Nando Reis

The representatives of the latest generation of gifted composers of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) are neither in their fifties nor are they named Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque de Holanda. They aren't in their forties either and they aren't called Djavan, Joo Bosco or Ivan Lins. Good Brazilian music is not the sole property of some musical geniuses who started their careers in the 1960s and 70s and continue actively to this day.

No, the latest crop of Brazilian talented composers is a group of musicians in their twenties and early thirties. Even though they come from different regions of the country, they network among themselves, composing in partnership, singing each other's songs. They are not committed to any particular style of music and they glide with ease from one musical style and rhythm to another, be it jazz, samba, reggae or rock. Some of them have even had a serious crush on rock and roll before moving with their rock baggage to MPB.

Write their names down. You are going to hear a lot about this brilliant sextet. Three of them are women: Marisa Monte, Cssia Eller and Adriana Calcanhoto. The other three are Arnaldo Antunes, Carlinhos Brown and Nando Reis. They don't have a leader per se, but Marisa Monte has been the most active of the group, having released her latest CD (Green, Blue, Yellow, Rose and Charcoal) at the end of last year simultaneously in 39 countries. Carlinhos Brown, who has always composed for other interpreters, is the most prolific, having composed about 600 tunes, 300 of which have been recorded.

Two of Brown's records have received international prizes. Srgio Mendes won the World Music Grammy Award for Brasileiro, a record with six songs composed by Brown. His group Timbalada (Brown is the creator of the timbalada sound) was considered by Billboard magazine as the best Latin American release in 1993. Now, finally Carlinhos is going to record his own music. For that he has already signed with Brazil's EMI and British Virgin Records. Virgin Records has signed him for three CDs in a six year period.

How much is Brown receiving? He prefers to keep his earnings as well as his age a secret. He's 33, but he seems to have stopped celebrating his birthday at 30. There is a story that Virgin had initially offered him an advancement of $100 thousand for the three-record package. Indignantly, he would have told the recording company executives, "This is the kind of money you pay a musician starving in New York's subway." They upped the ante.

Brown is the leader of three other bands in addition to Timbalada. There is Bolacha Maria — the female version of Timbalada and Lactomia, composed of children whose drums are made of milk and ice-cream cans. There's still a fourth group, the Gang-Og waiting in the wings to make its entrance. The new group is interested in playing the African rhythms that originated in black Bahia.

Born Antnio Carlos Santos de Freitas, and raised in the poor neighborhood of Candeal, in Salvador (Bahia's capital) he adopted the name Brown at the end of the 70's when blacks wearing black power hairstyles in protest were called "brown" by Salvador residents. Much of what he does is to shock and mortify people. Rich nowadays, he could afford a house in any neighborhood he'd like, but didn't move from his childhood neighborhood of Candeal. He left school by second grade. As a child he was forced to cut his hair very short and dress properly. Today, he has long locks, wears skirts, colorful shirts and ragged bermuda shorts, adorns his nose with rings, wears wrist bands, hangs rosaries from his ears and keeps his sunglasses on most of the time. Something he doesn't touch is drugs and alcohol.

Brought up religiously in an evangelical family, he used to secretely go to Candombl ceremonies — something considered from the devil by his parents. In a very racially divided society such as Salvador's, he was married to Raquel, who is white (they divorced and she is now in the US with Nina, their four year old daughter). He is now romancing Helena Buarque, 19 (the youngest of Chico Buarque's children). Wealthy , he employs about 200 people and has funded an educational and urbanization project called T Rebocado (It's Towed).

Brown has been making music for 15 years. "I lack partners," he frequently complains. One of his most constant partners nowadays though is Nando Reis, Marisa Montes's boyfriend and one of the members of the rock band Tits. "I'm always have some lyrics by Carlinhos and he always has something that I've written," says Nando. Reis first solo album has just been released, but he is already a hit through the voices of Cssia Eller and Marisa Monte. Eller recorded his "ECT" ("Mail & Telegraph Company"), which was made in partnership with Monte and Brown. Marisa Monte has recorded Reis's "Ao Meu Redor" and "O Cu." 

Nando Reis is a typical example of the new generation of composers. He has made his career as a singer and bassist for a rock band while composing for himself and his group. With the demand from new female singers he started composing for them, the same way Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso have been doing for three decades.

Composer Adriana Calcanhoto's, latest album, A Fbrica do Poema (The Poem Factory) doesn't hide her enthusiasm about this close relationship between the members of the new musical generation. "This generation has given us a fresh approach in order to show the will we have to be Brazilian, a certain pride at being part of a musical tradition. And we try to appreciate everything that was done before. The references are explicit and clear in our work. We've all listened to Caetano, Gil, and rock. There is no such thing anymore as the Mineiro (from Minas),the Carioca (from Rio) or Paulista (from So Paulo) group. Carlinhos is from Bahia, I'm from Rio Grande do Sul, Marisa is from Rio, Arnaldo is from So Paulo and so forth. Whenever I listen to one of their records, I identify with them."

Born in 1965, Calcanhoto started singing at Porto Alegre's (her hometown, and Rio Grande do Sul's capital) night-clubs. Her first record was a selection of old Brazilian classics of different genres. Little by little she started to show her own composition's too, as well as those from her younger musician colleagues.

Carioca Cssia Eller, 31, stronger at interpretation than composition, began her career in Braslia, where she used to sing everything, in her characteristicly bluesy accent. She has gone through a phase of heavy drinking and drug using, but since the birth of her son Francisco at the end of 1993, she seems to have cleaned up her act.

Cassia Eller, her third CD, released in the middle of last year, shows that the singer, chosen in the beginning of her career by PolyGram to be a rocker, has style. Eller learned to play the guitar singing Beatles' songs, but nowadays she can comfortably sing from classic Ataulfo Alves to contemporary Brazilian rocker Rita Lee. For her latest album she preferred to work with musicians from her own generation like Herbert Vianna, Roberto Frejat and Renato Russo.

At 34, Arnaldo Antunes is the oldest of this new generation of musicians. Multitalented, music is just one of his many artistic passions that include film, painting and concrete poetry. A former member of Tits, he also started with rock songs but now has been composing sambas and baies such as "Alta Noite" ("High Night"), "Bem Leve" ("Very Light") and "De Mais Ningum" ("Nobody Else "), all of them recorded by Marisa Monte. His partnership with Monte has been very fruitful. Marisa talks about it: "I usually send several songs to Arnaldo who selects the ones he prefers and in turn sends me lyrics to be set to music".

Marisa, 27, is a phenomenon. She started composing when she was 7, interpreting plays at home with musical themes for the characters. At 9, she started to play piano and percussion and by 14 she was studying singing. The eclectic interpreter has become the eclectic composer and the favorite showcase of a new generation of musicians. Very articulate, she has also become an unofficial spokesperson for these young composers. "Yes, you can call us a generation," she told Carioca daily Jornal do Brasil, recently. "We are all around 30 and all of us make music together. We ended up singing what we heard when we were young, from rock to primitive Brazilian music, street music, market music, bossa nova and tropicalismo. These are all characteristics of popular Brazilian music to which we are continually adding".

Monte talks about who she loves, "There are some rock'n'roll musicians who I love: Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Velvet Underground, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles. These are things that I listened to in the past and still listen to nowadays. For me the rock made in Brazil is MPB. It's music, it's popular, it's Brazilian. I am talking about our generation. Why separate rock and MPB, this is focusing on the past. My vision of MPB is directed toward the year 2015, when Brazil will be part of the world, communicating and receiving new information all the time."

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