 2003 in Brazil. An incredible feat considering
it only had two months to achieve the mark, and every sale is well deserved.
Here's hoping that she is appreciated abroad as well so we can have a chance
to see her on stage soon.
Ever since Stan Getz joined
forces with Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto for the historic
Getz/Gilberto album in 1964, many international musicians have been influenced
by the music from Brazil and have made songs alongside Brazilian performers.
Some of those include Brian May, George Michael, Sting, Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald,
Joe Henderson, Sarah Vaughan and many others. And the list keeps growing.
Ravi, for example, is
a British musician who plays the Kora, an African string instrument that is
somewhere between a lute and a harp. In his most recent experiment, The
Afro-Brazilian Project, he traveled to Rio de Janeiro and teamed up with
Marlui Miranda, who performed on the soundtrack of At Play in the Fields
of the Lord, jazz saxophonist Paulo Moura, percussionist Armando Marçal
and others, with very good results.
Brazilian music is heavily
influenced by Africa, so Ravi's kora incorporates itself perfectly to the
mood and swing of the samba, bossa nova and modern jazz that is played
throughout the album. At no moment does the instrument sound out of place.
All the songs are original
compositions penned or co-written by Ravi. All the songs sound great, especially
Koração Brasileiro (a wordplay in which Kora and the Portuguese
word for heart come together), a very traditional-sounding samba that features
Paulo Moura on clarinetan instrument widely used by old-school samba
musicians in a style that is called chorinho. Moura enhances the arrangement
by making the song sound like a classic.
Another great moment is
"Bird of Paradise." Ravi sings words in English about the coming
of spring. He sounds comfortable enough, resembling at times samba-infused
Chet Baker. The best in the song, however, is the fine harmonica work of Guta
Menezes, a young harmonica player who has performed extensively in Brazil,
but who has yet to be discovered here.
Project is a fine album that deserves the attention of anyone who is interested
both in modern and traditional-sounding Brazilian jazz-infused sounds.
Project, Ravi, Arc Music - http://www.musicrama.com
Maria Rita, Maria
Rita, Warner Music/Musicrama - http://www.warnermusic.com.br
Edited by the author from
an article originally printed on Gaytoday.com
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