Friday, September 23, 2016 ♦ 8:00 PM
4544 N Lincoln Ave · Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall · 773.728.6000
The remarkable Brazilian singer Dona Onete (nee Ionete da Silveira Gama) is 78 years old, and she makes her Chicago debut behind the release of her second album Banzeiro. She's not exactly a late-bloomer, even though she only recorded her first album when she was 73. She was born in 1938 in Cachoeira do Ararí, a small town in the Amazon delta near Belém, the capital and largest city in the state of Pará. She listened to music and attended dances as a child, and when she was 11 she began singing while washing clothes along the river. A few years later she would perform sambas and other regional styles in a local bar for beer. She went on to become a professor of history and Amazonian studies at the university in the town of Igaparé Miri, where she grew up. Her deep interest in music and dance led to her election as Municipal Secretary of Culture in the city. While serving she began to write songs, and she's credited with creating the hybrid style called “carimbó chamegado.” She wrote more than 300 songs during her public service career, and when she retired she and her husband moved to Belém, they planned to live out their days quietly, but the urge to perform, just for fun, whether singing to herself along the river or in a local bar, led to her discovery by a Belém band who convinced her to join forces. Her 2012 debut Feitiço Caboclo put her on the map; she began touring around Brazil and once the record was released in the UK she began playing in Europe. There's nothing polite about Dona Onete's singing—despite its age her appealingly weathered voice remains agile, powerful, and full of zest, and her music moves at a brisk dance floor-filling pace. The carimbo, after all, was the rhythm at the heart of Brazil's lambada craze. But Onete's music is not a novelty: its fast-paced tempo and sashaying grooves are created with chiming, chugging guitar lines, spry horns, and a rhythm section churning out irresistible loping grooves. It's impossible to miss the African roots of the music, a crucial taproot of nearly every Brazilian form, but despite the fascinating folkloric quality of the music, nothing eclipses Onete's charm and vitality.