Vinicius Cantuaria: Brazilian Soul
“ There are lot of bedroom musicians who can make all sort of music. The quality of it is sometimes scary and all of this is supported by mass media, which creates more confusion. ”
Brazil is truly a gold mine for musical talents. Every year new Brazilian musicians are brought to the attention of the international community. Some of them are here to stay, but others are excessively hyped, overproduced and their names quickly fade away. The music that Vinicius Cantuaria has created over the last decade represents a bridge between classic bossa nova and the hip 21st Century variations on the Tropicalia sound coming out of Rio De Janiero, New York City and Tokyo.
In a career that has spanned more than two decades, Cantuaria has both absorbed tradition and broken all the rules. While living in Rio, he performed alongside Brazilian superstars Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso, for whom he wrote his first million-selling hit, "Lua e Estrella." After moving to New York in 1994 to pursue his solo career, Cantuaria has been relentlessly sought after as a percussionist and guitarist by figures in rock, jazz, world music and performance artists like Arto Lindsay, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Ryuichi Sakamoto and many others.
Most of these illustrious collaborators have returned his favours by appearing on the albums in which Cantuaria, possessed of a seductively gentle voice, takes centre stage. This year he released a new record titled Horse and Fish , an interesting fusion of bossa nova and cool jazz that's another Cantuaria masterpiece.
All About Jazz: What was some of the first music you heard in Brazil when you were young that had an effect on you?
Vinicius Cantuaria: Definitely the Beatles! I was twelve years old and this music changed my world. I remember that each time after school I went home running so I could listen to them on the radio. That's the first music I paid any attention to. Back then, it was hard to find their records and if you heard that anyone was traveling abroad you had to beg for someone to buy their records for you. After that, I began listening to Sinatra, Jobim, Miles and many others.
AAJ: What about the music when you moved to the United States?
VC: I moved to the US in 1994, but my love was still samba and jazz! During that period I was and still am listening to Miles, Chet Baker, Jobim and Bill Evans. Even when I travel it's the music of these people that I always take on the road with me.
AAJ: You were born in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. How has that place influenced the way you make and perceive music?
VC: It has influenced me a lot. I was born in Manaus, which is the heart of the Amazon rainforest and that has influenced my whole soundworld. It really influenced my concepts of rhythm and atmosphere. It all comes from that. We moved to Rio when I was seven years old and that's a story for itself. Anyway, in near future I plan to make a recording in the heart of the Amazon forest where I would make a recording of a string quartet, Brazilian percussionists and Indian voices. It's a great idea and I plan to make it happen in near future.
AAJ: What about New York City? How has that place influenced your music?
VC: It is interesting when you think about it. The more I'm away from Brazil the more I feel nostalgic about it. You can say that by being away from home makes me compose music that is even more Brazilian. It seems that I have more time to focus on Brazil here in New York then when I was there (laughs). But then again, my music needs changes and it needs to talk to different people and to be free to experiment. In a way, I'm more Brazilian when I'm away from Brazil.
AAJ: In the past you worked with Caetano Veloso, Jorge Cautner, Gilberto Gil, people who were part of the Tropicalia movement. How do you look back at the experience of working with these people?
VC: It was a very rich experience! All these musicians are so great and talented. I had a nice time with them. I met Caetano through Gal Kosta, another star and another "tropicalista." Our working relationship started somewhere in 1977 and I worked with him (Veloso) for eight years. I played different roles within his band I played guitar, percussion, I produced and wrote songs. When I started working with him he was a well-known name in Brazil but not as much as he is today, if you make a comparison.
AAJ: Did you have any idea, in the past, that Brazilian music would today be having such an enormous impact on the international music scene?
VC: Yes! from the bossa nova until today, Brazilian music in general has made a huge impact on the market and especially on many well-known musicians like Beck, Arto Lindsay, David Byrne, Sakamoto.
AAJ: By moving to US you worked with people like Bill Frisell, David Byrne, Arto Lindsay, Laurie Anderson, Sakamoto, Marc Ribot, etc. How have these musicians made an impression on you?