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Brazzil - Music - March 2004

A Brazilian Voice Charms the World

Maria Rita's—Elis Regina's daughter—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.

Ernest Barteldes

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 here.

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 astounding—and 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 manic—and 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 repertoire—something 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.

Brazilian Touch

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 clarinet—an 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.

The Afro-Brazilian Project is a fine album that deserves the attention of anyone who is interested both in modern and traditional-sounding Brazilian jazz-infused sounds.

The Afro-Brazilian 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 ebarteldes@yahoo.com

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