An Evening With Luisa Maita Pt. 1: Talking Culture with Erico, Rafael, and Antonio
Luisa Maita is a Brazilian singer and songwriter. Her first album, Lero Lero, came out on Cumbancha Records, a company based in the northeast. The team-up has led her to begin touring strongly throughout the U.S., with cultural mixing pots like New York City welcoming her with open arms.
Her music is a soft blend of traditional Brazilian fare and contemporary pop and rock. The blend is so subtle, however, that you’ll hardly even realize her strength in harnessing a full voice with sparse instrumentation.
To achieve this, her latest touring band is made up of Erico Beraldo Theobaldo on percussion, Rafael Marques Bloch Barreto on guitar, and Antonio Magno Dos Santos Silva on Bass. This trio hails from Sao Paulo, Luisa’s home city.
Erico, Rafael, and Antonio are all clad in black head-to-toe, fitting the jazzy/blues vibe of their sound and the mellow mood of the venue when we meet up on a cold, early spring night. I was supposed to sit down with Luisa, but before she arrived I found myself chatting with this group. Onstage they have great chemistry, very relaxed.
It’s the same off stage, and I ended up learning much about being a musician in Brazil. All three were happy people. Antonio doesn’t contribute much to the following because he doesn’t speak any English. This just goes to show how music can transcend barriers like this.
What’s the worst part of touring?
Rafael Marques Bloch Barreto: The worst? The worst is....
Erico Beraldo Theobaldo: I dunno.
Rafael: I dunno, maybe the...the...
Erico: Uh, there’s only the best. [Smiles] Maybe the worst is when it’s a long tour and you start missing your house, your kids.
Have you ever bumped into someone at your show that is from Brazil and knows you in any way?
Erico: Yeah, sometimes we met people that we know from Sao Paulo, and musicians that live here. But Luisa’s audience is pretty much not American.
And what about you two; do you play in other groups?
Erico: Yeah, and we all have our solo projects.
Rafael: I do a mix of the music from Sao Paulo and from the northeast of Brazil.
Do those Brazilian styles have specific names?
Rafael: No. Yeah. It’s difficult to explain. In brazil, there are many rhythms all around the country. I try to mix everything that I’ve heard in my life.
Have you put out any solo records?
Rafael: Yeah, I just released my second album.
Erico: I have my band, called Telepathique. We released it here, like in 2008. A label from New York. Before I came with Luisa, I came with my band.
For your solo projects, is there a good scene for them in Brazil? In the States?
Rafael: You have to follow the artist, on the internet, you know? Instead of that, you will never know about anybody. It’s funny: I have fans from the north of Brazil and I’ve never been there. It’s because of the internet. I put out my full album for free download and people started to download, just for, I dunno; to know how it sounds.
Describe living in Sao Paulo.
Rafael: Sometimes, I feel that Sao Paulo is small, because we used to do everything in the same neighborhood, y’know. I never go in the south of Sao Paulo, north, or east.
Erico: You just stay in the one part.
Does the city have multiple architectural styles?
Rafael: But nobody had thought about the architecture. [Laughs]
Erico: It’s a mess.
What food does Sao Paulo do the best?
Erico: we have this pizza that everyone says is better than in Italy. And if you go to eat pizza in Rio or in another city, it’s not the same. I personally try never to order pizza outside Sao Paulo.
And is Sao Paulo expensive?
Erico: One of the most expensive places in the solar system. To buy an instrument in Sao Paulo, it’s like, at minimum, three times more expensive than here. If you want to buy a guitar that costs 200 dollars here, there it would cost 1,000 dollars. When we are here the first thing that we do is to go to a Guitar Center. We buy a lot of guitars, and then we are happy.
Rafael: When there is somebody coming to U.S., everybody calls you. “Can you buy me…?”
Who’s the best Brazilian director?
Erico: I like José Padilha. That’s a guy that made two amazing movies in brazil. Have you seen “City of God”? It was directed by Fernando Meirelles. It’s a very good movie. Padilha, this guy that I told you, he made one movie, like, more or less the same style. The name of the movie is “Tropa de Elite”. And now he was invited to film here. And he just filmed the remake of “Robocop”.
What would you do if you weren’t in music?
Rafael: I would be a chef. I love to compose. You know, I don’t know what I’m going to do until I go to the supermarket and I see it. Then I think, “This, and this....”
Erico: I have this attraction for history. But I don’t know what or how I can make money. But I’m always reading things. I like Brazilian history.
I’m curious now. How did the migration of the Portuguese to Brazil happen?
Erico: Well, you know, the story that they have been told in school, we realize that this was not a true story. They were going around, trying to find a new place. They ended up in Central America, or in South America. But they took time to start to colonize the country. In the beginning, the first, like, 300 years, they were only going there and taking wood from the trees, and they never built cities. It was just business. Then, when Napoleon was going to invade Portugal, the royal family was so afraid that they moved to Brazil. Someone had said, “Napoleon is coming here in three days.” And they’re like, “Okay, let’s go to Brazil.” And all the rich people moved to Brazil. That was in 1808. So from this they start to build the country. But in Sao Paulo you have a lot of neighborhoods that [are] totally Japanese. You have totally Italian. You have totally Jewish. And Korean. If you go to the south of Brazil you have a lot of German population. They are all tall, blond people. If you go to the north, it’s different. In the northeast you have all the people from Holland.
How is Brazilian Portuguese different from Portugal?
Erico: It’s very different. Sometimes it’s difficult.
Rafael: They are more used to our music, our culture.
Erico: Because they listen to Brazilian music. We never listen to Portuguese music.
Rafael: I’ve been there last year, in Lisbon, to play my solo project, and it was very difficult to talk with them over there, ‘cuz of the accent.
Erico: We have different words that they don’t have in Portugal. Because their Portuguese is more pure. For example, we use “mouse”, you know, for [the] computer? We just say mouse. They say “rato;” that’s the word for the animal.
Do you like to mingle with the crowds during shows?
Erico: Usually people are so friendly with us. We just have to say that we are Brazilian, and they say, “Oh, Brazil. I love Brazil!” I have one friend here that was our road manager. He said, “Well, I’ve seen that every place you go you just say you are Brazilian and people love you. Every place I go, I just say I am American. People hate me!” [Laughs] When I’m sad on tour I just put on a Brazil shirt...Walk around.