Marisa and Donato: omnipresent in 2000

The singer affirms her pop muse status, supported by unusual marketing strategies, while the pianist and songwriter has one of the most productive years in his career

Tom Cardoso e Carlos Calado
There was much talk - favorable, that is - about them in 2000. After a four-year break, Marisa Monte managed to attract full attention to her fifth album, Memórias, Crônicas e Declarações de Amor; almost a million copies sold, so far, in a year when the record industry in Brazil suffered considerable economic distress. Without appearing on TV shows, striking poses for fancy magazines or getting involved in polemic issues, Marisa gets to be as popular as Roberto Carlos, who has been a star for about 30 years. One of the guests in her album (he appeared in the tracks Abololô and Sou Seu Sabiá) is João Donato, another artist who is not known for making any concessions and also enjoyed great media exposure in 2000. He recorded like there was no tomorrow and wrapped the year receiving the prestigious Shell Awards for lifetime achievement.

"I am not building up a career, but a life". This has been Marisa Monte’s motto ever since journalist Nelson Motta introduced her to the public by the late 80s. The singer has taken very few questionable decisions along the years, carefully planning each production and promotion step for her albums, never allowing her image and persona to be overexposed. Thus, she was turned into a cult and pop singer, both at once. A phenomenon which can also be explained by her voice, the choice of repertoire, the mindful production of her albums and planning of local and international tours.

If she depended on the support and musical wit of Nelson Motta in the beginning of her journey, today Marisa shows a remarkable sense of independence: for example, she took all of the pictures on the new disc’s booklet herself. The production was split (yet once again) with Arto Lindsay and more than half of the songs in it were written with Arnaldo Antunes and Carlinhos Brown, currently two of the most hyped BPM songwriters.

Before releasing Memórias..., Marisa had been praised by critics and audiences for having produced the CD Tudo Azul, with samba school Portela’s Old School performers, early in 2000. After a short Brazilian tour with the samba group and a few interviews on the TV, the singer vanished as if by magic. After all, she was getting too visible and the mystery on her upcoming album had to be kept.

Marisa isn’t hot only in Brazil - her fifth album has been released in 25 countries. In New York City, where she performed for over 3 thousand people at the Beacon Theatre in October, she has also crafted a misleading image - while her CD can be heard at venues in the Soho and the Village, she is referred to, by the local papers, as “Brazil’s Madonna”.

João Donato, on the other hand, has been around way much longer - he is regarded as a bossa nova forerunner - but the energy that he displayed along 2000 was that of a kid. The Shell Award for Lifetime Achievement received last December was a stylish way to finish a specially productive year. Moreover: he cheered up his fans with a surprisingly fast recovery, after having had a heart attack by the end of 1999.

Donato’s musical reaction started out in April, with the release of the CD Amazonas, printed in Brazil and abroad on American label Elephant Records. Just like he used to do in the 60s, João chose to play with a trio, where he feels very much at home.

The good feedback on that album, especially in the USA, has granted Donato the recording of a new one on the same label, scheduled for September 2001. But before that, by March, Elephant Records might put out a CD that the bossa nova master recorded live, along with the Orquestra Jazz Sinfônica, in April of 2000, in São Paulo.

Concerning recordings, Donato’s economic piano could also be heard in other artists’ productions released last year, such as Mémórias... (Marisa Monte), Tanto Tempo (Bebel Gilberto), Entidade Urbana (Fernanda Abreu) and Máquina de Escrever Música (Moreno Veloso) . Also noteworthy was Donato’s performance at the Free Jazz Festival, in October.