Luiz Melodia plays raps and boleros on new disc

Rio native, who turns 50 in January, is finishing a new album with guests Elza Soares and (son) Mahal

Tom Cardoso
Luiz Melodia turns 50 on January 7, but he’s not all fussy about it. No big concerts with famous guests and career hits. "At best, I’ll throw a little party for my close friends", says the songwriter, who is choosing the repertoire for his next release, Retrato de Artista Quando Coisa (something like, Portrait of an Artist as a Thing), whose title was taken from a Manoel de Barros poem that has been transformed by Melodia into a powerful samba/jazz.

Speaking of samba, the composer intends to make a full album totally dedicated to the style – a project that has been postponed forever. If the thermometer should be the sambas that Luiz has beautifully recorded along his career, chances are that it will be a fantastic album.

"I reckon the world of samba is filled with opportunist cats. There are too many self-appointed samba musicians, nowadays, but just a few of them represent the style with dignity", he complains, only to recover his good humor when learning that (friend) Jards Macalé is making an album with sambas by Moreira da Silva. "Really? How great. Macalé is fit to make a samba-only record. Actually, he is fit to record whatever he likes", he praises.

Back to his new disc, which will start being recorded on Indie Records (who put out his unplugged CD last year) in January, Melodia has decided that he needs Elza Soares on the track Cara Feia, claiming that he cannot picture it without the diva’s voice. "She’s got the perfect key for this song, it would be the perfect match", he goes. As a bloco (percussion groups whose performance is restricted to carnival time) regular in the 60s and 70s, the songwriter will retrieve an old bloco hit that his father, also a samba musician, used to sing. "I can’t remember the name of the song, right now, but it was among my favorites during childhood. I’ll turn it into a standard reggae song".

Rap and Bolero
By listening to his son Mahal delivering raps with friends at home, Melodia invited him to perform in one of the tracks, the hip hop Lorena, written with guitarrist Renato Piau. "Mahal is blossoming as a great poet, his lyrics are so cool", drools the dad. Papa Kid, who has written a number of Melodia hits like Divina Criatura, Mulato Latino and Ilha de Cuba, appears with the bolero Ondas de Chamapgne. "In my days, listening to boleros on the radio was about the only leisure enjoyed by the poor, so I have been influenced by it".

On of the cards up Melodia’s sleeve will be the recording of Feto, Poeta do Morro, a song he wrote in the 70s, but didn’t make it to his 1973 LP Pérola Negra due to censorship. "The military had a problem with this song, plus Farrapo Humano and Pra Quietar. My manager at the time suffered to "release" the two songs. But Feto, Poeta do Morro was inexplicably left out".

Melodia still goes up the hill (Morro de São Carlos, where he was born and raised) to visit his sisters and friends. But violence has been shortening the time that he spends there. "When you are born there, you got roots there, but if I could, I would take all of my relatives away from the hill. Things are too dangerous, now, and we don’t know anymore who is or who isn’t a drug dealer. I miss the times when anyone could just come here and stay up all night with the samba musicians. Those were the days."