Musica Popular Brasileira: Singers to watch

In June 2008 I wrote about “blossoming” singers Teresa Cristina, Roberta Sa, and Fernanda Takai, among the seemingly inexhaustible universe of female Brazilian singers of popular music. Well, they are all doing fine: in Rio Teresa Cristina was singing on Fridays at Carioca da Gema in Lapa, and Roberta Sá on Tuesdays at the Centro Cultural Carioca. But here are four more singers to watch out for. (These days the easiest source to hear them is YouTube – just type the singer’s name in the search box).

Flying high: Ivete Sangalo
The most successful singer in Brazil in this genre today, Ivete Maria Dias de Ivete SangaloSangalo was born into a family of musicians in Juazeiro, Bahia in 1972. After their father’s sudden death when she was 15, the family sought multiple ways of getting income (including selling her mother’s marmita) and she began a singing career at 17. In the early 90s she joined the Banda EVA, one of the “blocos baianos” which play music for dancing and singing for hours on end – axé, swingue and samba-reggae – and helped transform them into a major success, selling millions of albums and playing sometimes 30 times a month. However, Ivete had talent not only for Carnaval music, but also for interpreting many different styles, and in 1999 she started a solo career. She goes from success to success, her audience ever-expanding.
If you look at, for instance, the video A Galera from her live show in the Maracanã, you can see the height of her artistry – a complete understanding of how to make a huge audience dance and enjoy themselves, working with a large group of musicians who lay down a compulsive rhythm, and good dancers – while she herself, really good-looking and radiating happiness and rhythm, goes up and down, singing and commanding the whole show. The way she spaces the words (often complicated) across the rhythm is a skill seemingly natural to Brazilians, but a mysterious art to many of us. And the audience sings right along with her! To me, she is a Brazilian pop Madonna, with total charm and no vulgarity, goddess of the povão. The DVD of the Maracanã show has sold over 1 million copies, which puts her right up there with the international mega-stars. The next big show will be in Madison Square Garden this February.
In interviews, she comes across as highly intelligent, close to the people and absolutely assured of herself. She is undoubtedly big business, not only in music, but also through appearing in commercials and endorsing products. In October last year her first child was born, and she remarks that she didn’t expect the total change in her attention, towards her son’s care and well-being. How she will reconcile this with the demands of a really top professional career will be worth following…..

Originality: Ana Carolina
Ana Carolina Souza was born in Juiz de Fora, Minas in 1974, like Ivete into a Ana Carolinafamily of musicians. At 18, she began singing in the bars in her home town, gradually receiving invitations from more and more important venues. She often accompanies herself on the guitar, sometimes also on piano, and she has an unusually deep contralto voice, singing in the same range as most male pop singers.
Some of Ana Carolina’s video clips on YouTube are of unusually good quality and inventiveness. On Garganta, for instance, a model is shown at the start wearing a full-length knitted red dress, but the hem snags and the knitting starts to unravel as she is shown walking, going down the elevator, along the street – with cuts to Ana Carolina singing…. And as the music unwinds, so does the dress, until at the end of the clip, she just has the collar left…fun! Ana Carolina is nothing like in the same league as Ivete for scale of backing musicians and venues, but she is beginning to appear at the most important events. I find she brings to her songs an intensity which is often very moving, and she can be relied upon for something unconventional in the setting in which she sings.

Cool and stylish: Ceu
Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças was born (into a musical family!) in São Paulo Ceu Whitakerin 1980, began her professional career at 15, and when 18 teamed up with two Brazilian musicians living like her in New York. She is both composer and singer, and has created a way of singing lightly, with lots of space, over a busy backing rhythm with backing vocals. In complete contrast to the mega-show style, she herself is non-sexy, non-movement – but the music is very rhythmic and good for dancing, and the effect is distinctly cool. The moments of emotion are muted, but they are there. Look for the video clip of Vagarosa, from her first album, and Lenda She has recently been experimenting with building Jamaican influences into her music, and evidently she is not bound to one style, but can absorb influences and make something of her own. Now selling albums in the US and England, doing themes for Globo novelas and shows, she is on the way up.

In transition: Sandy
Sandy Leah Lima was born in 1983, and is the daughter of Durval de Lima, Sandywho is Xororó of the Dupla Caipira (Country Music Duet) Chitãozinho e Xororó. She and her youger brother Junior were put on the stage at an early age, and their duets as Sandy e Junior proved a hit. Their stage manner is impeccable, and she used to come across as a very sweet teen, absolutely charming, and their singing is just fine. By the time she was 21, Sandy had made 14 albums and two films!
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this pair is that, even though famous and obviously earning very well, they seemed to retain their normal selves and normal lives – in spite of their fame, remaining charming and modest. No mean feat of parenting, that! However, in 2007 the duo came to an end, and Junior is playing in groups as a guitarist, while Sandy started singing in a completely different setting and with a new repertoire – jazz and bossa nova classics accompanied by just a pianist – and one who plays sparsely at that. Sandy also graduated in Languages from PUC Campinas and married in 2008. Sounds like a Country Music idol?
Still going for her is that at 27 she is becoming an absurdly beautiful woman, but the simple settings and well-known repertoire now makes it easy to judge her on just her singing – and it is not clear whether the way she produces her voice is up to meeting the kinds of demands she now makes on herself.

So here are some talents to follow……..and Good Listening!

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