Elsa Soares

Image: Regina Silveira
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By HENRY BURNETT*

Commentary on the newly released album "Elza Soares & João de Aquino”

How many times can a woman reinvent herself? In the case of Elza Soares, the question not only echoes her infinite resurrections, but also forces us to try to understand her extemporaneous dimension, because the singer's “new” album, in a duo with guitarist João de Aquino, was recorded in 1990, just a little while ago. of 30 years. In it, from the first listen, that's what it's about, we have a tragic reinvention out of time.

Before the reader thinks that this is about the “tragedy of Elza Soares”, that is, her “miserable”, “suffering” and “desperate” life, I warn you that all these adjectives only serve to help us understand that the This tragic experience has always served as a motto for its incalculable power to emerge countless times, haunting the conservative country that shelters it without swallowing it, the same Brazil that did not have and perhaps still does not have a full idea of ​​what the suffering that affirms life instead of denying it, that is, that he does not know Elza Soares. The record of this perception is Nietzschean, with all the ink of the impetuous youth of the philosopher who turned the meaning of the tragic inside out.

In him, as in her, life is the sole material of art and thought, since it is in the body that every game is played, it is the flesh that suffers and is transfigured in front of stunned contemporaries. Around them, death is always circling everything like a company that does not give truce, but this finitude, which everyone has to deny and which frightens and disturbs empty lives, refounds their everyday existence as an ally at the same time astonishing and affirming.

In my favorite track, “Hoje”, by Taiguara [who else but another powerful deviant?], Elza delivers: “I carry in my body the marks of my time / My despair, life in a moment / The cesspool, the hunger, pain, the end of the world”. Sad? In the same song, the response to this anguish turns her inside out: “Ah, luck/ I didn't want my youth lost like that/ I didn't want to walk around dying for life/ I didn't want to love like that/ Like I loved you”. Suffering is not a choice, the hardships overcome are not sublimated wills.

Deep down, everything composes an inescapable destiny that is not hers alone, but of all those excluded from this sad country that today no longer hides the pride of its misery – and, after all, what luck is that? life itself. Elza has been addressing all of us for decades trying to awaken us from our national apathy by parading her life force; no overall effect.

José Miguel Wisnik expressed his impression of the album on his Instagram: “At some point in the 1990s I went to Sesc Pompéia to see a show by Elza Soares with guitarist João de Aquino. Elza had withdrawn from the world for about ten years, after the tragic death of her son with Mané Garrincha. On the way, I thought she was going to see and hear nothing less than the splendid singer from the samba museum. But what happened there was an unforgettable and haunting experience, which would open unexpected paths in my own life. Who was on that stage was one of the most extraordinary singers of our time, raising her voice with a dizzying multiplicity of registers, surfing over the particles of rhythm like someone who masters the dance of electrons and going to the abyssal depths of the songs with a unique intelligence [… ]. What would happen next was already there, the hard fall giving us goosebumps from the coccyx to the neck, the singer of the millennium, the woman at the end of the world being reborn for another one of her seven thousand lives. I thought that night would remain forever lonely in my burning memory. But here comes this unexpected gift, the album Elza Soares & Joao de Aquino, capturing that moment intact”.

Here is the key to his comment: death and music are always united in a work that insists on staying alive, interpreting Brazil from within a unique experience. It is no coincidence that the absolute majority of composers recorded on the album are black. When they are not, like Chico Buarque, of whom Elza sings “Meu guri”, they describe characters who are. Another example is the great revelation of the album, the recording of “Como uma onda” (Lulu Santos and Nelson Motta), which comes out not as an FM success, but as a reflection on time, hovering over the other songs as a guide.

The truth is that you don't hear any record that we can call medium, not a single song out of place. The disc could have been recorded today at the same SESC Pompéia, such is its vigor and timelessness. João de Aquino's superb guitar is precise and rasping – how can you accompany Elza without being so? – And it frames a parade of jewels of the Brazilian song strung together to perfection, many of which have never been heard in his voice. Let's try a one-by-one approach.

(1) “Drão” (Gil) opens the record by affirming love and all its contradictions. How can we not remember Elza's loves and the social judgments she suffered as an outcast under the narrow morality of a… religious society? “You have to die to germinate” this seed of illusion that she has always cultivated.

(2) “Canário da terra” (João de Aquino & Aldir Blanc) arrives warning that “We miss you / But it’s okay”. It's the future that matters, the look ahead, the daily rebirth. Aldir's lyrics are part of the gallery of his most refined chronicles, on a par with “Rancho da Goiabada” and “Incompatibilidade de genios”. But I leave the reader with the prophetic phrase and its relationship with our recent legal world: “Instead of private / Information leaks / Honor is bought at auction”.

(3) “Hoje” (Taiguara) is the album's flagship song, the most revealing of the tragic motifs played here. It seems to have been written for her, as so many would be from then on. It's a shock to hear from her these days the verse “Today men without fear dock in the future”. Let's hope it was a prediction of this witch so many times burned and reborn like the phoenix. Her presence in Brazil today is imperative.

(4) “Slow down with the dishes” remains blocked on platforms for legal reasons.

(5) “Super Homem, the song” (Gil) is another rarity in Elza's voice, but it is not accidental. The timeless Gil finds in Elza one of the maximum expressions for his transverse masculinity, anticipated by decades to the movements in vogue.

(6) “Antonico” (Ismael Silva), recorded almost 20 years after Gal recorded it on the classic album Fatal, 1971 – which is completing 50 years! – puts the song back under another focus; the baiana's bossa nova accent gives way to an arrangement close to the choro-canção, with a superb semi-operatic interpretation by Elza, in one of the high points of the record.

(7) “Meu guri” (Chico Buarque), already mentioned, serves as a kind of incorporation of a reading of reality that today allows us to see the composer as the greatest interpreter in the country through song. Elza agrees with this critical force, lending him the full connection between Chico and the country of lost delicacy.

(8) “Mambo da Cantareira” (Barbosa da Silva & Eloi de Warthon) is an almost forgotten classic. A mini treatise on the social situation in Rio, the displacements suffered by those who work in Madureira, travel in Cantareira and live in Niterói, in humorous but sarcastic lyrics. What people are more capable of combining tragedy and life than Cariocas?

(9) “Misguided youth” (Luiz Melodia) was unavoidable. “A woman should not falter”, simple as that. Melodia is eternal now, but for her it was 30 years ago.

(10) “I dreamed you were so beautiful” (Francisco Matoso & Lamartine Babo) is a gem recorded by Francisco Alves in 1941, reinvented by Elza in another indescribable moment of interpretation. Like João Gilberto, she plucks the song from the bottom of the trunk and reveals it as fresh as morning grass, without a trace of dust.

(11) “QueMaravilha” (Jorge Benjor & Toquinho) is the usual party when it comes to Jorge Ben. The percussion played, it seems, by Aquino himself is the fatal sauce of this song of joy that goes through time without getting old.

(12) “Like a wave” (Zen surfismo) (Lulu & Nelson Motta) is heard in a unique register, freed from its condition of hits (which was already in 1990), can be heard again for the first time as a balm, a belief in the motto that “everything changes all the time in the world”; 2022 needs the voice of Elza Soares more than ever. Her voice holds the political force of a century and beyond.

(13) In “Cartão de Visita” (Edgardo Luis & Nilton Pereira) Elza repeatedly sings the verse “I gave time to time / it passed / and you haven’t changed / now it’s too late…”. For those who still don't understand this far, I'll change it as kids: we'll always seem to be standing still while the Elza Soares caravan passes in front of us.

Wherever you are in time, it will always be beyond.

*Henry Burnett is a professor of philosophy at Unifesp. Author, among other books, of Musical mirror of the world (Phi Publisher).

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