Excuse-me, Sir! Here comes João Bosco

Composer, lyricist, arranger, guitar player, singer, and philosopher João
Bosco doesn’t stop bewitching the world with magic words and seductive tunes. He is
at it again. This month, Americans will have a chance to see him on stage with
his Excuse-me, Sir show when he comes to San Francisco.

Violeta Welles

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main,” said the English
poet, John Donne. In “Tecendo a Manhã” (Bringing the Morning) João Cabral de Melo Neto added Brazilian flair to
the thought. “Um galo sozinho não tece uma
manhã
” (“A lone rooster does not bring (literally, does not knit)
the morning,” he wrote.

For composer/performer/musician’s musician, and social observer João Bosco, Cabral’s words were enough
to spark an entire concert. For the past two years, he has been presenting that concert, called “Dá Licença Meu
Senhor” (Excuse Me, Sir), throughout the world. It has also become the basis of Bosco’s 18th record album, which bears
the same title.

With this concert, Bosco honors other galos
who have, each in his own place and at his own point of time,
helped to bring whatever elements of morning exist in today’s Brazil. Included is classical music, like “Melodia
Sentimental” inspired by Villa-Lobos’ “Floresta do Amazonas,” Zequinha de Abreu’s “Tico-Tico no Fubá” with its evocation
of Carmen Miranda, and Chico Buarque’s recent “Pagodespell.” Bosco has not been afraid to reach for emotional
highs and the waves of saudade (longing) among Brazilians in the audience living overseas might always wash back to
the beaches of Rio.

 

But the man who has been called one of Brazil’s “national treasures” would not be permitted to give a
concert without some of his own works. Included in the evening will be some of Bosco’s own classics, done in what the
San Francisco Chronicle critic described as his unique performing style: “He is a subtle and swinging singer who
revels in the sensuousness of the sound of words, caressing the vowels, accenting the consonants with the click, hiss and
pop of a percussionist. He has created a marvelous idiosyncratic scat style, a mix of Ella Fitzgerald, bebop and the
sounds of a Brazilian batucada (drumming).”

Through his career, Bosco has traveled the world many times over. His recent tours of
Dá Licença Meu Senhor have already taken him to 15 countries including, in the last few months, Bosnia. Despite this, and despite the fact that
he lives much of the time in Rio and has recently contracted for an apartment in New York to facilitate his recording
work, he continues to think of himself as very much a
Mineiro (native from the state of Minas Gerais). In
Dá Licença Meu Senhor he sings “Peixe Vivo/O Vento”, which compares the
Mineiro‘s need for cold water “like a fish” with
the Bahian’s need of wind so that he can sail his

jangada (raft).

Born in Ponte Nova in Minas Gerais to a Lebanese family, Bosco had no formal musical training but,
literally learned the art in his own backyard. His grandmother played the mandolin, his mother the piano, his sister sang,
his brother composed. By watching, he found himself able to do all of that. But it was his father, in particular, who
adored Noel Rosa and sang samba, who shaped Bosco’s growth. In
Dá Licença Meu Senhor Bosco will perform Rosa’s
“O Gago Apaixonado.”

By the age of 12, Bosco had been given his first guitar, and formed his first rock band. A few years later he
went off to study engineering at the University in Ouro Preto, but music — and soccer — were still his true loves and he
had no question in his mind that he would become a professional performer. Others agreed. The great lyricist Vinícius
de Moraes heard some of his early music and wrote words for it.

In the ’70s a hurricane force of bossa nova,
tropicalismo and jazz was hurtling across Brazil. Engineering
student Bosco was blown away by the innovations and the artistry of Brazilian musicians João Gilberto, Tom Jobim and
Milton Nascimento and Americans Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Ray Charles. By 1972, he had been asked to make his
first recording by no less than Tom Jobim who, on a jacket note, “introduced” him to the Brazilian public.

By 1973, Bosco went off to Rio where he found high interest in his work from other musicians and
record companies. Soon the young Mineiro — who by this time actually had a degree in Civil Engineering — became part
of the musical mainstream. In those days of dictatorship in Brazil that could mean a plunge into very hot water.

Despite the danger, Bosco wrote, “O Bêbado e o Equilibrista” (The Drunkard and the Equilibrist), his own
personal attempt to “bring the morning.” With lyrics by Aldir Blanc, a frequent collaborator and hauntingly performed by
Elis Regina, another frequent collaborator, “O Bêbado e o Equilibrista” became a musical symbol of the struggle
against the dictatorship and Amnesty International’s theme song. To Bosco the song “shows anger and indignation
towards things we felt were wrong.”

In 1983, Bosco made a major impact on the jazz scene at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland not only by
how he played but with what he played. He was one of the first artists to bring Brazilian music onto the performing
stages of the world.

All through his musical career, Bosco has been seeking ways to fulfill his musical curiosity, test his talent, find
new dimensions for his composing, his playing and his performance. Jazz is only one influence on his work, which is
shot through also with Brazilian, African and Cuban elements, his family’s Moorish background, his father’s love of
samba and even the church music of his Ponte Nova boyhood.

The particular “spin” that this Brazilian musical “great” puts on the works of other Brazilian musical “greats”
is what makes Dá Licença Meu
Senhor
so compelling — and so entertaining. Describing how his presentation
differs from the originals, Bosco says, simply, that he “moves towards the light.” Towards morning.

 

On Saturday evening, September 14th, Bosco will perform his new concert at the Herbst Theater in San
Francisco where, three years ago, he made his California debut to high praise and packed houses. His earlier concert at the
Herbst consisted almost entirely of his own compositions. But in
Dá Licença Meu Senhor he will have a gifted trio
of outstanding musicians on stage with him — Jamil Joanes on bass, Alexandre Carvalho on guitar and Wigdor
Santiago on flute/saxophone.

On stage with him also, will be the unseen presence of many outstanding Brazilian performers, composers,
lyricists, even arrangers present and past, living and dead. Among them are Villa-Lobos, Tom Jobim, gone too soon,
Dorival Caymmi, Ary Barroso, Noel Rosa, who virtually invented the modern samba, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil
and Caetano Veloso.


 

LYRICS

O Bêbado e o Equilibrista

João Bosco and Aldir Blanc

Caía

A tarde feito um viaduto

E um bêbado trajando luto

Me lembrou Carlitos

A lua

Tal qual a dona dum bordel

Pedia a cada estrela fria

Um brilho de aluguel

E nuvens

Lá no mata-borrão do céu

Chupavam manchas torturadas

Que sufoco

Louco

O bêbado com chapéu coco

Fazia irreverências mil

Pra noite do Brasil

Meu Brasil

Que sonha

Com a volta do irmão do Henfil

Com tanta gente que partiu

Num rabo de foguete

Chora a nossa pátria mãe gentil

Choram Marias e Clarisses

No solo do Brasil

Mas sei

Que uma dor assim pungente

Nao há de ser inutilmente

A esperança dança

Na corda bamba de sombrinha

E em cada passo dessa linha

Pode se machucar

Azar

A esperança equilibrista

Sabe que o show de todo artista

Tem que continuar

The Drunkard and the Equilibrist
 

As an overpass

The afternoon was falling

And a drunkard wearing black

Reminded me Charlie

The moon

As a bordello madam

Was asking each cold star

A shine for renting

And clouds

There on the sky’s bloating paper

Sucked tortured blots

What a drag

Crazy

The drunkard with a derby

Made a thousand irreverences

To Brazil’s night

My Brazil

Which dreams

With the return of Henfil’s brother

With so many people who left

Running away from trouble

She cries

Our gentle mother country

They cry, Marias and Clarisses

On Brazil’s land

But I do know

That a so poignant pain

Won’t happen in vain

Hope dances

On a tight rope with a parasol

In each step of this line

It can get hurt

Tough luck

The equilibrist hope

Knows that every artist’s show

Must go on


Pagodespell

João Bosco, Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso
No Pão de Açúcar

De cada dia

Dai-nos, Senhor

A poesia de cada dia

No Pão de Açúcar

Quem rezou, rezou

Quem não rezou não reza mais

Há tantos mil Corcovados

No cais

Cada um carrega o Cristo

Em muitos Carnavais

Luxo, miséria, grandeza

O sonho se faz

Gente da pedra são todos iguais

No Pão de Açúcar

Joaquim José me chamou

Pra um canjerê

Sambalelê nas escadas da Sé

Se Cristo deixar, Jesus não se ofender

O pessoal vai fazer um pagodespell

E aí?

E aí vai ser sopa no mel

No Pão de Açúcar

No Pão de Açúcar

De cada dia

Dai-nos, Senhor

A poesia de cada dia

No Pão de Açúcar

Pagodespell

In the Sugar Loaf

Of every day

Give us, Lord

The poetry

Of every day

In the Sugar Loaf

Who prayed, prayed

Who didn’t pray

Won’t pray anymore

So many Corcovados

In the pier

Each one carries Christ

Throughout many Carnavals

Luxury, misery, grandeur

The dream comes true

People from the stone

Are all alike

In the Sugar Loaf

Joaquim José called me

For a voodoo party

A samba bash on the church’s steps

If Christ allows, Jesus doesn’t get offended

The gang will do a pagodespell

And then

And then it’s gonna be smooth sailing

In the Sugar Loaf

Of every day

Give us, Lord

The poetry

Of every day

In the Sugar Loaf

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