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Jorge Ben, also known as Jorge Benjor, is not only a great musician and songwriter but has pretty much created his own music style. He became popular around the same time as Bossa Nova which was the prevalent music style in the main cities of Brazil, but most importantly in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Benjor came up with his own brand of samba.
The song “Por Causa de Você Menina,” released in 1963 on the album “Samba Esquema Novo,” showed his new approach to samba and it wasn’t Bossa. It was, nevertheless, readily embraced by the same youth who loved Bossa Nova. The young people of Brazil in the late 50’s and 60’s needed to have their own music and sound – something they could relate to and that represented their generation. Benjor was it.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1942 as Jorge Duilio Lima Menezes using the stage name first as Jorge Ben and later Jorge Benjor, Jorge Ben chose his name after his mother who was of Ethiopian origin.
Benjor’s music has always been based on samba and the beat of the escolas de samba of Rio. His brother introduced him to jazz and American music, including rock, as well.
The way he was discovered was one of those interesting stories. Benjor was in a club performing his “Mas Que Nada” where an executive from the record label Phillips was present. One week later his first single with “Mas Que Nada” was released. It is still today one of the most popular songs in Brazil.
Sergio Mendes made “Mas Que Nada” a huge international success as well.
I once asked Sergio how he found “Mas Que Nada” noting that Sergio has been living in the U.S. since the 60’s. He said that he used to see Jorge Benjor performing in Rio. “Mas Que Nada” with Sergio Mendes became an international success.
I once also asked Jorge Benjor how “Mas Que Nada” came about. He said that he used to see this beautiful girl walk by, he would sing and talk to her. She would say “mas que nada” or “let it be” and walk away. That was the beginning of a great song. Remember that “Mas Que Nada” is also one of the biggest songs in the U.S. and it is always sung in Portuguese! The song has been interpreted by greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, and Al Jarreau among many others. I also like the version by South African singer Miriam Makeba from 1966.
A more recent version by Sergio Mendes featuring the Black-Eyed Peas was a huge success introducing this tune to a new generation.
There are many other songs by Benjor that are very popular worldwide such as “Pais Tropical” and “Chove Chuva” and “Cadê Tereza”.
Jorge Benjor is also a big soccer fan. His team is Flamengo. He has written many songs related to soccer – a good example of this is “Flamengo”, “Ponta de Lança Africano”, “Fio Maravilha”, and “Zagueiro” among others.
Another notable contribution to the work of other artist’s was Rod Stewart’s 1978 smash hit, “Do you think I’m Sexy,” which took inspiration from Jorge Ben Jor’s song, “Taj Mahal.”
While visiting Rio de Janeiro, President Barack Obama commented in his speech: “You are, as Jorge Benjor sang, a tropical country, blessed by God, and beautiful by nature” referring to “Pais Tropical.”
Benjor has recorded over 40 albums.
Jorge Benjor has received many awards in Brazil and abroad including the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Orfeu Negro – Black Orpheus is one the most influential films related to Brazil by the French director Marcel Camus. The main actors were Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello. The film is based on the original play Orfeu da Conceição by Brazilian poet, diplomat and singer, Vinicius de Moraes. Orfeu is an adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice and this time set in a favela, shantytown in Rio de Janeiro during the carnaval festivities. The film, made in 1959 as co-production of Brazil, France, and Italy became an international success winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959, the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 1960 the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film and the 1961 British Academy Film Awards. The film inspired people, artists, and musicians the world over. The fine artists Jean Michel Basquiat mentions the music of Black Orpheus to have been one his first musical influences. It was Barack Obama’s mother’s favorite film. The soundtrack of the film and some of it’s themes were recorded by numerous musicians and singers like Vince Guaraldi, Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola & John McLaughlin, Astrud Gilbeto, Bola Sete, João Gilberto, Gal Costa to name a few.
Marpessa Dawn was not from Brazil, but Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
Breno Mello was a soccer player with no acting experience at the time he was cast as Orfeu. It is said that Breno Mello was walking on the street in Rio de Janeiro, when director Marcel Camus stopped him and asked if he would like to be in a film.
Da Silva, the actor who played Death, was a triple jumper who won two Olympic gold medals, in 1952 and 1956.
A young boy who dances across the screen playing pandeiro (tambourine) and flying a kite grew up to win a national pandeiro-playing contest and play his instrument around the world. Currently, Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro teaches in Los Angeles and performs with local Brazilian groups.
The soundtrack became an enormous success; it was the beginning of the Bossa Nova movement in Brazil and the world. Two young Brazilian composers wrote the music, Antonio Carlos Jobim also known as Tom Jobim whose song “A Felicidade” opens the film and Luiz Bonfá whose “Manhã de Carnaval” and “Samba de Orfeu” have become Bossa Nova classics. The songs sung by the character Orfeu were dubbed by singer Agostinho dos Santos and the female voice by Elizeth Cardoso.
It is interesting to note that it was Elizeth Cardoso who recorded the first Bossa Nova album titled “Canção do Amor Demais” released in Brazil in 1958.
Orfeu da Conceição the play by Vinicius de Moraes premiered in Rio de Janeiro in 1956 and it became the basis for the film and the musical Orfeu presented on Broadway.
Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim was born in Rio de Janeiro on January 25, 1927. Tom Jobim was a pianist, songwriter, arranger, and singer. Widely considered as one of the great exponents of Brazilian music, Jobim is the artist who internationalized Bossa Nova and, with notable American artists, he merged Bossa Nova with jazz to standardize in the 1960s a new sound whose popular success was very remarkable. Jobim is widely considered one of the great composers of popular music of the twentieth century.
He was a primary force behind the creation of the Bossa Nova style, and his songs have been performed by many singers and musicians within Brazil and internationally.
Jobim became prominent in Brazil when he joined forces with poet and diplomat Vinicius de Moraes to write the music for the play Orfeu da Conceição in 1956. The most popular song from the show was “Se Todos Fossem Iguais A Você” (“If Everyone Were Like You”). Later, when the play was turned into the film: Black Orpheus”, producer Sacha Gordine did not want to use any of the existing music from the play. Gordine asked Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim for a new score for the film. Vinicius Moraes was at the time away in Montevideo, Uruguay, working for the Itamaraty (Ministry of Foreign Relations of Brazil) and so he and Jobim were only able to write three songs, primarily over the telephone – songs such as “A Felicidade”, “Frevo” and “O Nosso Amor.” This musical partnership became very successful.
One of their most famous compositions is “The Girl from Ipanema.” Jobim’s compositions have been recorded by legendary singers and musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Toots Thielemans to name a few.
Jobim was an innovator in the use of sophisticated harmonic structures, simple beautiful melodies in popular song.
Vinicius de Moraes, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1913, was known as “poetinha” – a term of endearment meaning the little poet. Vinicius’ venture into writing started in the 30’s when he wrote two poetry collections, “Caminho Para a Distancia (“Path into Distance”) (1933) and Forma e Exegese (“Form and Exegesis”). In 1943 Vinicius de Moraes entered the Brazilian Foreign Service working at the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles. He continued writing and releasing several books, such as Caminho Para a Distancia (“Path into Distance”) (1933) and Forma e Exegese (“Form and Exegesis”). As a diplomat, he also served in Paris and in Rome. In the 50’s Vinicius de Moraes wrote film reviews for the newspaper “A Última Hora.” In 1956 he returned to Paris as a diplomat and co-wrote his first samba “Quando tu passas por mim” (“When You Go By Me”) with Antonio Maria, a writer, chronicler and radio personality.
In 1956 Vinicius de Moraes met pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim and started writing songs that later became known as Bossa Nova. In 1958 singer Elizeth Cardoso records the album “Canção do Amor Demais” with several compositions by Vinicius and Tom. Many consider it to be the first Bossa Nova album. Songs by Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim were all-time hits recorded by numerous singers and musicians worldwide such as “Garota de Ipanema” (The Girl From Ipanema).
Luiz Bonfá was born on October 17, 1922, in Rio de Janeiro. Bonfá studied in Rio with Uruguayan classical guitarist Isaías Sávio from the age of 11.
Bonfá first gained widespread exposure in Brazil in 1947 when he was featured on Rio’s Radio Nacional then an important showcase for up-and-coming talent. He was a member of the vocal group Quitandinha Serenaders in the late 1940s. Some of his first compositions such as “Ranchinho de Palha”, “O Vento Não Sabe”, were recorded and performed by the Brazilian famed crooner Dick Farney in the 1950s. Bonfá’s first hit song was “De Cigarro em Cigarro” recorded by singer Nora Ney in 1957. It was through Farney that Bonfá was introduced to Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. Bonfá collaborated with Tom and Vinicius and with other prominent Brazilian musicians and artists in productions of the anthological play Orfeu da Conceição.
In the burgeoning days of Rio de Janeiro’s thriving jazz scene, it was commonplace for musicians, artists, and dramatists to collaborate in such theatrical presentations. Bonfá wrote some of the original music featured in the film, Black Orpheus including the numbers “Samba de Orfeu” and his most famous composition, “Manhã de Carnaval.”” which has been among the top ten standards played worldwide, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.
As a composer and performer, Bonfá was at heart an exponent of the bold, lyrical, lushly orchestrated, and emotionally charged samba-canção that predated the arrival of João Gilberto. Samba-canção influenced the development of Bossa Nova.
With the success of Black Orpheus, Luiz Bonfá became a highly visible ambassador of Brazilian music in the United States beginning with the famous November 1962 Bossa Nova concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Bonfá worked with American musicians such as Quincy Jones, George Benson, Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra. Elvis Presley sang a Bonfá composition, “Almost in Love” with lyrics by Randy Starr in the 1968 MGM film “Live a Little, Love a Little.” Also notable is Bonfa’s “The Gentle Rain” and “Sambolero.”
Interesting enough, in 2012 the Belgian born musician Gotye sampled the guitar playing of Luiz Bonfa’s song “Seville” creating the world smash hit “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Featuring vocals by Kimbra. The song sold close to 4.5 million copies. The video of the songs has been seeing by over 900 million people.
Luiz Bonfá was one of the pioneers and creators of Bossa Nova.
Brazilian Music Get Together | November 29
Revisiting the soundtrack of the film “Black Orpheus” and the play “Orfeu da Conceição”
Orfeu da Conceição
Overture – uma parte pequena
Se todos fossem iguais a você
Um nome de mulher
Mulher, sempre mulher
Eu e o meu amor
Lamento no morro
Orfeu negro – Black Orpheus
Manhã De Carnaval
O Nosso Amor
Samba De Orfeu
Paulinho Garcia – guitar and vocal
Mark Isbel – alto and soprano saxes
José Marino – bass
Ana Ribeiro – percussion
Baden Powell de Aquino, widely known as Baden Powell and born in the city of Varre-Sai in Rio de Janeiro, is immensely revered as a premier acoustic guitarist in Brazil. Baden created a guitar style that is unmatched – a classical guitar technique with popular music harmony and phrasing. Baden became known for his Bossa Nova tunes, samba, and Brazilian instrumental songs, a Brazilian style of Jazz, and MPB.
His father liked scouting therefore naming his son Baden Powell after the founder of the Boys Scouts Robert Baden Powell.
Baden started his guitar lessons with Jayme Florence, an influential choro guitarist of Rio de Janeiro, in the 1940’s. He soon was known to be an excellent guitarist and started to perform with orchestras and small ensembles.
Baden Powell became more widely known around 1959 when he teamed up with lyricist Billy Blanco. They wrote “Samba Triste” or “Sad Samba” which became known in Brazil and abroad; it was recorded by jazz musicians such as sax player Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd on their album “Jazz Samba.”
Before venturing toward new directions, Baden Powell was the house guitarist for Elenco record label, and of the Elis Regina’s and Jair Rodrigues television show O Fino da Bossa. It was in 1962 that Baden Powell meets poet and diplomat Vinicius de Moraes and, as a result, the idea of Afro-Brazilian songs put in a contemporary form was born: “Os Afro Sambas.”
Vinicius de Moraes, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1913, was known as “poetinha” – a term of endearment meaning the little poet. Vinicius’ venture into writing started in the 30’s when he wrote two poetry collections, “Caminho Para a Distancia (“Path into Distance”) (1933) and Forma e Exegese (“Form and Exegesis”). In 1943 Vinicius de Moraes entered the Brazilian Foreign Service working at the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles. He continued writing releasing several books Caminho Para a Distancia (“Path into Distance”) (1933) and Forma e Exegese (“Form and Exegesis”). As a diplomat he also served in Paris and in Rome. In the 50’s Vinicius de Moraes wrote film reviews for the newspaper “A Última Hora.” In 1956 he returned to Paris as a diplomat and co-wrote his first samba “Quando tu passas por mim” (“When You Go By Me”).
with Antonio Maria, a writer, chronicler and radio personality.
In 1956 Vinicius de Moraes meets pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim and started writing songs that later became known as Bossa Nova. In 1958 singer Elizeth Cardoso records the album “Canção do Amor Demais” with several compositions by Vinicius and Tom. Many consider it to be the first Bossa Nova album. Songs by Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim were all time hits recorded by numerous singers and musicians worldwide such as “Garota de Ipanema” (The Girl From Ipanema), “Insensatez” (How Insensitive), “Chega de Saudade” (How Insensitive). Vinicius de Moraes’ play “Orfeu da Conceição,” a reworking of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice and set in the carnival in Rio, was adapted into the very successful film “Black Orpheus” – it won an Academy Award in 1959 as the Best Foreign Language Film and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. The film was a co-production among France, Italy, and Brazil, and included a song by Jobim and Moraes, “A Felicidade”, which became an international hit.
In 1966 Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell take Brazilian music to a different direction. Here we have a phenomenal guitarist and composer and a revered poet and songwriter, Baden and Vinicius, recording the album “Os Afro Sambas” with songs such as “Canto De Ossanha”, “Canto De Iemanjá”, “Tempo de Amor” among memorable others. This album played a role in bringing about aspects of Afro Brazilian culture into Popular Brazilian Music. The two musicians brilliantly explored the Afro Brazilian religious music of Candomblé and, as a result, made it accessible to the Brazilian mainstream.
The partnership between Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell was one of the most intense in the poet’s career. After forming the duo, they spent almost three months living together and writing nonstop in the apartment where Vinicius lived in Laranjeiras a district in Rio de Janeiro. The partnership kept going on in many places, including Paris, where they lived for a period of time. Besides a series of sambas which had led the lyricist, Vinicius, to other music styles besides the Bossa Nova, the duo created a kind of Bahian-Carioca samba, introducing a sounding and poetry until then unpublished: The Afro Sambas.
Brazilian Music Get Together | September 21
Os Afro Sambas by Badem Powell and Vinicius de Moraes
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Brazilian Guitar – Violão Brasileiro
If there is an instrument that is considered very Brazilian, we can say it is the violão or the acoustic guitar. At least in the hearts of Brazilian the guitar, o violão, is Brazilian. The guitar has its origins in Europe, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The vihuela, as it was known in Spanish, was called the viola de mà in Catalan, viola da mano in Italian and viola de mão in Portuguese. The vihuela was a guitar-shaped instrument with six double-strings (paired courses) made of gut. Plucked vihuelas, being essentially flat-backed lutes, evolved in the mid-15th century, in the Kingdom of Aragón, located in north-eastern Iberia (Spain). In Spain, Portugal, and Italy the vihuela was in common use by the late 15th through to the late 16th centuries. In the second half of the 15th century some vihuela players began using a bow, leading to the development of the violin.
The first person to publish a collection of music for the vihuela was the Spanish composer Luis Milán, with his volume titled Libro de música de vihuela de mano intitulado El maestro of 1536 dedicated to King John III of Portugal. The guitar was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese early on during the colonial times (1530 – 1700).
In Spanish, the guitar is called guitarra. It also happens that the Portuguese have an instrument very similar to the Spanish guitar, which would be equivalent to the Brazilian Viola Caipira: It is the Portuguese Viola. It has the same forms and characteristics of the guitar, being only slightly smaller. When the Portuguese encountered the “guitarra” (Spanish), they saw that it was equal to their viola, being only slightly larger. Then they put the name of the instrument in the augmentative, that is, the “Viola” came to be called violão.
The first known musical string instrument brought to Brazil was the viola of ten strings – or five double strings – brought by the Portuguese Jesuits whose goal was to convert the Indians to Christianity and used the instrument during this process.
The characteristic of urban use of the “violão”, in its current form was established at the end of the nineteenth century. Because of this, the guitar became the favorite instrument for vocal accompaniment, as in the case of the “modinhas”, romantic tunes brought to Brazil by the Portuguese, and, also, in instrumental music, accompanying the flute and the cavaquinho, forming the basis of choro ensembles developing in the late 1800’s in Rio de Janeiro.
The guitar, being an instrument widely used in Brazilian popular music, and by people in general, came to have a bad reputation, being considered by many as an instrument of bohemians, used in serenades, chorões, and becoming a symbol of vagrancy. This stigma lasted for many years. Due to this discrimination, the first musicians who tried to demystify it and promote it as a serious instrument were considered true heroes. One of the forerunners of the modern guitar in Brazil was the founder of the magazine “O Violão”, published in 1928, Joaquim Santos (1873-1935) or Quincas Laranjeira. He was considered the “father of the modern guitar” and in the last years of his life was dedicated to teaching guitar by the method of Tárrega.
Maestro Heitor Villa-Lobos, one of Brazil’s foremost classical composers, also wrote his famed “Etudes for Guitar “(1929), dedicated to Andres Segovia.
The viola of ten strings – or five double strings – brought to Brazil by the Portuguese Jesuits in the sixteenth century, was the first musical instrument sold in the country, and had a very high price at the time: Two thousand reis! This instrument belonged to a “bandeirante” (pioneer) called Sebastião Paes de Barros.
We can say the violão is found in many Brazilian music styles. In choro, samba, boss nova, as well as instrumental Brazilian music.
It is hard to imagine samba and bossa nova without a guitar/violão.
The pioneers of Bossa Nova all played the guitar: Laurindo Almeida, Luiz Bonfá and João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Roberto Menescal, Carlos Lyra. Nara Leão.Who can forget the guitar style of Baden Powell, Paulinho Nogueira, Dilermando Reis, João Pernambuco. And later, Luiz Bonfá and Laurindo Almeida took the Brazilian guitar styles around the world.
The seven-string guitar is also very popular in Brazil used in many styles of music. Some seven-string guitarists who contributed to Brazilian music with their compositions and guitar technique: Dino 7 Cordas, Rafael Rabello and Yamandú Costa.
As we look at the evolution of the guitar and techniques we also remember Egberto Gismonti with performance and compositions for a nylon and steel ten-string guitar.
Because of its history and our history, the guitar/violão seems to be indeed Brazilian. The guitar is used in the music of the gauchos in Southern Brazil and with the seringueiros, rubber tappers in the villages of the Amazon region. It’s in the sounds of the street vendors in the Northeast, the caipira music, or country music in the States of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, as well as in concert halls throughout Brazil. It was part of the protest songs and MPB of the 60’s and 70’s. It was central to the Bossa Nova being developed in the apartments of Copacabana by Roberto Menescal, and Carlos Lyra, and it’s hard to imagine Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, Dori Caymmi, Joyce, Rosinha de Valença, Paulinho da Viola, Cartola and João Bosco without a guitar.
The guitar seems to be part of the collective spirit and heart of Brazilians – it is part of the sound track of our history.
Join us for a very special Brazilian Music Get Together at the Vinicius de Moraes Gallery at the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles on August 16 at 6:30 PM for a Night of Guitar featuring: Fabiano do Nascimento, JP Mourão, Marcel Camargo, and Capital.
Brazilian Consulate General
8484 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 300
Beverly Hills, CA., 90211