» Archive for June, 2008

Blossoming Singers of Samba/MPB

Friday, June 20th, 2008 by Martin Hester

Blossoming Singers of Samba/MPB:
Teresa Cristina, Roberta Sá and Fernanda Takai.

There is no lack of choice if you want to listen to singers of Brazilian popular music. In the past, the record companies made a selection for us, recording and distributing disks of the artists they thought would be successful – and the record sales would pick out the artists with greatest appeal. But now!….. With CDs on the wane as a means of delivering music, and download sites, artist’s sites, and blogs overflowing with free music, how is one to select? Even listings of artists or Google searches are influenced by paid publicity – and in the struggle to become well-known, artistic merit may well take second place to the intensity of propaganda.

In vocal Brazilian music which is being recorded today, I think we can distinguish three chief influences – samba, with its afro-baiano origins, very much alive in the sprawling suburbs and hills of Rio de Janeiro – bossa nova, whose subtle rhythms and interesting harmonies spread Brazilian music internationally in the 60s and 70s – and the inevitable impact of world music – pop, rock, and a variety of other genres with different rhythms, more varied instrumental combinations and voicings, different sentiments.

The CDs of the three artists discussed here were picked out for me by an assistant at the new Cultural Centre in Laranjeiras called the Espaço Rio Carioca (Rua Leite Leal). I liked them all, and thought them worthwhile to bring to you as a selection of the up-and-coming female singers in today’s flourishing scene of Brazilian popular music…….

Teresa Cristina and the Grupo Semente
You can hear Teresa Cristina and her group practically every weekend in Lapa – she sings usually at the Centro Cultural Carioca and Carioca da Gema, and sometimes at the Rio Scenarium. One of the delightful things about her is that there is absolutely no histrionics, star status, hard sell. The accompanying group is made up of Pedro Miranda (voice and pandeiro), João Calado (cavaquinho), and BernardoDantas (guitar), with percussion by mestres Trambique and Marcos Esguleba. (If each said his name over and over, it would sound like a rhythm band, wouldn’t it?)….. The group begins warming up with a few instrumental numbers, and then appears this slight, modest figure of Teresa Cristina, perhaps dressed as a baiana –  and she simply goes up there and sings. The rhythm slots into place, and as one samba follows another, the audience no longer resists sitting and listening, and soon those lithe lissome Carioca lassies are on their feet swaying with the music – and as the night wears on, there is hardly anyone still sitting, everyone singing on the well-known ones….. and a great time is had by all.

The first CD recorded by Teresa Cristina and the Grupo Semente is The music of Paulinho de Viola – a double album, with 28 tracks from one of Rio’s best-loved sambistas. The first track seems to express a philosophy of both Paulinho and TeresaCristina – I am like that/ If you want to like me / I am like that/ My world is today….. I feel sorry for those/ Who stoop to the ground/ Fooling themselves/ For money or position/ I never made part/ Of this enormous troop/ Because, I know that, apart from flowers/ Nothing more goes with me to the grave.

Teresa Cristina’s voice is gentle, melodious, rich in tone, and produced with an open tone without apparent effort. Just the thing for the artist who makes a career by singing live! She sings the words with great clarity, and for me the notable artistry is in the way she spaces the syllables across the rhythm – instinctive and subtle. In her second CD Delicada there are several of her own compositions, all in the tradition of “samba de raiz” – authentic samba.

Roberta Sá
Roberta Sá’s second CD is Que belo estranho dia pra se ter alegria, which has a truly massive contribution from Rodrigo Campello – arrangements, production, mixing, guitar, 7-string guitar, cavaquinho, bass, clapping…  fender rhodes (whatever that is) and etc. There are contributions from many other well-known musicians in Rio, including Hamilton de Holanda, outstanding player of the bandolim. Excepting the first track (which could well be omitted or buried somewhere near the end) this CD moves in innovative fashion from samba to bossa nova and back again, with different rhythms and interesting arrangements. Roberta has a very well-tuned voice, better in the lower register than the upper, but an absolutely sure rhythmic sense and clear diction. She also has the courage to do new things, using the resources of the talented musicians around Rio – and judging from the sleeve, she’s a good-looking gal too!

On her site, she tells an interesting story of her career until now – born in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, coming to Rio at age 9, her large family circle always full of music. While she was studying Comunicação at the Univercidade, she was selected for the TV programme FAMA, where she met Felipe Abreu, who became her mentor, and he in turn introduced Rodrigo Campello. Then on the basis of a 2004 disco-demo she was contracted to record a track for the “Novela das Oito” and then a record company agreed to produce her first CD “Braseiro”. And so the battle was joined…. as she says “being a singer in this country of divas is difficult”. Now she is singing in shows in Brasil and overseas, she has a well-tended site, and this is her second CD…….

Fernanda Takai
The CD “Onde brilham os olhos seus” is intriguing: Fernanda Takai is the vocalist of the rock group from Belo Horizonte called Pato Fu. Husband John Ulhoa is the guitarist, and there is keyboard, bass and drums. This group is going 15 years already, with 9 CDs, 3 DVDs and multiple trips abroad.  However, “Onde brilham” is made up of songs sung by the bossa nova singer Nara Leão, who became a cult figure  in the 60s/70s because of her independent, modest style and cool, melodious voice. Fernanda’s voice too is of this type – but the arrangements are not at all bossa nova – being an interesting mixture of rhythms and voicings. And perhaps even more interestingly, it was produced at his home by John Ulhoa, with participation of Lulu Camargo on the keyboard. You would never guess that, such is the quality of the sound, and mixture of instruments in the arrangements.

So here are three names to watch out for and………

Good Listening!