The feminine mystique of Brazilian song. Unique? Perhaps. Impactful? Absolutely. The true nature of Brazilian music is decidedly feminine.
by Scott Adams
Take a quick peek at any of our streaming channels and you’ll see songs from Rio’s Marcela Biasi, New York’s Bebel Gilberto, Atlanta’s Janelle Monae and Sao Paulo’s Jean Felix.
They follow in the path forged by the pioneering women of Brazilian music, beginning with Brazil’s first female orchestra leader and composer Chiquinha Gonzaga in the late 1800’s, and Tia Ciata, who nurtured Samba’s birth in Rio de Janeiro, 1916.
So followed the ‘household names’ of Brazilian music: from Carmen Miranda to Marisa Monte and Elis Regina, who’s birthday is March 17th.
You can read Elis Regina’s bio-book here.
Musical celebration of International Women’s Day
Where do we start? Maybe with Joyce, who was the first femme in Brazilian song to write songs from a woman’s point-of-view. Or Gal Costa – thought of by many as Brazil’s greatest Diva.
Newcomers like Patricia Talem, Luisa Maita, Monica da Silva, Fabiana Passoni, Clara Moreno, Vanessa da Mata, Céu, Marcela Mangabeira and Patricia Marx lead a new generation that – for the first time – promises to challenge the mostly male music hierarchy.
Astrud Gilberto transformed Bossa Nova and Brazilian jazz by coming to New York as João Gilberto’s wife, and then staying on to become the world’s musical ‘girl from Ipanema’.
Back home, she was a virtual unknown due to a plethora of rising stars to fill the feminine sky: Nara Leão, Sylvia Telles, Miucha (read this story), Rita Lee and Wanda Sa.
That’s the beginning of a long list of 60’s stars who paved the way for other women to follow: Rosa Passos, Jane Duboc, Rosalia de Souza, Tutti Bae, Maria Rita, Salena Jones, Bebel Gilberto, Sabrina Malheiros, Zelia Duncan and many more.
Name Dropping To Make A Point
Carmen Miranda broke cultural barriers in the 30’s to become a larger than life symbol of Brazilian exuberance, and she carried her country’s music with her.
Elizeth Cardoso was the musical mother who incubated the first Bossa Nova song in the late 50’s to add another important aspect to the feminine mystique of Brazilian song.
She represents a cadre of pre-Bossa female vocalists who ruled Brazilian radio in the first half of our century past, including Doris Monteiro, Hebe Camargo, Dalva de Oliveira and Aracy de Almeida.
And that’s just on the vocal side of Brazilian music. Rosinha de Valança picked up her guitar in the mid-60’s to break into Rio’s studio session scene, and went on to become part of Sergio Mendes’ first US band.
She opened the door for generations of Brazilian women players: Eliane Elias, Badi Assad, Celia Vaz, and Tania Maria continue the traditions of Brazilian jazz.
March Birthdays, Plus ‘One’
The feminine mystique of Brazilian song is strong on side of the equator, too. Lani Hall, Alexandra Jackson, Kevyn Lettau, Kenia, Basia, Karrin Allyson, Flora Purim, Luciana Souza – even Dionne Warwick, Lisa Ono and Sarah Vaughan – have lent their talents to Brazilian song.
This is but a short list. A survey of the universe of Brazilian music would reveal that women make up a close and poweful minority.
Men may write more songs and record more hits but the personality of Brazilian music – especially Brazilian jazz, Bossa Nova and MPB – is still indisputably feminine.
We’ll take a break to welcome the arrival of ‘Spring, Brazilian-style’ and wrap up the month by lighting another candle for our favorite ‘Girl Form Ipanema’.
And ‘One’ more:
Many years ago, I was able to play a part in preserving Elis Regina’s life story, the English version of the book Furacão Elis (Hurricane Elis) by Regina Echeverria and translated by Robert St-Louis.
In my opinion, there is no greater book when it comes to the feminine mystique of Brazilian song.
It’s free to read anytime from this page.