In the early 1980s when rock and roll exploded in Brazil Marisa de Azevedo Monte wanted to be an opera singer. At 14 she started studying lyric singing and took the entrance exam for the National Holiday School but shortly thereafter she discovered she loved Bilie Holiday and the new Brazilian rock as much as Marisa Callas. Carlos Monte, an economist, was a cultural director of the Portela Samba school in the 1970s and introduced her to the finest sambas from Rio de Janeiro.
After appearing with fellow students from the Colégio Andrews in a school production of “The Rocky Horror Show” directed by Miguel Falabella. Marisa began to sing informally in local bars. At 19 she went to live in Rome to further her studies of lyric singing and make contact with the world of opera but after a few months she decided to go back to Brazil and become a pop singer. While living in Rome she sang in little bars and one night in Venice while singing with an Italian guitar player she was heard by the producer Nelson Motta. She would meet him again on her return to Brazil and he would direct her first professional shows that were produced by Lula Buarque de Hollanda. From her first show at Rio’s Jazzmania she was hailed as a new sensation on the Brazilian musical scene.
Having sold out a series of short runs at theaters in Rio Marisa began to make appearances in other Brazilian capitals where she met with critical acclaim popular success.
All the while she was honing her style and expanding her repertory that ranged from Brazilian rock to classics of jazzand blues to traditional samba, from Phili Glass to the titãs, from Lobão to Gershwin. She rapidly became a cult figure among the young rock audience and the older jazz and Brazilian Popular Music crowd. Excited by her talent and her definition defying originality, the critics referred to her as ecletic In an attempt to describe the diversity and quality of her repertoire.
A year later she made a TV special shot live at the Villa Lobos Theater and directed by Walter Salles (Central Station) and Nelson Motta that was broadcast on Manchete TV before her first record was released in January 1989. She was one of the rare Brazilian artists to record her first record live. “MM” contained samba, jazz, funk, blues, soul, bossa nova and rock, ranging across different generations and styles. She had a huge national hit with “Bem Que Se Quis”, a Brazilian version of a song by the Italian singer Pino Daniele and was greeted as the revelation of the year. She sold more than 500.000 records and became a Brazilian music star.
If on her first record Marisa was a success as an ecletic singer, a versatile interpreter who stamped her own style and personality on great songs from contrasting genres, on her second record appearances by Riyuichi Sakamoto, saxophonist John Zom and many of them written with Nando Reis and Arnaldo Antunes. She revealed herself to be a songwriter of great talent and a highly personal style that reflected her many musical interests. This record sold even more than her first an she had a hit with “Beija Eu” written with Arnaldo Antynes and Arto Lindsay. She went on a wildly successful national tour.
Marisa’s first performance outside Brazil was at in New York, at the sophisticated alternative club Knitting Factory. While tourist small clubs and theaters in the United States and Europe she impressed a new set of critics, again being hailed as a revelation. She was praised for the quality of her music, the creative vigor of her live shows and for the range and diversity of rhythms ans styles, drawn from racially and culturally diverse Brazilian music. In 1995 she recorded a duet for “Red, Hot and Rio” with David Byrne.
Her third album “Rose and Charcoal”, recorded in New York and Rio de Janeiro, marked the beginning of her partnership with Carlinhos Brown with three great songs they co-wrote and further deepened her blend of new Brazilian rhythms ans classic forms taken from samba, jazz, blues and funk. Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass were guests on this record that she produced with Arto Lindsay.
Her next record “Barulhinho Bom”: was born out of a long international tour. It was recorded in Rio de Janeiro and New York and provoked controversy with a cover by porno-naif artist Carlos Zefiro. A double record, with one disc recorded live and one in the studio and both new songs and covers of older ones it reflected a growing closeness with the world of samba in Rio De Janeiro. Marisa became involved with different samba schools and generations. She was drawn to old samba artists from the Portela Samba School and the samba pop of the Novos Baianos. With this show Marisa raised her profile on the international scene appearing at major European summer festivals and performing for large crowds in the United States. For the first time she played in Japan.
Marisa then established herself as a producer with the critically praised “Omelette Man” by Carlinhos Brown and received the highest accolades for “Tudo Azul” with the historic Old Guard of Portela, documenting some of the deepest roots of Brazilian music and bringing samba to the attention of a new generation.
Her next CD “Memories, Chronicles and Declarations of Love”(2000) was released on her own Phonomotor label and sold more than a million copies, won a Latin Grammy for Best Pop Album, won best video at Brazilian MTV awards for “Amor I Love You”, and was one of the biggest hits of the year. Her tour of 150 shows in Brazil and abroad was captured on a DVD(2011).
Marisa’s passion for samba prompted two more releases on Phonomotor: debut records for Argemiro Patrocínio and Seu Jair do Cavaquinho, legendary samba figures from the Old Guard of Portela who, though both in their 80’s had never made records of their own, Marisa produced Argemiro’s record.
In April of 2002, she recorded songs under the name “Tribalistas” with Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes that the trio had been writing together over the course of a year. The recorded, home and hand made, was co-produced by Alê Siqueira. Without giving a single interview, without performing or appearing on TV the record quickly sold one million copies in Brazil. It will be Marisa’s first hit in France and Italy with the songs “Já sei Namorar” e “Velha Infância”.
After the birth of her first child in 2002 Marisa dedicated herself to two parallel and very different projects: an in depth study of the samba from Rio and writing new songs with Carlinhos Brown, Arnaldo Antunes, Nando Reis, Adriana Calcanhotto, Marcelo Yuka e Seu Jorge that resulted in the simultaneous release in 2006 of “Universe all Around Me” and “Infinite Particular”. One was made up of sambas by historical and contemporary composers and the other of new songs and partnerships and both were critical and popular successes. After six years she made a triumphant return to the stage.
After a 19 year career Marisa had sold 9 million records in Brazil and abroad and her audience continues to grow. She keeps winning prizes and is recognized as one of the great singers of modern Brazilian popular music, bridging the gap between styles and musical generations and continuing to surprise the public with her originality and the quality of her singing, her talent as a composer and the solidity of her musical choices.
The secret to her success is clear and well known: on her records and in her shows never makes concessions and has always sung what she wanted, how she wanted, with whom she wanted and when she wanted. Surrounding herself with great musicians she is always renewing her repertoire. Averse to the world of celebrities, even though she is one of the most popular artists in Brazil and a powerful independent she leads a discrete life in Rio de Janeiro or traveling the world. On the occasion of every new record she speaks about her work, comments on her career and discusses her ideas.”