Brazil’s Benjor Never Lost His Cool

 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.
by: Ernest
Barteldes

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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