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Chega de saudade: A historia e as historias de bossa nova.

Brazilian musical folklore has it that the Bossa Nova, the dance rhythm that became an international rage and changed popular music forever, was born in April of 1958. According to the story, when Elizete Cardoso recorded the famous LP Cancao do amor demais, Joao Gilberto accompanied her on the guitar in two songs, "Chega de saudade" (which might be roughly translated as "Enough Sadness") and "Outra Vez" ("once More"), introducing the Bossa Nova beat. As soon as the record hit the stores, Joao became an overnight sensation and the Bossa Nova took the world by storm.

Ruy Castro shows that it didn't happen quite this way. The record, cut by Festa Records, a non-commercial company, was not a success. Festa was in the business of recording poetry for the Departamento de Difusao Cultural (Department for the Diffusion of Culture), and had to camouflage the recording, which contained songs by the then new composing team of Tom and Vinicius, as poetry with a popular twist. The blurb on the back of the record jacket makes mention neither of Joao Gilberto nor of the new rhythm.

Many of the songs on the LP included traditional Brazilian love lyrics, with an emphasis on longing, suffering, blood and death--the elements of "saudade." Gilberto was not happy either with the mateiral or eith Elizete's interpretation of it, but he did not have the funds to cut his own disk. Shortly afterwards, he auditioned for Columbia Records, but his dislike for the artistic director made him decide to seek support elsewhere. Tom Jobim arranged for him to make a demo of "Chega de saudade," and, after quite a bit of haggling, to record at Odeon. However, Gilberto's insistence on perfection--his demands for two microphones, additional musicians, and repeated takes--led to several blow-ups at the studio, including one with Jobim. Finally after months of work, the 78 r.p.m. with "Chega de saudade" and "Bim-bom" was produced and released. Unfortunately, Brazilians were too absorbed by the World Cup soccer tournament to notice.

Odeon decided to market the record intensely in Sao Paulo, the commercial center of Brazil and the city where hits were made. When Oswaldo Gurzoni (sales director of Odeon in Sao Paulo) heard the record, he became so incensed that he smashed it, yelling, "This is the shit that Rio sends us!? In spite of Gurzoni's opposition, Odeon ordered him to push the product. Alvaro Ramos, manager of Assumpcao Stores, which later sold huge numbers of the record, said that the first time he heard "Chega de saudade," he thought that the singer had a cold.

Today, the two men laugh at their initial reaction to Gilberto's work. After disk jockey Helio de Alencar played "Chega de saudade" on his program, insinuating that an executive of Odeon has shattered it, Gilberto became a hero to young Brazilians, who saw him as a defiant innovator willing to buck convention. In Sao Paulo, Gilberto was soon the most popular singer on the air.

Ruy Castro's book does not start with Gilberto's momentous recording, but rather takes the reader from the early fifties, when Brazilian music was heavily influenced by American swing, blues, and later rock, to the triumph of the Bossa Nova in the fifties and sixties. Authentically and passionately Brazilian, the Bossa Nova became an expression of national identity. It became Brazil's gift to the world, and its international appeal has not diminished over the years. In fact, in 1990 "Garota de Ipanema" ("The Girl from Ipanema") was the fifth most often played song in the West. Other hits, such as "Meditacao" ("Meditation"), "Desafinado," and "Samba de uma nota so" ("One Note Samba") were each broadcast over a million times last year.

Although Ruy Castro promises to be objective in his introduction, his enthusiasm for his subject billows from every page. He has done an impressive amount of research and the book is chock full of information. Castro goes behind the scenes, revealing the inner workings of the Brazilian recording industry. He describes the struggles and triumphs of countless performers, composers, and impresarios, and also brings to light some cut-throat rivalries. Castro's prose is bright, conversational, witty and humorous. Filled with anecdotes and quotes, Chega de saudade reads like a novel. It is a must for lovers of Brazil, lovers of music, and, especially, lovers of the Bossa Nova.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Organization of American States
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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