RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 27, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Time seems to run at a different
pace for Elza Soares. The Brazilian samba legend is 81 but on the eve of a
Rio de Janeiro concert for her recent album “Deus e Mulher” (“God is a
woman”), you wouldn’t think so.
“Let me tell you, my age has nothing in common with the way I feel,” she
told AFP by telephone ahead of Tuesday’s show in her native city.
In her unmistakable tone, Soares described herself as excited as ever to
be going on stage, even if she now sings seated.
“I consider this a good moment, an extraordinary one in my career. I don’t
know if it’s the best. The best was when I started. Things are always
marvelous when you start,” she said.
Soares’s powerful voice is an integral part of Brazilian music.
She embodied samba and went on to play a major role in cutting edge modern
interpretations of the sensual, rhythmic Brazilian sound, mixing in
everything from bossa nova to jazz, Afrobeat and funk.
Her sheer longevity and extraordinarily dramatic personal life —
including multiple tragedies and a turbulent marriage to the much-loved
footballer Garrincha — have made her nothing less than a national figure.
The self-confidence and dedication to music making that have carried her
along that epic road clearly remain intact. Asked if there were any love
interests in her life now, she joked: “I’m dating Elza Soares.”
“I’m in love with her, this incredible woman. I’m going to ask to marry
her,” she said.
– ‘Hurricane of life’ –
Her latest album, released in May, draws on a recent surge in debates
about the role of women in Brazil, where rapes and femicide — the
intentional killing of women — are growing.
As a black woman in a Brazil where about half the population identifies as
non-white, but power and wealth is concentrated among whites, she carries
even more moral authority.
“We live in a country with horrendous prejudices,” she said. “It’s my
country, my land and I love it so much, but we almost have no rights. Poor,
black, female — what rights are there?”
One of the songs on the album, “What is Silent,” is dedicated to those
fighting for society’s least powerful.
“God is Woman” follows success with “A mulher do fim do mundo” (“The Woman
from the End of the World”) in 2015, which won a Latin Grammy for Best Album
of Popular Brazilian Music.
The albums have been widely praised for their inventiveness.
Her producer Guilherme Kastrup said that musically Soares hasn’t lost a
beat, with a “way of thinking that is very contemporary.”
“She’s a hurricane of life,” he said.
“I was always very daring, I was never afraid of anything and I’m going
forward,” she said.
“I think that’s my triumph. It’s not possible to stay put in one place. If
things are bad, then go forward. It’s what I always do.”
Soares said she was cheered by the rise of Brazilian feminism and LGBT
“I see women becoming more open, with greater ability to express
themselves, to demand more, to ask for their rights,” she said.
“The enslavement of women is over. Without women, you have no world…
That’s why God is a woman, God is mother.”
– Living legend –
The phrase “living legend” accurately describes Soares, who apart from her
newest album is also the subject of a current musical called “Elza,” which
tells the story of her journey from a tough childhood in a Rio de Janeiro
favela to the big stage.
“It was a challenge. I felt the weight of responsibility in developing the
role in a way that she would be able to recognize herself,” said Larissa Luz,
who plays the singer.
“The hardest part was dealing with the sensitive issues, like the loss of
a child. But it was magical. I felt she was with me.”
A biography is due out next year.
Soares, though, looks to the moment, not to the past.
“Let me tell you, I don’t make plans. If something happens, that’s because
it had to happen,” she said.
“I always say I’m in the now. Yesterday’s gone and I don’t know what will
be tomorrow. My name is ‘now.'”