Stories of crimes of passion by celebrities are
quite common in Brazil.
Here are some of the most notorious of them:
By Brazzil Magazine
Marisa Monte is one of those fortunate beings into whose lap the deities, who determine
the destinies of artists, have poured all possible tokens of success. From her
background of opera and popular music, Monte evolved a highly individualistic style,
becoming the best-selling vocalist in Brazilian popular music (MPB) and one of the most
striking musical figures to emerge from Rio de Janeiro in the past 15 years. Renowned
not only for her singing, writing, and producing but also for her farsighted concept of
the path Brazilian music must take, Monte is widely regarded as a central figure on the
Promoting her new CD, Memórias, Crônicas e Declarações de Amor (Memories,
Chronicles, and Declarations of Love), Marisa Monte opened her United States tour at Royce
Hall on the campus of UCLA on September 22, 2000. And despite an encompassing
on-stage sculpture, big screen projections, fabulous stage sets and lighting by Patrick
Woodroffe (well known for his work for Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, and Peter
Gabriel); attention quickly gravitated to Monte’s slight figure center stage. She
is, by general agreement, lovely in a delicate, porcelain way, like a piece of cloisonné;
but what is more remarkable is her air of repose. An attractive, dark-haired young
woman with a sensuous voice, hands that float ethereally, and truculent eyes; Monte imbues
a luminous intensity, like a painting beheld with both ears and eyes.
The voice, a mezzo-soprano, warm in timbre and unbelievably flexible, has a wider sweep
of coloration in all ranges than most voices in contemporary Brazilian pop. It is a
voice that possesses extraordinary dexterity and whose production does not seem to require
any effort. Her pitch, expressive phrasing, and legato skips are
exceptionalelements that are often forgotten within the ambit of popular music. She
is dynamic and emotional, yet cool and under complete control; her audience appeal is
Born into a musical family, Monte attended rodas de samba (samba jam sessions)
as a childmany taking place in her own homeand studied piano, percussion, and
guitar before seriously pursuing a career in music. After operatic studies in
Italy, she served the ultimate apprenticeship by filling theaters and clubs around Rio for
close to two years without worrying about signing a recording contract. Her
magnetic personal charisma and undeniable talentsmusically and
otherwiseassured that success was hers for the taking, and she had only to collect
Meeting fame with her first recording twelve years ago supplied Monte with a security
uncommon in the record industry. Unlike other major MPB (Música Popular
BrasileiraBrazilian Popular Music) artists, Monte releases a new work every three to
four years; her re-apparition is always an event. Furthermore, her latest agreement
with EMI has brought about an unexpected change in the company’s policy, especially
noteworthy during these delicate times when CD pirating and Internet downloading has
offset the power structure of the multinational record labels. Monte’s renewed
ten-year contract with EMI guarantees the continuous pressing of all her recordings, their
distribution through Monte’s own subsidiary label, Phonomotor, and complete artistic
freedom with no interference from EMI concerning the content of any Phonomotor release.
To premiere the Phonomotor label, Monte produced and made a cameo appearance on the
recording Tudo Azul, by the legendary Velha Guarda (Old Guard) da Portela, a group
of hallowed sambistas. Selling more than thirty thousand copies, the
recording, which is lyrically inspired, harmonically truthful, and rhythmically authentic,
has helped to open new markets for traditional samba. Marisa Monte may be a pop
singer, but she has brought the variety, charm, and consummate musicianship of Brazil’s
finest sambistas as well as some of the richest strains of Brazilian culture to a
A musician who is not content with excelling in just one musical genre, Monte’s
flexible approach and unique vocal gifts have enabled her to embracemore often than
not with great successbossa nova, samba, rock, reggae, R&B, and funk. Her
recordings, all surveys of Brazilian styles, have earned a reputation for intelligence in
the selection of repertoire not solely for their quality but also for their timely
retrieval of traditional forms, every recording paying tribute to the greatest icons of
Curiously, response to her latest offering, Memórias, Crônicas e Declarações de
Amor (Memories, Chronicles, and Declarations of Love), remains lukewarm in some
quarters. Monte is, without a doubt, a remarkable singer with an outstanding
cultural and musical foundation, but has delivered so much marvelous music in the past
that her fans have come to expect a spiraling higher level of quality from each new
release. Devotees of traditional samba and choro have reproached her for abandoning
the high art of Brazilian composers like Cartola, Monsueto, Jamelão, and Pixinguinha for
what seems to be pop commercialism. Detractors assert that Monte should enlist
Rogério Duprat or Gilson Peranzzetta to produce her work, and move beyond the offensive
"world music" sonority of Arto Lindsay’s productions, which sound predictably
Despite the pop appeal of the disc’s arrangements and the production of the hits
"Amor I Love You" and "Gentileza" (Kindness), Monte’s latest work
offers listeners a number of exquisite tunes, including the sambas "Para Ver as
Meninas" (To See the Girls) and "Gotas de Luar" (Drops of Moonlight). Memórias,
Crônicas e Declarações de Amor is principally pop music, and inside that pop
universe, the work is stylistically successful.
Before she left Brazil, we spoke about her background, the new CD, her connection with
traditional samba, Phonomotor, and the U.S. tour. I was surprised that an artist of
her status could be as open, frank, and friendly as she was. She struck me as
extraordinarily personable, a quietly forceful person of integrity.
BrazzilCan you tell me about your experience with the classical
repertoire and why you decided to stop studying?
Marisa MonteI started to study because I wanted to sing well and classical
training was the only methodology available here in Brazil for developing good technique.
So I started studying when I was fourteen, and for a long time I took classes every
day. It was a kind of workout, something that you really could develop through
practice, you know, like breathing, tuning, and extensions. At the same time, I was
singing popular Brazilian music in a lot of shows with friends and listening to a lot of
traditional samba. So I had a kind of mixed formation through technical study and
by playing Brazilian music.
When I was eighteen I went to Italy to study opera, which gave me the opportunity to
study the repertoire and to live outside Brazil awhile. But after living in Italy
for a year, I began to see Brazil with different eyes. For the first time, I could
see how rich, original, and unique Brazilian music is in relation to the rest of the
world. I saw myself a long way from home and realized how hard it was going to be
to put aside all the cultural weight, the density of my background. Never before
had I felt so Brazilian.
To escape my background, to forget all the culture that had been implanted since birth,
I would have had to live outside of Brazil for the rest of my life. I also knew
that it was going to be very difficult for me to put aside modern production techniques.
And since opera is something that is turned more toward the past, I could see clearly
how, for me, it was more important to be in Brazil than to be singing opera in Italy. So
I came back when I was nineteen. I had been receiving invitations to record pop
music in Brazil since I was sixteen, but studying in Europe was just a way of taking
enough time to find my way, to decide what I really wanted.
When I came back, I started working on stage, and I worked on stage here for two years,
from the time I was nineteen until I was twenty-one. As you know, my first record
was a consequence of this work on stage. My career, it seems, even now is
structured around the stage. When I tour, especially in Brazil, I do very big
tours. But I’ve also been composing and producing more and more with other
musicians from my generation, with people like Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes, you
know, people that I admire and that are now working to further Brazilian music.
BrazzilMarisa, you’ve co-written a number of tunes on the new
CD, and I’m wondering how you like composing with other artists.
M.M.I love this kind of dialogue. And I love to do this kind of work
with people that I admire. Composing is completely magic. You can bring
something into the world where there was nothing before. It’s very abstract, only
waves, only frequencies. You just organize these waves and something suddenly
exists. It’s magic. And it’s very cool to make music with close friends. Since
my instrument is a melodic one, my strength is in writing melodies. They are easier
for me to write, but I also collaborate on lyrics and on grooves, like acoustic guitar
grooves where the feeling of a tune often originates. I’m planning to write much
more. You know, I’m trying to find the time because I would like a lot of people to feel
my admiration, and I can show it by composing with them, when the process is a
BrazzilOne of your tunes on the new CD is dedicated to Profeta
Gentileza. Who is Profeta Gentileza?
M.M.He was a homeless person here in Rio, who for thirty years walked the
streets preaching kindness and love. He wasn’t someone who was asking for anything
on the streets, he was giving. He would say, "People, don’t use anger, use
kindness. Kindness generates kindness. Violence generates violence."
He was a very popular guy here. Everyone in Rio knew him because we always saw
him on the streets. He used to write his prophesies on the city’s walls. They
were messages of peace and love and kindness, so over time the people christened him
Profeta Gentileza. One day about two years ago, I was walking by this place where
there are many, many walls on which he used to write his messages. I often walked
there to see his writings and to read the different branches, the new ones that I had
never seen before, looking for new phrases, new expressions. But when I passed by
that time, everything had been erased. Yeah, urban cleaning! Someone thought
his work was dirty and ugly and had painted over it. I wrote the song
"Gentileza" because I thought that that act was so symptomatic of our times and
our world and our indifference to others in the urban environment. It was so anti-gentileza.
The ONG (non-governmental organization) here in Rio recently restored all his works.
Now they’re preserved forever and people cannot erase them anymore.
BrazzilIs Profeta Gentileza still around?
M.M.No, he died two years ago. A very nice person passed through our
world. Now if you come to Rio, you can see Gentileza’s works. It’s a kind of
urban book near the Rodoviária, the bus terminal at the entrance of the city, and it’s a
very cool kind of welcome mat. Very beautiful, not only the texts, the words he’s
written; but also the typography, the art, the graphics, all very beautiful. You
have to see it.
BrazzilYou mentioned producing, showing admiration, and furthering
Brazilian music, so I have to tell you how much I admire your producing the Velha Guarda
da Portela. Can you tell me about the project?
M.M.Well, the Velha Guarda, as it is known today, was founded in 1970 by
Paulinho da Viola and is comprised of twelve musiciansnine instrumentalists and
three female vocalistswho are the most expressive musicians from the composer group
of the samba school. But from the time of their formation until now, they had made
only three recordings. The last one (Homenagem a Paulo da Portela) was in
’88, so for twelve years they persevered without recording their own work. I
learned through Paulinho da Viola that they had a huge repertoire that had never been
recorded. So we researched extensively and discovered songs from the forties, from
the fifties, and from the sixties that were present only in their minds, in their oral
tradition, and then we recorded Tudo Azul. Most of the material had not been
recorded before, even though some of the songs are from forty years ago. Tudo
Azul was very well received here in Brazil.
BrazzilWasn’t your father a member of the escola?
M.M.Yes, yes, when I was very young. I was born in ’67, and he was
connected to Portela until ’73. I remember these guys in my home when I was very
young, when I was just starting to listen and learn. I am from Rio, and samba is
the strongest musical expression from our city. So I really enjoyed having these
artists playing in my home, and I always admired them. My father wasn’t really
involved after ’74, but he continued to buy the records and bring home all this
traditional samba. Then in ’91, I invited the singers, the three female singers from the
Velha Guarda da Portela, to sing with me. And then in ’94 all of them came to
record with me on Rose and Charcoal with Paulinho da Viola. Since then I’ve
kept in contact with them, and we’ve been collaborating in shows together. Sometimes
they invite me to sing with them, and I go. Sometimes I invite them, they come.
BrazzilDo you think the recent comparisons of the Velha Guarda da
Portela to the Buena Vista Social Club are valid?
M.M.They’re the same generation, but it’s a different context. There
are some similarities, but musically it’s different. The comparisons didn’t come
from me or from them, but from a few journalists who were trying be clever.
BrazzilWhat do you feel it will take for the Velha Guarda to achieve
similar worldwide acclaim?
M.M. Well, they’re being released now in France, Spain, Portugal, and Africa
on Lusafrica, the same label that releases Cesaria Evora, and there is a label interested
in releasing them in the United States. Also, the record was a nominee for the
Latin Grammy. You know, there is a new Latin Grammy, a samba category, and we were
nominated. But the Velha Guarda musicians are very old, so it’s difficult for them
to tour, to travel. Some of the guys are eighty years old; some are like seventy-eight,
still it’s so moving to hear and see them live.
BrazzilI saw them at Peoples almost ten years ago, which was funny
because at the time it was more of a bossa nova club. I don’t even know if it’s
there any more.
M.M.Ah, you saw them with Cristina Buarque, right? Nice show. Yes,
Peoples is still there, but it’s much more of a dance club now.
BrazzilWhat else are you planning for the Phonomotor label?
M.M.Well, my new record and my old records will be issued and distributed
worldwide through Phonomotor. But I don’t plan on becoming the artistic director of
a big record label or taking care of a lot of other artists. I just don’t have the
time for that. Phonomotor is something that I created only for my projects, like
the Velha Guarda or for something that I decide to produce in the future. I
envision it as a very restrictive independent label that allows me to produce whatever I
want. And I don’t really want to release new artists or look for new people or start
listening to tons of tapes. People have already started sending me a lot of
material, and I really can’t do that work. Phonomotor is something very chained to
my work. When you see Phonomotor, you’ll see Marisa Monte.
BrazzilMarisa, some critics have said that your latest CD lacks the
courage of your previous works and that the CD as a whole is too romantic. Would you
comment on this?
M.M.Well, most of the critics were very positive, and I can tell that many
people have been moved by the record. I’m touring Brazil, and I can feel the energy
at the shows. The record was released only three months ago, and no matter where we
perform, everyone in the audience knows the songs. Yeah, singing and listening, I
can feel that they’re really happy because we’re singing together. And the sales,
like 700,000 in three months, are too much, much more than the other records I’ve made.
Maybe I should explain that my relationship with the critics is very impersonal. I
know that whoever writes and signs his name to a review, is stating a personal opinion,
not mine, so I don’t really get angry. I don’t get involved with critics. They’re
a part of the business that I keep away from. My critic is my audience.
BrazzilNobody talks about Marisa Monte’s personal life, and this kind
of privacy is unusual in Brazil. How do you maintain your mysterious aura?
M.M.Well, I just put the music first, always. I really don’t think I’m
more important or more interesting than the music and the art and the creation. So
all the space that the media gives me, which for me is very valuable, I use to talk about
music. My responsibility is to form an audience for music, not to spread gossip, so
I just don’t contribute. Most of this personal gossip comes from artists who like
to talk and think they have to, or think they need to, or something like that. For
me, that kind of attention doesn’t work. It’s too restrictive. I’m really
kind of shy with press like that. I don’t have anything to hide, but I don’t have
anything to show. I’m a musician. I make music, and I don’t think that
because I’m a musician, I have to expose my intimacies. It doesn’t make any sense.
It’s a profession for me. It’s like being a teacher or a doctor. Why aren’t
teachers and doctors asked to explain their personal lives to the press? I’m a
singer, for me it’s the same.
BrazzilThe media does get a little too crazy sometimes, like all that
business we had here with Clinton. It’s really none of anybody’s business.
M.M.Ah, no, but Clinton is an elected guy. He’s someone who has a
civic career. It’s different for someone who takes care of laws and peoples’ money
and their safety. Music is just music. It’s something that doesn’t really
interfere. It’s optional. If you don’t want to, you don’t need to listen.
A musician and a president are different. I think they’re different. Music
is a profession for me. It’s only work. The way people deal with media
exposure is an individual matter. Everyone has their own style and reasons. And
I’m already exposed a lot. I reveal myself a lot through my work because I’m very
involved in all I do. If you just look at my work, it tells a lot about me. And
I just want to tell about myself through that. I think it’s more interesting.
BrazzilYou have such an ethereal stage persona; I’m wondering if your
gestures are spontaneous or part of choreographed presentation.
M.M.No, they’re the same kinds of gestures that I make when I’m talking.
Really, I talk a lot with my hands. It’s funny because in the new show, I play a
little bit, so in some songs my hands are attached to the guitar, and I really miss moving
them. It’s like a suspension of my expression. Moving my arms and hands is
something that really helps me to sing and to communicate a song’s meaning.
BrazzilCan you tell me a little about the new show’s visual effects?
M.M.Well, in Brazil I always have shows that are much more produced and much
more structured than my shows outside the country. Occasionally we tour abroad with
everything, but generally, we take only the band. This year, however, I’m bringing
the whole show to the United States, the same one that we’re now presenting in Brazil. Ernesto
Neto, who is one of the most important visual artists in Brazil and whose career has a
huge projection outside of Brazil, created a fabric sculpture for the show with a lot of
transparencies, with different planes and different perspectives, and it works as a
catalyst, dramatically integrating the lighting and the scenery in the production. It’s
something that you have to see and which is hard to explain.
BrazzilAs you know from last time you played Los Angeles, the entire
Brazilian community will be there to see it.
M.M.That’s funny because in big cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami
there are so many Brazilians, even outside the United States, in Europe. When we go
to Madrid, there are hordes of Brazilians. But when we go to small cities, like
last time we came to the United States, or like we did in Europe when we played six cities
in Spain and eight cities in Germany, then we start getting into places where there are no
Brazilians, and that’s interesting. The last time we performed in L.A., we played
Palm Springs, which was so funny because there were maybe three Brazilians in the crowd.
The audience, remarkably, was American, and it was really fun.
BrazzilBrazilian acts come to the United States every year, but your
shows are usually the only ones to sell out months ahead of time.
M.M.Yeah, but this is a consequence of what we were talking about before, my
career being on the stage. I’ve been working a lot lately as a composer and also
producing more and more and working in the studio, but I prefer that direct connection
with the audience.
BrazzilWill you be bringing the same band with you that you brought in
M.M.For this tour, I’m using a slightly different instrumentation. I
have three percussionists, a cavaquinho, and a keyboard player, so the band
formation is also a little different.1 Toninho Ferragutti, I changed
because I didn’t want to have an accordion now that I have keyboards, but three guys are
the same: Davi Moraes, guitars; Dadi, the bass player; and Peu on percussion. The
group is a little bit different, but this is normal. It’s always a matter of
BrazzilMarisa, is there anything special that you want to convey to
your fans or anything important that I haven’t asked you about?
M.M.Well, the only thing I’d like to mention is my web site. I think
it’s cool. It’s a brand new one, completely renewed. And there, people can find all
the information about the tours and about the recordings. They can get Tudo Azul
and also listen to music that I’ve programmed there. So for people who are far
away, I think it’s the best channel to me.
BrazzilMarisa, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
M.M.Thank you, Bruce. I hope to see you there.
BrazzilI’ll be there.
Marisa Monte Official Web Site:
1. Cavaquinho player Mauro Diniz is the son and musical partner of
the great Monarco (Hildemar Diniz)singer, composer, director, and cavaquinho
player of the Velha Guarda da Portela.
Bruce Gilman, music editor for Brazzil, received his Masters
degree in music from California Institute of the Arts. He leads the Brazilian jazz
ensemble Axé and plays cuíca for escola de samba MILA. You can reach him
through his e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nós que passamos apressados
Por isso eu pergunto
O mundo é uma escola
Everything was erased
Everything was erased
We who hurry through
That’s why I ask
The world is a school
Para Ver as Meninas
Silêncio por favor
Hoje eu quero apenas
Só este amor assim descontraído
| To See the Girls|
Today I only want
Only love so relaxed
Gotas de Luar
Se eu pudesse roubar
Sei que muito breve
Eu devia te deixar
| Drops of Moonlight|
If I could steal the
I know that soon
I should let you go
Dizem que foi chorando,
Pois você não sabe,
| Five Minutes|
I asked you
I asked you
They say I was crying,
Since you don’t know,
| U.S. Tour Dates:|
Sept. 22 Los Angeles, CA UCLARoyce Hall
|Marisa Monte||M M||World Pacific/EMI-Odeon||1988|
|Marisa Monte||Mais||World Pacific/EMI-Odeon||1991|
|Cassiano||Cedo ou Tarde||Columbia||1991|
|Monarco||A Voz do Samba||Kuarup||1991|
|Marisa Monte|| Rose and Charcoal (Verde, Anil, Amarelo, Azul, Cor-de-Rosa e|
|Marisa Monte||A Great Noise (Barulhinho Bom)||Metro Blue/EMI||1996|
|Timbalada||Vamos Dar a Volta no Guetho||Polydor||1998|
|Carlinhos Brown||Omelete Man||Virgin/EMI||1998|
|Marisa Monte||Memórias, Crônicas e Declarações de Amor||Phonomotor/EMI||1999|
|Velha Guarda da Portela||Tudo Azul||Phonomotor/EMI||2000|
|Paulinho da Viola||Série Dois Momentos Vol. 10||WEA||2000|
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