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Mrs. Samba

She sings the joys of Carnaval, love's pains, the poor's everyday life, the Indians' plight, the protest songs. She is the voice of Brazil, she is a sambista emeritus. She is Beth Carvalho and she will be here in the US very soon.

Violet Welles

If any performer embodies the depth of Brazilian feeling rather than the shallow tinsel so many others have too often chosen, it is the smoky voiced Beth Carvalho. In a career that has covered more than twenty-five years, she has devoted herself to bringing the true sound and meaning of Brazil's most indigenous musical form to the broadest audience possible all over the world.

Carvalho is Brazil's most passionate, most beloved sambista, the woman who has devoted her life to the music of samba, which to her is "the origin of practically everything in Brazil."

She is also known, world wide, as the madrinha -- the god-mother -- of the escolas de samba (samba schools, literally) which emerge each year from Rio's hills to create the music, the color and the glorious chaos of Carnaval. For 22 years she marched with the Mangueira escola. Beyond that, her powerful singing style and uninhibited joy have turned many of the songs written by unknown escola de samba composers into instant classics.

Yet this woman who has allied herself so completely with favela (slum) musicians and social issues, was born in Rio on May 5, 1946, as Elizabeth Santos Leal de Carvalho, daughter of a lawyer, child of a comfortable middle class family. But it was a family which loved music in all of its different forms. Her mother loved classical music and dreamed of young Elizabeth becoming a ballerina. Her father, on the other hand, was an ardent admirer of serestas (backyard serenades) and Elizabeth and her sister attended them regularly. He was also a fan of samba school rehearsals and often took the girls to them.

By the time she was in her teens, Elizabeth, who had begun studying at the Academy of Music, had become an accomplished guitarist. At Rio University, where she was studying psychology, she discovered that her guitar playing made her the center of attraction at parties and gatherings. In the beginning of her performing career, Beth Carvalho was particularly interested in the newly popular bossa nova, but after a while extended her repertoire to love ballads and -- as the face of her future emerged -- social protest songs.

At 19, she entered -- and won -- a TV talent competition. Record companies were astonished at the young singer's abilities and begged her to sign with them. Plans to be a psychologist were deferred permanently. Instead, Carvalho began her climb to becoming Brazil's top woman performer.

In 1966, she changed her style and devoted herself entirely to samba, joining with two other performers, Alcione and Clara Nunes, to become a legendary troika of female sambistas. In 1971, participating with the samba school Unidos de São Carlos, she won her first Carnaval competition as best samba singer. Shortly after, she became a member of the Escola de Samba da Mangueira and proudly remains one today.

In the eighties, Alcione changed her style and no longer concentrated on samba. Through the following years, Nunes and Carvalho, both competitors and friends, alternated in winning best samba singer. A few years ago, Nunes died unexpectedly, leaving Carvalho as supreme sambista in a field which had gradually shifted and become a male dominated one.

As the only female sambista of her performing caliber, Carvalho was overwhelmed by samba composers offering her their best works. As a result, she produced one golden record after the other, shows that were sensations, and, when she appeared with Mangueira at Carnaval, a reaction by the crowd that could only be described as hysterically joyful.

In the '80's, she helped launch the samba pagode movement, which uses samba rhythms but different instrumentation without pop arrangements. Carvalho's songs celebrate the vibrancy of Carnaval, the devotion of Afro-Brazilian spirit cults, the life of the poor and the plight of Brazil's native Indian population. Though her social topics are often downbeat, her special magic is that she can find the hope in them.

As one critic wrote about her, "She turns samba into a celebration of all that is noble and immortal in the human spirit!" Samba sensations come and go. Only Carvalho has endured for more than a quarter of a century and continually grows in popularity.

Brazilians who live in the San Francisco Bay Area have been very excited since they heard that they will have a chance to see Beth Carvalho live and up close.

Carvalho will make her Bay Area performing debut September 9 and 10 at the historic Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. Carvalho and her band will include pagode selections, along with the folk music and social protest songs that are part of her performing range.

Since the week-end follows immediately after Brazilian Independence Day, there will be an added element at the event -- a celebration of modern Brazilian art, music and food. And, at the concert, which is being co-sponsored by Varig Brazilian Airlines and the Bay Area Brasilian Club (BABC), with the cultural support of the Consulate of Brazil, and the Brazilian Cultural Movement, Carvalho will lead her audiences in singing the Brazilian national anthem.

For information about the concert, "Beth Carvalho sings Saudades do Brazil/Memories of Brazil," call the BABC at (415) 334-0106.

Some lyrics

Sem Ataque, Sem Defesa

Sombra & Adilson Victor

Veja só
O nosso amor não deu em nada
E foram tantas madrugadas
Não cabia tanto amor pra dar
Foi além da conta te gostar
Sabe Deus o quanto me valeu
Seguir sozinha nessa estrada
Quase perdi o meu caminho
Nossa luz foi apagada
Quem sabe um dia
A gente possa se entender
Se a poesia da paixão reacender
Nunca se sabe do amanhã o que será
Nunca é tarde pra recomeçar
Você foi carta marcada
Descartou  minha jogada
Me fez aprender
Jogar e perder no amor
Me pegou bem de surpresa
Sem ataque e sem defesa
Só sei que você marcou

No Attack, No Defense

Take a look
Our love went nowhere
There were so many mornings
Not enough love to give
Loving you was beyond all
Only God knows how good it was
To keep going alone on this road
I almost lost my way
Our light was turned off
Who knows one day
We will accept each other
If the passion's poetry rekindles
We never know what tomorrow will bring
It's never too late to start again
You were a marked card
Discarded my game
You made me learn
To gamble and to lose in love
You took me by surprise
No attack and no defense
I only know you loaded the dice

Fogo de Saudade

Sombrinha & Adilson Victor

Dentro do meu ser
Arde uma paixão
Fogo de saudade
Invade o coração
Foi sem perceber
Que o amor chegou
Sem nem mais porquê
A luz de apagou

E sendo assim
A minha voz não vou calar
Desejo sim
Que um novo sol venha brilhar

Quem ama pra valer
Do amor se fortalece
Não fiz por merecer
A dor que me entristece

E sendo assim...

Só quero meu lugar
Nas asas dessa ilusão
Que tanto me fez chorar

Longing Fire

Inside myself
A passion burns
A longing fire
Breaks through the heart
Love came
Without notice
For no reason
The lights went out

And being so
I'm not silencing my voice
What I wish
Is that a new sun would shine

Whoever truly loves
Gets strength from love
And I surely don't deserve
The pain which saddens me

And being so...

All I want is my place
On the wings of this illusion
Which makes me cry so

Mania da Gente

Mário Sérgio, Carica & Luisinho SP

Nos convidaram para uma festança
Tinha show de dança e de balé
Nunca vimos tanta comilança
Enchemos a pança de canapés

Era um clima bem festivo
Do rock progressivo ao hip-hope
Bebidas de todo o tipo
Uísque, conhaque, tequila e chope

Foi um sábado elegante,
Curtimos bastante com ar de contente
Mas o samba é mania da gente

A filha da dona da casa
Fez o que podia pra nos contentar

Mania of Ours

They invited us for a bash
They had a show of dance and ballet
We've never had so much food
We pigged out on canapés

There was a very joyful mood
From progressive rock to hip hop
All kinds of drinks
Whiskey, cognac, tequila, draft beer

It's been an elegant Saturday
We've enjoyed a lot with a happy face
But Samba is our mania

The housewife's daughter
Did her best to make us happy

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