Tag Archives: bossa nova

Five x Sergio Mendes

IT’S DIFFICULT to know where to start with Sergio Mendes.

The veteran Brazilian pianist and arranger has released around 50 albums since he made his name freestyling bossa nova tunes with the cream of Copacabana’s jazz and samba players in tiny after-hours dives in the late Fifties and early Sixties.

As John Peel once said:

“A lot of people write to me and say: ‘I heard Sergio Mendes, which record should I get?’ And I never have any hesitation in telling them, you must get them all. Apart from the one he did with will.i.am.”

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Five x Agua de Beber

AGUA DE BEBER is a song from the very earliest days of bossa nova, written by the two men who defined the genre, with music by pianist and composer Tom Jobim and lyrics by musician playwright poet diplomat Vinícius de Moraes.

The story goes that the duo were invited to the then under-construction capital of Brasilia by the president to get some inspiration for the music they were composing for the city’s opening ceremony.

While they were on site, the pair kept hearing the sound of running water in the building they were staying in. A security guard told them that it was an unfinished potable water pipeline. Aqua de Beber was the result.

Their tune for the opening ceremony didn’t make the cut.

The song was first released as a single by de Moraes in 1961 and has become something of a standard, with anyone and everyone with any leanings towards bossa nova having a crack at it since then. If you buy a lot of bossa nova albums, you’ll end up with lots of versions of Agua de Beber. I’ve got about a dozen, all told.


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Football crazy

brasilLONG time, no see, blah blah drone.

Football does my nut in. My one crumb of comfort over the last couple of weeks has been the beautiful Brazilian music in the idents for the world cup TV coverage – although, obviously, because the the philistines at ITV don’t actually give a flying fuck about beautiful Brazilian music, they only play a paltry few seconds of each tune.

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Bebel Gilberto

I’D LOVE to be able to pretend that bossa nova has been a big part of my life for years and years, but the fact is I didn’t really get it – or any of that easy, lounge stuff – until I heard Bebel Gilberto’s major label debut, Tanto Tempo, in 2000. After that, there was no stopping me.

She didn’t play up north until a few years later and I made it my business to sort out a face-to-face interview with her when she finally made it.

She was lovely, the gig was great, the interview was okay.

This is a reworked, slightly longer version of the piece that eventually ended up in the Big Issue in the North. It’s followed by the transcript of a phoner with her I did for City Life a year or so later.

* * *

“I WAS always a traveller,” says Bebel Gilberto, glancing out of a hotel window across the Manchester Ship canal, as she pulls on a lock of jet-black hair. “I started travelling when I was a baby with my parents, because my father was touring, and I have been travelling ever since.”

Over the last few days, Gilbert has been in Spain and Holland playing gigs before coming to the UK for a meeting with the producer of her new album in London and travelling up to Manchester for tonight’s gig.

She is in Manchester as part of a short solo UK tour before she supports Simply Red around Europe.

“Sleeping is a big problem, I have trouble, I guess because of being in so many different places,” she says in charmingly accented English. “But lately I don’t know .. I don’t even want to talk about it because I think my body can hear – and then I’m not going to be able to sleep again. But I’ve had like 11 hours of sleep. So I’m in a very good mood.”

bebelBorn in New York and raised in Mexico City, São Paulo and Rio de Janiero, much of the early childhood of the only daughter of Brazilian bossa nova legends João and Miúcha Gilberto was spent touring the world. Her “totally hippy” parents were not exactly what you would call conventional.

A couple of lives dates in Mexico City, en route back to Brazil, for example, turned into a two-year stopover.

“We had a beautiful house with a big peacock walking around in it,” she tells me with a big smile, “but we had no furniture at all. We did have a TV and we all watched Brazil in the 1970 World Cup and it was fantastic.”

Her parents weren’t the only entertainers in the family – her uncle, her mother’s brother, is the poet, playwright and singer Chico Buarque.

But while the songs on her astounding major label debut retain the Zen-like simplicity of her father’s best-loved work, while her honey-toned voice recalls that of her now famously reclusive mother, Bebel Gilberto is more than merely a chip off the old block. However, growing up in a showbiz family – even a globetrotting Brazilian bossa nova hippy family – brings its own problems.

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The new wave of bossa nova

FIFTY years after João Gilberto took the rhythm of samba, slowed it down and made it into another thing entirely, you can hear the bewitching sound of bossa nova everywhere – on shoe shop adverts, in hotel lobbies, in lifts, in the more discerning clothing boutiques, even on dancefloors, occasionally. There almost seems to be a fully-fledged revival happening, but without anyone even realising what‘s going on. It feels very exciting.

While it’s often regarded as kitsch, slightly tacky, happy-go-lucky charity-shop fodder, bossa nova music is all about melody and melancholy and quiet, understated soul.

beachIn its purest, simplest form, it’s about a guy or a girl playing a guitar and singing, but successive generations of musicians have appropriated and shaped bossa nova to their own design – from Stan Getz’s jazzy take and Frank Sinatra’s big band interpretation through to the much-missed Serbian producer Suba’s electronica and Nina Miranda and Chris Franck’s Zeep project, which takes the music right back to the sound of real musicians playing real instruments.

More and more people are making the music again, from Brazil to Britain and from South Korea to Morocco and beyond. And the old stuff almost seems to feel as contemporary now as it must have done when it was first created. Like I say, it’s all very exciting.

If, like me, you can’t make it to the London Bossa Nova Festival 2008 on London’s famous Southbank this weekend (with Nouvelle Vague, Zeep and loads more, for free, godammit), console yourself with this mix I did to promote me and my friend Jeanie’s early doors easy listening thing, Easy Tiger last year. Not pure bossa nova but there’s some new stuff, some old stuff and you might like.

Here’s a tracklisting:

I Need Your Love by The Torrero Band
Samba E Amor by Bebel Gilberto
Para El Dolor by Ana Laan
Agua De Beber by Astrud Gilberto
A Forest by Nouvelle Vague
I Travelled The World by Jersey Street
On The Beach by Minus 8
Sun Song 70 by Yoshinori Sunahara
Certain Shades of Limelight by Swing Out Sister
Moi Je Suis Faite (Pour L’Amour) by The Lovers
Pretty World by Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66
I Realised by Jiva
Funky Bossa by Santos
Visions Of Mars by Streetlife Originals
Felicidade by Suba
Canto De Ossanha by Astrud Gilberto
L’Aventure Fantastique by Fantastic Plastic Machine
Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66

And, bringing us bang up to date, the ever-reliable Aurgasm has a couple of great posts of Brazillian bossa artists doing marvelous things right now, namely Mariana Da Cruz and Aline de Lima.

Mas que nada.

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