Ângela Maria's 50-year career

The living MPB legend reveals to AllBrazilianMusic that she has been afraid of falling into oblivion

Rodrigo Faour
Ângela Maria was the center of attention on February 10th, as the 36-year-old Banda de Ipanema paraded the streets on a trio elétrico. The singer was surprised to see a crowd of youngsters asking her to sing some more. Not bad for someone who's been in the business for 50 years, in a country where the media is not very used to praising veterans. During these five decades, Ângela established her name with a deep, warm voice and passionate interpretation. She has had great influence on singers like Clara Nunes, Elis Regina and Fafá de Belém. She is also the female artist who has release the most albums in the country. Ângela has never studied music, and she ran away ffrom home to pursue her dream.

Her repertoire has always been very eclectic. She would go for samba-tunes, tangos, boleros and carnival tunes. She faced some difficulty to keep recording in the 60s, but managed to imprint hits: Garota Solitária, Cinderela, Gente Humilde, Tango para Teresa.

Ângela was also quite naive in her personal life, while trusting in husbands and agents that made her go bankrupt. But she turned things around and started to make more elaborate albums, recording contemporary songwriters like Djavan, Gonzaguinha, João Bosco and Moraes Moreira. In this interview, the MPB myth talks about her ups and dows, fame, success and a long-lasting career.

AllBrazilianMusic - How did it feel to be acclaimed by the youngest crowd in your life in 2001?
Ângela Maria - Albino Pinhiero (the founder of Banda de Ipanema) used to invite me every year to parade with them, but I would tell him all the time that I could not jump and dance, that I was not into carnival: "I'll be standing there like a mummy, I have no carnival spirit". "But they want you", he would respond. I never took up on the offer, though. Then he died, and it was quite the shock. He had always helped me, and he was always very sweet. So when his brother asked me to parade with the Banda this year, I hesitated, but I couldn't say no. My husband, Daniel (30 years younger than Ângela) told me: "I think you should go, because Albino would be so happy to see you there", and I accepted.

I had this image that the Banda was comprised of weirdos jumping up and down. I was so surprised... It is like a very tight family. I had to sing. People were assuming that it was a show. I sang As Pastorinhas, Bandeira Branca, A Lua É dos Namorados - a big carnival hit of mine. It was beautiful, amazing! Like, I have been around for so long that I thought that only the people from my generation would remember me. And I noticed it isn't quite like that, because those younger kids would come up to me all the time and say: "Ângela, I love you". They were in their twenties... then I realized: "Wow, as it happens, they do know who I am."

AllBrazilianMusic - Did you ever feel afraid of falling into oblivion?
Ângela Maria
- If any performing artist tells you "Me, never, I have never feared", that is a lie. Everybody is afraid of being forgotten. The singer turns on the radio and doesn't hear his/her album, he/she thinks things are over. I have faced my ups and downs, and I have been stuck, too. I have been there on and on, and I have witnessed my colleagues in similar situations. But for some of them, the spotlights were tuned off for good, and that would make me very sad. Besides the divine gift of singing, I believe that my career has remained to this day because G"D has helped me.

AllBrazilianMusic - Some of the songs that you have recorded were terrible... do you regret having recorded any of them?
Ângela Maria
- Hey! If I start looking, album by album (laughs)... Some of my albums deserve to be thrown in the garbage can.

AllBrazilianMusic - You have even recorded one named Quero Morrer de Catapora (I Wanna Die with Chikenpox)...
Ângela Maria - It is true (laughs). But then, it was carnival, and we can do anything on carnival...

AllBrazilianMusic - Who used to pick the repertoire and how was your recording process?
Ângela Maria
- First, I used to be myself, then I wasn't. There were times when I recorded without a producer. That can't be! The producer has to be in the studio. Say, you're nervous, the voice is giving out, so the producer says, "let's go get some coffee, let's take five"(laughs). The producer is like a priest, a brother, a father, a friend. Many times I recorded with only a technician in the studio with me.

AllBrazilianMusic - Your interpretation has always been very warm...
Ângela Maria
- It was my instinct. I would read the lyrics and feel. It's the same thing that happens with actors. I would sing the song as if that was actually happening to me.

AllBrazilianMusic - There were plenty of chauvinist lyrics in your repertoire... You even recorded a cha cha cha that said "the woman's like a monkey..." (laughs)
Ângela Maria
- Oh, yeah (laughs). There's also that... Amante Bandido ("He kissed me all over, satisfied himself and then he got up/He swore at me, humiliated me and for no good reason/And the worst is that, for that man I have so much passion")... Deep inside, I think people like that kind of music...

AllBrazilianMusic - You once claimed that when you tried to record less popular music, nothing happened...
Ângela Maria
- I am a popular singer, I'm not like Elizeth Cardoso. She once visited me at home and asked: "How come you're so successful? What is your secret?", and I answered: "It's probably the type of music that I record, which you probably don't enjoy..." And she went: "I do everything that I can to be popular and it doesn't work..." And I: "That's because your music is too elitist and the people can't relate to it. You should try some popular composers... (laughs) Ask them for a song and you'll become popular..." But it wasn't like her, she really did love Vinicius de Moraes, Tom Jobim... Her audience was the jet set. And she was tired of that, she wanted to sing for the people...

AllBrazilianMusic - On the other hand, the more elaborate songs that you have recorded are the ones that will remain forever...
Ângela Maria
- I recorded A Chuva Caiu, which is the first song that Tom Jobim wrote with Luiz Bonfá. By that time, it stirred things, a bit, but didn't go up the charts. I have also recorded a lot of Caymmi, Ary, Vinicius...

AllBrazilianMusic - And you have performed with Dorival Caymmi....
Ângela Maria
- We did a show togehter in Rio de Janeiro. We were hired to run the show for a month, but it went on for eight or nine months, the venue was packed every day. Caymmi is so chic. He was very careful with me, because I was so young. Almost like my father.

AllBrazilianMusic - The hit Babalu was included in the album Quando os Astros se Encontram (1958) by chance...
Ângela Maria - Waldir Calmon suggested that song, because there was one track missing and he used to play the mambo and people used to like it. I told him I did not know the lyrics. When he got me the lyrics, we began rehearsing. Then I came up with those vocals and he liked it. I would do it better at each rehearsal. The technician was so excited that he recorded the rehearsal and said: "I doubt it could get any better." And that is the take in the album.

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