Maria Rita talks to Jungle about the here and now of her career and her return UK show in May.
The show had come to an end, a great success. It was Maria Rita’s first time in London and, still high with adrenalin from the stage and thrilled with the audience’s enthusiasm, everything but sleeping crossed her mind. Mere moments after bidding farewell to the Barbican stage, without losing any time she demanded: “get me a car, and let’s drive around the city!”.
With delays to her fight’s arrival the singer had no choice but to go straight from the airport direct to the sound check. Her only spare time would be after the concert, given that early the following morning she would have to return to Heathrow.
Joined by some of her crew in the car, she made a quick tour of the city, checking out the main attractions she’d heard so much about. “My brother had teased me for years: ‘How come you don’t know it? You have to go to London”, she’d said to Jungle before her first visit, in July 2008.
Zig-zagging around the city, she had a glimpse of the postcard landmarks such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. It was enough to fall love. But she wants more, as she made perfectly clear in this exclusive interview.
Maria Rita returns to the British capital after two years on the road with Samba Meu, a tour which saw her far more confident on the stage, leaving behind any comparisons to her mother, Elis Regina, icon of popular Brazilian music.
According to the singer, this change was owed to her tongue in cheek attitude. The timid side of her career was left firmly behind her. In the shows of her last tour, Maria Rita appeared in short dresses, covered in bright sequins and glitter, showing off a curvaceous body – sometimes, a little too much in the opinion of some.
Despite reading up on the comments on the internet about her physical appearance, she assures that she doesn’t worry; the most important thing to her is her voice. “As long as they don’t complain that I’m singing badly, that’s fine” she says.
Those that went to the Barbican know that she has an incredible voice, and her show, unforgettable and full of energy. It’s worth looking it up on YouTube, so you can see how quickly she turned the straight atmosphere of the large cultural venue into a party. Be sure to check out our suggestions of links at the end of this article.
In this much anticipated return, Maria Rita brings to the prestigious stage of the Koko, to the north of the city, a new spectacular with songs from her entire career. Talking to JungleDrums, she also promised surprises and “a really upbeat show”.
Produced in partnership between Jungle and the festival Tensamba (read more about the festival below), the show is part of yet another intense European tour, passing through Portugal and other countries. Once again, her visit will be in the spotlight, but who knows, perhaps this time round she’ll get to know more of the city which received her so well on her first visit.
Jungle caught up with Maria ahead of her Koko gig…
Two years have passed on by since the last time you spoke with Jungle. What have you been up to during this time? What’s changed in your life and career?
I think I’ll only be able to answer with any conviction and certainty about how my life has changed over these two years a few years from now. In the cycle of the project Samba Meu there’s no way of stepping back for such analysis. To be honest, I don’t feel much has changed. I’m still prioritising the stage, professionally, and my son, personally. But in terms of more specific changes, I feel the need for a greater distance in order to comment on that.
This is your second show in London. What are your expectations?
I’ve got butterflies about my return… perhaps more so than for the first time. I try and focus on this, on my feelings, on the show that I’m putting together especially for this return gig. It’s a process which works for me. I believe that focussing on ones expectations can be counter-productive. I like the kind things people say and the smiles on the faces of those who come to see me, those who give their time and money for my singing, for my art which is, after all, my passion. This relation, in itself, is extremely gratifying and it touches me… I’m honoured by the invitation to come back!
What did you think of your debut, in a packed-out Barbican show?
I was over the moon! It was a tremendously difficult day for the whole team, not just for me, with a tough schedule of travelling and times to soundcheck and perform. But after we’d set ourselves up, once we’d begun the performance, we simply bathed our souls in the warmth coming from the audience. I was, as I said, so very happy to see, not just Brazilians in the audience, but also English members of the crowd intrigued by my work.
We heard that after the show you took a ride in a car to go and see the city – what was your impression, and what did you see?
I loved it! I didn’t sleep at all; I stayed out exploring the city, stopping in a few places… still buzzing from the adrenalin from the stage. It was sensational. And it left me wanting to return as soon as possible which, unfortunately, wasn’t possible due to my schedule of shows with Samba Meu. I’m here hoping I’ll be able to check out a little more. I’ve got a lot of curiosity to get to know London better. Truly a lot…
The show in London is a partnership with the Tensamba Festival and also includes shows in Spain. Is this a concern in your career, to conquer an international audience?
I don’t know if concern would be the word I would use. Maybe more a serene goal… I’m in no rush, perhaps because I’ve a notion of the fact that to do a tour justice I’d have to spend something like 45-60 days travelling, and this is not actually possible, if you consider I have a son who’s still young. All in all I have the objective, but not the greed. But yes, I make a point of performing outside of Brazil, to give my best to those who are curious to get to know me… I celebrate when an invite comes up!
You launched the DVD of Samba Meu in 2008, and the CD Perfil (Greatest Hits) in 2009, and did a few collaborations, but you’ve not released any new material since 2007, right? Why this pause?
I don’t have a specific motive. My creative process is very personal, essentially because I’m not a composer, but rather an interpreter. Singing, to me, is one thing; interpreting is another. I didn’t feel the need. There was no time. The Samba Meu tour in Brazil had a success that I wasn’t expecting, which also contributed to a great dedication on the road. But essentially I’ve not yet felt the necessity for a new repertoire, new stories to sing…
Are we going to hear a new album soon? Do you already know what it’ll be like?
I still don’t know. The fact that I’m not even thinking about a new album for me indicates that I’m not ready for this new step. After all, I haven’t the least idea of what I would like to sing, nor how or in which language, nothing!
In our last conversation, we spoke a little about the economic situation in Brazil. What do you think has changed? How do you see the forthcoming elections?
To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t remember what I said at that time… and actually we continue very much caught up in all the scandals and corruption (what’s new, hey?), and in terms of the Pré-Sal [an economic report]… you hear a little about the rise in interest, of a possible rise of inflation this year, but I believe that in this there’s a little speculation, essentially due to our being in a year of a presidential election. I’ve got a feeling that the world economic crisis carried the nation away somewhat, it caused a fright – the crisis turned out pretty calm in Brazil if we compare it with the United States, for example, but I don’t see an economic drama. For now, at least. We’ll see when the campaign period begins…
Who’s that girl?
For all our British and European readers who haven’t come across Maria Rita before, you surely can’t have been in London in the summer of 2008, when JungleDrums presented her show at the Barbican, to a packed-out Barbican nonetheless, which marked the singer’s much anticipated UK debut.
Maria Rita was born in 1977, and beyond her own success and achievement as an accomplished singer, she’s also the daughter of one of Brazil’s most celebrated and well known MPB artists, the singer Elis Regina, who died at the young age of 36 due to complications which arose from an overdose of cocaine, alcohol and tranquillisers. Her father is musician, arranger and pianist César Camargo Mariano, so naturally she’s in good stead when it comes to music in the genes.
The young singer has released three albums: the first and second, aptly named Maria Rita (2003) and Segundo (2005) respectively, the first selling more than a million copies worldwide. Her most recent release back in 2007, Samba Meu, led to a most successful tour both in Brazil and here in Europe, which she threw herself into, with the only thing hindering her in the area being her responsibilities as a mother, her son being born in 2004.
Winner of six Latin Grammys, including Best Emerging Artist, making her the only Brazilian singer ever to have won this category, she’s sold more than 1.2 million CDs and DVDs, solely in Brazil, firmly establishing herself as a new icon of MPB.
Maria Rita’s taking to the London stage for the second time is all part of the 7th edition of Tensamba which, since 2004, has been responsible for promoting part of the Brazilian cultural scene in Europe. Originating in Tenerife, on the Canary Islands, Tensamba has produced various concerts by Brazilian artists and big names such as Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal, two of the main founders of bossa nova, have already graced the festival’s stage. It isn’t just limited to music, but covers diverse aspects of Brazilian culture, such as dance, cinema, photography, literature and gastronomy. For those interested in genuine Brazilian culture, who may not know where to find experiences of such culture, they can be sure that Tensamba have been bringing big names of Brazil’s artistic scene to the world. Pedro Autuori, the festival’s head of production, reveals their future plans: “adding London to this year’s edition was without a doubt a huge step for us, and we’ll work towards bringing a big attraction to the city from the festival every year”, he says.
Connect with Maria Rita
In case you’re not yet familiar with Maria Rita’s music, or if you’re a feverish fan that cannot wait for her concert next month, Jungle presents here some suggestions of websites with information and videos that will satisfy both your curiosity and enthusiasm for her concert. Check them out!
1. Official website: maria-rita.com
2. Official page on youtube: youtube.com/mariaritaoficial
3. Live @ Barbican in 2008 at youtube:
rita + london
4. Maria Rita sings ‘Essa Mulher’ by her mother, Elis Regina, at youtube:
rita + essa mulher
5. Maria rita sings ‘Samba Meu’ / ‘O Homem Falou’ / ‘Tá Perdoado’ at youtube:
rita + samba meu
6. Together with Gilberto Gil, singing ‘Amor até o fim’, featured on BANDADOIS (our review of
the month on page 24) at youtube:
rita + gilberto gil
18th May, 7pm, £20
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