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Brazilian Sounds: The Other Simone, Nature-ly


Brazilian Sounds: The Other Simone, Nature-ly

Simone Guimarães’s voice is of rare beauty and at times she might
even make you think you
are listening to Elis Regina. It was that
very resemblance that first hit my senses and made me search
for
more recordings by Guimarães. After having released her fifth solo
album, she has marked
her presence in the Brazilian music scene.

by:

Egídio Leitão

 

Born on July 12, 1966, in Santa Rosa de Viterbo (state of São Paulo countryside), Simone Vagnini Guimarães is
quickly becoming a household name in Brazil. Besides recording the top names in Brazilian music, she also writes some of
the music she sings, and her repertoire covers a variety of Brazilian genres, such as
toada, samba-canção,
baião and ballads.

Her musical influences include Heitor Villa-Lobos and Antônio Carlos Jobim, but perhaps because her hometown is
close to the border of the state of Minas Gerais, some of her compositions will likely make you think she is a member of
the famous group associated with Milton Nascimento’s music, the Clube da Esquina. There is a certain feeling in her
music about things that are part of the culture of that state.

She is very much in touch with nature. The fact is, however, that the Minas Gerais influence in Simone
Guimarães’s music comes really from Milton Nascimento himself. She was a student in Nascimento’s Escola Livre de Música in
Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. One of her instructors was guitarist Juarez Moreira.

Her voice is of rare beauty and at times she might even make you think you are listening to Elis Regina. I recall, as
a matter of fact, that it was that very resemblance that first hit my senses and made me search for more recordings
by Guimarães. The first tune of hers I ever heard was "Aguapé," a duet with Zé Renato and title track of her 1998
album. Now, after having released her fifth solo album,
Casa de Oceano, and touring with Milton Nascimento,
Simone Guimarães has marked her presence in the Brazilian music scene.

Here is a brief overview of Guimarães’s recording career, including the conversation she had with Brazzil about her
latest album.

Piracema, her first album, was based on a soundtrack co-written with Paulo Jobim for the TV documentary
O Canto da Piracema. The term
piracema comes from one of Brazil’s native languages, Tupi-Guarani, and refers to the
phenomenon of fish swimming upstream when it is time to lay eggs. The documentary, produced by EPTV (Emissoras Pioneiras
de Televisão, a Globo network affiliate), received the Líbero Badaró award in the telejournalism category in 1992. From
the original soundtrack, Simone Guimarães then recorded the album
Piracema in 1996. Since it was initially an
independent release, the album was hard to find, but finally in 2003 the CD was reissued commercially.


Nature, Always


In this first album, Guimarães presents her thematic proposition and connection with nature. With original works as
well as those of other songwriters,
Piracema sketches Guimarães’s concern with the environment, nature and animals.
Those are themes that repeat throughout her work. For example, the first track, "Tamanduá," was written by Olmir
Stocker "Alemão," a member of the famous group Brazilian Octopus, whose only album is a rarity among collectors. The war
and destruction sung in this song have their origin in the hands of men, as they build dams, spray insecticides, kill animals
and go against nature. The melody flows so smoothly and beautifully, and it matches the verses like a watercolor of
sounds and images.

This beautiful nature theme goes on in "Céu de Estio," with Paulo Jobim’s guest appearance. The union of his
honeyed voice with her crystal timbre shines through and highlights verses about rivers and hills, rain and adobe houses.
This theme about river and countryside goes on in the next tracks, "Canoa, Canoa" and "Rocinha," as well as in
Guimarães’s first original song for the album, "Festa da Piracema." In a very regional style and making reference to
cantadores (improvisational singers), she sings about what will happen if one day there is no more fish in the rivers.

For Simone Guimarães’ second album,
Cirandeiro, she assembled a team of musicians that included, besides Paulo
Jobim and Maurício Maestro, the presence of Leandro Braga (piano), Adriano Giffoni (bass) and Luiz Brasil (acoustic
and electric guitars) among others. Connected to the roots of Brazilian culture and music, Guimarães got the title for
this album directly from folkloric themes of
cirandas, children’s play songs.

Ciranda is a dance with origins in Portugal and was well received in Brazil. Whether in São Paulo (known as
sereninha), Minas Gerais (there it’s know as
serandina) or in Goiás (with the name of
sarandi), cirandas became very popular in
the backlands and coastal areas of Pernambuco. The
cirandeiro is the adult who sings the poetic-musical song verses
while couples dance to the sound of violas,
rabecas, ganzá and
bombo (an essential instrument in cirandas). The movements
are captivating and undulating, as the
ciranda imitates the movement of the ocean.

Cirandeiro starts off with the beautiful and moving "Lamento Sertanejo." It serves as the central idea of uniting
the backlands and big cities. João Carlos Coutinho’s accordion solo reflects the country man’s pain and melancholy
with great sensitivity. Also connected to the people and the land, we have "Maria Solidária." According to Guimarães,
this song brings back childhood memories, including the many Marias she and all of us have known.

Also associated with her childhood, we find "A Vida do Rio." As Guimarães explains, this song was "made for
the fisherman and troubadour Zé Chato, from Santa Rosa de Viterbo, who lived 35 years by the river and knows
about Brazilian folkloric characters, such as caipora, caboclo d’água
and mula-sem-cabeça.


Folklore Presence


The last two tracks in Cirandeiro, "Andorinha" and "Estrela do Meu Bem Querer," complete this journey
through folklore, hinterland and the wide spaces of the natural Brazilian landscape. A swallow, the wind and the
moonlight illuminating the seas and mountains are the focus of Cristina Saraiva’s balsamic verses crowning Guimarães’s
music. Cirandeiro was nominated for two Sharp Awards in 1997: best singer and best arrangement.

For Aguapé, her third album, Simone Guimarães had several special guests join her: Zé Renato in the title track, as
well as Danilo Caymmi, Elba Ramalho, Ivan Lins and Maurício Maestro. Other musicians included Leandro Braga
(piano), Adriano Giffoni (bass), Luiz Brasil (acoustic guitar) and Beto Cazes (percussion). Out of the 12 tracks in the
album, Simone Guimarães and Cristina Saraiva co-wrote five. Guimarães also co-wrote one track with Juarez Machado.
The repertoire choice and arrangements are impeccable.

"Aguapé" is a special song for several reasons. João Carlos Coutinho’s accordion solo captures the melancholy tone
of Edmundo Souto’s music and Paulinho Tapajós’s lyrics. The words clearly remind you and take you to some of
Tom Jobim’s compositions that talk about birds, animals, native fruits and other natural beauties. The song talks about
the "hidden love" kept in a nest "on the other side of the woods." The song is tranquil and soothing and will certainly
move those who hear it. Simone Guimarães and Zé Renato blend their voices beautifully.

With "Baião Barroco," Simone Guimarães returns to Brazilian folklore and sings about the seahorse, who is the captain
in the Bumba-Meu-Boi tradition. The idea for this song, according to Guimarães, came up this way:

"When I heard Juarez’s baião, images of Brazilian folkloric processions came to my head. Those processions
always bring the old as the unexpected. I also thought of the Baroque architectural elements. hybrid figures with lions with
eagle heads, horses with angel feathers, birds changing into snakes, etc."

That is how this song was conceived, speaking of fantastic elements, such as a man appearing out of a star or even
an angel coming out of a singer’s mouth. This song is truly a gem. In "No Tempo dos Quintais" Guimarães takes us back
in time to an era of courteous gentlemen who would give up their seat on a bus for a lady to sit down, where the
simplicity of houses and their orchards would be illuminated by gas lamps under which those in love would share their passion.

Guimarães says this song was special for her and marked her life because the song is like "a faithful portrait of
Brazilian history." It was a time of innocence, a time without fear that was called never more, as Paulinho Tapajós’s lyrics say.

If Cirandeiro was the album that got the critics’ attention and
Aguapé solidified Guimarães’s name among the best
in Brazilian music, Virada pra Lua, her fourth album, is then a celebration for this artist. Here Simone Guimarães
shows new partnerships, and we also see emerge her talent as a strong lyricist. The musicians in
Virada pra Lua include old friends, such as Leandro Braga (piano) and introduce new companions, such as João Lyra (acoustic guitar),
Marcelo Gonçalves (7-string guitar), Pedro Amorim (mandolin), Zé Nogueira (soprano sax), Guinga (acoustic guitar) and
other names of the same caliber.

Perhaps the greatest gift Guimarães received and shared with her fans was a duet with Milton Nascimento in "Imagem
e Semelhança." Milton Nascimento’s sound is as vibrant as ever. The track, which was also featured in Nascimento’s
Pietá album (2002), but in a duet with Marina Machado, here has a more dynamic and faster tempo. Nascimento’s
and Guimarães’s voices together are perfect. João Lyra’s guitar solo is also exceptional on the track. Another
remarkable moment in this album is the union of musical phenomenon Guinga with the poetry of Paulo César Pinheiro in the
track "Porto de Araújo."

With Guinga’s own guitar arrangement, this song is, according to Guimarães, "one of those deep moments of those
two geniuses." Besides Guinga’s musical mark, Pinheiro’s lyrics make the song even more introspective. Of course
any Simone Guimarães’s album has nature themes. In "Sertão das Águas (Dois)," Guimarães pays tribute to her hometown
of Santa Rosa de Viterbo. In "A Fábula do Riacho," her only partnership with Cristina Saraiva in the album, nature
gets dressed up in a fairy tale story. The lyric richness works like magic. The story line is painted as an invitation for two.


Singing Women’s Beauty


The next track, "Cumbuca," is most remarkable for its simple language of uncommon beauty. A very light moment
closes Virada pra Lua. The last track in the album is a Carnaval song. "Marilyn," Guimarães says, is a song that was
written around 1991, just around Carnaval time in Brazil. Rosana Zaidan’s lyrics pay tribute to the beauty—not only in
the physical aspect—in women both in Brazil and the world.

The names cited in the song cover a vast territory of beauties, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Elis Regina,
Sônia Braga, Cecília Meireles, Elizabeth Taylor and Sofia Loren. The joyful play exchanging Margareth Thatcher for
Marilyn Monroe, or even the final call for Marta Suplicy to teach us to be happy, is simply pure fun.

In 2002, while preparing the release of her latest release, Simone Guimarães was featured in Milton Nascimento’s
Pietá, where she performed three songs along with her idol: "Beleza e Canção," "Boa Noite" and "Vozes do Vento." Then
in May 2003, while touring with Milton Nascimento, she released her fifth solo album,
Casa de Oceano.

Casa de Oceano marks Guimarães’s debut in her new label, Biscoito Fino. The album concept can be summed up in
the verses Simone Guimarães chose to introduce the CD. She quotes Lautréamont: "I salute you, old ocean!"
Casa de Oceano is, therefore, a concept album where water takes center stage. Out of the fifteen songs on the CD, six of them
talk about rivers, oceans, seas, waterfalls, fish and mermaids.

Water is the main environment providing the background for love affairs, bringing hearts together and hiding
mysteries. Three other songs in the album go back to another of Guimarães’ favorite themes: the vast hinterlands, where once
again new love flourishes. Love is present in all these themes. For this production, Guimarães also featured special
guests Maria Bethânia, Maogani, Milton Nascimento and Guinga.

The album has several memorable tracks. The partnership of Guinga and Simone Guimarães in "Desavença," for
example, is one of the best moments of Casa de
Oceano. The arrangement is very lively, especially with Roberto
Marques’s trombone solo, and Guimarães seems to be having fun as she sings fast and playfully. Of course Guinga’s magistral
guitar solo is a highlight, too. Guinga also comes back a second time in "O Silêncio de Iara."

In "Milagre dos Peixes," you will have the clear impression that the song was written for Guimarães’s voice.
Together with Milton Nascimento, she is very at ease. The same can be said about Sueli Costa and Abel Silva’s classic
"Canção Brasileira," which is followed by "Retrato em Branco e Preto" and "Velho Moinho." Incidentally, it is at this point
that Casa de Oceano reaches magnificent moments. In this love and music trilogy, Guimarães bares her romantic side.
She sings those songs with unequalled strength.


Simone Talks


Brazzil—I understand that your trip to Fernando de Noronha was instrumental in the overall concept of your
new album. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?

Guimarães—I wanted to talk about love and sing songs I had written during that trip. I was very much in love
and wanted to talk about that passion. I’ve always read Lautréamont and at that specific time, I had just finished
reading Maldoror. That book exults the ocean. I was impressed to read how much about love he used for what was beautiful
and what he admired the most. He spoke about the ocean as if it were a frightening enemy. At the same time he wanted
to have control of the waves and storms. He loved the ocean as if it were the focus of his eyes and object of his desire.

Meanwhile, walking along a beautiful avenue in Rio de Janeiro and very close to the ocean, I lost contact with the
city noise, and all I could hear was the ocean. I wrote a poem for it, but after reading Lautréamont a few days later, I
thought my writing was nothing compared to the Comte of Lautréamont’s work. I forgot my writing and began singing to the
sea. This CD is for the ocean, the house of all loves I’ve had.


Brazzil—Your songwriting is very much present in this release, as in your previous work. "Água Funda"
(see lyrics), for example, is a beautiful song.

Guimarães—Music and lyrics were born together. I speak of where I come from: the river. That is where I want to
be remembered, with the brightness of the stars reflecting upon the waters. If this had not become a song, it would be
a posthumous poem.


Brazzil—It is a very difficult task for a singer to choose well-known songs for an album instead of new
material. There is often the shadow of another singer’s performance for that material. However, that did not seem to be
a problem when you chose to record "Canção Brasileira," "Retrato em Branco e Preto" and "Velho Moinho."
What is so significant for you about those songs?

Guimarães—Those songs come from inside my soul. I had no second thoughts about recording them. I actually
don’t have any doubts when I sing. Singing is more natural than thinking. Everything I sing is filtered differently and
never through rational thinking. It is more a part of the unconscious thinking, that which lies asleep in your soul.

"Canção Brasileira" is a rudder for me, my undisputable love for Brazilian music. That song is the work of two
brilliant Brazilian thinkers, Suely Costa and Abel Silva. As for "Retrato em Branco e Preto" and "Velho Moinho," they are
signs of the time and its clockwork within my Casa de
Oceano. They are Chico [Buarque] and Olivia [Hime], Tom [Jobim]
and Francis [Hime] in a perfect dialog about love stories.

Those songwriters are four of the greatest artists of my Brazil. I’m an unconditional fan of Olivia Hime’s work. She
is like a Mona Lisa who writes and sings, a beautiful and sophisticated being in every aspect. Chico is a lot like that,
too, very profound. Tom and Francis are love in the form of a song. Perfection. I did what I wanted to do: an album of love.


Brazzil—Your passion for Brazil is well reflected in your music, no doubt. You always sing about our folklore,
our rivers and everything Brazilian.

Guimarães—I want to say it again that the love for my country is very solid and unbreakable. It is built of love
and songs, of sad and happy stories about a beautiful people who has suffered and grows taller for a new day.


Brazzil—A true friend?

Guimarães—Leila Pinheiro.


Brazzil—A true artist?

Guimarães—Leila Pinheiro.


Brazzil—True courage?

Guimarães—Ernest Hemingway, Leila Pinheiro and Guinga.


The liner notes in Casa de Oceano contain all lyrics and musicians in the project. It is also important to mention here
the photos in the booklet. They are from Simone Guimarães’s personal photo library when she visited the island of
Fernando de Noronha, an ecological reserve in northeast Brazil.

For a more in-depth and complete analysis of each Guimarães album, please visit
http://musicabrasileira.org/simoneguimaraes/
 


Solo Discography :
 

Piracema
 Independente
 199.000.807
 1996

 
Reissued on CID CD
 00658/3
 2003

Cirandeiro
 Tiê
 TIECD002
 1997

Aguapé
 Tiê/CID
 03004/5
 1998

Virada pra Lua
 Lua Discos
 LD-020/Azul
Music AMCD 075
 2001

Casa de Oceano
 Biscoito Fino
 BF-534
 2003


Special Appearances

Songbook Tom Jobim (1996, disc 4)

Cordas Versos Cordas (1996) – Olmir Stoker "Alemão," Zeca Ribeiro, Simone Guimarães (unreleased)

Songbook Chico Buarque (1999, disc 8)

Um Novo Tempo, Ivan Lins (1999)

Noel por Ione, Ione Papas (2000)

Brasileira, Kátia Rocha (2001)

Primeiro Olhar, Cristina Saraiva (2001)

Pietá, Milton Nascimento (2002)

Villaggio Café – 10 Anos, (2003)

Só Canções, Cristina Saraiva (2003)
 

Lyrics:


Imensidade

(Simone Guimarães)


Belas, são belas tão belas

Dançam, crianças lá na favela

São estrelas as janelas

Galopando pelos ventos

Que correm nos pensamentos

O vento sopra esperança

Eu estou cá na cidade

E fico espiando o morro

E quando um samba vem de lá

É feito uma oração


Bocas, são bocas de mil escravos

São homens fortes e bravos

E belo como é seu canto

Que vem do rugir das matas

O canto sopra esperanto

E rola na imensidade

E varre de nós a fome

E tira esse cão das tardes,

Das manhãs, são os tam-tans,

Voz de libertação.


Gatas, mulatas filhas das matas,

Morena lá do cinema,

Com suas plumas de penas,

Apaixonando a cidade;

Menina da cor das águas

Deixou louco o estrangeiro:

Queria porque queria,

Queria ser brasileiro

E de manhã veio Iansã

Levar seu coração.


Immensity


Beautiful, they’re beautiful, so beautiful

Dancing, children at the slums

Stars are the windows

Galloping in the wind

That runs through our thoughts

The wind blows the hope

Here I am in the city

And I observe the hills

And when a samba comes from there

It’s like a prayer


Mouths, they’re mouths of a thousand slaves

They’re strong and brave men

And so beautiful is their singing


That comes from the roar of the jungles

The singing blows hope

And rolls in the immensity

And sweeps away hunger

And takes away the beast from the afternoons

From the mornings, they’re the tam-tams

Voice of liberation.


Cats, mulatto daughters of the jungles,

Brunette of the movies,

With their bird feathers,

Making the city fall in love;

Girl of the color of the waters

Drove the foreigner crazy:

No matter how much he tried,

He wish he were Brazilian

And in the morning came Iansã*

To take away his heart.

*Iansã: goddess of the wind and storms in the Yoruban tradition, the equivalent of St. Barbara in the Catholic tradition.

 

Água Funda

(Simone Guimarães)


Eu venho da água funda

Da água funda do rio

Sou filha do peixe-estrela

E com seus olhos me guio

Do cantar da uiára

No canto eu me desafio

Meu coração é a cara

E os meus olhos dois rios

Água de rio nunca pára

E eu vivo então por um fio

Um dia as águas me levam

E no meu rastro, meu trilho,

Hão de brilhar as estrelas,

Hão de cantar o seu brilho.

Um dia as águas me levam

E no meu rastro, meu trilho,

Hão de brilhar as estrelas,

Hão de cantar o seu brilho.


Deep Water


I come from deep water

From a river’s deep water

I’m the daughter of the starfish

And with its eyes I guide myself.

From the uiára’s* singing

I challenge myself in that singing

My heart is the face

And my eyes are two rivers

River water never stops

And I live on a thread

One day the waters will carry me

And on my track, my trail,

The stars will shine,


They’ll sing their brightness.

One day the waters will carry me

And on my track, my trail,

The stars will shine,

They’ll sing their brightness.

*Uiára or iara; Amazonian mythological figure that attracts young men for a final and fatal embrace deep in a river.

In his spare time, Egídio Leitão maintains two sites about Brazilian music: Brazilian Music Links –
http://thebml.com/
is a collection of links, and MusicaBrasileira –
http://musicabrasileira.org/ – is dedicated to reviews and interviews. He
can be contacted at egidio@musicabrasileira.org

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