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Mônica Vasconcelos: Brazil Songs of Resistance

Duncan Heining By

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For Vasconcelos, Guinga provides a thread between today and Jobim and even Brazilian classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos through to "deep music of Brazil since colonial times." Several other Brazilian musicians guest on the record, contributing to the collective vision that Vasconcelos and her musicians brought with them. One suspects that this is the key to the music's success. It has a depth and passion that belies its deceptive lightness.

Gente and The São Paulo Tapes are special records. They make you feel good. The only way I can put it is that they lift you spiritually. It would be nice to think that music like this might provide a soundtrack for a healthier, more creative way of living in our world. However, as Vasconcelos says, "With globalisation, pop and rock, they are like a herb that grows really easily and takes over everything else in the garden. People get used to that one herb, so they cannot appreciate any other. If that rock beat is all you know, maybe it is hard for you to hear and feel the rhythms of Brazil."

Then, of course, there is the cosy, entangled relationship between the media and record companies, who, as she says, "are just thinking of money." Yet, those who seek and find music like this will feel enriched and come back for more. The state of things is no reason to give up and Mônica Vasconcelos isn't quitting any time soon. The nonet Nóis may be no more but the London Bossa Collective, as Vasconcelos calls the new band, has replaced it. Brazilian music—and lyrics— continue to march to a different drum.

"When I fell in love with music—I was 13, I remember the exact day—all I wanted to do was to sing," she says. I wanted to be the 'interpreter,' like in the old times. There were the singers—and the composers. I never expected to be writing songs. But I arrived here, found these guys and they gave me their music. I had to write lyrics, turn my experience into words. Nobody else could translate my experience, my vision other than myself. So, I did it. And it was a steep learning curve. I do cringe when I hear some of the early ones. Less so now. I actually feel proud of a few of them. In a quiet way."

And where does Vasconcelos go from here?

"Well, I have assembled a bunch of musician dudes, plus a performance poet, to create resistance music for the 21st century. I am so looking forward to this. I never feel ready. My role models are so high, up there but I am not running away from the challenge."

Selected Discography

The São Paulo Tapes—Brazilian Resistance Songs MOVAS 005
Gente Nóis 4 Candid CCD79784
Nóis Dois Mônica Vasconcelos MOVAS 002
Nóis Mônica Vasconcelos MOVAS 001

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