Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

BETHÂNIA, Maria

(b Maria Bethânia Viana Teles Veloso, 1946, Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, N. Brazil) Singer, sister of singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso; a huge star all over Latin America for decades, influenced by the music of her home region and later by its religion, a mix of Catholicism and voodoo ritual called candomble ('It's an exuberant faith, full of music, and began with the slaves ... The stage is sacred, like a church or a candomble house ... everything I do on stage is a form of dedication.') She went to Rio in 1965 as a substitute for Nara Leão, then 'Goddess of Bossa Nova'; her eponymous first LP that year included topical protest songs of the day. She was caught up in student politics; in show Opinion (by Caetano and Gilberto Gil) she sang 'Carcara' (became signature tune) and was typed for a while as a protest singer under the influence of her brother, but the rest of her career has been marked by a refusal to be pigeonholed: she sang of love '66 when all around her were protesting, sang Brazilian oldies when others covered Beatles songs and wrote 'new pop' in the style called Tropicalia, which insisted on eclecticism. Her first big hit album was Recital: Na Boite Barroco '68, in the charts for months. Her appeal lay in dramatic interpretation, emotional rather than technical skill; critics said that she gave the impression of protest even when singing of love; performing barefoot, she became one of the country's best-loved artists. Her popular live show '71-2 was on LP as Drama And Drama, Luz da Noite. An untypical return to topical material was Chico Buarque e Maria Bethânia '75, as well as Pássaro Proibido '76 ('Forbidden Bird'), co-written with her brother; the old team (Maria, Caetano, Gil) did Doces Bárbaros '76 ('The Sweet Barbarians'), coinciding with a tour and revival of '60s songs. Maria Bethânia Alteza '81 ('Your Highness') was her 21st record in 17 years, simultaneously launched in 21 Brazilian cities via satellite TV: the show featured songs by various well-loved writers, the title song by Caetano and Waly Salomão. Ciclo '84 was her first self-production, with trio and strings, lush and mellow chamber music on her own label.