Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

The eclectic life of Brazilian superstar Marisa Monte

Posted by Kimberly on June 5, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
June 5, 2007, page 2&3 (1,398 words)

Images supplied by Antonio Falcao

It’s official. With her current Asia-Pacific tour encompassing Australia, Korea, Japan, Seoul and now Macau, Brazilian singer Marisa Monte is truly a global superstar.
“I guess its very unusual to perform here [in Asia] for Brazilian artists,” she says.
“Its a challenge for us to be here, opening ways for Brazilian music and tightening the relationship through the music between different people.”
For her, music is a way of transportation, a means to communicate and meet people from vastly different cities.
While her style is firmly rooted in traditional samba and bossa nova, she has willingly reached out and embraced pop, jazz and rock to create a unique sound, something the critics have had difficulty in defining.
It is this eclecticism that has afforded her such widespread recognition, resulting in the culmination of an astonishing number of awards including three Latin Grammy Awards.
“I never imagined to have such a big recognition for what I do,” she says modestly, adding that she isn’t very ambitious with her dreams.
“In the beginning I would never have imagined myself in Macau, you know, 19 years later, so it would be too much to imagine, I got much more than I could imagine through the music,” she says.
With a career spanning those 19 years, her early inspiration ranged from Maria Callas to Billy Holiday.
“I always loved music since I was a kid.
“Looking back, I can see myself like a kid, watching my sister play piano, being always together with someone who has an acoustic guitar, family meetings, writing down in books lyrics to sing along and listening to music,” she says.
By the time Marisa was a teenager, her voice became her calling card, to the extent that she was offered a recording opportunity at the tender age of 16.
“I denied it because I was still in high school and I wanted to study outside of Brazil and to spend some time outside of Brazil first,” she says,
At the age of 18 Marisa travelled to Italy to further her operatic studies but found the pull of her native music to be too strong.
“I went to Italy and studied there for ten months and being outside of Brazil for almost 1 year made me notice a lot about Brazilian culture, about myself, about Brazilian music.
“It made me want to go back to Brazil and maybe notice that I could never give up this cultural background and be happy expressing myself,” she says.
Within a year she had gained recognition, eventually recording her first album entirely live at the age of 20.
Since then, her collaborations with Riyuichi Sakamoto, Nando Reis, Arnaldo Antunes and Carlihos Brown have resulted in more than nine million records being sold worldwide.
Asked where she gets her inspiration, Marisa says, “from life…things that everybody deals with like solitude or the search for someone.
“When this kind of thought is more insistent it come out as a song.” She adds that, as she works with so many people in her music, its not only the feelings she has herself but what is shared with them.
When asked to decide on one particular album she would choose as a favourite, Marisa admits to the impossible.
“All of them are very representative of my different moments and I have special feelings for all of them for different reasons,” she says, adding that “its like asking, if you have sons, which son you prefer the most. I love them the same way but for different reasons so I could not choose one to say ‘this is my preferred in all the senses to all the others.’”
Her most recent release in 2006 was a parallel project, resulting in a dual release of ‘Universe All Around Me’ and ‘Infinite Particular’ a project Marisa dedicated herself to after the birth of her first child.
This addition in her life has not affected her music in any way but it has affected her ability to focus completely on her touring.
“Now I really want and feel the need to be at home with him”, adding that “I’ll tour till the end of the year and do maybe 40 or 50 more shows and then I’m going to quit.
“I’m doing a lot of concerts but its more spread and not so concentrated because now I have someone who really needs me around and its not just a matter of knowing what’s going on, its being there, being present when things happen,” she says.
She stresses the need to balance her life, spending perhaps two months on tour and returning home for about ten days, before repeating the process.
“This period I’m spending twenty days and I’m going back and I’ll have a long period back at home, a month and a half, without travelling. I’m balancing my time differently,” she says.
Her feet planted firmly in the present, she admits to feeling a certain amount of excitement encountering cities where her profile isn’t so instantly recognisable, giving Korea as an example.
“In Korea there are only Koreans which is like a blank sheet of paper. There’s a whole history to be written there and you can print there your feelings for the first time, so that’s nice also.
“In Brazil that doesn’t happen for me any more, to meet people for whom I’m still new…and to know there are places on the planet where people have never heard about me, doesn’t know anything about me but can still get involved in enjoying the concert. that makes me feel like I did 19 years ago when I first started in Brazil,” she says.
She adds that she expects there to be a certain level of recognition here in Macau, where the Portuguese are more familiar with her music.
With the almost necessitous use of technology in music today, Marisa agrees with the important role it plays.
“There are many people who integrate technology in their music, while in my case, I only had access to a computer about ten years ago, more or less,” she says.
“Surely it’s an instrument that they will be able to use in the future.”
Asked whether music piracy bothers her, Marisa hardly seems concerned.
“It has never been so easy to listen to music from anywhere in the world as it is now, which is very good. On the other hand, unlicensed music on-line is also dangerous. But there are many artists who emerge on-line.
“But I don’t think that it’s only with music, it’s with everything else too, such as newspapers, and television. Anything really that has to do with communication.
“Before the internet, when there were audio tapes, you had the same problem [piracy], people would just tape the songs on to another tape,” she says.
She seems to have a certain inability to sit still, her seemingly boundless reserves of energy expressed in constant hand movements and body shifts.
This leads to the inevitable question of what she does to relax, her response sounding more like an exhausting list of activity.
“I like to work out. I like to listen to music, to read, to cook, to knit, to travel without working…but I like most of all to be with my family and my friends. That’s most relaxing for me,” she says.
Her visit to Macau has afforded Marisa time for a little sightseeing, taking in the sights of Taipa and Macau’s historical past.
“Its really interesting for us in Brazil to recognise because we were also a Portuguese colony, to recognise in the architecture and in the language, some similar points in common in such a far place, because its the opposite side of the planet.
“Its nice to find points in common so far away and we can also understand all the signs because its alls written in Portuguese so we kind of feel its familiar you know, somehow, for us, culturally,” she says.
“We had the sightseeing during the day and at night I could see all the lights in the city, which is pretty beautiful. Really beautiful,” she says.
The all-too-brief interview comes to an end, her easy acquiescence of a request for an autograph proof of a friendly and approachable nature.
Marisa Monte will perform for one night only at 8pm on June 5 at the Macau Cultural Centre’s Grand Auditorium to a sell-out audience.

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