By Tony Maiella, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Few native English speakers have heard about Nina Becker, although many Brazilians know her name. She sings with the Zen-like calm of Marisa Monte and the zest of Feist. Using the grittiness of rock to counter the calm of bossa nova, Nina accomplishes what few independent artists can in Rio. She creates an original sound unburdened by the shackles of a genre.
This is quite a difficult task in the Marvelous City, especially when you consider that she landed a review in Rolling Stone for her latest award-winning double disc release Azul (Blue) and Vermelho (Red). On top of it all, she’s also a budding fashion designer and is about to finish up her tour with two consecutive shows in Rio at the Caixa Cultural on Thursday, June 30th and Friday, July 1st. The following questions are taken from an interview on June 21st, 2011.
How has your tour been going?
The tour was very intense in the second half of last year, with concerts in several cities in Brazil. This year I tried to allow more time for other things, but keep working on the promotion of Azul e Vermelho, while pre-producing my next album.
At the moment the musicians who accompany me are Bartolo, guitar (Imperial Orchestra, Duplexx, Rubens & Brute Force), Pedro Sá, guitar, (Imperial Orchestra and Caetano Veloso – Cê band), Eduardo Manso, low (Rabotnik and producer of the band Tono’s cd), and Thomas Harris Battery (Abayomy and Letuce).
Have you had any special guests that you would like to mention?
One of the coolest moments was recently when Mallu Magalhães made an appearance during my show in São Paulo to sing my songs, her songs and the worldwide standard ‘All of Me’.
What was your vision for Azul e Vermelho?
It was not the result of a vision, but a necessary practice to move forward in a time of many changes in my life. I concentrated on doing some recordings without having the idea that it could turn into an album in the future.
How does the live show compare to the recording?
The album Azul is a little more difficult to translate to the stage, because it is very empty and delicate, which led me to do an adaptation of the arrangements for my band. Since Vermelho was recorded live, it follows the path with the band playing exactly the same arrangements they played in the recording.
What are your favorite songs you recorded?
I can’t pick favorites, because they change every minute. I feel like I’m a collector of songs, and the fact that they come in clusters is what motivates me. Alone they are not as interesting.
What inspired you to start playing music?
I am part of a family where everyone played an instrument from an early age, even those who are not professional musicians. So it was always a natural inclination into which I delved more recently.
Where do most of your fans live?
I get messages from all over Brazil, even the places where I have not yet toured, thanks to the Internet. But most people who write to me or come to see me are from Rio, of course, São Paulo, Recife, Belo Horizonte and Vitória. Outside of Brazil, mostly Portugal and Japan.
Who are your biggest influences?
There were many mixed influences, starting with the generation of Tropicalia artists, which were the discs I heard when I was little. But I also always loved Brazilian music from the radio, from the late 30’s to the late 60’s of bossa nova. I also heard a lot of rock albums from the 60’s and 70’s that my parents had at home. When I was a teenager in the ’80s I liked punk rock and new wave, which arrived in Brazil a bit delayed.
Do you have plans to do a U.S. tour?
My two albums were released recently and I still intend to travel a lot with this show. I started talking to some labels, but still do not have anything definite planned. I’m in no hurry because I’ve still had a lot of work to do here. Brazil is a huge country!
To learn more about Nina and her music visit: http://www.ninabecker.net