Celso Viáfora embraces samba on new album

Songwriter records on Jam Music with Beth Carvalho, Ivan Lins and favela percussionists

Rodrigo Faour
Although he has been in the music business for 20 years, only in the past five has Celso Viáfora started to enjoy more media visibility. During this period, he has put out two CDs - Paixão Candeeira 30'' excerpts (1995) and Cara do Brasil 30'' excerpts (1999) -, written in collaboration with big MPB names like Ivan Lins and Guinga, and has had his songs recorded by artists like Ney Matogrosso. Right now, the São Paulo-born songwriter is in Rio de Janeiro, finishing the new album that should be released between July and August on Jam Music. There should be 12 tracks, out of which 9 were written by Viáfora. Two were written with Ivan Lins and one with Vicente Barreto. The news is that this album will be based on samba.

But Celso himself does not know exactly why he has been writing sambas. "I just noticed that most of the songs I'd written lately were different types of samba when I gathered 16 songs to pick twelve for the album. Maybe that's because I've been listening to a lot of Zeca Pagodinho, Arlindo Cruz and Almir Guineto on the radio. I listen to the radio a lot, when I'm in my car. But then, again, all of the tracks that attracted attention on my previous albums were sambas", he says. Celso is referring to Luz do Meu Samba and Por um Fio (from Paixão Candeeira) and O Baque do Pilão (from Cara do Brasil).

Regardless of being a São Paulo citizen, Celso has always been mad about the samba from Rio. Suffice to say that he loves Salgueiro samba school so much that he travels to Rio during Carnival only to see it parading. "I have been a regular at Carnival parades in Rio for 25 years", he says. But he only got in touch with his favorite samba school two years ago, when he taped the Por Um Fio video at the school's headquarters.

In addition, Celso Viáfora made friends with the musicians who accompany Beth Carvalho, with the group Fundo de Quintal and with late singer João Nogueira in 1999, which are more reasons to explain his samba phase.

Speaking of Beth Carvalho, the singer recorded the track Chora with Viáfora. Arlindo Cruz played the banjo on Dia Lindo, and Ivan Lins and vocal group MPB-4 recorded on Diplomação (written by Celso and Ivan). The songwriter admits that the collaboration with Ivan Lins helped turning him famous. "I'm sure that this is great for my career, because Ivan is so generous. He recorded four songs that we wrote together on his latest album, A Cor do Pôr do Sol 30'' excerpts . The two have written about 30 songs together since last year.

Indignation and optimism
An interesting point on Viáfora's music is the social preoccupation shown in many of his songs - a strategy that has been left aside by most MPB songwriters, these days. Although the new album is more on the romantic side, politics appears on Sonhando no Trilho and Papai Noel de Camiseta (previously recorded by Ivan Lins on Um Novo Tempo). "Indignation comes and goes in this country. When the power is rotten, the people can be surprising", he says.

The songwriter is referring specifically to something that happened recently. Two years ago, percussionist Dinho Rodrigues reunited a group of kids from a favela in São Paulo and started a percussion band. Today, over 200 kids are part of the project, and ten of them are traveling to Rio to participate in the track Papai Noel de Camiseta (or Santa Claus on a T-shirt). "The project went very well in the favela. Besides the music, they started recycling the garbage, built a factory to make Carnival props for samba schools and a movie theater. Crime rates decreased in the area. Such examples help us believe in the future", Celso explains.

"We were going to record the track in São Paulo, but I managed to get sponsorship for the plane tickets and I thought it would be great if they could travel to Rio, after all, they had never seen the sea before, and the studio is close to the beach. It's going to be like a dream for them.", he says.

According to the songwriter, bringing the kids to Rio shows them that their efforts are being rewarded. "It's not just about noticing that crime doesn't pay off, but that no-crime pays off! (laughs). The community seems like the new black refuge in São Paulo. It is spontaneous. In spite of the indignation with the rotting of political powers, I believe in the country because what the people do usually works out. It is a mix of indignation and optimism", he sums up.