The Best of Brazil

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 Musicians deserving wider recognition


Rodrigo Garcia Lopes

April 24, 2013 – As the author of 14 books whose work is anthologized in several countries, Rodrigo Garcia Lopes has received acclaim as a scholar, poet and translator. But he's not so well known as a singer-songwriter. With the release of his second album, Canções do Estúdio Realidade, he has emerged as an artist deserving worldwide recognition for his music.

Growing up in Londrina, Paraná, Rodrigo was surrounded by music. His brother played cornet and his sister the piano. Although his parents weren't musicians, they loved music which was a constant presence in their home and thus an integral part of the Rodrigo Garcia Lopes Rodrigo Garcia Lopes family atmosphere – Dolores Duran, Vinícius de Moraes, Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Dorival Caymmi, Astor Piazzola, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, boleros and classical music.

Rodrigo began learning the guitar at age 10 with a great aunt, then studied the instrument on his own and with teachers Luiz Violão and Romeu Dias. His first song, written at age 14, was the tango Fracassado with which he won the Londrina music festival in 1981.

In his teens, along with poetry, film and painting, Rodrigo discovered the power of Brazilian song with Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Clube da Esquina, Roberto Carlos, Djavan, Itamar Assumpção and the Londrina artist Arrigo Barnabé. He was also passionate about and constantly listening to Miles Davis, Debussy, Bach, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Bill Evans, Burt Bacharach, James Brown, Jimmi Hendrix, Pat Metheny, Egberto Gismonti, Marcus Müller, Frank Zappa, John Cage, Philip Glass and Tom Waits, among others.

1985 was a seminal year and his last in Londrina. Rodrigo worked in a restaurant and played Brazilian music in the streets. It was also his year on the road: he traveled by train throughout Europe, discovering Zen, Rimbaud, the punk movement, the music of Ralph Towner, and the Beat Generation. Returning to Brazil, Polivox CD cover. Polivox he resumed a course in journalism at the State University of Londrina and continued performing at music festivals. He also took music courses with Sebastião Tapajós, José Miguel Wisnik and Hans-Joachim Koellreutter.

The 1990s were a prolific period in Rodrigo's life, working with many musicians and songwriting partners. From 1990 to 1992 he lived in the U.S, where he earned a Masters Degree from Arizona State University in Interdisciplinary Humanities, writing his thesis on the American writer William S. Burroughs. During that time, he conducted 19 interviews with American poets, writers, artists and critics (such as Burroughs, John Ashbery, Marjorie Perloff, Allen Ginsberg, Nam June Paik, Charles Bernstein, Chick Corea and John Cage) for his book Vozes & Visões (Voices & Visions, 1996). In 1994, he released his first collection of poems, Solarium: Poems 1984-1994, as well as a new translation of Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations-Painted Plates (with Maurício Arruda Mendonça). Solidão, a song he wrote in partnership with São Paulo composer Madan, won the Londrina MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) Festival in 2000. The following year, Rodrigo completed his PhD in English Language and Literatures from Santa Catarina Federal University, writing his dissertation on the American modernist poet Laura Riding. 2001 was also the year he released his first independent album, Polivox.

Rodrigo has published five collections of poetry in all, including Visibilia (1996), Polivox (2001), Nômada (2004) and Estúdio Realidade (2013). His 2005 translation of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass was the first in Brazil. His poems, essays and interviews have been widely published and anthologized, including in Os Cem Melhores Poemas Brasileiros do Século 20 (The Best 100 Brazilian Poems of the Twentieth Century). In all, he has 14 published books (poetry, interviews and translations). A new book of poems and the detective story O Trovador (The Troubadour) are forthcoming in 2013. Since 1982, he has translated dozens of American, French, Latin, and South American poets for Brazilian magazines and newspapers. He has co-edited the literary and art magazine Coyote since 2002. In 2012 Rodrigo was selected to represent Brazil at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. In the same year, he was selected for residency at The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, Florida.

The title of Rodrigo's new album, Canções do Estúdio Realidade (Songs from the Reality Studio), refers to a line from poet William S. Burroughs: Storm the Reality Studio, and retake the universe. Thus, Rodrigo says, the intention of the disc is to bring together songs that engage the best tradition of MPB and the fast-changing and complex time in which we live where the boundaries – not only between artistic genres, but between real and virtual, truth and fiction, presence and absence, solitude and multitude – are increasingly blurred.

No two songs on the disc are alike, with Rodrigo demonstrating tremendous versatility, singing his original ballads, blues, funk, jazz, rap and rock songs with authenticity. The lyrics speak to the human condition (e.g. Quaderna) and life in the modern world (e.g. sensory overload in New York). All the songs are in Portuguese except Rodrigo's beautiful English language ballad Butterfly:
Canções do Estúdio Realidade CD cover. Canções do Estúdio Realidade
betrayed by
a winter wind
the beautiful
butterly
slowly flo-
wing like a
flying flower
fallen over
a frozen
river
(bitter is
to fly
so far
to die:
better flying forever)

His incredibly beautiful interpretation of Nobody Does It Better, here in Rodrigo's own Portuguese version, Ninguém Melhor que Ela (Nobody Better than She), is the best treatment the composition has received. His guitar style and chord progression on Quaderna brings Guinga to mind; the funk rap New York evokes Farofa Carioca. The arrangements, mainly by André Siqueira, are luminous (e.g. Cerejas). The musicians are splendid (e.g. Gabriel Zara's deliciously understated bass introduction on Ninguém Melhor que Ela and Mateus Gonsales' piano accompaniment and solo on Iluminações, to give just two examples). Matching the quality of the disc is the sumptuous 36-page, hardcover CD case with evocative full-color photos.

Rodrigo Garcia Lopes has stormed the Reality Studio and brought us back musical and poetic treasures.

Here's a sample track from Canções do Estúdio Realidade. This is Fugaz. Another track from the album, Quaderna, is found in our New Releases section. Canções do Estúdio Realidade is distributed by Tratore (www.tratore.com.br) and through online sites such as SoundCloud and iTunes. In addition, a track from the disc will be available for free download each month in 2013, at Rodrigo's website.

(If you don't see the blue Click here to listen button below, make sure your browser's security preferences are set to allow plug-ins and that you have Apple's free QuickTime plug-in. Some browsers still won't display the button. In that case, click in the center of the box to reveal the player.)


Free Apple QuickTime download
Website: www.rgarcialopes.wix.com/site


 


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