I’m exhausted and happy. Just took a warm shower and heard my body whisper “thank you.” I cleaned my feet from the dust and dirt of the cement floor where I sang and danced tonight, while feeling the warmth of gratefulness in my heart. We did a great job. We worked like dogs to put this event together, but there is a smile on our faces now.
When I decided to celebrate samba singer Clara Nunes in the middle of 2012, Marcia Argolo and I set the date of April 6, 2013 with Nayla and Amen Santo from Brasil Brasil Cultural Center, and I waited for the idea to sink in. I didn’t know which band would be suitable for the project, but mentioned it to Beto Gonzalez who leads a very cool ensemble called Samba Society here in Los Angeles. I really admire Beto for his knowledge of Brazilian music, especially the 1970’s samba. He’s a humble and passionate musicologist who educates whoever has an ear, and desires to expand their vision of Brazilian culture. We spoke a few times about Clara and her music, and finally one day, it dawned on me what was so ridiculously obvious since the beginning. Samba Society was the perfect ensemble because it resembles the kind of group that used to back Clara. Acoustic guitar, cavaquinho, and percussionists singing background vocals. I called Beto and he said:
“What took you so long, Katia ?"
It was easy to choose the songs for the show. Beto picked 20 pearls of her repertoire that I heard during my teen years. Every song was a hit. We knew Brazilians would sing every one of them, and Americans who are into Brazilian music would recognize at least “Ijexá” from David Byrne’s compilation “Samba” that came out in the 1990’s.
I think one of my favorite parts of the process of putting together a Celebration show, is researching. Watching videos, listening to recordings, reading interviews and going deeper into Clara’s story, moved me immensely. The human being behind the stage persona is what I want to touch. She grew up in a small town, was orphaned early, but kept following her dreams. She had three natural abortions, and some people believe she probably focused harder on her career because of that. She recorded 16 LPs from 1966 to 1982. She passed away before completing 40 years old. So young… How? She felt self conscious about some varicose veins on her legs and decided to go for surgery. Her body had a reaction to the anesthetic and for 28 days Brasil prayed for her. In vain…
I grew up in a Catholic family and Clara opened my curiosity about Afro Brazilian religion with her songs. I used to fear any religious manifestation that included spirits taking over people’s body. I remember going to a Macumba ‘s terreiro (a place where they practice their rituals) in Rio de Janeiro when I was 15 years old. That experience scared the “s” out of me. It was the first and the only time I saw a “pomba gira,” that is the classification of an entity that personifies female beauty, sexuality and desire. As a naïve catholic girl, that encounter made me aware that there was a world out there (and in me) that I did not know existed.
Clara Nunes’ beauty and charismatic presence swiftly brought the magical world of Afro Brazilian religion to Brazilian homes, creating a desire to understand where before there was only prejudice.
In the middle of the show on April 6 I said to the audience:
“Can you feel the joy in your heart? So, let’s do something together. Please, turn around and look at Clara’s poster on the wall. Now, close your eyes and think that all the joy you have in your heart right now, came from the music that this woman expressed and that inspired me, and my friends here on stage. Through us you’re experiencing her passion and love, and that’s how we go in life. She loves, we love and we pass this love on to you."
Photo by Joe Perez
Stay Tuned for the next
Brazilian Heart Music Celebration Series in 2014!
Peace and Joy,
Katia Moraes : )