Back in 1999, the state of affairs of Brazilian popular music was not very exciting. If one considers the number of live albums that came out that year alone, it is easy to conclude that releasing original studio albums was a hard task. There were at least a dozen live CD’s recorded by major artists in Brazil in 1999. To counterpoint this lack of creativity, Brazil is lucky to have a strong number of artists that have not succumbed to this marketing strategy of mass producing live CD’s. It is interesting to notice that a large number of these artists are female singers.
Starting her career in 1980 as the lead singer of Arrigo Barnabé’s group, Vânia Bastos soon emerged as a strong voice in a sea of other outstanding songstresses. Her first solo release came out in 1987 and was simply entitled Vânia Bastos. Critics and public alike noticed that crystal clear voice and superb command performance. When she joined forces with husband Eduardo Gudin in 1989, Vânia Bastos marked her presence permanently in the Brazilian music scene. Her next albums all received both critical and public acclaim: Eduardo Gudin e Vânia Bastos (1989), Vânia Bastos (1990), Cantando Caetano (1992), Canta Mais (1994), Canções de Tom Jobim (1995), and Diversões Não Eletrônicas (1997).
Belas e Feras is Vânia Bastos’s 8th album. The original concept for this excellent CD is very simple: it is a homage to the great Brazilian female song writers. As Vânia Bastos explains it, the music is “strong, delicate, talented and surprising.” The repertoire, comprised of 14 tracks, covers music dating back to Chiquinha Gonzaga, the female song writer who started “all this history,” says Bastos. The music is eclectic and beautifully arranged. The final result is a homogeneous blend of samba, rock, choro, frevo and all Brazilian music forms.
Belas e Feras opens with a song by Marina Lima, from her 1998 album Pierrot do Brasil. The song is “Uma Antiga Manhã,” and its words can very well serve to Belas e Feras itself: “applause to you and your winning game.” A winning CD, Belas e Feras does not forget one of the most important rock icons in Brazilian music. Though not a composer herself, Wanderléa was instrumental, along with Roberto Carlos and Erasmo Carlos, in defining the rock era in Brazil. The tribute to “our little sister” or “little tender one,” as Wanderléa was affectionately known, is none other than “Ternura,” arguably her greatest hit. Other superb composers contributed with original material for this release. The super-talented Fátima Guedes presented Vânia with the incredible love song “Namorado.” The song has all the intricate lyricism of Guedes’ song writing. This invitation to love making is absolutely stunning. Joyce, another extraordinary song writer and performer, also contributed with an original song entitled “Seguir o Coração.” In Joyce’s incomparable phrasing and rhythm, this tune is innocent and Brazilian to its core. The same can be said about Adriana Calcanhotto’s original frevo entitled “Alegre.” The song could as well have been written by Chiquinha Gonzaga, the very first Brazilian female song writer to mark a feminine presence in our musical history. “Alegre” is a beautiful frevo full of life and vigor. Other names present in this collection include Rita Lee, Baby do Brasil, Dona Yvone Lara, Ângela Rô Rô, Daniela Mercury and others.
Belas e Feras is indispensable not because of the strong feminine force it represents. It is essential because of the quality of the music it brings. Vânia Bastos’s gorgeous voice and renditions are better than ever.
Belas e Feras
PlayArte Diamante MUS 903-2 (1999)
- Uma Antiga Manhã (Marina Lima)
- Ternura [Somehow It Got to Be Tomorrow (Today)] (Estelle Levitt – Kenny Karen – vs. Rossini Pinto)
- Namorado (Fátima Guedes)
- Rosa Cálida (Lucine – João Gomes)
- Seguir o Coração (Joyce)
- Alegria Ocidental (Daniela Mercury – Liminha)
- Não Chora Neném (Yvone Lara)
- Ele Mexe Comigo (Baby Consuelo – Lula Galvão – Pepeu Gomes)
- Forró do Zé Lagoa (Anastácia – Dominguinhos)
- Dançar Pra Não Dançar (Rita Lee)
- Nada Amor (Klébi Nori – Eduardo Gudin)
- Só Nos Resta Viver (Ângela Rô Rô)
- Alegre (Adriana Calcanhotto)
- Ô Abre Alas [Vinheta] (Chiquinha Gonzaga)
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, December 1999.