Maria Rita at Koko, London; 18 May | Live Review

The Brazilian living legend singer Maria Rita shook a packed Koko house on Tuesday night amidst an electrified crowd of Brazilondoners, cameras ready to click and hips ready to samba from the word ‘go’ and ‘Maria’.  She opened the stage-sky glittering in red and bathed in alternating shades of ocre, indigo, rasberry and emerald that accompanied our traveling with her, through no less than 20 songs, taken from her three albums, Maria Rita, Segundo and Samba Meu.

This tiny graceful woman began her singing stellar trajectory in 2003 upon the launch of her first album Maria Rita.  Six latin Grammys on and numerous tours, Maria Rita returned to London after almost two years since her massive success at Barbican.  For readers who do not know her yet, Maria Rita is the daughter of one of Brazil’s most illustrious woman singer Elis Regina. Her father is famed pianist, composer and arranger César Camargo Mariano.  Maria Rita is in a class of her own independently from her ascendence.  Hers is a success due to talent not inherited titles nor lush family funds.

When she stepped on stage we knew we would escalate from here on up to music heaven as soon as the first notes of ‘Caminho das Aguas’ began on her open smile.  The Koko-ans who had so far been boyantly quaking all floors and balconies in eager anticipation, immediately froze with delight upon hearing her first renditions.  Her stage presence is incredibly dynamic, other than three buzzing musicians (on piano, percussions and double bass) accompanying her, she filled the stage with her voice alone and wicked bossa nova and jazz beats, citing Nathan Cole as distinct influence.  She is one performer that needs no gimmicks to support a show.  Maria Rita’s vocal beauty is all velour and crystalline diction (she has an incredible control of her breathing) and to me it is what makes her one of the best modern singers to grace air space.

Maria Rita seems to be gifted and humble in equal measure.  She paused the show to talk on a one-to-one to her audience, dedicating her performance, in English and Portuguese, to us and explaining her musical influences, with jazz taking a growing space in her style and rhythm.  It was a surprisingly intimate atmosphere given an audience of well over 1,000 present.  The crowd sang all through, blissfully treated to ‘Cara Valente’ twice, and favourites like ‘Pagu’, ‘Num Corpo Só’, ‘Cria’, ‘O que é o amor’, ‘Corpitcho’, ‘Minha Alma’, ‘Trajetória’ and many more, opening wide the spectrum of her repertoire.

This London appearance was in partnership with the seventh edition of the Tesemba Festival, a festival that promotes Brazilian culture internationally.  Maria Rita is very young (born in 1977) and is already an icon.  If you can catch her live, I’d highly recommend you take a dip, she is a rare performing artist who defies recordings and sounds even better live on stage.  No wrong notes coming out of this gem.

–Nadia Ghanem

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