Brazil’s Luisa Maita on Samba, São Paulo, and Speedy Beats
Brazilian Luísa Maita’s alluring, samba-rooted vocals may conjure up for most Americans images of Rio beaches, but Maita, who performs at Artisphere Saturday, is a city girl who has spent more time on the streets of her hometown of São Paulo, Brazil. This daughter of a parking lot owner/musician father and a record producer mother has been hearing and singing music all her life, a background reflected on her 2010 debut, Lero-Lero. Maita chatted with Arts Desk via email about her music.
In the four years since her debut release, Maita says she has “been working on a new album, composing a lot. I have also worked on a number of collaborations with artists in Brazil as well as international artists such as Sarazino from Algeria and Ecuador and Da Lata from the UK. I have a big collaboration I am working on with a very famous electronic music group, but I can’t tell you who it is yet as it is a secret.” Before the current tour, she toured the U.S. three times.
Maita gets inspirations from her hometown. “I still live in São Paulo, and it is still a place that I love and that inspires me. I think São Paulo is the opposite of all the cliches about Brazil…we don’t have beautiful, romantic beaches, or colorful Portuguese architecture. But it is a city that is alive and full of energy. It is not a museum or a tourist attraction…it is full of life. All the graffiti on streets, the aggressive traffic, it's like being a part of the real world. São Paulo is the epicenter for connecting the rest of the world to Brazil and to connecting all of the parts of Brazil to each other. Of course this turned São Paulo into a thriving city, with a lot of life going on there. This energy, this creative spirit and drive influences me and all the music that comes from there.”
While Maita’s music sometimes features her singing in a quiet, breathy tone over acoustic guitar, she has also released remixes that incorporate speedy programmed beats. This isn't just a marketing technique. Maita says. “Since I was a teenager I've liked to go out to [dance]clubs. I really like doing that. I especially like good electronic music.” At home she says she recently “was listening to D'angelo. Usually I listen a lot of Brazilian music like bossa nova greats João Gilberto and João Donato. I listen to jazz music like Nina Simone, Shirley Horn, and Betty Carter and I like pop, electronic, and rock music sometimes.”
Maita feels comfortable with how she and her music fit in pop culture. “When I did my first album, it was the most modern thing to me and in the same time I did from my heart, with my roots. Now Brazil has a lot of electronic and rap music, and I'm very interested in that. There's a real unique style to electronic Brazilian music. I think those flavors are coming out more and more in my live material and new songs,” she says. “My music will always be influenced by samba, bossa nova, Afro-Brazilian music in general,” she adds, “but now with more electronic and rap influences. I like that: playing music with my roots yet understanding the spirit of the moment in my own way.”
Luisa Maita performs Saturday March 29 at 8 p.m. at the Artisphere Dome Theatre, 1101 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia . $18. 703-875-1100
Luisa Maita photo by Joao Wainer courtesy Cumbancha Records