MPB icons: 80 years of Nara Leão and 40 years without Elis Regina

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Wanted the fate that the day January 19 definitively unite two Brazilian figures, women who are at the same time the greatest interpreters of our music and holders of the firmest, boldest and most uncompromising (as well as extremely popular) personalities in our history.

the capixaba Nara Leão was born 80 years ago, on that day that, 40 years later, would end the life of the gaúcha Elis Regina. Between 1942 and 1982, the two not only broke social barriers by showing what a modern woman was, at the same time they forged, each in their own way, the pillars of the foundation that we still call MPB.

The two have been going through a rare moment in our history, a country that unfortunately grew up watching the incineration, often literally, of its own past.

The 21st century has been bringing documentaries, biopics, programs made for streaming channels, podcasts, YouTube channels, musicals, books and exhibitions, which manage to heroically revisit our past.

Elise’s son, João Marcello Boscoli, coordinates a series of actions related to keeping the memory of her mother alive since she re-released, in 2004, the deluxe edition of the classic album “Elis & Tom”, which the gaúcha recorded with Tom Jobim abroad, in 1974.

But the big event of early 2022 is the documentary series “O Canto Livre de Nara Leão” (Globoplay), directed by filmmaker Renato Terra. The director himself is one of the protagonists of this phase of rescuing our recent musical past and, alongside co-director Ricardo Calil, he filmed the documentaries “Narciso em Férias” (2020) about Caetano Veloso’s exile, “Uma Noite em 67” (Uma Noite em 67” (Uma Noite em 67). 2010), about the TV Record song festival of that year, and “Eu sou Carlos Imperial” (2015), about the pick entrepreneur who invented the Jovem Guarda, Tim Maia and Wilson Simonal.

Edited by Jordana Berg, with research by Julia Schnoor and consultancy by Nara’s daughter, Isabel Guedes, the Terra series is a masterpiece. It divides Nara’s brief life into five episodes that weave her angelic charm, her delightful little voice to her no-nonsense attitude and demure tone, showing how she was always at the forefront of musical movements before they even realized themselves as such, falling apart. it was whenever they started to be successful.

It was like that with bossa nova, with the protest song, with tropicalismo and so many others, always getting involved with new artists while doing everything as he wanted, challenging anyone, from record label owners to the military regime of 1964.

All this illustrated with wonderful video footage, photos and interviews that show Nara with the same convictions at every moment of her career. Whether giving an interview to her friend Sergio Cabral, on TV shows in the 1980s – or even Glória Maria, Marília Gabriela or Leda Nagle – or for Fernando Faro’s show “Ensaio”, Nara is always right about what she wants.

“Canto Livre” also succeeds in letting the songs play in their entirety, instead of just watching snippets of the songs – one of the strengths of being a series, instead of a feature film (the same happened with the recent series about the Beatles , “Get Back”).

“The idea of ​​making a series about Nara Leão was born from the perception that many people did not know her trajectory. She is one of the most important people of the 20th century in Brazil and she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves.”

Renato Terra, filmmaker

“When I started making documentaries, João Moreira Salles told me a sentence by Alberto Cavalcanti that never left my head: ‘Don’t deal with generalized subjects: you can write an article about the post office, but you must make a film about a letter’ . Nara is our letter to understand not only Brazilian culture, but an idea of ​​the country”, says the director, then listing the singer’s accomplishments:

“He was the protagonist of bossa nova and broke with the movement. He recorded Cartola, Zé Keti, Nelson Cavaquinho with the harmonies of bossa nova and created what we know as MPB there. He recorded, in his own way, João do Vale, Fagner, Geraldo Azevedo and presented music from various regions of the northeast to an audience that was prejudiced. She brought two different sides together by building something new in the middle. He broke prejudices in music, in culture, in behavior. Nara was the bridge.”

In addition to revealing talents such as Chico Buarque and Maria Bethânia, just to be among the most well-known names.

Nara was also an important character for defying the behavior of the time. He dressed as he wanted and for the first time he exposed female knees on stage, something unthinkable in the early 1960s.

She did not like to be told how she should behave and would simply leave if she did not agree – so much so that she did not appear in the classic cover photo of the album “Tropicália” or “Panis et Circensis” (1968), appearing only as a portrait held by Caetano Veloso.

She said that the Brazilian army was useless during the dictatorship and the next day she was defended by the poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who asked in a poem “who is afraid of Nara Leão?” published in the newspaper. And precisely she created disaffections along the way – among them, Elis Regina.

“It was a frank and direct discussion, Elis never sent a message”, recalls João Marcelo Bôscoli, Elis’ son. “There was a meeting of singers that Elis, in front of Nara and everyone else, asked if that was really a meeting of singers. ‘If so, what is Nara doing here?’ She really thought that Nara was not a singer. The rivalry was on that level. I think it’s funny, kind of pop culture, but there’s a little pain, because they’re two people who are very important. This happened in their youth and did not extend into adulthood and rivalry between artists is very common. Artists don’t like each other very much, the star is pointed”, jokes the music producer.

Unlike Nara, Elis has been rescued in different works in recent years. In addition to the re-releases coordinated by Bôscoli, who also re-released the albums “Falso Brilhante” (1976), “Elis” (1972) and “Elis” (1980), all with luxurious treatment, the singer from Rio Grande do Sul was also revisited in the play “Elis – A Musical” (2014), directed by Dennis Carvalho and text by Nelson Motta, and in the film “Elis” (2016), by Hugo Prata, with actress Andreia Horta in the role of the singer, which also gave rise to the series “Elis – Living is Better Than Dreaming”, from the same year. But it did not stop there.

Other projects are being made to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of his passing. One of the most awaited is the documentary “Elis & Tom – Só Tinha de Ser com Você”, produced by Arte1, directed by Roberto de Oliveira.

He had access to almost eight hours of unreleased material, including audio and video, from the recording of the classic 1974 album in which Elis Regina asked to record with Tom Jobim, creating a tense atmosphere in the North American studio that generated one of the biggest albums of the Brazilian music. There is a huge expectation for the project, not only because it has so much never-before-seen material, but also because it has been in production for over a decade.

The other project is a series produced by the HBO channel that will bring images of TV shows, shows and interviews that the singer from Rio Grande do Sul gave in countries such as Belgium, France, Portugal, Mexico and Germany. Directed by Lea Van Steen, the project features three episodes that have, as a guiding thread, a long interview with João Marcello, who ends up christening the series “Elis por João”.

João Marcello also comments on others, such as the children’s play “Pimentinha – Elis para Crianças”, directed by Diego Morais and talks about the project he is doing alongside illustrator Gustavo Duarte, who has worked with the North American comics studios Marvel. and DC. to transform the singer into a drawing.

“The original idea is a book, but we really want it to become an animation”, explains the singer’s son, who also promises versions in Dolby-Atmos, with even better sound quality, for the albums “Elis & Tom” and ” Fake Brilliant” later this year.

“And we are just waiting for the Brazilian state to reopen to be able to make a documentary with only audio interviews with her”, explains João Marcello, who is developing this project with director Hugo Prata. He says that he has a huge collection of interviews with his mother that, as they are not on video, are not reproduced, like a one-hour cassette of a conversation between Elis and Vinícius de Moraes. Bôscoli still talks about projects that involve fashion and even perfumery, but they are for the near future, not for this year.

“Elis, in addition to being a monster of interpretation, of this powerful voice, she is also dramatic”, recalls broadcaster Patricia Palumbo. “You might think Elis crying in ‘Atrás da Porta’ is exaggerated, but it’s beautiful and it suits the Brazilian. It is the frayed romantic that connects her, for example, with Marília Mendonça. Nara is the opposite, it’s cool. Nara would be Mario Reis if Elis were Orlando Silva or Francisco Alves.”

“Bossa nova is a ‘whitening’ and university filter of Brazilian music, there was no black person there and black issues were sung by whites”, continues journalist Júlio Maria, author of the biography “Elis Regina: Nada Sera Como Antes” ( Master Books).

“Nara breaks with that and makes the show Opinião, with Zé Kéti, João do Vale and Nelson Cavaquinho, and includes samba in bossa nova, which was only legitimized there as something belonging to Brazilian popular music. And Elis, in turn, had Fino da Bossa, with Jair Rodrigues. On the album ‘Dois na Bossa’, she sings a pout-porri of sambas from the hill.”

“Nara is a forgotten and wronged character in Brazilian music”, completes Nara Leão’s biographer, journalist Tom Cardoso, author of “Ninguém Pode Com Nara Leão” (Planet). “She came out of the bubble in the south of Rio and went on to influence the big guys in cinema and theater. The musical research she did in Bahia, when she took the recorder to the Vila Velha Theater, made her discover Caetano, Gil and Bethânia.”

“As she did not feel obliged to fulfill the liturgy that the artist needs to fulfill, record hits, play shows and have an audience for it, she had much more tranquility to record a repertoire that she really liked, without the interference of a record company.”

“Knowing Elis as a biographer and critic, and I know that she was uncomfortable with what other singers did, you can understand how Nara’s posture bothered her too”, continues Júlio. “Nara, in turn, didn’t care, she didn’t like this showbiz box, she didn’t want to be in it. 30

Júlio also notes the fact that the two had a relationship with the composer Ronaldo Bôscoli, who was Nara’s boyfriend at the time of bossa nova and married Elis in 1967.

“The most impressive thing was Nara’s lack of vanity, as she was totally at the service of music”, completes Palumbo. “They are different birthplaces: Elis sought the artistic path as a way of survival, Nara was born well. This Nara non-challance you can only have when you are in a comfortable situation.” “These are two very important and totally opposite artists”, adds Cardoso.

“Nara was low profile and Elis, despite being the greatest singer in the country, was insecure, always felt threatened. Nara wanted as little contact with the public as possible, she wanted to be a housewife. Elis has always embraced her career with great ambition. And there are the political differences: Nara took a stand against the dictatorship and was exiled for it, and Elis only had greater engagement a little later on. Just look at the history of the march against the electric guitar in 1967, a year before the AI-5, Elis took to the streets to protest against the guitar, when the hard line of the army was already in charge and was ready to radicalize. Elis cannot be accused of being a delivery person, but she is not a singer who was instrumental in the end of the dictatorship, singing ‘O Bêbado e o Equilibrista’.”

“The premature death of the two (Nara died of cancer at the age of 47, in 1989) did not allow them to reach the maturity that perhaps made them friends – or at least they agreed”, concludes Júlio. “I’m sure the two would be on the same side, defending the same things and going up against the same enemies. The rivalry dissolves nowadays into a very interesting artistic confluence.”

Reference: CNN Brasil

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