A Brazilian belter extends her reach
Updated: 2013-09-01 08:11
By Larry Rohter(The New York Times)
"I never dreamed as a child about being a singer," Ivete Sangalo said. Demetrius Freeman / The New York Times
Ivete Sangalo, the most popular female vocalist in Brazil, is the type of singer who would be described as a belter. Onstage, she is bold, brassy and boisterous, an approach that has worked splendidly.
She has sold more than 15 million records as a solo artist; is said by the Brazilian press to be the country's highest-paid active performer, earning up to $500,000 a show; has 8.5 million followers on Twitter; and runs her own production company.
"To be able to entertain people is a triumph, but the funny thing is that I never dreamed as a child about being a singer, never looked in the mirror and played at being a pop star," Ms. Sangalo, 41, said in a recent interview at a Manhattan hotel when she was performing in the area. "I played at being an actress, and it wasn't until I started going to Carnival as a teenager and heard all that loud, joyous music blaring from the trucks that I said to myself, 'There's nothing I'd rather do than this.'"
Ms. Sangalo is the leading exponent of an upbeat and often raucous style known as axe music, which combines Brazilian and foreign influences. Samba and reggae are obvious sources, but rock, soul and Caribbean genres like salsa and merengue, as well as local regional rhythms, also enter the mix.
A former model with dark eyes, Ms. Sangalo appears regularly in television and print ads and on the cover of magazines, and has been adopted by players on the national soccer team as their muse.
Ms. Sangalo was born in the interior of the state of Bahia, in Juazeiro, also the birthplace of Joao Gilberto, one of the fathers of the bossa nova. As a child, the youngest of six, she listened to all kinds of Brazilian music, but after her family moved to Salvador, the capital of Bahia, the most musically rich state in a country obsessed with music, her horizons broadened to include reggae and American pop and soul music.
"I adore Sly and the Family Stone, George Clinton, Prince, Kool and the Gang and especially Stevie Wonder," she said. Normally, "I don't do covers, but I bring them into my music and translate them into the percussion lines."
After Ms. Sangalo's father died when she was a teenager, she began playing the bars of Salvador, learning to project above the din.
Marco Mazzola is a producer who, before working with Ms. Sangalo at the start of her solo career, had made records with every major Brazilian female singer of recent decades. He noted the power of Ms. Sangalo's voice, her charisma on stage and her business savvy. "There is something in her voice that is very warm, that transmits happiness to listeners," he said. "She's a theatrical performer, an actress and dancer as much as a singer, who sings with a lot of heart, and man, does she have drive and determination."
With nothing left to prove in Brazil, Ms. Sangalo has begun looking to the global market, with tour stops this summer in Los Angeles, Miami and the Boston area. But it is not clear, even to her, whether she wants to follow in the footsteps of someone like Shakira, the Colombian singer who alternates between projects in English and ones in Spanish.
"What I can't do," she said, "is stop singing."
The New York Times
(China Daily 09/01/2013 page12)