Seu Jorge & Rio De Janeiro, Then & Now – Worldbeats

The whole world is wondering (or should be wondering): “What’s coming out of Rio?” A better question might be, “what hasn’t been coming out of Rio?” While the city – Brazil’s second largest, after Sao Paulo – does not possess the deep, immediate Afro-Brazilian musical roots one more often associates with Bahia, its music is unmistakably grounded in those same Afro-Portuguese strains that define the country’s musical DNA. I could spend a lifetime talking about Bahian genres – really, they’re more like the genres of Brazil itself due to the infusion of African strains in its music – but today let’s focus on Rio as of late. Axe, maracatu, and candomble will have to wait for their own AudioCred spotlight.

Rio emerged as a city within the American cultural consciousness with the advent of major bossa nova composers. Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes, and, later, Tom Jobim (writer of the too-ubiquitous “Girl From Ipanema”) spearheaded this revolution – “bossa nova” means “new beat,” which referred to the rhythmic change musicians added to the traditional samba beat. One might easily have labeled the new characteristics of their songs comparatively slight changes to samba, which isn’t far off the mark. Samba provides the heart of what came to be associated with a “Rio beat,” and it is no different with bossa nova. We Americans tend to hold bossa more front-and-center in our minds because we know the bossa canon much better than the classics of samba – a real shame, as the samba library is in my opinion deeper and more representative of a “Brazilian sound.”

Samba continues to inform the new music coming out of Rio – and much of Brazil, for that matter. Seu Jorge is one of the city’s most internationally recognizable stars. His rise to fame attracted the attention of more than just producers and musicologists; that he grew up in a favela outside Rio was a popular subject of biographers. His influences are unmistakably MPB (“Música Popular Brasileira” / “Popular Brazilian Music”) and American soul & funk – he cites Stevie Wonder as a prominent influence, for example. He also cites the samba schools of Rio (whose most famous appearances come in parades during Carnaval on Mardi Gras) as another significant contributor to his style. His first album, Samba Esporte Fino (released outside Brazil as Carolina) was a blast from the good old Tropicalia past, with an added layer of funk for emphasis. My favorite track from the album was “Carolina.” I was delighted to find out recently that I wasn’t the only one in the US listening; two times so far I’ve heard it playing in Brooklyn bars – for good reason, it’s a fantastic, bumping track.

Seu Jorge – Carolina

His next album, Cru, featured a less bombastic, stripped down sound. It was a departure from his earlier, pop-centered work, though no less acclaimed. Really, it’s much more of a singer-songwriter type LP than his first one. ”Tive Razao” was the track that stuck with me, especially the strummed, almost ukulele-like guitar over the initial chant.

Seu Jorge – Tive Razão

Then he turned around completely and released a set of Portuguese language David Bowie covers, of all things. Well, it wasn’t completely out of left field – the LP was commissioned by Wes Anderson, who likes such flavors of quirk, for his film The Life Aquatic, in which Jorge played the troubadour-like character Pelé Dos Santos. I actually like his cover of “Lady Stardust” better than the original.

Seu Jorge – Lady Stardust

So, he went in different directions. But to me, the moral of the story is that Rio never left Seu Jorge – it just decided to add a couple other friends to the party… as is the nature of the global sound.

He recently returned to the funk-heavy MPB style with Musicas Para Churrascos (“Music for Barbeques”) – in which a variety of characters dance, party, and chase different female characterizations around. To give you an idea, the songs’ titles range from “A Vizinha” (neighbor) “Vizinha”, “Meu parceiro” (“my partner”), “Amiga da Minha Mulher” (“Friend of My Woman”), and “Japonesa” (“Japanese”), all of which seem to refer to women the male characters are into. Here’s “Amiga Da Minha Mulher,” and the more peaceful “Quem Não Quer Sou Eu.”

Amiga Da Minha Mulher - Seu Jorge (Músicas Para Churrasco Vol.1)

Seu Jorge – Quem Não Quer Sou Eu

He also contributed to the benefit CD / collaboration Red Hot Rio 2, which also functioned as a 1970-era MPB retrospective of sorts. Here’s his version, with Mario C & Beck, of Caetano Veloso’s classic song, “Tropicalia.”

2 Tropicália (Mario C 2011 Remix) – Beck + Seu Jorge

Seu Jorge isn’t the only songwriter to recently release a CD out of Rio: Thais Gulin just put out her second CD, the phonetically titled, “ôÔÔôôÔôÔ.” (Yes, that’s how she spells it on the album cover.) It’s a great example of contemporary Curitiba.

Thaís Gulin – Cinema Americano (ôÔÔôôÔôÔ) [Áudio Oficial]

And what would a contemporary Rio lookaround be without a track from Chico Buarque’s latest album, Chico? Here’s the first track, “Querido Diario.” (“Dear Diary.”) It’s not the same type of song as his masterpieces, Construcao and Opera Do Malandro, based on Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, but it’s refreshing to know he’s still putting out quality tracks. As for those other two classics, they’ll have to wait for another day.

Chico Buarque – Querido Diário (DVD “Na Carreira”)


Jorge Mário da Silva, more commonly known by his stage name Seu Jorge, is a Brazilian musical artist, songwriter, and actor. He is considered by many a renewer of Brazilian pop samba. Seu Jorge cites samba schools and American soul singer Stevie Wonder as major musical influences. Wikipedia
BornJune 8, 1970 (age 49 years), Belford Roxo, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
SpouseMariana Jorge (m. 2013–2016)

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