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Bethânia performing in Rio de Janeiro, 2012
|Birth name||Maria Bethânia Viana Telles Veloso|
June 18, 1946 |
Santo Amaro da Purificação Bahia, Brazil
|Genres||Bossa nova, MPB, samba|
|Associated acts||Gilberto Gil
Maria Bethânia Viana Telles Veloso (Portuguese pronunciation: [maˈɾiɐ beˈtɐ̃niɐ]; born June 18, 1946), known by her stage name Maria Bethânia, is a Brazilian MPB singer. Born in Santo Amaro, Bahia, she started her career in Rio de Janeiro in 1964 with the show "Opinião" ("Opinion"). Due to its popularity, with performances all over the country, and the popularity of her 1965 single "Carcará", the artist became a star in Brazil.
In her childhood, she had aspirations to become an actress. However, her mother was a musician, so music was prevalent in the Veloso household. Though Bethânia was born in Santo Amaro da Purifição, her family moved to Salvador, Bahia when she was 13. The move allowed her to experience the bohemian, intellectual circles of the city as well as to visit theaters. When she was 16, her brother Caetano Veloso invited her to sing in a film for which he was producing the soundtrack, but she refused. Nevertheless, the film's director, Álvaro Guimarães, liked her voice and invited the young musician to perform in the 1963 Nélson Rodrigues's musical Boca de Ouro. This time Bethânia accepted, and for the first time in her life she went on stage to sing for an audience, opening the play performing a samba by Ataulfo Alves.
That same year, Bethãnia and her brother met singers Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa; Caetano had been invited to put on an MPB show to inaugurate the Teatro Vila Velha. The four artists got together and, in 1964, staged Nós, por exemplo (We, for example).
The show was a success and was presented again two months later, with the participation of singer-songwriter Tom Zé. That same year, the group mounted another show called Nova Bossa Velha e Velha Bossa Nova (New Old Bossa and Old New Bossa). Still in that year, directed by Caetano and Gil, Bethânia performed another musical, this time on her own, called Mora na Filosofia (Lives in Philosophy).
She began performing again with her brother, as well as Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Tom Zé, at the opening of the Vila Velha Theater in the next year. During one of these performances, the bossa nova musician Nara Leão offered her an opportunity to take her place in a series of performances titled "Opinião".
She released her first single, a protest song called "Carcará", in 1965, the same year that her brother released his first recording. After releasing "Carcará" Bethânia returned from Rio de Janeiro, where she had gone to attend college, to Bahia. This was to only be a brief visit, as around that time she was performing at nightclubs and other venues throughout Brazil. This song also got her an offer from an RCA Records representative to record for the company. However Bethânia continually changed record labels throughout the 1970s. In 1973 Bethânia released Drama, Luz Da Noite, in which she performed traditional Brazilian songs, as well as incorporating literary elements. In 1977 Bethânia went on tour and released a gold-certified album, both with the name of Pássaro da Manhã. She released Álibi a year later which was also gold-certified with over a million copies sold. Around the end of the 1970s, Bethânia became more artistically conservative, moving away from the Tropicalismo music her frequent collaborators, including Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, had been playing. During the 1980s and '90s Bethânia continued to record and perform, with 1993's As Canções Que Você Fez Para Mim becoming the year's most successful album in Brazil.
In 1976, she released a live album with Doces Bárbaros, a Música popular brasileira supergroup. It was recorded June 24 of that year at Anhembi Stadium in São Paulo. Its members were Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia and Gal Costa, four of the biggest names in the history of the Music of Brazil. The band was the subject of a 1977 documentary directed by Jom Tob Azulay. In 1994, they performed a tribute concert to Mangueira school of samba.
French filmmaker Georges Gachot completed a documentary film "Musica é perfume" about her which was worldwide distributed. In 2008 she recorded an album with the Cuban singer Omara Portuondo which was followed by a Live DVD
In March 2011, Bethânia found herself in the midst of a controversy after receiving permission from the Ministry of Culture of Brazil to make a poetry blog budgeted for $1.3 million tax free Reais ($783,000 USD).
The financing of the project would fall under the so-called Lei Rouanet (English: Rouanet Law), which is designed as an incentive to promote Brazilian culture. The law allows companies and individuals to invest part of their income tax in cultural projects.
The singer, considered one of the greats in Brazilian music and who has a track record of working with poets and reading bits of her favorite poetry, would use the platform to interpret poetry,both of her own and from other authors, in song through a daily series of videos, 365 in total, for the blog O Mundo Precisa de Poesia (English: The World Needs Poetry).
Much of the criticisms surrounds on the project's cost and the fact that a rich and well-known artist like Bethânia can rely on such a process to get sponsored, while hundreds of other minor artists cannot find ways to survive. Pablo Villaça, from the blog Cinema em Cena (Movie Theater at Home) estimated that, taking out the amount that would go to the collectors, around R$1.17 million would go toward the blog's production. Each video, then, would cost about R$3,200. He stated that this cost would not be compatible with videos of 3–5 minutes length consisting of just one person reciting poetry.
Blogger, journalist and filmmaker Mauricio Caleiro explained that this process, appropriated by the interests of big names and governed by the market, has suffered from great distortions over the years, favoring respected names over beginners, according to him:
"(…) the imbroglio involving the baiana singer revealed the problems of the “Rouanet Law”, a tool that, shortly after being created, played a key role in the survival of certain artistic areas during the neoliberal autumn, but as the episode in question shows, it eventually lead to serious distortions in relations between economy, ideology and cultural production."
To mock the whole situation, a satirical blog entitled Bethania: 1 million reasons for you to access was created by blogger Raphael Quatroci.
On March 16, the Ministry of Culture released a statement affirming the legality of the process and reiterating that the approval had strictly followed the rules. It said that "the criteria in the CNIC (National Commission on Cultural Incentives) are technical and legal, so to reject an applicant because she/he is famous, or not, would set up obvious and untenable discrimination."
Then, on March 27, Caetano Veloso, Bethânia's brother, came out to defend his sister, noting that other projects by many other artists, both known and unknown, were authorized to raise larger amounts.
Eventually, on September 20, 2011, the singer made a public announcement stating that she had quit developing her poetry blog, due to her project of launching a new CD with unreleased songs.
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