Rosa Passos infuses musical history and fresh beats in her songs

by Beacon Staff • November 7, 2007

Since Rosa Passos' career re-launch in 1985, the Brazilian singer/songwriter has been bringing audiences around the world the delight of bossa nova, a genre of music rooted in Brazilian samba that persuades its listeners to sway their hips as opposed to simply nod their heads. She has gained international attention through her original compositions as well as her interpretations of classics by artists like Joao Gilberto, Ary Barroso and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Passos will perform at the Berklee Performance Center on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 8:15 p.m. After performing a three-night series at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, her only other appearance in North America this year. Along with her catalog of original compositions, she will be playing the music of other important artists within the past 50 years of Brazilian popular music including Jobim, Djavan, Gilberto Gil and Joao Bosco backed by a group of Berklee students, faculty and alumni under the direction of professor Oscar Stagnaro.

In 2006, she released the album Rosa, a stripped-down CD much in the vein of Gilberto that beautifully portrays the ability of the voice and the guitar to complement each other. In 2004, she realeased Amorosa, a tribute in title to Gilberto's 1979 release: Amoroso. The album is her major label debut and features three songs recorded by Gilberto for Amoroso, as well as a song that she wrote for Gilberto entitled Essa Eacute; Pr'o Joao. In the song, she describes how she fell in love with Gilberto's music from the moment she listened to him on her turntable and how it changed her life. "Joao Gilberto, friend, I just wanted /To thank you for the lesson /Of your dissonant chords /Of your perfect singing," she sings.

Gilberto is considered to be the co-creator of bossa nova music, alongside composer and musician Antonio Carlos Jobim. Their collaboration with saxophonist Stan Getz in recording the album Getz/Gilberto helped bring Bossa Nova to international audiences in the mid-1960s. The album also made "The Girl from Ipanema," which was sung by Gilberto's wife, Astrud, one of the most well known bossa nova songs in the world. Gilberto led many of his songs by playing an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, picking the bass notes mainly with his thumb and the rest of the chords with his other fingers. It was the addition of his soft vocal delivery that helped characterize this style of music as gentle and rich in melody. Miles Davis, when referring to Gilberto, once said, "He could read a newspaper and sound good."

At an early age, Passos, growing up in the city of Salvador, heard an EP in which Gilberto played some of Jobim's compositions for the film Orfeu do Carnaval. Hearing this recording changed her.

She soon dropped her studies of the piano to become a singer and learn the violao (the classical guitar). Passos has been proclaiming her admiration for Gilberto since the lyrics in her first song on her first album, Recria