The Lyrical Soul of Brazil
You can recognize her voice in a thousand. Mônica Salmaso’s dark, warm and somewhat mysterious nature lures even connoisseurs of Brazilian music into a surprising and ultimately overwhelming world. She takes the essence of nearly all styles of the tropics and makes them her own: along with the Samba, the African-influenced songs of Bahia, and the rhythms of the hinterland, she captures the classical tradition of Heitor Villa-Lobos with hints of Native American music in it too. She interprets the musical history of the vast country anew with the sound of the “alma lírica do Brasil,” the lyrical soul of Brazil.
“I’m my own commander,” remarked Mônica Salmaso at the start of her career. “I won’t chain myself to the music industry for years on end as so many voices in Brazilian pop have done before me, and then at some point later try out my own style.” Originally she was determined to become a journalist. Prior to her studies, however, Mônica took a month-long singing class—just for fun—and discovered her vocal abilities. “Oh Concilio do Amor” is her first theater play and she ultimately sings in the production for an entire year (1989). The kick-off for extensive activities in São Paulo’s art scene.
From then on she engages in the consistent and self-disciplined training of her voice in her hometown São Paulo and hones her accentuation, rhythm and the dynamics of her singing. The composer Eduardo Gudin hears her in 1992, and immediately becomes an ardent admirer of her voice. She catapults to main soloist in his group “Notícias Dum Brazil,” and records for the independent label Velas des Música founded by the popular star Ivan Lin. With guitarist Paulo Bellinati she plays completely new interpretations of Afro-sambas written in the 60s by Baden Powell and de Moraes Vincius, and for the first time explores the black African tradition of her motherland. The exceptional duo album claims the Sharp Prize in 1997.
Shortly afterwards, she has a significant encounter with the Orquestra Popular de Câmara. Here she meets the exceptional musicians with whom she collaborates to this day, including the classically trained pianist Benjamin Taubkin and accordionist Toninho Ferragutti among others. In this milieu, Mônica Salmaso receives the impetus to start her solo career. The Orquestra with its classical-academic approach creates an unusual link to Brazil’s folk and popular forms, her intent is to change traditional habits: “We create new listening experiences through unusual textures and colors and use our voices in search of a Brazilian sound,” she explains. Gradually, her reputation extends beyond the club scene in São Paulo and it’s clear she is one of the few singers not trying to imitate the great divas Elis Regina or Gal Costa, but instead from the very start followed her own path.
In 1997, she finally feels mature enough to take on her first solo album. “Trampolim” takes its cues from the folklore of various regions in the country and approaches it from a universal perspective. Work songs sung by slaves, the spirituality of the Afro-Brazilian liturgy, Indian elements and folk legends are filtered through the contemporary and assume a new form. Musicians from the chamber orchestra support her vision, as well as the internationally renowned percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and the Norwegian jazz musician Bugge Wesseltoft. Her insightful producer Rodolfo Stroet, a longtime collaborator of Gilberto Gil, is constantly by her side.
In the years from 1999 to 2004, she releases three works that underscore her striking ability to create her own sound world from Brazil´s vast music cosmos. Her repertoire spans from the rural traditions to classical samba to contemporary pop trends. She adapts songs by Chico Buarque, Tom Jobim, Chico César and Dorival Caymmi, and creates sparkling gems, bittersweet street ballads and soulful Canções from the Prima Materia of Afro-Brazilian rhythms, the swinging Baião of the Northeast, Native American music, or from the Modinha and Toada - some of Brazil´s oldest independent music forms. Clarinets, accordion, polished percussion, and always the piano are the backup to this voice. She creates a colorful Folklore imaginary with a big serving of classical music, intimate and playful, and very far from academic posturing. Even TV viewers could experience Mônica Salmaso outdoing herself as a soloist in front of a large orchestra during the live broadcast of the 2008 New Year´s Eve concert in São Paulo.
In her newest show, Mônica Salmaso dedicates herself entirely to a single poet for the very first time. “Noites De Gala Samba Na Rua” celebrates Chico Buarque’s creative oeuvres which spans nearly four decades. With her gift for making new discoveries, she dresses the famous epic “Construção” in an elaborate gown, elevating poignant love songs like “Olha Maria” and “Beatriz” to meditative hymns suffused with light. Light-footed sambas like “Partido Alto” or “Logo Eu?” attain unusual notes with the deep sax and airy flute, and she plays the classic song “Morena Dos Olhos D´Agua” with a reduced trio, embedding the song in a crystal-clear recital atmosphere. Edu Lobo, a legendary interpreter of the Bossa Nova and Musica Popular didn’t exaggerate when he said: “Mônica Salmaso has the best voice I´ve heard in years.”
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
20 years of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt
(02 September 09 - 30 September 09)