The Brazil sound is what I crave. If you have an appetite for a little more ‘savory’ music (as they say: Vamos lá), I have two Brazilian musical phenoms to recommend: one from Rio and the other from São Paulo. Both are overlooked here in the United States. Both are delightful music ambassadors: Ivan Lins and Exaltasamba.
They have been around for decades but off your radar because the songs are all in Portuguese. Don’t overlook them anymore, because they are the sheer musical beauty and a cultural staple if you’re learning Portuguese. (Remember, Brazil is a rising economic powerhouse and it is hosting the next Olympics and Soccer World Cup).
Exaltasamba: It’s a smiling all-male samba band. Their São Paulo pagoda music genre denotes the physical concert venues and the bar scene of 70s & 80s samba groups. “É Você,” “Graça,” and“Eu Já Tentei”are tracks you should start off with as you explore Exaltasamba’s discography.
Ivan Lins: A revered jazz and pop singer and keyboard master who may turn out to be as big a song writer as Hal David-Burt Bacharach any day. He has recorded hundreds of songs since 1971 and played his part as guest artist with Dave Grusin, George Benson, Lee Ritenour, and PBS’s Legends of Jazz. His most famous tunes, “Setembro” (Brazilian wedding song) and “Começar de Novo”, are in American movies and recorded by stars such as Streisand, the Manhattan Transfer, Michael Buble and Jane Monheit, who recorded an album solely inspired by Lins music.
The careers of both Exaltasamba and Ivan Lins have spanned more than 25 years. Exaltasamba is the younger of the two, and Lins, well into his 60s, still blesses the Europe and U.S. jazz scene with a boyish smile, coffee-stained ivories and international music. From their concert videos, Lins and Exaltasamba are the happy faces, countering the dissonance and grunge of much of our contemporary music. Their Brazilian sound blends rich jazz, bossa nova, and major samba chords. And cheerfulness, if I can use that one word.
My musical soft spot for these Brazilian gems evolved as I grew up in neighboring Argentina, from the 80s till now, with occasional returns to Latin America, as I’ve leaned to the melodic, upbeat styles of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, and Kenny Loggins, which explains my drift in the direction of Lins and Exaltasamba. My recent focus on these Brazilians coincides with an interest in improving my Portuguese. Their songs teach me muito vocabulary, pronunciation and conversational slang, and intuitively reveal the soul longings – the saudade – of the Brazilian people.
Exaltasamba – the Boys of the Brazilian “Pagode” Scene
Like a champion paulista soccer club, Exaltasamba is all joyful live teamwork with a tight studio sound combining mandolins, accordion, ukulele, keyboard, guitars and regional percussion. So many moving parts would be a real mess if these guys weren’t so well rehearsed and talented. When the entire group pours voice into a chorus, it’s a musical nirvana.
Unfortunately, Exaltasamba disbanded this year after 26 years but in their long tenure they built their success around two male leads and five or six other accompanists. The Pericão-Thiaguinho chemistry starts with the swarthy “big daddy” Pericão’s rich baritone in contrast to the slight, photogenic pretty boy Thiaguino, whose voice is like the higher ranges of the Boyz to Men or Take 6. When one of the duo takes the singing lead, the other dutifully falls back to strumming abanjo in synch with the low-key background instrumentalist band mates Pinha, Brilhantina and Thell, who like Brazilian soccer players go by a single name.
To Know Ivan
Lins – what kind of name is that for a South American! Like many in Brazil or neighboring Paraguay, it goes back to European immigrants. Ivan Lins is of German ancestry, his father a military man from Rio. Lins found his music career despite family urgings to be an engineer. Lins has recorded more than 35 albums, from his first days with long hair, shaggy beard, Lennon glasses in the 70’s to his current appearances as a modestly dressed, in-shape bourgeoisie sexagenarian. “Vitoriosa,” “Velas Içadas,”“Antes Que Seja Tarde,” “ Madalena,” “Once I Walked in the Sun” are some of his best songs to sample, and “Love Dance” is one of the most frequently covered songs in pop history.
Throughout this hemisphere, Lins should and will equal the stature of those other great songwriters of our centuries, whether Stephen or David Foster, Rogers-Hammerstein, or Taupin-John. Ivan Lins is that great.
On the Way?
So when you’re in Brazil (in your mind, on the Internet, or looking out the window on a flight near the Cristo Redentor statue along Guanabara) remember to load up some Exaltasamba, and take time to hear everything you can from Ivan Lins. Vamos lá. Let’s go there. And Spotify that!
Brad Anderson is a business development vice president at the nearshore BPO firm RDIimpacto! and its parent firm RDI Marketing Services. RDI outsourcing call centers in the U.S. and Mexico specialize in sales, customer care, and help desk services to the U.S., U.S. Hispanic and domestic Spanish-speaking markets of Mexico, Central America, Latin America and Spain. With experience and fluency in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, Anderson works at helping people and companies succeed in these markets. Anderson, his wife Ann and three children live in Fort Worth, Texas.