The Bossa Moderna Movement - Bossa Nova for the 21st centuary
Bossa Nova is a genre which although rather niche, has captivated the world. Bossa Nova all started in the late 1950s, some say when the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim met the poet Vincius de Moraes in a small whiskey bar, Villarino, in downtown Rio in 1956 only then to together write the classic The Girl From Ipanema.
Or maybe it was when Joao Gilberto played a unique rhythm in his composition "O Pato"....
Well, ok, maybe it was when Joao Gilberto was looking down at the piano playing of Joao Donato in the back alley venues of Copacabana when the two Joaos were told they could only get on stage more nearer to closing time.
It could have been when Bossa Nova's original vocalist, Nara Leao, hosted get-togethers in her Copacabana apartment with Roberto Menescal, Ronaldo Boscoli and others, where the soft vocals of Bossa Nova were formed (Menescal has told me it's because they were getting the broomstick from the apartment below).
Or was it, as Bossa Nova commentator Rua Castro puts it, that Bossa Nova had indeed been around for 450 years, given it is actually a musical derivative of samba of which a whole 30 variations exist, and Bossa Nova is really only one of those.
Wherever it was born, we know that Bossa Nova matured and came into its own (in the sense that it was being purposely written as Bossa Nova), around the mid to late 1950s.
And it's more than just music to those of us that play it, sing it, and even develop it in the modern day.
It's just kind of magical.
When writing with Lysias Enio, brother and lyricist of many Joao Donato releases, he would always tell me it's another whole world of wonderful music. Paula Morelembaum, amazing exponent of this music having sung with Jobim on tour for many years and an established Bossa Nova vocalist herself, describes it to me as unexplainable music, which is just so hard not to love. And there are many more in the gang who simply can't describe the power and influence this music has on us, yet feel it. It really is a kind of music that you can't describe, because it is more than just a samba done at the head of the beat. There's chord progression, song structure, economical musicality, with an all encompassing sound of an era in there too, the workings of which are just too complex to describe, yet with a sound executed with such perceived simplicity.
There have been so many Bossa Nova songs written, and so many of those were written by a small group of passionate, talented Rio de Janeiro residents who brought something new and unique to the existing samba form. The songs from the early days have a certain taste to them, not even because they were recorded in analogue, or where the drums were, as I like to say, "put to the back", but because there was a definite magical sunshine-soaked chord progression, with happy-sad lyrics, and enough romance and mystique to top all other songwriting genres.
That's how I see it. Or actually, how I see it was. Because now, modern Bossa Nova exponents like myself look to these days and the people that created them, in awe. But we don't feel like we are wanting to re-create the past in our own music. We want the Bossa Nova original creators - the lyricists like Boscali, the composers like Joao Donato, Carlos Lyra, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Marcos Valle and Menescal, and the deliverers like Joao Gilberto and Nara Leao, to live forever in the legacy that they created. For us, as Bossa Moderna exponents, our purpose is to bring that beauty they gave us to a new style - where Bossa moves into Nu Jazz, Pop and folk, albeit always delicately, keeping the sensuality and serene beauty in wraps, and keeping the genre on guard from the rigours of a music industry that has in many respects lost its way. It can be anything. And by anyone. In fact, Italy and France are potentially pumping out more Bossa Moderna tunes than Brazil these days. Which is great.
For my own styles, Bossa Nova is always there - whether we describe some of my songs 'Solar" (a close cousin of Nu Jazz), "Surf Jazz", or even "Bossa Pop", it doesn't matter. What is important is that it is bringing something new to the Bossa 60s party - it is so important and personal to me to have the legacy of Bossa Nova ever present in my music, as others have too, which is all part of the new movement of Bossa Nova that we call Bossa Moderna.
Why is it a movement? Because Bossa Moderna is, in 2021, really moving.