Maria Bethânia Biography

Maria Bethânia Viana Tellas Veloso, 18 June 1946, Santa Amaro de Purificação, Bahia, Brazil. Born into a musical family, her brother is Caetano Veloso , Maria sang from an early age. From her early teens she was raised in Salvador where she began performing as an actress and singer. At the age of 16 she sang in Nelson Rodrigues’ musical Boca De Ouro and in 1963 appeared in Nós, Por Exemplo with her brother, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa . She also worked in concert with Gil, Costa and Veloso as the informally linked Group From Bahia. In the mid-60s she became involved in the era’s tropicália movement; this blending of contemporary Brazilian pop was not quite her forte and to some extent her stylistic leanings contradicted the movement’s forward-looking tendencies.

In 1964 Bethânia made an impact with her own show, Opinião, leading to a recording contract with RCA Records . Her richly expressive and wide-ranging voice proved to be especially appropriate for performing the classic pop music of her homeland. Bethânia’s choice of repertoire displays a predilection for yesteryear’s passionate love songs. She was quickly regarded as a latter-day version of the torch singer beloved of North American saloon and cabaret circles of earlier generations. Nevertheless, she was attuned to contemporary music and absorbed and incorporated into her work both bossa nova and the softer aspects of rock. In 1971 she toured Europe and through the 70s recorded frequently and with considerable success, achieving several gold records, including the 1978 release, Álibi, with which Bethânia broke through into the general public’s consciousness in Brazil.

Bethânia has found special affinity with the songs of Ary Barroso, Carlinhos Brown , Chico Buarque , Adriana Calcanhotto, Chico César , Edu Lobo, Vinícius De Morães , Lupicinio Rodrigues, Angela Roro, as well as some of those composed by her brother. Among musicians and groups, arrangers and producers with whom she has worked are Jorge Ben, Perinho De Albuquerque, Luiz Eca And His Tamba Trio, Luiz Gonzaga Jnr. (Gonzaguinha), Ladysmith Black Mambazo , Roberto Menescal, Jeanne Moreau and Conjunto De Luiz Carlos Vinhas. Since the late 70s Bethânia has been a hugely popular and highly productive star in her homeland and has displayed remarkable staying power, remaining a major figure in Brazilian music through into the mid-00s.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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