Arts, Culture & Media

Joyce Cândido is the young voice of samba in Rio de Janeiro

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Credit: Betto Arcos

Joyce Cândido

Joyce Cândido was just 14 when she started her career in music. 

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“I'm from a very small town, so I was the only teenager who was able to play and sing,” she remembers. “I got a lot of gigs, weddings and little parties, and after that, I start[ed] teaching piano lessons. When I went to college, I started singing in bars — Brazilian music with my band. So when I was 18 years old, I decided to be a singer."

Cândido recorded her first album when she was 25, but she figured that to really succeed, she'd have to leave her hometown. She moved to New York City, where she attended classes at a Broadway dance school and took voice lessons. And she started singing in small clubs.

After a few years, she went back and settled in Rio de Janeiro, where she met Alceu Maia, one of the top Samba producers. She had decided to focus her new record on Samba and called it "O Bom e Velho Samba Novo" or "Good Old New Samba."

Cândido says she first got into Samba when she was in college. She would go to the local radio station and ask the DJ to help her find the old samba singers in the vinyl collection. And a friend gave her a cassette of classics by the Godmother of samba, Beth Carvalho.

"I started listening to that music. It was only Beth Carvalho songs and then I felt 'WOW!' And she was singing Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho, only very, very special composers.”

Her friend said his band was looking for a singer

“I felt so happy, so lucky to be invited to sing this kind of music," she recalls. "I really liked that, that's what I want to sing."

Cândido says many young Brazilians consider Samba "old-fashioned" music. But when she performs in the Rio clubs, she's noticed that Samba is starting to gain ground, even with the younger crowd.

People approach her to say they’re happy to see a young singer performing the kind of music that they really love, since it is not very common.

One of the older songs she chose for her new album is "Deixe a Menina." It's a samba composed by Chico Buarque, one of Brazil's most revered songwriters. One day, her producer took her to meet Buarque.

"He listened to my music, my voice and everything. He said 'wow, I really like that. And what's the next step?' I said, 'Well, I need a label and manager and everything.' And he introduced me to people from the label and also some managers. So he just said, 'Oh, she's a great singer, just listen to her, you're gonna like it.'"

Cândido says the Samba capital has been good to her. She's gotten to meet some of Brazil's major music figures and perform with a few of them.

In a country with so many talented musicians and so much competition, it doesn't hurt that Joyce Cândido is very good at what she does.

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