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Virginia Rodrigues - Bebel Gilberto - Joao Gilberto - Caetano Veloso - Gilberto Gil
Chico Buarque - Elza Soares - Gilda Matoso - Lea Millon - Mae Meninha
Estate Romana - Royal Albert Hall - Barbican
Federico Fellini - Giulietta Masina - Joca Jorge Kuraiem
Ella Fitzgerald and the Count Basie Orchestra

I met VIRGINIA RODRIGUES last November, when she came to London for the unforgettable Brazilian concert, at the Royal Albert Hall.Caetano Veloso discovered her at a theatre rehearsal in Salvador, really has found a great voice and she is also a wonderful person. She is from Salvador, Bahia the most African place in Brazil. Now thirty-something, she is tall, 'gordinha', with a powerful voice. You will never forget this voice - a contralto lyric soprano. She started to sing sacred music with catholic and evangelical protestant choirs; but, of course, you also hear in her voice the African gods, the Afro-Brazilian cult (the Candomble). She has a vibrating, powerful voice - clearly something special; a very operatic voice with much emotion, unique.She was brought up with very little musical education but now she is having some training for the technical side. Being a person from Salvador-Bahia means she is lazy, laid-back and relaxed, but this is part of the folklore of the music and the people of Bahia.

She was unknown till a few years ago but two years ago she made her debut in London, at the Purcell Room. She then appeared at the RAH in 1999. On 19 April 2000 she was at the Barbican where she sang music from her new album, Nos, "US" and music from her debut album Sol Negro, "BLACK SUN",and - with the help of Caetano Veloso (her producer who helps to choose her songs) other beautiful songs specifically for her Big Voice

On 26 April I heard on my favourite radio program in London, (www.jazzfm.com) (jazzinfo@jazzfm.com) (you can listen online)(Ten years ago March 1990, I was in London at the Royal Albert Royal for the launch of Jazz FM radio; a concert with the memorable Ella Fitzgerald and the Count Basie Orchestra: an unforgettable gala concert!!!) , an interview with BEBEL GILBERTO promoting her new album...and her tour for the summer. She was talking about her stepmother Astrud Gilberto, that is very famous here in England and in America too, where she lives, ASTRUD's son with Joao Gilberto is her producer, and her half-brother. There is a great similarity with the two Gilberto voices and the way they sound. She spoke also about her mother, Miucha Buarque de Holanda, also a singer, and is the sister of the great Chico Buarque de Holanda(www.chicobuarque.com.br), who was at the November concert at the RAH.

I met them years ago in one of the most wonderful concerts that I have ever been to in Rome at the Circo Massimo; yes, in the middle of the Roman archaeological area, with the most beautiful lights in the ruins illuminating the entire proceedings with a full moon and the GENIAL, great JOAO GILBERTO, her father, singing alone in the middle of a huge stage, with his divine guitar and his most divine voice!!!! For us Brazilians - I mean my generation - he is like a God!!! Then, after the concert, Gianni Amico the organiser, together with Renato Nicolini, of the L'Estate Romana, one of the most important summer festival, in the seventies, in Europe, invited us for dinner in Trastevere with all the musicians of the festival. Bebel, then an adolescent girl, was there with her mother, Miucha. Her neurotic father, Joao Gilberto, of course, went back to the hotel, because he had some "Roman breeze in his voice". He has a great pallor because he is frightened to go out-doors in case it affects his voice, he is so paranoid about protecting it from the elements!!! He even worries about any sound which may be coming from the microphone. It must have been very difficult for Bebel growing up in the midst of such a famous Brazilian family.

But now the adult BEBEL GILBERTO sounds very professional and her new album sounds GREAT!!!!

"As time goes by", one year Joao Gilberto, who now lives in Rio de Janeiro, sent us some plastic food-picturebox, full of delicious Afro-Brazilian food from Salvador. He has a wonderful Brazilian cook from Bahia who made us a 'menu' of the various dishes of the area. Gianni Amico as well as the father of my daughter only had a relationship with Joao Gilberto by telephone, Joao Gilberto gives his interview by telephone, he never goes out of his room - everything is done by 'phone' - and he hates flying so you never know if he is going to show up for a concert??? But this is what makes him more desirable. To thank him for his generosity I returned the plastic picturebox full of Italian Christmas food and a photo showing us having an 'orgy' eating all his Brazilian food!!!! I love him singing the Italian song "ESTATE".

This year in London at the Barbican (www.barbican.org.uk) there will be a five-week season celebrating the 500th birthday of the discovery of Brazil. It will be opened by the iconic poet, singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso. My Brazilian friends send me e-mail which say he thinks he is God - and he is!!! He is a huge star in Brazil at the moment, as well as in Paris, Perugia (www.umbriajazz.com) and in New York. They all go crazy for him. Bernardo Bertolucci (www.mix.it/tempimoderni/registi/bertoluc.htm) , Almodovar (http://us.imdb.com/Name?Almodovar,+Pedro), Lou Reed ( http://www.loureed.org), and David Byrne are among his close friends.

My ex's also love him and Francesca's father, the Italian journalist, writer, broadcaster even wrote a book about him, which sold thousands in Italy. Maybe because of the love they had for me they started to love Brazilian music???
I suppose at the moment Caetano is the 'coolest Brazilian' to be a friend of as "anyone who is anyone" knows him. As the Brazilian says "there isn't a better-connected Brazilian today in ALL THE WORLD"!!! In journalist circles he is considered to be the Brazilian Bob Dylan!

His sister, Maria Bethania, started very young at "Theatre Opiniao", (as a replacement to Nara Leao) and was very famous for years before Caetano began his professional career as a singer in his 30s. He also composes material for Bethania and Gal.

Tia Lea aunt to Caetano and is always know as Tia (aunt) because Caetano married one of her nieces. Tia Lea took us on a few occasions to Bethania's and Gal's New Year parties.

I love Caetano singing "LONDON GREEN GRASS, GREY SKIES, SILENT PAIN AND HAPPINESS" written when he was exiled to London.It makes me cry because this is how I feel when I am away, I feel homesick for London; it is my second country and I think of the green grass and the miserable weather, as I have lived here longer than I have in Brazil!
I also like Caetano singing: "uma tigreza de unhas negras.... which I like to think he wrote for me. Presumption??!! One day in Rome, in Via Sistina he said "Of course not, my dear" (putting me firmly in my place) much to my great disappointment. He also did not recognise me in my wig last November at the rehearsal for the RAH concert. I know I've finally lost my charms.

When Tia Lea came here for November 1999 concert at the RAH she brought me Caetano's homage a Fellini: "OMAGGIO A FEDERICO E GIULIETTA" CD, the result of his passion for Fellini films.
(www.cinemaitalia.com/fellini/dolcevit.html http://members.aol.com/cseigne/filmofel.htm www.1worldfilms.com/federico_fellini.htm www.netlab.it/fellini)
(The Brazilians go crazy about Fellini. In fact I went to Fellini's funeral at Cinecitta, Fellini said; "mi piacerebbe essere nato a Cinecitta" HA!!!! With Joel Barcellos, the Brazilian actor-director, who was a guest at the time in my house in Rome; it was incredible - a state funeral with all the prominent government and political, cinema and cultures figures. The coffin was placed in a hangar at Cinecitta where he used to direct (Studio 5?) his films - guarded by Carabinieri. A light shone on the coffin but all around was darkness with a queue of people waiting to sign the Book of Memory. I signed it twice - once with the normal public and also when I entered with the VIPs, signing just under Monica Vitti. I signed it " in the name of the Brazilian people and cinema, Caetano Veloso that wrote a song for Giulieta Masina, but principally in the name of Jorge Kuraian Filho better know as JOCA". ( Joca is a Brazilian film critic who has everything about Fellini - every book, photo, poster, recording of his film music, all Nino Rota, and he knew every scene of Fellini's films: in fact he knows Fellini better than Fellini knew himself!!!)

He is a friend of mine who said "Don't write your memoirs because it is going to be like Sandra Milos (Otto e Mezzo,1963) , a Fellini actress;only 60 people read her book". Carlos Freire said "don't send me your reports" others send me to hell for my cousin's wedding. My daughter Francesca says my writing is boring and too long, so I decided not to translate my web page into Portuguese and Italian, so now I write only for ME,myself and I!!! Joel Barcellos signed the Book of Memory after me.
When I was in my twenties in Rio I organised the programme for a cineclub and choose Fellini's films together with Alexandre Meyer at the Associacao Cultural de Holanda?

Caetano wrote a music call "Giulietta Masina" for the actress and wife of Fellini. I read on the CD that Maddalena Fellini (Fellini's sister) on behalf of the Fellini Foundation invited Caetano to Rimini, a city on the Adriatic coast where Fellini was born and filmed there,(b: 20 January 1920 d:31 October 1993 in Rome). Caetano was invited for a concert, that inspired him to record the CD. Caetano saw Fellin's films in Santo Amaro da Purificacao-Bahia, where he was born spend his childhood. It was a emotional concert, for him and he had to fit the songs to show his love for Fellini and Giulitta although he never actually met them! I sometimes had coffee in Bar Canova, Piazza dei Popoli near Fellini and Giulietta's flat in Via Margutta, and I used to say to Fellini: "Buongiorno Maestro" and then look at him in ecstasy!!! He used to go there every day.
I remember reading in a newspaper that Fellini had his wallet picked pocket but because the thief saw his name in the wallet he returned it. Isn't it incredible that a pick-pocket knew HIM!

I went to Santo Amaro with Gianni Amico for his film documentary about the Brazilian Music. I loved it; ceramic vases were the speciality of the town. I remember coming back from Salvador to Rio with these two huge baskets of ceramics which took up the space of a person, on the bus we had to buy a ticket for our ceramics. Barcelloni, the producer, hates us because of the embarrassment we caused with our big baskets!!!(Someone told me that Santo Amaro have a river that if you cross the river a man becomes a woman and vice versa. Is it supposed to be funny??? I crossed the river but nothing happened!!!)

During the film production I also went with Gianni to the Itaparica Island. I still remember the incredible sound of birds, insects and frogs singing all night, such an amazing place where the black community could still speak the language of their grandparents from Africa. In fact Bahia has the largest black community in Brazil and most of the Brazilians musicians come from there, probably because of the cultural mix. They say the Nigerian goes on holiday to Bahia to rediscover their heritage.
Candomble is the religion of Bahia with its Yoruba rituals. But there is also the Catholic Church, with the most beautiful baroque churches, Bofim Church completely in gold.

I remember I was in Salvador and went to see Mae Menininha in her house on a hill called Alto do Gantois- Federacao. Her daughter, D. Creuza, took me to see her. She was lying in bed and look at me and the smile which she gave me made me feel I had been blest for the rest of my life. I gave her a rosary from the Vatican consecrate by the Pope. She was in pain so they told me to come back the next day. I try to return the next day but couldn't get near. She was the Mother for the Bahia people and because of respect to her the traffic was closed off and the city completely paralysed. Afterwards I found out she had died. Maybe I was - outside of her family - the last person to see her. I remember her coffin being taken around Salvador on the top of a fire engine; just like a state funeral. You could see the Bahia people were full of emotion. As she was baptised into the Roman Catholic Church (Brazil has the biggest Catholic population in the world) she had the honour of receiving both Catholic ritual at her funeral and the Candomble rituals. Caetano's family were there.
Yes, I did love this recorded homage to Federico & Giulieta which Lea Millon gave to me. The recording was made after the concert in Rimini. Brought back memories for me of Italy and Caetano. I remember Caetano fascinated by the word 'pomodoro' (tomato), at a dinner he kept repeating the word over and over again because he liked the sound of the word. As a poet, words - their meaning and sounds - are just "his cup of tea". I remember Caetano playing his guitar in Rio, sitting on a stool, with pearl necklace around his neck, holding a peacock feather - his stage ensemble - and singing divinely. Now he is in Romeo Giglio clothes, ties, distinguished grey hair and getting better and better as a composer. As they say in UK "things can only get better" for him.

Caetano says "We Brazilian are transplanted Europeans. We speak Portuguese, a European language, and we were colonised by Europeans. We carry Europe within us. Although we were born far away, when we go to Europe, we are going back to our European heritage". Following this theory, for example, the Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen is actually very European, although she was born in Brazil, as is Guga, the tennis player.

Caetano also produced the last album of his musical father, Joao Gilberto. Joao will be playing at the Barbican for his London debut on 15 July 2000; the album is "Voz e Violao": as the name says, "Voice and Guitar", including a new version of Desafinados. He first recorded this classic in the 1960s, also includes a song by Caetano "Coracao Vagabundo".

For the Barbican concert Caetano will also sing music from his last album "Prenda Minha".As he also produced and performed the sound-track of the Brazilian film "Orfeu", that will be on the Barbican screen on 15 July.Orfeu is a re-make of the French "Black Orpheus" shot in Rio in 1959. This Orfeu is a film by Carlos Diegues was premiered in April 1999 in Rio complete with red carpet for the Brazilian stars, a party for hundreds, afterwards. The producers were Paula Lavigne, wife of Caetano and Renata Almeida Magalhaes, wife of the director, Carlos Diegues, better know as Caca! He made a speech before the presentation of the film, "I did this film to prove that the world can became a better place, and that Brazil especially can do more." Oh yes, I do my part: I do voluntary work for the elderly, I look after my elderly mother who has been ill for the past five years, the last three of which she has spent in hospital. She doesn't get a pension and if she wants a biscuit, a beverage or anything else, I have to provide it. I also looked after a handicapped Brazilian cousin for years. I am a "green" person, I try to help the environment by re-cycling my rubbish and newspapers: if everyone did their bit and tried to help the community in which they live and dedicated a few hours of their time to those less fortunate, the world would be a better place!!!!


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