Note from BW of Brazil: Anyone who knows anything about Brazilian history and culture knows of the importance of the Samba. The rhythm that was recorded for the first time in 1917 remains a mainstay in Brazilian identity and the rhythm is one of the most important attractions of the annual Carnaval celebrations, always providing the beats for the numerous Samba Schools, passista dancers, the Porta-Bandeira and Mestre-Sala (Master of the Room or Ceremonies and flag bearer) as well as the overall groove and theme of the progressions. Brazilian Music has a long history of great samba composers, singers and musicians who represent an important history in the story of the nation and the struggle of the Afro-Brazilians who created the sound. Maria Menezes is another in a long line of guardians of the tradition and has built quite a name for herself throughout Rio de Janeiro. Learn a little about her below and check out the videos at the bottom of the interview.
At the age of 14 she formed her first Samba group Damas no Samba.
She was a puxadora (on of the principal singers in a Carnaval progression) of the Carnival bloco Saias na Folia, composed of only women, in Niterói (RJ). Starting in she was the singer in the group Arruda. In 2010 she won the contest “Novos Bambas do Velho Samba” (meaning ‘New Samba masters of the Old Samba’), promoted by the Carioca da Gema club. In 2014, with Arruda, she released the first CD of the group Arruda, the release of which was presented at the Teatro Rival in Rio de Janeiro.
Menezes is one of the major revelations of Rio’s new samba. A singer since the age of 14, she has a mastery of a wide repertoire mainly in relation to Roots Samba (Samba de Raiz) and MPB (Brazilian Popular Music). Outside of Arruda, Maria continues her solo career, drawing admiration in public with each new performance.
Young, beautiful and samba singer, such luck!
Maria Menezes brings in her life the strength and perseverance of a warrior, and it is she who will tell our readers where all of her musicality, energy, beauty and love for what she does comes from.
The interview below was conducted by Ierê Ferreira. All photos (except flyer) also courtesy of Ierê Ferreira
Ierê Ferreira – Maria when did you realize you wanted to be a singer and when did samba came into your life?
Maria Menezes – Samba was always present in my life. My grandfather played banjo, and founded the first Samba School in Rio Bonito, Estrela do Oriente. My mother has always been involved with the Samba School and music, though not a singer, she is a great admirer of interpreters of Brazilian Popular Music since childhood and that influenced my choice to be a musician.
Who are your main influences in samba?
Maria Menezes – My influences are: Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho, Clara Nunes, Paulo César Pinheiro, Dona Ivone Lara, Luiz Carlos da Vila, Beth Carvalho, Elis Regina, Elza Soares, Jovelina Pérola Negra, Zé Katimba, Roberto Ribeiro (all great of Samba or Brazilian Popular Music). We have many collaborators of resistance of Samba and defining one is difficult. Each of them has their particularity. Putting them all together is what keeps Samba alive.
How did you hear about the competition and how was your involvement?
I learned of the contest through a friend Mingo, winner of the 3rd Mostra de Novos Talentos do Carioca da Gema, who encouraged me along with Luiz Henrique Faria, besides my cousin and producer on the occasion, Estefânia.
Who are your accomplices in this feat that led you to this wonderful achievement?
My accomplices are Flavinho Pizoti (guitar), Paulinho Mandolin (mandolin), Ranieri Tiago (flute), Declare (surdo and voice), Almir Sodré (tambourine, vocals).
Talk about the feeling of singing in Carioca da Gema, a hoise where great sambistas perform every week?
I always dreamed of singing at Carioca da Gema, a super prestigious house that has a worldwide audience and top notch musicians. It’s a lot of emotion, a dream come true!
When can we hear his first CD and which composer of the new generation of Samba do you like to play?
We are working on it, maybe at the end of the year the CD will come out. I like the songs of Mingo, João Martins e Flávia Uva.
Politically speaking, what is the path that you expect the samba follow?
I’m glad to know that what was outcast comes to be, every day, accepted and admired by the majority of the population. Our masters, performers and composers suffered to break the barrier of prejudice and we have a commitment to not let this fight be inglorious. We should contribute so that the samba continues being part of the history of Brazilian popular music, in a prominent position.
Now we would like you to leave a message for young readers and sambistas of Samba Identidade Nossa (Samba Our Identity).
For those who love samba, like me, I leave a message of optimism and perseverance. The beginning of a singer’s career requires a lot of learning, discipline and humility. Hearing various performers leads us to find our identity with one of another composer and thus the interpretation of the repertoire remains pretty cool.