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Goddesses PDF Print E-mail
2002 - February 2002
Friday, 01 February 2002 08:54


Goddesses

It would be quite impossible to list all the great divas or up-and-coming divas of Brazil. We will list some of those who have provided such joy and musical influence in their careers or are just starting out on a promising path.
By Kirsten Weinoldt

Divas!

Diva. Di-va n. pl. divas [It, lit., goddess, fr. L, fem. of divus, divine, god—more at DEITY] (1883): Prima Donna. Thus, the dictionary describes what we know as the great female singer who dominates our culture. Brazil has had her share of these goddesses, and Brazzil is taking this opportunity to take a closer look at these ladies. A new generation of these great ladies of song is growing up, but we would be doing an immense disservice to the listeners of today, if we left out those that came before and created the tradition of the Brazilian DIVA.

CARMEN MIRANDA (1909-1955)

The Lady with the Tutti Frutti Hat.

Carmen was born Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha on February 9, 1909 in Marco de Canavezes, Província de Beira-Alta in Portugal. Thus, she was not born Brazilian as many think. She was still a toddler when her family moved to Rio de Janeiro, where she was raised in the carioca Bohemian environment. She loved to sing, something that cost her a job as a necktie saleslady. The manager of the establishment fired her for distracting her co-workers, who stopped working to listen to her sing.

Her début on the carioca stages was a success. Josué de Barros, well known composer of that era, perceived her potential when he first saw her. He resolved to invest in her career, paying for singing and diction lessons and even accompanying her to radio shows and record companies. This effort was not in vain. Soon she recorded her first record.

Carmen Miranda was a petite woman, somewhere around 153 cm (just over 5 feet). Consequently, she liked to wear very high-heeled platform shoes. For this reason, radio personality César Ladeira baptized her "The notable little one."

At the end of the 30's, she was already contracted as exclusive artist of the Cassino da Urca. She sang compositions of the best composers of the era, such as Assis Valente and Ary Barroso. Accompanied by the band Bando da Lua, she sang "O que é que a baiana tem," (What is it that the Baiana has), when she was seen by Lee Schubert, American impresario with a great deal of influence on Broadway. That contact gave Carmen the ticket to the artistic universe of North America.

Her success was absolute. It didn't take long before she was called on to make a film in Hollywood. That was another success. Six months after having arrived at the Mecca of world cinema, she was invited to leave her hand and footprints on the renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was an acclaim never before experienced by a Brazilian artist outside Brazil. Carmen had reached the peak of her career. She was recognized in and outside of Brazil. And abroad she was on the same level as the biggest international stars.

But all that success had a price, and Carmen was tired and drained as a consequence of all her commitments. She returned to Brazil, where she had been under a great deal of criticism for having become "Americanized." She stayed in reclusion at the Copacabana Palace Hotel for four months. But her obligations with American producers prompted her to return to the United States.

During a performance, she felt faint. Few noticed. She returned to her house in Beverly Hills, where she received some friends. The last person left the house about 3:30 in the morning. That was the last time anyone saw Carmen Miranda alive. She was found dead shortly thereafter. It was the fifth of August, 1955. Carmen died at the age of 46 years. That small woman, with bananas balanced on her head, and platform shoes, ended up with an international renown and became a myth in Brazil and around the world.

Carmen Miranda for the Record

For those too young to remember or who are new to Brazilian music, the following are some of the ways to acquaint themselves with the great diva. www.slipcue.com provides us with some reviews.

"Carmen Miranda: The Brazilian recordings" (Harlequin Records, 1993)

Outstanding. A revelation for those who know Miranda only from her campy fruit-bowl-on-the-head Hollywood cameos. This disc highlights Miranda's early years in Brazil, where in the 1930's, she was a major samba star. The music is vibrant and infectious, especially featuring many of Ary Barroso's songs, which went on to become standards.

"Carmen Miranda: 1930-1945" (Harlequin Records, 1997)

Harlequin's second great volume of this early samba star. Features more of her early Brazilian recordings, as well as some Hollywood stuff. Highly recommended!

"Carmen Miranda" (Revivendo, 1993)

More early recordings, from 1930-1935. There's a little overlap between this and the two Harlequin CD's listed above, but not that much. More than half these tracks don't appear on either of those discs, so if you're really, really into Carmen, you could get all three. The pacing of this CD seems a little off, but it's still awesome old material.

"A Pequena Notável" (Revivendo)

As with the disc above, this has some overlap with the Harlequin discs, and some unique material. The pacing seems better than the first Revivendo collection, but with Carmen, it's really hard to go wrong. If you feel forced to choose between labels, it's really a coin toss. The Harlequin discs are nice for English speakers because of the liner notes; this series is useful to archivists because of its meticulous notes on recording sessions. Either way, this is some of the best music Brazil has to offer.

Carmen Miranda Filmography:

In Brazil: A Voz do Carnaval (1933), Estudantes (1935), Alô, Alô, Brasil (1935), Alô, Alô, Carnaval (1936), Banana da Terra (1939)

In Hollywood: Down Argentine Way (1940), That Night in Rio (1941), Weekend in Havana (1941), Springtime in the Rockies (1942), The Gang's All Here (1943), Four Jills in a Jeep (1944), Greenwich Village (1944), Something for the Boys (1944), The All-Star Bond Rally (1945), Doll Face (1945), If I'm Lucky (1946), Copacabana (1947), A Date with Judy (1948), Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), Scared Stiff (1953)

Finally, a number of books and documentaries have been made about her and her life. Enter her name on Google.com or any other search engine, and you will encounter thousands of entries and an abundance of information.

DALVA DE OLIVEIRA (1917-1972)

Vicentina Paula de Oliveira was born on May 5, 1917 in the paulista city of Rio Claro, daughter of Portuguese Alice do Espírito Santo de Oliveira and party-going mulatto Mário de Oliveira, Mário Carioca—cabinet maker and saxophone player in his spare time.

Little Dalva was a natural when it came to singing. She often performed with her father at a variety of events. Upon his death when she was only eight, she went to an orphanage and spent some time there until reunited with her mother. She worked as a hotel maid and cook. She got a job as cleaner in a dance school, and there she would sing and improvise on the piano after classes.

A professor heard her and persuaded her to become part of a musical group, with which she traveled to several cities in the interior. The group went under, and without a penny in her pocket, she tested for Rádio Mineira in Belo Horizonte. She was hired and adopted her stage name, which established her. Soon, she moved to Rio, where she landed a job at Rádio Ipanema.

In the 30's she founded the Trio de Ouro with Nilo Chagas and Herivelto Martins, whom she ended up marrying. The group sang classics like "Praça Onze," (a square in Rio), and "Ave Maria no Morro," (Ave Maria on the Hill). The group worked on the principal radio stations in the then capital of the country, and sang in the famous Cassino da Urca.

At the end of '49, she separated from Herivelto, and in 1950, she launched three great successes: "Errei Sim" (Yes, I made a Mistake), "Que Será" (What Will Be), and "Tudo Acabado" (Everything is Over). She had more success with "Segredo" (Secret), "Olhos Verdes" (Green Eyes), "Ave Maria," "A Bahia Te Espera" (Bahia Awaits You), and others. In 1951, she was elected Queen of Radio and traveled to Argentina and Europe.

She lived in Buenos Aires for a short while and then returned to Brazil, where she continued her successful career with songs like "Rancho da Praça Onze" (Band of Praça Onze), "Máscara Negra" (Black Mask), and Bandeira Branca" (White Flag) from the Carnaval of 1970, her last and immortal success. Until the end of her life, she performed in nightclubs and television programs. In 1997, EMI launched a boxed set of her principal recordings, entitled A Rainha da Voz (The Queen of Voice).

DOLORES DURAN (1930-1959)

Adiléa da Silva Rocha, known as Dolores Duran was born in Rio on June 7, 1930. She was, with certainty, one of the major representatives of Brazilian samba-canção. She began singing very early—she won her first prize at the age of six. When she was 15, her father died—and the girl Adiléa had to sustain her family, singing, which was what she knew best how to do.

Self taught, she mastered English, French, Italian, and Spanish listening to music, to the point where Ella Fitzgerald told her that it was in her voice that she heard the best interpretation of "My Funny Valentine," a North American classic.

In 1957, then 27 years old and recently separated from a disastrous marriage, Tom Jobim, then just coming onto the scene, showed her a composition made in partnership with Vinicius de Moraes. Upon hearing the melody, Dolores grabbed a pencil and wrote "Por Causa de Você" (Because of You)—and sent a note to Vinicius asking him to agree with the new lyric—and Vinicius preferred that of Dolores.

From then on, she composed, in the last two years of her life, some of the most beautiful, sad, and tender songs of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), such as "Castigo" (Punishment), "A Noite do meu Bem" (The Night of My Love, "Olha o Tempo Passando" (See the Time Passing), and "Estrada do Sol"(Path of the Sun), among others. On October 23, 1959—at 29—she arrived at home at 7 in the morning and said to her maid: "Don't wake me. I'm tired. I'll sleep until I die." And so she did. Her death was a heart attack, attributed to an overdose of barbiturates. After her premature passing, her fame increased, and artists like Nana Caymmi and Lúcio Alves dedicated full albums to her music.

ELIS REGINA (1945-1982)

A Pimentinha—The Little Pepper

Elis Regina Carvalho Costa was born in Porto Alegre in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Her family was relatively poor, her mother being a housewife and her father in and out of work. Later, she had a little brother, Rogério. Her mother was the daughter of Portuguese immigrants, her father was Brazilian. As a child, she was always impeccably dressed by her mother.

In the south, where she lived, Argentine radio stations came in easily, and Elis learned to sing in both Portuguese and Spanish. She was a bright kid who, when she entered school, could already read. A local radio station in Porto Alegre featured a children's show called Clube do Guri, with children often performing on the air. Her first attempt at performing in public was a fiasco.

At the age of 7, in front of the microphone, she froze and couldn't utter a sound. She started taking piano lessons, but after a few years had to quit for lack of money. She then took up singing again, and a few years later, at the age of 12, she not only was able to sing in public, but she won the prize. For two years, she sang almost every Sunday and became a local celebrity. She still suffered from stage fright, however, something that would haunt her for the rest of her life. She was always afraid of not being perfect.

At the age of 13, she signed her first contract with Rádio Gaúcha. Her mother was not very happy about this, as she had in her mind that little Elis become a teacher and not a singer. Reluctantly, and with some compromises, she agreed. Before the age of 14, she was earning more money than her father, a fact that became a bone of contention between them, worsening over time.

At 15, she went to Rio where she recorded her first LP. She recorded three more records there, returning to Porto Alegre in between, but eventually realized that her life in Rio Grande do Sul was over. Elis went to live in Rio with her father, who was hoping to find work there. Her mother stayed behind, raising Rogério and a younger cousin. She would later say that she lost her daughter at 19. The year she moved to Rio (1964) was also the year in which the military junta took over the Brazilian government.

In Rio, it didn't take long before she landed a contract with a TV station, where she performed on a variety of shows. There was nothing timid about Elis. On the contrary, she was confident and aggressive in her pursuit of her singing career—something that led to her other nickname "Furacão," (Hurricane). Bossa Nova was king at that time, but it was not a style that suited Elis' artistic temperament, which was hot like the pepper. But wherever she went, her voice commanded attention and people noticed her.

She became pregnant by a boyfriend, Solano, but had an abortion without telling him. He was not ready to be "singer's husband" and the relationship came to an end. Her mother and brother joined them in Rio, and she was by and large the provider for the family, as her father still had not managed to find work. To the end of her life, there was always a conflict between her and her family.

The music market in Rio was very competitive, and Elis made her share of friends and enemies in the pursuit of a career. In 1965, she sang "Arrastão" at Brazil's first big music festival, Excelsior TV's I Festival de Música Popular Brasileira and won first prize. It was a controversial song that almost had been censored by the military government. She finished the song with her arms outstretched like Christ the Redeemer with tears in her eyes. Her career exploded after that, and she appeared everywhere on stage as well as magazines and soon became the highest paid singer in Brazil.

She continued to support her family, although this did not improve their relationship. Often, long periods of silence existed between the family members. In 1967, she created quite a stir when she announced her upcoming marriage to Ronaldo Bôscoli, composer, known as the Don Juan of Rio. She was 22, he 38. Their volatile marriage, which produced a son (musician João Marcelo Bôscoli), lasted for six years, during which time they were often fighting in public.

Elis was always known for her explosive temper, which alienated a lot of people and put great strains on her relationships, especially the one with Bôscoli. In addition to being her husband, he was also a father figure, who taught her how to dress and social skills, which she lacked. She suggested her short haircut, which became her trademark. When she was traveling on tours, he often stayed at home, drinking. They finally broke up.

It was rumored that he had married her for her money, but he said "he had gone into the marriage with three suitcases and come out with two." She had burned one of them containing old love letters and personal documents, and in a fit of anger, she once tossed his entire Frank Sinatra collection into the sea. She carried a grudge against him for the rest of her life and made it difficult for him to see his child.

She soon moved on with the pianist from her latest recording, César Camargo Mariano, a talented musician and arranger. He was married, but soon found himself in love with her. One day she invited him to her house to watch Bergman's "Wild Strawberries." Between reels, she passed him a note and told him to read it in the bathroom. He did. It said: `I love you.' Unsure of what to do, he escaped through the window and went home. She eventually forgave him for that and went on to marry him—a marriage that lasted 8 years and produced two children (Pedro Camargo Mariano, a recording artist, and Maria Rita).

In 1969, while touring in Europe, she said in a press conference that Brazil was run by "gorillas," something that did not sit well with the military government. However, because of her stature in Brazil, she was not persecuted like so many of her contemporaries, such as Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. A couple of years later, when she sang the national anthem at a ceremony put on by the government, she was heavily criticized by other artists and the left for that act. She also appeared in a political cartoon, in which she metamorphosed into Maurice Chevalier singing to a crowd of saluting Nazis. After an emotional and angry chance meeting in a restaurant, Elis and the cartoonist, Henfil, became friends.

At a time when the military government was on its last leg, Elis recorded a song by João Bosco and Aldir Blanc called "O Bêbado e a Equilibrista" (The drunk and the Tight Rope Walker). The song was an allegory about the absurdity of the military government and the fragility of freedom. It featured the line "bring back Henfil's brother," a reference to the brother of the cartoonist who was living in exile. It became the anthem for amnesty, and eventually the exiled dissidents were allowed to return. She sang it at a concert around that time, and Henfil was in the audience with his brother. A few days after her death, at a memorial concert for her, all the performers and the audience sang "O Bêbado e a Equilibrista" together.

The highlights of her career were the partnerships with Jair Rodrigues, which lasted some three years and the legendary one with Tom Jobim, which produced what many call one of the ten best LP's of all times Elis & Tom. She also had a series of very successful stage shows. Toward the beginning of the 80's she was using cocaine, which increased after her breakup with César Camargo. She did it secretly in the privacy of her bedroom, and her family and closest friends knew nothing of it. Perhaps it helped her deal with the pressures of her career, raising three children, supporting her parents, and dealing with the divorce.

She met and fell in love with Samuel MacDowell, a lawyer, and decided to get married again. At the beginning of 1982, she had many plans for the future, a new marriage, a new house, a new recording contract, a new show, etc. It was in this state of mind that she accidentally ingested a lethal combination of Cinzano and cocaine. It was January 19, 1982. She was 36. Brazil was left shattered at her loss.

By many, she is considered the greatest talent Brazil ever had to offer. She was immensely talented and insecure, generous and warm as well as temperamental and angry, a paradox in many ways. Shortly after she died, a newspaper published a caricature of her at the microphone casting a shadow behind her, but the shadow was of Brazil, not of her.

Much of the above information comes from Robert St-Louis, who can be reached at kholling@nrcan.gc.ca at www.caravanmusic.com which is an excellent place for buying Brazilian music.

Her discography includes the following:

Viva a Brotolândia (1961), Poema (1962), O Bem do Amor (1963), Samba Eu Canto Assim (1965), Dois na Bossa (1965) with Jair Rodrigues, O Fino do Fino (1965), Elis (1966), Elis Especial (1968), Elis Regina & Toots Thielemans (1969), Elis Regina in London (1969), Em Pleno Verão (1970), Elis (1970, 71, 72, 73), Elis & Tom (1974), Falso Brilhante (1976), Elis—Tranversal do Tempo (1978), Elis, Essa Mulher (1979), Saudade do Brasil (1980), Elis Regina—Montreux Jazz Festival (released 1982), Elis—Luz das Estrelas (released 1982).

ELIZETH CARDOSO (1920-1990)

A Divina Elizeth—The Divine Elizeth

Born on July 16, 1920 in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, she started singing as a child, charging admittance from other children who wanted to hear her sing. Elizeth was discovered at the age of 16 by Jacob do Bandolim, who introduced her on Rádio Guanabara in 1937. In the 30's and 40's, she worked as a crooner in various radio stations and nightclubs and had her first hit "Canção de Amor" (Song of Love) by Chocolate and Elano de Paula. In 1958 she recorded the first bossa nova record, a milestone in the genre, Canção de Amor Demais (Song of too much Love) with songs by the brilliant team of Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. In the following year she kept working with bossa nova composers and recorded songs for Marcel Camus' film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). In the 1960's, she hosted her own radio show. One of her most important albums was Elizeth Sobe o Morro (Elizeth climbs the hill). Another great album was A Enluarada Elizeth (The Moonlit Elizeth) featuring Pixinguinha, Cartola, and Clementina de Jesus as guest stars.

In 1964, she performed at the Teatro Municipal in Rio in a work by Heitor Villa-Lobos showing off her versatility. In 1968, she participated in a show that established the height of her career, with Jacob do Bandolim, Época de Ouro and Zimbo Trio. The concert was turned into a double LP. In the 1970's, she performed in Japan, where today one can find CD's with tracks unavailable elsewhere. She was one of the major divas of Brazil and toured much of the world.

Her discography includes the following: Todo o Sentimento (1991) with Raphael Rabello, Ary Amoroso; Elizeth canta Ary Barroso (1991); Luz e Esplendor (1986); Leva Meu Samba (1984) with Ataulfo Júnior; Uma Rosa para Pixinguinha (1983) with Radamés Gnattali and Camerata Carioca; Outra Vez Elizeth (1982); Elizeth Cardoso Recital (1982); Elizethíssima (1982); O Inverno do Meu Tempo (1979); A Cantadeira do Amor (1978); Live in Japan (1978); Fragmentos Inéditos do Histórico (1977) with Jacob do Bandolim, Zimbo Trio, and Época de Ouro; Elisete Cardoso (1976); Feito em Casa (1974); Mulata Maior (1974); Preciso Aprender a Ser Só (1972); Elisete Cardoso e Sílvio Caldas (1971); É de Manhã (1970) with Zimbo Trio; Falou e Disse (1970); Elizeth e Zimbo Trio Balançam na Sucata (1969); A Bossa Eterna de Elizeth e Cyro (1969) with Cyro Monteiro; and Momento de Amor (1968).

MARIA BETHÂNIA (1946 - )

Maria Bethânia Vianna Telles Velloso was born on the 18th of June, 1946 in Santo Amaro da Purificação in the state of Bahia. She was named for a famous song from that time—the idea of her brother, Caetano. There was much discussion of the name by the family. The patriarch of the family finally decided that names would be written on pieces of paper, then drawn out of a hat. The name drawn was Maria Bethânia. The story has it that all the pieces had the same name written on them.

From the time she was a little girl, her dream was to become an actress with no plans whatsoever of singing, though brother Caetano liked to play around with music in the house. In 1960, the two siblings went to Salvador to study. It was laid on Caetano's shoulders, then 18, to protect his sister, who at the time was just 14. Caetano was invited by his friend, Álvaro Guimarães to put music to a play by Nelson Rodrigues, Boca de Ouro (Mouth of Gold), staged in 1963. This was the beginning for Bethânia who, for the first time, sang in public—a samba by Ataulfo Alves.

That same year was the time when Bethânia and her brother met Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Zé and many other musicians, who would become important in their lives. From then on there was no turning back.

In June of 1964, the friends were invited to put on a show of popular music during the week of the inauguration of Teatro Vila Velha in Salvador. The show was Nós por Exemplo. The second show produced by the group was called Nova Bossa Velha, Velha Bossa Nova. Still in 1964, a new show was staged: Mora Na Filosofia. This time, however, Bethânia was alone on stage, launched officially as a singer by Caetano. In this show, Bethânia is seen applauded by the then muse of bossa nova, Nara Leão.

At the beginning of '65, at the invitation of Nara, Caetano and Bethânia moved to Rio so that Bethânia might replace Nara in the play Opinião. The play was directed by Augusto Boal with musical direction by Dori Caymmi. She started out singing softly, but her voice exploded in Carcará by João do Vale. This song marked her recording début and at the same time gave her the image of a protest singer, something she was not ready for. She had other plans for her career. She packed her bags and returned to Salvador. In order to further her career, she did return to Rio in 1966 and was soon signed to a contract with TV Record for six months and directed by Augusto Boal at his Teatro Arena, where she participated with her friends from Bahia.

She performed in partnership with the greatest on the Brazilian music scene, Vinicius de Moraes, Gilberto Gil, and Edu Lobo to name a few and had successful stage shows and recordings. Her incredible stage presence, already then, contributed to her early success. In 1968, she participated in an LP—Veloso, Gil e Bethânia—issued by RCA. On side A, each had their turn, and on Side B Bethânia sang songs by Noel Rosa.

Several happenings in 1971 marked the beginning of a new phase of her career. In January she recorded the LP A Tua Precença (Your Presence), her first album issued by Philips and also the first to receive raves by the critics for technical and artistic quality. In July, directed by Fauzi Arap and accompanied by Terra Trio, Bethânia débuted in the show Rosa dos Ventos. This was a different kind of show that gave her the opportunity to show her versatility as an actress and singer. The following year she was in a movie directed by Cacá Diegues and starring Chico Buarque and Nara Leão, Quando o Carnaval Chegar (When Carnaval Arrives). The soundtrack was issued in August of 1972. The Album Drama arrived in the stores later that year and led to a tour of Europe. The success with Chico Buarque led to a stage show at Canecão, where an album was recorded.

In 1976, she received her first gold record for the LP Pássaro Proibido (Forbidden Bird) with Chico's beautiful song Olhos nos Olhos. She was now firmly established in the minds and hearts of Brazilians.

After ten years of individual careers, Bethânia, Caetano, Gil, and Gal Costa united in a group they called Os Doces Bárbaros. The national début took place in São Paulo on June 24, 1976 and resulted in an album. It was followed by a stage show and LP, on which she performed with her brother in Bahia and Rio. One of her most famous LP's Alibi was issued in 1978. It arrived in the stores, all ready for gold status. It is a beautiful, lyrical album, which even now, so many years later, is well worth listening to.

The 1980's started out with the LP Talismã, another success, which has remained established in the mind of the public. She also had success on the stage, ten years after Rosa dos Ventos with a new show, Estranha Forma da Vida, also directed by Fauzi Arapi. Furthermore, a new album, Alteza, came out.

In 1983, stressed by the immense exposure she had reached with her great successes and high volume sales of her albums, as well as the subsequent pressure from the record companies, she issued the album Ciclo. On it are acoustic songs and sophisticated lyrics, breaking the rules that had appeared permanent in her discography. Acclaimed by the critics and received with some estrangement by the public at large, it liberated her from artistic obligations and gave her back the liberty, which had always characterized her work.

In 1985, she celebrated her 20th anniversary as a singer at Rio's famous Canecão with a collection of former great hits. In 1986, Bethânia signed a contract with RCA to record 3 albums with unpublished songs by Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, and Caetano Veloso, and one made especially for her by Milton Nascimento, called "Canções e Momentos" written as homage to her moving interpretation of the song "A Primeira Manhã" (The First Morning) made for her.

In 1988, she issued the album Maria with special participation by Jeanne Moreau and Gal Costa. The jacket had a photo of a black woman instead of Bethânia, symbolizing "all the Maria's in the world." She also débuted the show by the same name at the Scala in Rio. Her 25th anniversary was celebrated with the album and show called 25 Anos (1990). There were participations by Nina Simone, Hermeto Pascoal, Egberto Gismonti, and João Gilberto, among others.

Always a creative artist, she has never rested on her laurels. A beautiful show and album with music by Roberto and Erasmo Carlos, As Canções que Você Fez Pra Mim, (The Songs that You Made for Me) became enormous successes.

At an age when many artists might begin to take it easy, she has recorded a number of truly great CD's as well as performed prolifically at concerts around the world. In 2001, she turned 55 and celebrated with a huge show at Canecão with a smorgasbord of the greatest artists Brazil has to offer. Three CD's stand out in the last couple of years. Âmbar with songs by newer composers such as Chico César, Arnaldo Antunes, and Adriana Calcanhotto (a diva in her own right), and others. This was followed by A Força Que Nunca Seca (The Force that never Dries up). The CD launched simultaneously with her anniversary concert was the newest, Maricotinha. It is hard to believe that someone with that status can actually top herself, but in Maria Bethânia's case, that just seems to keep happening.

Her discography includes the following: Maria Bethânia (1965); Edu & Bethânia (1967) with Edu Lobo; Recital na Boîte Barroco (1968); Maria Bethânia (1969); Ao Vivo (1970); Maria Bethânia Vianna Telles Velloso: A Tua Presença (1971); Vinicius de Moraes/Maria Bethânia/Toquinho `La Fusa'(1971); Rosa dos Ventos O Show Encantado (1971); Drama- Anjo Exterminado (1972); Quando o Carnaval Chegar (1972) with Chico Buarque and Nara Leão; Drama—Terceiro Ato (1973); A Cena Muda (1973); Chico Buarque & Maria Bethânia Ao Vivo (1975); Os Doces Bárbaros (1976) with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa; Pássaro Proibido (1976); Pássaro de Amanhã (1977); Álibi (1978); Mel (1979); Talismã(1980); Alteza (1981); Nossos Momentos (1982); Ciclo (1983); A Beira e o Mar (1984); Dezembros (1988); Maria (1988); Ao Vivo (1989) with Caetano Veloso; Memória da Pele (1990); Canções e Momentos (1991); Canto do Pajé (1992); As Canções Que Você Fez Pra Mim (1994); Las Canciones Que Hiciste Para Mi (1994—same as above; but in Spanish); Anos Dourados (1994); Maria Bethânia ao Vivo (1995); Sonho Impossível (1996); Âmbar (1996); Acervo Especial (1997); Imitação da Vida (1996); Diamante Verdadeiro (1999); A Força Que Nunca Seca (1999); and Maricotinha (2000). In addition there have been a number of collections over the years.

GAL COSTA (1949 - )

Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos, the muse of Tropicalismo, was born on September 26, 1949, in Salvador, in the state of Bahia. Music was a part of her life from the very beginning, listening to the radio and working in a record store as a teenager and hanging out with her friends. Early on, she made the acquaintance of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, with whom she would forge lifelong friendships and partnerships. They were already on their way to change the Brazilian music scene. After leaving Salvador, the first show in São Paulo was not a great success. Gracinha, as she called herself, was shy, but when she sang bossa nova classics, people listened. With the onset of Tropicalismo also came a new name, Gal, from a nickname Gau given her by a younger cousin. Inspired by the "Manifesto of Cannibalism" by Oswald de Andrade, Caetano, Gil, Tom Zé, and Torquato Neto, founded the new musical movement partly as a rebellion against the military dictatorship, partly as a creative expression. While Caetano and Gil went into exile, Gal performed in politically radical concerts, singing the songs of Jorge Ben (Jor), Adoniram Barbosa, Luís Melodia, and Roberto and Erasmo Carlos. Not a composer herself, she turned into one of the great interpreters of Brazilian music. Over the years, she has gone through a variety of phases with different styles of dress and jewelry, but one thing has remained constant, her efforts at improving her singing and professionalism to the point where she lights up a stage with her presence and her stunningly beautiful voice, which has been heard all over the world by enthusiastic audiences. João Gilberto predicted that her voice would be Brazil's best export, and certainly, this prediction has come true. Recently, she embarked on a tour of the United States, where she thrilled the audiences with her rendition of America the Beautiful.

Her discography includes the following: Eu Vim da Bahia/Sim Foi Você (1965) under the name Maria da Graça; Domingo (1967) with Caetano Veloso; Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circensis (1968) with a variety of participants; Gal Costa (1969); Legal (1970); Gal a Todo Vapor (1971); Índia (1973); Temporada de Verão ao Vivo na Bahia (1974) with Caetano and Gil; Cantar (1974); Palco, Corpo e Alma (1976); Gal Canta Caymmi (1976); Os Doces Bárbaros (1976) with Bethânia Caetano, and Gil; Caras e Bocas (1977); Água Viva (1978); Gal Tropical (1979); Aquarela do Brasil (1980); Fantasia (1981); Minha Voz (1982); Baby Gal (1983); Gabriela (1983) with Tom Jobim; Profana (1984); Bem Bom (1985); Lua de Mel Como o Diabo Gosta (1987); Rio Revisited (1987) with Tom Jobim; Plural (1990); Gal: Saudação aos Povos Africanos (1992); Concert for Planet Earth (1992) with Tom Jobim and Plácido Domingo; O Sorriso do Gato de Alice (1993); Mina D'Água do Meu Canto (1995); Novela Hits (1996); Tieta do Agreste (1996) with Caetano and others; Acústico (1997); Aquele Frevo Axé (1999); Gal Costa Canta Tom Jobim (1999); and De Tantos Amores (2001).

RITA LEE (1942 - )

Rita Lee Jones was born in São Paulo on New Year's Eve 1942. She was the daughter of an Italian mother and a father from Alabama. Passionate about music since she was a young girl, at 16 she formed her first band, just with girls, called the Teenage Singers. Three years later, in 1966, Os Mutantes was formed and became part of the Tropicalismo movement. Although the band ceased to exist in 1972, it became a reference point for many contemporary musicians such as Beck, Beastie Boys, Stereolab, and Kurt Cobain. Rita Lee was the only one of the group to go on to a successful solo career.

In the 80's, her career exploded, and she got the nickname of First Lady of Brazilian Rock. She met and married musician Roberto de Carvalho and had three children. Outside the stage, Rita Lee has shown her talent in many other areas. She has been a hostess of radio and television programs, has written three children's books, and acted in soap operas and films. She won a prize for best "actor" for portraying the late Raul Seixas in a short film. In her most recent shows presenting her album 3001, Rita Lee mixes rock and electronic music, singing her newest songs and some less known. During her encores, she sings more than half an hour of requests from the audience.

Her discography includes the following: Build Up (1970); Hoje É o Primeiro Dia do Resto de Sua Vida (1972); Atrás do Porto Tem uma Cidade (1974); Fruto Proibido (1975) with Tutti Frutti; Entradas e Bandeiras (1976) with Tutti Frutti; Refestança (1977) with Gilberto Gil; Babilônia (1978) with Tutti Frutti; Rita Lee (1979); Rita Lee (1980); Saúde (1981); Carvalho (1983); Bombom (1983) with Roberto de Carvalho; Rita e Roberto (1985); Rita Lee/ Roberto de Carvalho (1987); Flerte Fatal (1987) with Roberto; Zona Zen (1988); Rita Lee e Roberto de Carvalho (1990); Rita Lee em Bossa'n Roll ao Vivo (1991); Rita Lee (1993); A Marca da Zorra (1995); Santa Rita de Sampa (1997); Acústico Rita Lee (1998); 3001 (2000); and Aqui, Alí, em Qualquer Lugar (2001).

MARISA MONTE (1967 - )

Marisa de Azevedo Monte was born on July 1, 1967, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. She studied the piano when she was a child. On her ninth birthday she got a drum set and also learned to play the guitar. During adolescence, she studied singing and participated in a production of The Rocky Horror Show, produced by theater alumni of the Colégio Andrews, with direction by Miguel Falabella. In 1985, she stayed in Italy to study singing but gave up lyrical singing and sang Brazilian music at night, accompanied by friends.

At this time, in Venice, she was heard by Nelson Motta, who would become the director of her show Tudo Veludo, her début show at JazzMania in Rio, in 1987. The success was immediate, by the public and the critics. Even before she recorded her first album, she was considered one of the most promising voices of MPB, Música Popular Brasileira. In 1988, she launched her first CD, Marisa Monte ao Vivo.

The second CD marked her début as a composer and was well received in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Latin America, setting off her international career. Over the years she has successfully performed and recorded with such distinguished artists as Gilberto Gil, Paulinho da Viola, Carlinhos Brown, Nando Reis of Titãs, Laurie Anderson, and Naná Vasconcelos.

Her discography includes the following: Marisa Monte ao Vivo (1988), Mais (1991), Barulhinho Bom (1996), and the latest also published around the world is known under the name Memories, Chronicles, and Declarations of Love (2000).

DANIELA MERCURY (1965 - )

It was on the 28th of July, 1965 that soteropolitano (from Salvador) couple Liliana Mercuri de Almeida and Antônio Fernando Abreu Ferreira de Almeida gave light to their new daughter, Daniela. It was Rua Nossa Senhora de Brotas in the neighborhood of Brotas in Salvador that saw her first artistic expressions as a dancer. Her boundless energy as a dancer earned her the nickname Pinga-fogo (a wasp or very active person). She participated in numerous dance recitals and festivals as a dancer, but it was at the age of 16 that it was discovered that she had a beautiful and strong voice.

She began singing in bars and small clubs, though dancing was still her main focus. At 17, she "retired" from singing, convinced that there would never be enough work for her, and concentrated all her energy on dancing. Soon after, she entered UFBa (Universidade Federal da Bahia) in dancing. She started singing again and began getting an enthusiastic following. At 19, she married Zalther Portela Laborda Póvoas and soon had two children, Gabriel and Giovanna. She kept singing throughout her pregnancies and made a name for herself as a singer and performed as backing vocal for Gilberto Gil and Gerônimo. Her début album exploded onto the Brazilian market, and soon she was off touring the entire country. After that followed Europe. Today she is the reigning queen of axé music, celebrated wherever she goes.

Her discography includes the following: Companhia Clic (1990) with the six piece reggae/samba/pop band in which she was the lead singer; Daniela Mercury (1991) a.k.a. Swing da Cor; O Canto da Cidade (1993); Música da Rua (1994); Feijão com Arroz (1997); Elétrica—Ao Vivo (1999); Sol da Liberdade (2000); and Sou de Qualquer Lugar (2001).

IVETE SANGALO (1972 - )

Ivete Maria Dias de Sangalo started her career at 15 influenced by Elis Regina. It was not until 1993 that she got up on a trio elétrico to sing professionally. At that time, her preference was strictly MPB. Later, she was heard by Jonga, director of Bloco Eva and percussionist for Companhia Clic. He was in the process of forming Banda Eva, which went on to great fame with Ivete as lead singer. Her entire family is musical, and some of them are members of bands of their own, one of them Fera Gorda (Fat Beast). Her brother weighs in the vicinity of 310 lbs. In recent years Ivete, who lives a healthy life of exercise and good nutrition, has gone on to a successful solo career.

Her discography includes the following: Banda Eva (1993); Pra Abalar (1994); Beleza Rara (1991); Banda Eva ao Vivo (1996); Eva, Você e Eu (1998); Banda Eva—Hora H (1995); and Ivete Sangalo (1999).

CÁSSIA ELLER (1962-2001)

Irreverent and Rebellious

2001 did not let go without yet another tragedy. On December 29, Cássia Eller went to a clinic in Rio complaining of respiratory distress. She went into cardiac arrest several times and died later that day. She had just turned 39 on December 10. She was on the verge of super stardom with her last CD selling hundreds of thousands of copies. The news of her death quickly spread all over the world. Lesbian by her own account, she shared her life with Eugênia and her son, Chicão, 8 years old.

In a recent interview she admitted to having a problem with drugs but that the concern of her son and companion had brought her to a healthier place in her life, where she had left drugs behind except "cigarettes and beer." Her sister told the press that Cássia had suffered from rheumatic fever as a child, which had led to a weakened heart. Her funeral was attended by, among others, Djavan and Adriana Calcanhotto as well a scores of fans, who had gathered outside and were allowed in at the last minute. Her style was that of a rebel of rock, her voice hinted at Janis Joplin, her lifestyle one that said: "This is my life, I'll live it as I see fit".

Her discography includes the following: Cássia Eller—Acústico MTV (2001); Com você...meu mundo ficaria completo (1999); Veneno Livre (1998); Música Urbana (Coletânea) (1997); Minha História (Coletânea) (1997); Veneno AntiMonotomia (1997); Ao Vivo (1996); Cássia Eller (1994); O Marginal (1992); Cássia Eller (1990)

It would be quite impossible to list all the great divas or up-and-coming divas of Brazil. It seems only fair, however, to list some of those who have provided such joy and musical influence in their careers or are just starting out on a promising path:

Leny Andrade: Born 1943, in Rio. Her husky, sexy voice and jazzy singing style continuously thrill crowds in Brazil and abroad. She divides her life between New York and Rio de Janeiro.

Her discography includes the following: Bossa Nova (1998), Leny Andrade e Romero Lubambo; Luz Neon; Luz Negra (1995) with Nelson Cavaquinho; Cartola; Embraceable You; Nós; E Quero que a Canção… Seja Você (2001).

Adriana Calcanhotto: Born 1965 in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. Beautiful, intelligent and humorous solo performer, she thrills the audiences with her beautiful voice and sense of humor.

Her discography includes the following: Enguiço (1990); Senhas (1992); A Fábrica do Poema (1994); Marítimo (1998); and Público (2000).

Alcione: Born 1947 in São Luís, Maranhão. She moved to Rio early on and started her career in the marvelous city.

Her discography includes the following: A Voz do Samba (1975); Morte de um Poeta (1976); Pra Que Chorar (1977); Alerta Geral (1978); Gostoso Veneno (1979); Alcione (1981); Tempo de Guaranice (1996); Valeu (1998); and Celebração (1998).

Clara Nunes: (1943-1983). In the 1970's, Clara Nunes was the most successful samba singer in Brazil. This was because of a mixture of her beauty, passionate and sensual voice and strong choice of material. With A Deusa dos Orixás (The Goddess of the Orixás—Candomblé deities), she explored her own African heritage.

Her discography includes the following: A Voz Adorável de Clara Nunes (1966); Você Passa e Eu Acho Graça (1968); A Beleza que Canta (1969); Clara Nunes (1971); Clara Clarice Clara (1972); Clara Nunes (1973); Alvorecer (1974); Brasileiro Profissão Esperança (1974); Claridade; Canto das Três Raças (1976); Nação (1982).

Nara Leão: (1942-1989) The Muse of Bossa Nova. As a teenager in the late fifties in Zona Sul of Rio, she opened her parents' house to the gang of bossa nova, Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Carlos Lyra, Roberto Menescal, Vinicius de Moraes, and others. It was inevitable that she, too, become a singer.

Her discography includes the following: Nara (1965); Nara Pede Passagem (1966); Manhã de Liberdade (1966); Vento de Maio (1967); Coisas do Mundo (1969); Meu Primeiro Amor (1975); Os Meus Amigos São um Barato (1977); Debaixo dos Caracóis (1978); Romance Popular (1981); Abraços e Beijinhos e Carinhos Sem Ter Fim (1984; and Meus Sonhos Dourados (1988).

Clementina de Jesus: (1901-1987) A Rainha Ginga (The Swaying Queen).

Her discography includes the following: Rosa de Ouro (1965), Gente da Antiga (1968) with Pixinguinha, Fala Mangueira (1968), Clementina cadê Você? (1970), Clementina de Jesus e Carlos Cachaça (1976), Clementina (1979), Canto dos Escravos (1982).

Beth Carvalho: Born in Rio May 5, 1946. At 8 heard Sílvio Caldas, a friend of her father's. Thus was born the singer, Beth. Recorded her first record in 1965 with the song "Por Quem Morreu de Amor" (For Those Who Died for Love). 30 years of career has seen her performing in most parts of the world. In 1997 she became in interplanetary star when her song "Coisinha do Pai" was programmed by Jacqueline Lyra, a Brazilian engineer at NASA to activate a robot on Mars.

Her discography includes the following: Andança (1969); Canto por um Novo Dia (1973); Pra Seu Governo (1974); Pandeiro e Violão (1975); Mundo Melhor (1976); Nos Botequins da Vida (1977); De Pé no Chão (1978); Sentimento Brasileiro (1980); Na Fonte (1981); Traço de União (1982); Suor no Rosto (1983); Coração Feliz (1984); Alma do Brasil (1988); Saudades da Guanabara (1989); Toque de Malícia; Intérprete (1990); Pérolas—25 Anos de Samba (1992); Acervo Especial; Brasileira da Gema (1996); Pérolas do Pagode (1998).

For those inclined to shop for Brazilian music, there are several choices. www.caravanmusic.com, www.dustygroove.com, www.amazon.com, www.tower.com, www.saraiva.com.br, www.siciliano.com.br, www.lojasamericanas.com.br 

Enjoy.

Kirsten Weinoldt was born in Denmark and came to the U.S. in 1969. She fell in love with Brazil after seeing Black Orpheus many years ago and has lived immersed in Brazilian culture ever since. Her e-mail: kwracing@erols.com  

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