University of São Paulo: Rádio USP pays tribute to Brazilian singer of the millennium Elza Soares

This last Thursday, January 20th, Elza Soares died. Elected in 1999 by BBC Radio in London as the Brazilian singer of the millennium, she is also on Rolling Stone Brasil magazine’s list of the 100 greatest voices in Brazilian music .

Rádio USP prepared a tribute to Elza Soares, remembering the beginning of her trajectory and the difficulties she had in her life. In the program, broadcaster Cido Tavares talks with singer and songwriter Tom Zé and with researcher and columnist for Rádio USP Omar Jubran. And he highlights that, among the many honors he has received in more than seven decades of trajectory, one of the most important took place in 2020, at the last Carnival, when Elza Soares was the theme of her heart samba school, Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel.

Born on June 23, 1930 in Rio de Janeiro, Elza Gomes da Conceição was a Brazilian singer and songwriter who had a very difficult life. The daughter of a washerwoman and a worker, she was raised in the favela of Água Santa, a suburb of Engenho de Dentro, in Rio de Janeiro. She went through an arranged marriage at 12, had her first child at 13 and became a widow at 21. She was a laundress, a worker in a soap factory and even a cleaning lady to support her children – she had eight in total, four of whom died: two of them newborns due to malnutrition, another due to hunger, and also Manoel Francisco, known as Garrinchinha (from his marriage to Garrincha), who died at the age of nine in a car accident. She still had to give one of her children up for adoption and had a one-year-old kidnapped daughter who was only reunited as an adult.

But he didn’t give up his dream of singing. He had been composing songs since childhood, and at the age of 23 he decided to sign up for the musical contest of the program Calouros em Desfile , presented by composer Ary Barroso, on Rádio Tupi. It is Elza herself who says that she only did it to win the prize and to be able to take care of her first child, Carlinhos (João Carlos Soares), who was sick: “There was an accumulated prize, I think it was five contos de réis, which at the time It was a lot of money.” And he adds, saying that he succeeded: “I have never felt so professional, so important as that day”. she sang mud, by Paulo Marques and Aylce Chaves, and it was then that Ary Barroso announced that, at that exact moment, a star had just been born. Tom Zé also recalls, on the program, that day. He says that Ary Barroso asked Elza Soares, in an impudent way: “Where did you come from, my daughter?”, and she replied, “I came from the hungry planet”, and that had repercussions everywhere. Tom Zé also says that since childhood he saw Elza as a great singer, following her career, full of titles, one of them being the Queen of Radio. “We are all sorry,” he laments.

Throughout her career, Elza Soares released 34 albums, approaching samba, jazz, electronic music, hip hop and funk and said that the mixture was deliberate. His latest album Planeta Fome was released in 2019. For Jubran, producer and presenter of the program Olhar Brasileiroat Rádio USP, Elza was a versatile singer. “Until a few years ago, Elza Soares could be considered a great samba singer. However, over time, with her enormous talent and versatility, she showed how easy it was to move from that same samba to electronics”, he says. “Despite all the hardships that Elza Soares went through, without the slightest doubt, her name can never be forgotten because it represents one of the greatest that our quality music will keep in our gallery”, she says, citing at the end a phrase said by Elza herself: “Music is an alternative to pain”.

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