Brazil’s Virginia Rodrigues in NY Singing to the Gods

Brazilian singer Virginia RodriguesThe story of the early days of the career of this Brazilian singer is what musical dreams are made of: she was playing the part of a deaf-mute girl in Bye Bye Pelô, a play staged by the Olodum Theater Group in her native Salvador, Bahia.

At the end of the play, her character finds her voice and sings "Verônica," a traditional Brazilian song.  

So it happened that the legendary Caetano Veloso sat at one of the play’s rehearsals, and was moved to tears by the "celestial voice that came from this robust black woman." He also said that Rodrigues’ voice "transcends the distinction between erudite and popular."

He invited her to open one of his shows, and then went on to secure a record deal (a necessity in Brazil for an artist – there is an astonishingly small market for independent artists there) for her, and helped in the production of her début album, Sol Negro (Black Sun), which was supervised by guitarist Celso Fonseca.

Under Veloso’s watchful eye, the album showcased Rodrigues’ versatility by including songs in various styles, from Afro-inspired beats ("Negrume da Noite") to Brazilian classics by Ary Barroso ("Terra Seca"), Luis Bonfá ("Manhã de Carnaval") and more jazz-inflected moments ("Nobreza," written by Djavan).

The title track, written by Veloso, is one of the most beautiful tracks on the CD – it includes subtle orchestration and guest vocalist Milton Nascimento (he appeared at the New York Blue Note this past week), who adds to the tune without stealing the show.

The album did not make her a household name, as the pop-heavy radio stations in Brazil couldn’t find a niche to include her music in, but she gained the respect of the audience at home and especially abroad, where she has toured regularly.

Born in 1964 to a poor family in Salvador, she had to quit school at age 12 in order to help her family earn a living. At the age of 18, she began singing in church choirs and also at wedding and parties. In the meantime, she supported herself by working odd jobs until she finally – at 32 – found her place in the sun after the release of Sol Negro.

"I had three strikes against me", she once said. "I am a woman, I’m black and I’m poor".  

Her statement is evidence of the camouflaged racism in a country where nearly 50% of the population is of African origin, but where so many stars in the music business are white. You won’t, however, find political statements in her music. Instead, you find songs that, in the words of her mentor, "are the unsuspected liberties that beauty takes when it presents itself."

She has since released two more albums. In her follow-up, Nós (Us), she changed direction and recorded a mix of songs in the rhythmically heavy Axé music, which is enormously popular in Brazil. The album was well received, reaching no. 15 in the World Music Europe Charts.  

Always eager to explore new sounds, her next CD, Mares Profundos (Deep Oceans), she revisited the Afro-sambas composed by guitarist Baden Powell and Vinicius de Morais in the 60s. The recording was described as "a finely crafted and beautifully presented" album by BBC’s Jon Lusk.

She will be singing at the Blue Note, in New York, this weekend. Expect a mix of the three albums – her band includes a berimbau, the famous one-stringed instrument used in capoeira meets and also in Candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian religion that Rodrigues follows.  
"I sing for people of African descent", she said in an interview, "for the Orixás (the gods of Candomblé), for the earth, water, air, for myself, and us".

Virginia Rodrigues at The Blue Note

October 29 and 30

131 W3rd St. NYC

212 475 8592

Sets at 8:00 and 10:30 PM

For tickets and more information: www.bluenotejazz.com

For additional tour info: www.eyefortalent.com  

 
Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He is a regular contributor to The Miami New Times, Brazzil, The New York Press, Global Rhythm magazine and All About Jazz-NY. He is also a columnist with The Brasilians and The Greenwich Village Gazette. His work has also appeared on The Staten Island Advance, The Florida Review (in Portuguese), Today’s Latino (in Spanish), Out Magazine, The New York Blade, The Boston Bay Windows, The New Times BPB, The Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com.

Tags:

  • Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ads

You May Also Like

Brazil Tragedy: Rio Ready to Remove Favelas Residents by Force if Necessary

After Rio’s tragedy, with over 223 confirmed deaths, 140 of them in Niterói, the ...

A locomotive from the Vale do Rio Doce company

Brazil’s Mining Giant CVRD to Use Biofuel in Its Trains

The president of Petrobras Distribuidora (BR), Graça Foster, and the logistics executive director at ...

Brazil’s Gol Airline Flies Another Mile Into Collapsing Varig’s Airspace

Brazilian airline Gol, one of the fastest growing in the industry, will begin regular ...

Kyoto Starts. Brazil Gives Example.

One of the internationally agreed mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was set into ...

Brazil Teaches Nigeria How to Add Alcohol to Its Fuel

Brazil’s state-run oil giant, Petrobras, is going to provide technical and commercial support for ...

Despite Instability Brazil Wishes to Do Business with Bolivia

Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, affirmed that the relation between Brazil and ...

Seven Brazilian Companies Show Their Wares at Algiers International Fair

Brazilian company Randon, a maker of highway transport equipment, has established a partnership with ...

Haiti’s President Elect Thanks Brazil and Plans do Visit Country

Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, called Haiti’s elected President, René Préval, this ...

A Carnaval of Disillusion in Brazil

Brazilian politics is once again involved in a scandal. It was revealed that the ...

Brazilian Market Dips After Record Post-Carnaval High

Latin American stocks were mixed, with Brazilian shares easing lower, as investors locked in ...