MARIA RITA (Brazil)
Perhaps it's a sign of the tough times in the music industry that so many of this year's nominees are from established musical dynasties. As Sly Stone once sang, 'you can make it if you try', but making it must be a whole lot easier if your family is already well versed in the business and loaded.
Maria Rita Mariano was born in São Paolo in 1977. Her mother Elis Regina was one of Brazil's most cherished stars of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), but died of a drug overdose when Maria was only four. Her father César Camargo Mariano is a well known pianist and arranger, with 29 albums under his belt.
As a girl, Maria felt intense pressure to become a singer, and harboured a secret desire to do so from her early teens. Even so, self doubt initially got the better of her, and after leaving home at 16, she spent her formative years in New York, studying and working as a journalist. Then in 2001, she returned to her hometown with the intention of finally launching her career as a professional singer. She didn't have to wait long for success, making her first triumphant public appearance at São Paolo's Supreme Musical Theatre a year later. She also got to record a duet with MPB legend Milton Nascimento for his 2002 comeback album Pietá, maybe as a kind of karmic payback for the debt he owed Elis Regina, who kick-started his own career by interpreting one of his songs in 1965.
In 2003, Maria Rita released her eponymous debut album (featuring another song by Nascimento), which eventually sold over a million copies and earned her two Latin Grammys. The following year, she appeared on Uruguayan songwriter Jorge Drexler's album 12 Segundos de Oscuridad and in 2005, her album Segundo picked up two more Latin Grammys.
Her third and latest album Meu Samba (2007) moves away from the MPB format of her early work, focussing on Brazil's most famous export the samba. And while Maria Rita may not be a working class Afro-Brazilian from one of Rio de Janeiro's crime-ridden favelas (samba's original constituency) she carries it off with aplomb. Hey, there's no business like show business.
CD Review on BBC Music
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