Inezita Barroso, 76, in full power

The singer releases an album with songs about São Paulo, prepares her autobiography and makes no concessions

Rodrigo Faour
Inezita Barroso is a living legend and still in acitvity. Her powerful voice keeps shining, now that she's 76 years-old, and she continues to promote folklore music and the crossover between classical and popular, which she's done for 50 years, now. Having studied the guitar, Inezita has recorded dozens of albums but never made any concessions. She is faithful to the style she created half a century ago.

The singer has just released two albums, Perfil de São Paulo (read review) and A Música Brasileira por Seus Autores e Intérpretes (read review), both featuring live recordings. She's also writing her autobiography and hosts a TV show. On top of it, Inezita will be a columnist on the virtual newspaper .

AllBrazilianMusic interviewed Inezita Barroso at home, in São Paulo. Read choice excerpts:

AllBrazilianMusic - Why did you decide to make a full album dedicated to the city of São Paulo?
Inezita Barroso
- I was hanging out with friends - Paulinho da Viola, Jamelão, and others - in a restaurant named Parreirinha, very traditional, downtown São Paulo. We were talking about the music made in São Paulo and I said that I regard the song Perfil de São Paulo as an anthem. Then someone suggested: "Why don't you make a CD with songs like that?" I thought it was a good idea and decided to pay homage to the city and state of São Paulo. The concert turned out very beautiful. So I recorded it live, by the end of 2000, accompanied by the regional do Izaías (group specialized in local folk music).

AllBrazilianMusic - Did you have any trouble to start out your career?
Inezita Barroso
- I used to sing at home, accompanying myself on the guitar, but when I said anything about doing it professionally, my folks would go: "No way!" They thought it was a bad thing, to make money as a performer. But I loved it, right? The first present I ever got in my life that I really enjoyed was this small radio. It opened up a whole world, to me. Those were the days of Francisco Alves, Carlos Galhardo, Silvio Caldas, Dalva de Oliveira... And when my grandmother moved to Rio de Janeiro, I spent my first holidays there, I was about 14... I watched all of the carnival groups parading on the streets. Those images stuck to my mind.

My family also took me to a Cassino where Carmen Miranda was performing. They dressed me up like an adult and I was blessed to see that concert. So I returned to São Paulo already thinking of becoming a singer for good. I only made it beacuse, when I turned 18, I married a man from Ceará (northeast Brazil) and his family was into music and encouraged me. I went to sing on the radio, which I did for seven years.

AllBrazilianMusic - You were regarded as a cult singer, back in the '50s, but you also managed to reach countryside fans...
Inezita Barroso
- Yes, I did. Fortunately, they always accepted me, in spite of my not being from the countryside. I never had any trouble singing for the rich or for the poor.

AllBrazilianMusic - In the '50s, when almost nobody owned a turntable to play LPs, the labels you had deals with released four Inezita Barroso 10-inch LPs... That's because you used to sell a lot of records, right?
Inezita Barroso
- I guess I did. But since when do recording companies give any money to singers like me? It's a 48-year career, I have made about 80 albums, among singles, 78rpms, LPs and CDs. And what did I get? Nothing. Not to mention the bootlegs. Some guy puts his hands on master tapes, gets a CD factory going and sells anyone's discs out on the street. There are 8 or 9 bootlegs of my albums around town. You do not pick the repertoire and do not get anything from it. I also hate compilations of my recordings. There's no criteria, orchestra mixed with folk, and they always inlcude Marvada Pinga and Lampião de Gás in all of them! That's terrible!

AllBrazilianMusic - Did you face a lot of hard times to remain faithful to your style and not make concessions?
Inezita Barroso
- There were plenty of temptations. Some would say: "Oh, that type of music won't sell. Why don't you record with keyboards and electric guitar?" To which I'd answer: "So I won't record anymore. I don't get any money and you want to make me record in a fashion so different than mine?". Major and small labels, they all tried to impose other styles on me. I am myself! It's no use going after commercial appeal because the fashion in music comes and goes. I am for the honest job.

AllBrazilianMusic - You were the first to rescue a number of folklore and country tunes, in a time when nobody seemed to care for that type of music...
Inezita Barroso
- I recorded a lot of Brazilian country hits, songs like Cavalo Preto, Menino da Porteira, Pingo D'Água, Cabocla Teresa and songwriters like Heckel Tavares, Waldemar Henrique, Jayme Ovalle, Manoel Bandeira, Catullo, Luciano Galê... nobody used to record their music. They thought: "That's not classical or popular music". They thought that folklore was as good as garbage. Later on, I met with Tom Jobim, Billy Blanco, Zé Vansconcellos and Garoto... They liked what I was doing, otherwise, they wouldn't acept me inside their circles.

AllBrazilianMusic - You have been in the music business for almost 50 years. How do you evaluate your trajectory?
Inezita Barroso
- Brazilian music is worth it. It's like a mission, to me. We must make the children enjoy it. Or else, we will have stupid, useless music, no lyrics, no rhythm. A country so rich in musical diversity can't become square.