Arts, Culture & Media

Rio de Janeiro is a city rich with musical traditions

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Credit: Betto Arcos

Street scene in Rio's Lapa neighborhood on a Friday night.

Bibi Ferreira is the main reason I went to Rio de Janeiro.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

She's Brazil's "Grande Dame" of theater — especially musicals. At 91 years old, she's recently been doing a show about the life of France's Edith Piaf, called "Bibi Canta e Conta Piaf." So I went to see her perform.

What a voice! Bibi's bringing her show to the Town Hall in New York City on Nov. 13.

Bibi Ferreira
Credit: Wilian Aguiar

Bibi Ferreira singing Piaf

In addition to hearing Ferreira, I took in more than 10 samba shows in Brazil. Samba is the music Brazilians use to express themselves — their joy, their sadness, their defeats and their triumphs. Their national dish, Feijoada, is best enjoyed with a samba group playing live.

Of the shows I saw when I was in Rio, Joyce Candido stood out. She's a natural performer — she has everything a samba singer needs to be successful and get a chance to hit the big time. She has a fantastic voice, she can dance, she plays piano and, best of all, she's a natural entertainer.

I didn't get a chance to see Orquestra Imperial play live, but discovering them was exciting none-the-less. They're a samba big band whose 20-plus members are part of many other musical projects in Brazil. They're "la créme de la créme" among Brazil's young, hip musicians.

Theirs is a sort of retro-project. It's a tribute to the 'Gafieira Sound' — the big dance bands of the 1950s and 60s that played in the 'honky tonks,' the people's dance halls of Rio. That movement lent itself to the title of their album: "Making Peace with Swing."

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