Fernanda Porto: drum‘n’bass meets bossa nova

Former Köellreuter pupil is hot in London and gets ready to take over Brazil

Carlos Calado
Seven years ago, when she interrupted her career as an MPB vocalist, Fernanda Porto didn't figure that she would hear her own voice on the TV in Brazil. Or that one of her songs would become a hit in the electronica scene in London. "It's still strange, to me. How come a song in Portuguese fits the Londonese envirnment so well?" asks a surprised Fernanda, 33 years old, pianist, born in São Paulo, mentioning the feedback she got from Sambassim - a bossa nova with a drum'n'bass beat, remixed by DJ Patife.

The track was included on the vinyl Brasil EP, released on the English label V Recordings. "Since Sambassim went big in London, I have talked to a number of British producers. Chances are that my album should come out on a British label. Roni Size has shown interest", she says, adding that electronica experts contacted her after listening to an acoustic version of Sambassim performed live at the Kiss FM (London) studios.

She's also present on a compilation being prepared on Trama (Brazilian label). "Maybe they will include a track with DJ Marky and the four tracks from Brasil EP.", says Fernanda. On the other hand, Lua Discos and YB (Brazilian labels) are also interested in releasing Vilarejo Íntimo, her unreleased album. Brazilian producer Dudu Marote is trying to get her to sign up to a major label. "He's very aware of the market and has talked me into giving it a try", the composer claims.

Subjective, personal and brand new style
As opposed to many DJs and producers in the electronica scene, Fernanda has had a consistent musical education. Besides studying opera, piano, electric guitar and saxophone, she has studied composition and contemporary music with respected German songwriter, Hans-Joachim Köellreuter - professor of masters like Tom Jobim, Guerra-Peixe and Cláudio Santoro. Almost 15 years later, after listening to the music of his former pupil, the professor seemed thrilled: "I believe that Fernanda has managed to give a precious contribution to Brazilian music", he wrote on her bio, highlighting the "subjective, personal and brand new style" that Fernanda has.

"He guaranteed my freedom. We used to work regardless of musical metrics, and the results were very complex. Köellreuter relates to electronica in a fashion that I appreciate a lot", says Fernanda, admiting that, on a first moment, she was afraid to let her mentor know about her new phase.

In 1994, disappointed with the music industry in Brazil, Fernanda kept away from stages for four years. "I used to have a problem dealing with agents and managers. I was immature and too emotional. Now I don't care", says the former MPB artist who started making a living out of soudtracks. "The other day I counted my soundtracks and realized I had written 260 of them. I was depressed, because it should have turned me into a millionaire, by now. At least, I got to build a small studio, which allows me to work more independently."

In 1997, she met with DJ Xerxes (of the project XRS Land) and had her first contact with drum'n'bass. They started to work together, but it didn't happen, then. "I have walked a lonely road. It was even a bit sad. I hoped I would have worked with more people in Brazil, but I had to do it all by myself. Since it was hard to get information on that type of music around here, I spent a month in London", the songwriter reveals. Only in January of 2000, when she already had a demo-CD, she started to show her music to DJs like Patife and Xerxes, who is now performing with her.

"Patife took two months to listen to my CD, but when he did, he remixed Sambassim straight away", says Fernanda, pointing out that the DJ increased his prestige abroad thanks to her recording. "He was nominated Best International Drum'n'Bass Producer because of that song. I think that Patife really "explained" the song. My version carried too much information. There wasn't a proper place for the chorus. He did it very well", the singer acknowledges, while preparing a new mix: maracatu with drum'n'bass. "I love writing songs. I wouldn't be satisfied if I had to sing all the time."