An Exclusive Interview with One of the Biggest Bossa Nova Icons, Sérgio Mendes

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Little Brazil

An Exclusive Interview with One of the Biggest Bossa Nova Icons, Sérgio Mendes

By Karla Rensch

Bossa Nova means much more than a mix of smooth rhythm that moves the body and nurtures the soul. It is a peculiarity of Brazilian culture born in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s. Its captivating melody is a jazz-influenced version of Samba. With time, Bossa Nova became one of the most influential movements in Brazilian popular music and gained worldwide recognition because of its lightness, joy and simplicity.

In that atmosphere of success, The Ridgefield Playhouse will present on October 17, after his explosive performance at “Rock In Rio” in Brazil, Sérgio Mendes, one of the main pillars of Brazilian popular music, known throughout the world for the successful songs immortalized in his compositions.

In an exclusive interview with Tribuna, Sérgio, who began his propitious musical career side by side with Antônio Carlos Jobim aka Tom Jobim, and Vinícius de Moraes, shared a bit of his journey on the stage of life.

sergio-mendesHow did you discover that you were a musician?

Sergio – “I learned about classical music when I was about seven years old, and after I turned 12, I discovered jazz, which influenced me immensely. In 1959 and 1960, I played in a night club in Copacabana named ‘Bótolo Bar.’ It was there that everything started. In 1962, a Bossa Nova concert was held at Carnegie Hall; it was the first time a Brazilian concert was held in the United States and we went – Tom Jobim, João Gilberto and my band. That time in New York City was the beginning for me.”

Your band vocalist, Gracinha Leporace, is also your wife. When did you start singing together?

“Yes, she is one of my vocalists. We have been married for more than 40 years. She is a wonderful singer and she will be with us at the concert in Connecticut.”

How did two great musical talents first meet and became the successful partners you are today?

I often use the word “serendipity,” which is a mix of finding valuable things by good luck or through chance. Our encounter was everything; it was an act of serendipity. It was magical!”

You exploded on the stage of the “Rock in Rio” concert, singing samba with Fergie. What do you think about performing with a new generation of musicians?

I like it a lot. When I did the album Timeless, I recorded it with John Legend and Justin Timberlake, and it is something I like. Fergie is a friend who sings with the Black Eyed Peas, which we all know loves our music.”

As someone who has always loved Brazilian music, I am curious to know about what influences an artist. In your case, what influenced you the most?

I think everything – the songs I listened to, classical music, Brazilian composers such as Jobim and Villalobos, the greatest jazz players Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Rod Stewart. It was a combination of all the artists, painters and trips I took and the people that I met.”

How do you define Brazilian music

“I believe that Brazilian music has an enormous melodic, harmonic and rhythmic quality, which is different from other musical genres, including Latin American. When you listen to Brazilian music, you know that it has a Brazilian fragrance. It is a happy and contagious music that touches people with its simplicity.”

On the evening of the concert, Brazilian artist Veronica Martins will be exhibiting her artwork, and portrait drawing in pencil in real time. In 2012, Veronica created the “I Want to Be an Artist” workshop that aims to foster and exercise the creativity of children and teenagers and minimize the number of hours they spend in front of a computer.

“I would like to thank Tribuna for always encouraging and showing the art performed by immigrants in the American community,” concluded Martins.

Sérgio Mendes & Brasil 2017 will be held on Tuesday, October 17, at 8 p.m. at The Ridgefield Playhouse, located at 80 East Ridge in Ridgefield, CT. A free wine tasting paired with Brazilian hors d’oeuvres courtesy of Padaminas Bakery, Buffet and BBQ will be available at the lobby at 7:15 p.m.

For more details or to purchase tickets, visit



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September 30, 2017

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