Note from BW of Brazil: Samba (1) is the heart of soul of the Brazilian people and is one of the strongest representations of Brazilian national identity along with Carnaval and futebol (soccer). While the importance of this music cannot be underestimated, for many black women the association of blackness with Samba can also be very inhibiting. For those women who desire to sing other styles of music besides Samba, this association becomes a stereotype. Back in February of 2012, with the untimely death of American pop superstar Whitney Houston, this blog highlighted how Brazil’s music industry has seemingly blocked the possibility of the rise of a black Brazilian equivalent to the diva. Many Afro-Brazilian female singers have spoken about how the music industry insists on placing all black female singers into the genre of Samba. We have also reported on how music of Afro-Brazilian origin in the northeastern state of Bahia as well as in Rio de Janeiro becomes commercialized only after a whiter or whitened face ascends in the style to the near exclusion of blacker-looking artists. Although Alaíde Costa never reached the status of superstar, she has serenaded audiences with her soothing voice for more than five decades and continues to perform. Learn a little about this music survivor below and be sure to check out a few of her songs and videos and the end of the article.
Alaíde Costa overcame prejudice to prevail in the world of MPB (Brazilian Popular Music)
Still going strong in a career of more than 50 years, she performs Saturday and Sunday in Belo Horizonte
A heroine. This is how Rio de Janeiro native Alaíde Costa says she feels after more than half a century of dedication to the MPB (Música Popular Brasileira or Brazilain Popular Music). “I went through very difficult times, artistically speaking” says the singer-songwriter, an attraction at this weekend’s Salve Rainhas project at Funarte Minas Gerais.
At ever movement in the world of MPB, Alaíde was obliged to overcome obstacles. Female and black, she ran into double prejudice. “A black woman singing this kind of music?”, she heard, about her repertoire. “They challenged me a lot. It was all very veiled, but there was some racial prejudice. They wanted to see me singing Samba and rebolando (shaking my hips),” she recalls.
For the artist, by the way, there were Samba songs and Samba songs. “(Composers) Paulinho da Viola and Elton Medeiros, for example, are the kind (of songs) that I can sing. But there are others that not even the language can help,” she warns.
In Alaíde’s trajectory there is no shortage of times when she had to sing where she it should not have. “But I live it,” she explains, with no regrets. “It never bothered me.” After Bossa Nova (2), which she practically saw when it was born, she marked her presence in the Clube da Esquina musical movement made famous by MPB legend Milton Nascimento. Answering the call of Milton for a duet on “Me deixe em paz” by singer/songwriter Monsueto, the doors of success opened again. She also recorded songs by Toninho Horta.
Accompanied by pianist Giba Esteves, with whom she has performed for over 20 years, Alaíde returns to Belo Horizonte to relive her musical trajectory – from her first record, “Tarde Demais” (of Hélio Costa and Anita Andrade), in 1957. “I was a crooner. A sound technician present at the Dancing Avenida liked my voice and asked if I wanted to audition at Odeon. I was accepted there,” she says.
Always on stage, “doing a little show here and there,” the interpreter says that Bossa Nova was important because she always sang in a smoother manner. Alaíde got tired of hearing things like “she sings well but she doesn’t have a voice.” However, her near whisper tone eventually became her trademark.
Alaíde Costa prevailed in the world that demanded big voices. In her early career, she went through the freshman challenge. “When (famed composer) Ary Barroso saw that 16-year old girl, rail thin and not so well-dressed, he asked: ‘What are you going to sing?’. I replied: ‘Norturno em tempo de samba’, by Custódio Mesquita and Evaldo Rui, a beautiful song, but very difficult.” This was how the young lady won high marks from the demanding radio broadcaster and famous composer from Minas Gerais.
Johnny Alf e Alaíde Costa – “Ilusão à toa” – 1969
Alaíde Costa canta “Insensatez” – 1970
Alaíde Costa – Onde Esta Voce
Milton Nascimento – Alaíde Costa – Me Deixa Em Paz
Alaíde Costa canta “Caminhos Cruzados”
1. Samba is a Brazilian dance and musical genre originating in Bahia, Brazil, and with its roots in Rio de Janeiro and Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions. It is recognized around the world as a symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival. Considered one of the most popular Brazilian cultural expressions, samba has become an icon of Brazilian national identity. The Bahian Samba de Roda (dance circle), which became a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity in 2005, is the main root of the samba carioca, the samba that is played and danced in Rio de Janeiro. Samba rhythm. The modern samba that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century is predominately in a 2/4 tempo varied with the conscious use of a sung chorus to a batucada rhythm, with various stanzas of declaratory verses. Traditionally, the samba is played by strings (cavaquinho and various types of guitar) and various percussion instruments such as tamborim. Influenced by American orchestras in vogue since the Second World War and the cultural impact of US music post-war, samba began to use trombones, trumpets, choros, flutes, and clarinets. Source and more
2. Bossa nova is a well-known style of Brazilian music developed and popularized in the 1950s and 1960s. The phrase bossa nova means literally “new trend”. A lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, bossa nova acquired a large following in the 1960s initially among young musicians and college students. Since its birth, it has remained a vital part of the standard jazz repertoire. Source and more here.