By Gregory Scruggs, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While Rio audiences may clamor for more international acts to take a trip down south, it is important not to forget that there is plenty of world-class talent right here. Such is the case of Jorge Ben Jor, the living legend of groovy samba, who will take the stage in Lapa at Circo Voador for a two-night stand on Friday, May 13th and Saturday, May 14th.
He is on the cusp of celebrating his seventieth birthday, but that doesn’t prevent him from serenading hometown audiences at least once a year. Most recently, he tore down the house at the Baile Devassa during Carnival.
Expect the audience to drown him out as they sing along to hits that span four decades: “Mas que nada,” “País Tropical,” “Take It Easy My Brother Charlie,” “Xica da Silva,” and “Taj Mahal.”
The first on that list he debuted in 1963, sparking a musical career that has made him one of the most recognizable names in Brazilian music, known for an infectious blend of samba rhythms and tropicália esthetics with the potent addition of funk, soul, disco, and even hip-hop and RnB.
“Mas que nada” is widely considered the best-known Portuguese-language song abroad, garnering a recent cover by the Black Eyed Peas. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, the bona fide original is still so often the best.
A string of stellar albums from the 1960s into the late 1970s conquered a generation, from self-titled Jorge Ben (1969) through África Brasil (1976). Along the way, fans watched him participate in the tropicália revolution, with psychedelic influences that challenged Brazilian cultural norms, and embrace the connection between samba and newer African-American musical styles.
At the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s, he switched his stage name from Jorge Ben to Jorge Ben Jor (reportedly to avoid confusion with American musician George Benson) and toured relentlessly at home and abroad. He was thus adopted by a more recent legion of fans that have the opportunity to witness a tireless showman who keeps cross-generational audiences on their feet.
At his Lapa stint, the Zé Pretinho band will have Jorge Ben’s back, a relationship that harkens to their 1978 joint album, the seventeenth of his epic career.
Popular telenovela actress and occasional singer Thalma de Freitas will join on stage as well, making for a guaranteed night of stunning harmonies and funky grooves. DJ Lencinho will mix Brazilian and American funk, soul, and samba-rock between sets.
Buy tickets beforehand if you can, because this one will be a guaranteed sellout on both nights.
Jorge Ben Jor with Zé Pretinho band, Thalma de Freitas, and DJ Lencinho, Friday, May 13th and Saturday, May 14th, 2011.
Circo Voador, Rua dos Arcos S/N – Lapa. Doors at 10PM, show at 11PM. R$40 for students, seniors, under 21, with printed e-flyer, or with 1kg of non-perishable food, R$80 otherwise, 18+, ages 12-17 only accepted with adult supervision
Tickets available online at www.ingresso.com or at the Circo Voador box office, open Tuesday through Thursday, 12-7PM; Friday 12PM to midnight; and Saturday one hour before doors open.