:: These reviews were also published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


How songs are made

New books reveal the work behind the scenes.

Daniella Thompson

1 July 2010

Suely Mesquita (photo: Caetano Vidal)

Ruy Godinho

On the face of it, Ruy Godinho and Suely Mesquita have little in common. She’s a carioca who lives in Niterói, he’s a paraense who settled in Brasília. She writes creative pop songs and sings them in her rich, practiced voice (listen to Suely’s second solo CD, Microswing, on her website). He produces videos and radio programs that focus on Brazil’s traditional musical heritage (listen to his Roda de Choro programs online).

Each in his or her own way has made and continues to make significant contributions to Brazilian culture. And each has a new book revolving around the making of songs.

Ruy Godinho just brought out the second of two volumes called Então, Foi Assim? The first volume, published in 2008 and now in its third printing, includes the background stories of 80 Brazilian songs, both new and old, accompanied by their lyrics. The second volume offers an additional 61 stories.

The idea for these volumes was born in 1997, when Godinho co-produced the music program Estação Brasil on Rádio Cultura FM in Brasília. The program included a segment called A Origem da Música, with information about the origin of songs obtained through interviews and research.

Here we find stories about tunes as old as “Iara” (Anacleto de Medeiros) and as contemporary as “Brasil” (Cazuza/Nilo Romero/George Israel); as regional as “Eu Só Quero um Xodó” (Dominguinhos/Anastácia) and as cosmopolitan as “Lígia” (Tom Jobim); as personal as “Drão” (Gilberto Gil) and as communal as “Madureira Chorou” (Carvalhinho/Júlio Monteiro).

These welcome additions to the Brazilian music lover’s library require knowledge of the Portuguese language. Suely Mesquita’s book, Sexo Puro: A Life In Brazilian Song, was written in English and published in the United States. Unlike the Godinho volumes, it focuses exclusively on Mesquita’s own compositions, written alone or in partnership.

The narrative, beginning with autobiographical reminiscences followed by a captioned pictorial section, emerged from interviews the songwriter gave to Bob Gaulke, an American school teacher and musician who admires her work to the extent of having initiated this project, also writing and publishing the book. The prosaic storytelling only occasionally reflects glimmers of its subject’s personality. What’s missing from the narrative is the creative spark so abundant in Suely Mesquita’s songs. Had Suely written her own story, it might have emerged funnier, deeper, more moving. As it is, the book Sexo Puro is not likely to engage the reader who isn’t already a Suely Mesquita fan.

Happily, the book comes with a compilation CD of 19 tracks, many of them either previously unreleased or difficult to obtain. Respresenting various phases of Suely’s career and featuring her singing as well as that of her partners, the disc is a rich potpourri of contemporary song and a delight to the ear.

Think of it not as a book with a companion CD but as a CD wrapped in a hefty package of liner notes. Whoever buys it will enjoy not only the music but the increasingly rare luxury of reading the printed lyrics in both the original and in English translation and finding out how each song was created.

Sexo Puro: A Life in Brazilian Song
Suely Mesquita Inerviewed by Bob Gaulke
(Lesma e Lula Press; 2010)

CD tracks:
01. Qualquer Lugar (Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
02. Minha Dalva de Oliveira (Celso Fonseca/Suely Mesquita)
      Celso Fonseca
03. Morrer de Bem (Rodrigo Campello/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
04. Porta Aberta (Arícia Mess/Aurélio Dias/Suely Mesquita)
      Arícia Mess
05. Porcelana (Kali C./Dudu Caribé/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
06. Batata (Luís Capucho/Suely Mesquita)
      Luís Capucho
07. Latim (Suely Mesquita)
      Lucinha Turnbull
08. Pisca ((Zeca Baleiro/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
09. Forças de Angola (Paulo Baiano/Suely Mesquita)
      Ryta de Cássia
10. TV Que Ninguém Vê (Glauco Lourenço/Suely Mesquita)
      Glauco Lourenço
11. Castelo de Areia (Marcela Biasi/Suely Mesquita)
      Marcela Biasi
12. Bruxelas (Paulo Baiano/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
13. Romena (Luís Capucho/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
14. Sem Capotta (Eugenio Dale/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita & Eugenio Dale
15. Bala de Rima (Bethi Albano/Suely Mesquita)
      Bethi Albano
16. Mais Música (Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
17. Moderno Amor (Mário Sève/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
18. Samba de Branco (Bethi Albano/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita
19. Que Qui Tu Tá; Interesse (Rodrigo Campello/Suely Mesquita)
      Suely Mesquita


Copyright © 2010 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.