Dec 14 2003

A Brasilian Christmas (Various Artists)


Christmas South of the Equator


A Brasilian ChristmasIf you have ever wondered what it is like to spend Christmas in the southern hemisphere, where it is summer in December, then you know what to expect from A Brasilian Christmas. This collection of Christmas songs from Brazil and the world is as colorful as its cover artwork by Sarajo Frieden. Produced by Miles Goodman and Oscar Castro-Neves, A Brasilian Christmas is like a who’s-who in Brazilian music. Joyce, Dori Caymmi, Ivan Lins, Leo Gandelman, Gilson Peranzzetta, Oscar Castro-Neves, Ricardo Silveira, Toninho Horta and João Bosco all add their talents to what is a classic Brazilian recording. As an extra bonus to the great music and performances, the superb liner notes by Joseph A. Page will give you the best portrait of Christmas in Brazil if you cannot be there during the holiday season.

Each song in this release receives a special treatment from its performer transforming the melody in something uniquely Brazilian. Whether with the instrumental pieces, such as “Air on Six Strings,” or even with the English vocals, special care was taken to present a Brazilian flavor for every song. The opening track, Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” admirably mixes sleigh bells with Brazilian percussion. “Ave Maria” becomes a samba complete with the angelic voices of Denise Dumont, Bebel Gilberto and Lois Albez. As you hear Ivan Lins in “White Christmas,” for example, you will likely wonder whether Lins could have written that melody. The arrangement is so much like his own music. When Dori Caymmi brings his mellow voice to “The Christmas Song,” you will almost feel the balmy air as the gentle rhythm sways you giving you the incomparable sensation of being in a hammock under coconut trees on a beach in Bahia. Now, that is an image to think of during cold winter days in the northern hemisphere!

Song after song, A Brasilian Christmas will amaze you. Joyce treats “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” to a lively forró, that Brazilian northeastern rhythm. “Silent Night,” with both English and Portuguese lyrics, brings the calm that song deserves. However, you should brace yourself for the biggest and most rewarding surprise of the CD: João Bosco’s own Brazilian version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Bosco’s words kept the idea of the original lyrics about going home during the holidays and added a perfect Brazilian twist. The arrangement is typically Bosco, including his guitar artistry and scatting technique. To complete this holiday treat (though mistakenly credited as “O Velhinho” in the liner notes), Joyce delivers a beautiful rendition of Brazil’s most famous Christmas song: Assis Valente’s “Boas Festas.” Joyce’s voice captures the tenderness and sadness in Valente’s touching song. Here are the lyrics:

Boas Festas

Anoiteceu, o sino gemeu
E a gente ficou feliz a rezar
Papai Noel, vê se você tem
A felicidade pra você me dar

Eu pensei que todo mundo
Fosse filho de Papai Noel
E assim felicidade
Eu pensei que fosse uma
Brincadeira de papel

Já faz tempo que eu pedi
Mas o meu Papai Noel não vem
Com certeza já morreu
Ou então felicidade
É brinquedo que não tem


Season’s Greetings

Night has fallen, bells chimed
We were happy to pray
Santa Claus, do you have
Happiness to give me

I thought everyone
Was Santa Claus’ children
Thus happiness
I thought was only
A paper game

It’s been a while I’ve asked for it
But my Santa Claus won’t come
Perhaps he died
Or maybe happiness
Is a toy he doesn’t have



A Brasilian Christmas
Astor Place Recordings TCD 4006 (1996)
Time: 42’33”


  1. Ave Maria (F. Schubert) – Toninho Horta & Oscar Castro-Neves
  2. The Christmas Song (M. Torme – R. Wells) – Dori Caymmi
  3. Air on a Six String (Air on the G String) (J.S. Bach) – Global
  4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (H. Martin – R. Blane) – Joyce
  5. O Little Town of Bethlehem (PD) – Dori Caymmi
  6. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (K. Gannon – W. Kent – J. Bosco) – João Bosco
  7. Dance Natahi (Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy) (P.I. Tchaikovsky) – Global
  8. Boas Festas [incorrectly listed as “O Velhinho”] (Assis Valente) – Joyce
  9. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (J.F. Coots – H. Gillespie) – Joyce
  10. White Christmas (I. Berlin) – Ivan Lins
  11. Jingle Bells (J. Pierpoint) – Toninho Horta & Oscar Castro-Neves
  12. Silent Night (PD) – Dori Caymmi
  13. What Child Is This? (Greensleeves) (PD) – Gilson Peranzzetta
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé in December 1996.