The Queen of Choro turns 80

Ademilde Fonseca's 80 years of age will be celebrated in different cities. She claims that nobody ever sang the choro better than herself

Rodrigo Faour
She was the creator of the sung choro. She was also the first northeastern singer to take over the country on board of the graceful style which, by the way, is quite hard to sing. To this day, Ademilde Fonseca preserves her privileged voice and impeccable diction. The Queen of Choro in her own right turns 80 next Sunday in excellent shape. On account of that, shows and parties in São Paulo and in her native Natal (capital of Rio Grande do Norte) will celebrate her life and career.

At age 21, in 1942, Ademilde was already settled in Rio de Janeiro, and decided to sing in a party a song that she had known from her childhood: the choro Tico-Tico no Fubá (Zequinha de Abreu). Totally hip. She was soon taken to recording studios and started releasing one standard after another: Apanhei-te Cavaquinho, Urubu Malandro, Rato, Rato, Teco-Teco, Pedacinhos do Céu, Acariciando, Brasileirinho and Delicado.

Along these 59 years in music, Ademilde admits to AllBrazilianMusic that she didn't go farther because she's too lazy. And that only recently she has realized her importance and that nobody ever did the choro quite like her. At the same time, she's no stranger to newer musical trends like the funk and the rap. For her, everything is natural, as part of the changes in the world of music. Read excerpts from the interview.

AllBrazilianMusic - How do you relate to time, within all the transformations that happened in Brazilian music during the past 80 years?
Ademilde Fonseca
- From the moment when my career was peaking until now, I can say that I'm a calm person. Of course, sometimes I do miss the fans, the applause... being more active. I have sung since I was four. The artists need the applause a lot more than the cash - although we do fight for better payment. But in Brazil, when artists grow old, the payment goes smaller, when it should increase, right? (laughs) I can say that time has not hurt me because I was never too complicated. If there's a place for me to sing, I'll go and sing. Otherwise, I'll just keep my cool. Changes are natural, the new generations are coming and passing on their messages.

AllBrazilianMusic - Your voice has always been technically perfect; do you find it strange to see funk and rap taking over MPB?
Ademilde Fonseca
- It is spoken, not sung, the music that is dominating everything. The words are said in a fast manner, the lyrics are about the moment, the favelas, the city, politics... Everything is worth it in music. We cannot attack them, because everything is in accordance with our reality. The praising of the voice is old-fashioned. Today, people would rather watch some naked girl singing "a little slap won't hurt..." (laughs) But this is a sign of the times.

AllBrazilianMusic - Did you ever want to perform styles other than the choro?
Ademilde Fonseca
- I can do what I want, now that I'm old enough. Today, I can sing songs like De Volta pro Aconhego, Gosto Que Me Enrosco and Jura. But the public demands that I do the choro, even because no one is doing it, anymore. I have been listening to my own recordings on CDs, and I can say to you right here: nobody sings the choro, no sir! (laughs) Cause it ain't easy.

AllBrazilianMusic - Do you think that the label Queen of Choro helped or damaged your career?
Ademilde Fonseca
- It harmed me, in a way, because people will call you to do that, only. So the Queen of Choro could only go to choro clubs. Maybe I could have fought that, but I'm really lazy by all means... (laughs)

AllBrazilianMusic - Did you undergo a lot of prejudice because you were a singer/actress by the late 1930s?
Ademilde Fonseca
- My family did not bug me, because although I was 17, I was married, already. My husband was a musician, so he owned me, then (laughs). He played the guitar very well. Besides, he taught me a lot, music-wise. He used to encourage me. There was some pressure before I got married. But then I myself developed this kind of prejudice, thinking that a married woman should stay home and take care of the babies, and all. Then we moved to Rio and it was too hard to make a living, so I tried my luck on the radio. I sang Batucada em Mangueira and launched my career.

AllBrazilianMusic - Who were the finest instrumentalists to you? And who are the singers that you can't help but stop and listen to?
Ademilde Fonseca - I think Altamiro Carrilho is the greatest flutist ever, but Abel Ferreira (clarinet) was amazing, as well. Among the singers, though, there was only one that I had to quit whatever it was that I was doing and listen to him: Orlando Silva. To get out of the Brazilian realms, a bit, I was mad about Lucho Gatica... But that was then, because he is not the same, no more - in fact, all of us veterans... unfortunately, time flies... (laughs)