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coverpic flag Brazil - Full Moon 38 - 11/23/99

Vânia Bastos
Belas e Feras
PlayArte Music

The current state of affairs of Brazilian popular music might not be very exciting. If one considers the number of live albums that have come out in this past year alone, it is easy to conclude that releasing original studio albums is a hard task nowadays. There have been at least a dozen live CD's recorded by major artists in Brazil recently. To counterpoint this lack of creativity, Brazil is lucky to have a strong number of artists that have not succumbed to this marketing strategy of mass producing live CD's. It is interesting to notice that a large number of these artists are female singers.

Starting her career in 1980 as the lead singer of Arrigo Barnabé's group, Vânia Bastos soon emerged as a strong voice in a sea of other outstanding songstresses. Her first solo release came out in 1987 and was simply entitled Vânia Bastos. Critics and public alike noticed that crystal clear voice and superb command performance. When she joined forces with husband Eduardo Gudin in 1989, Vânia Bastos marked her presence permanently in the Brazilian music scene. Her next albums all received both critical and public acclaim: Eduardo Gudin e Vânia Bastos (1989), Vânia Bastos (1990), Cantando Caetano (1992), Canta Mais (1994), Canções de Tom Jobim (1995), and Diversões Não Eletrônicas (1997).

Belas e Feras (Beauties and Beasts) is the latest release by Vânia Bastos. The original concept for this excellent CD is very simple: it is a homage to the great Brazilian female song writers. As Vânia Bastos explains it, the music is "strong, delicate, talented, and surprising." The repertoire, comprised of 14 tracks, covers music dating back to Chiquinha Gonzaga, the female song writer who started "all this history," says Bastos. The music is eclectic and beautifully arranged. The final result is a homogeneous blend of samba, rock, choro, frevo, and all Brazilian music forms.

Belas e Feras opens with a song by Marina Lima, from her 1998 album Pierrot do Brasil. The song is Uma Antiga Manhã (An Old Morning), and its words can very well serve to Belas e Feras itself: "applause to you and your winning game." A winning CD, Belas e Feras does not forget one of the most important rock icons in Brazilian music. Though not a composer herself, Wanderléa was instrumental, along with Roberto Carlos and Erasmo Carlos, in defining the rock era in Brazil. The tribute to "our little sister," as Wanderléa was affectionately known, is none other than Ternura (Tenderness), arguably her greatest hit. Other superb composers contributed with original material for this release. The super-talented Fátima Guedes presented Vânia with the incredible love song Namorado (Boyfriend). The song has all the intricate lyricism of Guedes' song writing. This invitation to love making is absolutely stunning. Joyce, another extraordinary song writer and performer, also contributed with an original song entitled Seguir o Coração (Following Your Heart). In Joyce's incomparable phrasing and rhythm, this tune is innocent and Brazilian to its core. The same can be said about Adriana Calcanhotto's original frevo entitled Alegre (Happy). The song could as well have been written by Chiquinha Gonzaga, the very first Brazilian female song writer to mark a feminine presence in our musical history. Alegre is a beautiful frevo full of life and vigor. Other names present in this collection include Rita Lee, Baby do Brasil, Dona Yvone Lara, Ângela Ro Ro, Daniela Mercury, and others.

Belas e Feras is indispensable not because of the strong feminine force it represents. It is essential because of the quality of the music it brings. Vânia Bastos's gorgeous voice and renditions are better than ever.

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