Brazil bids farewell to its queen of samba, Elza Soares | Entertainment News


By DIANE JEANTET, Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilians mourned the loss of legendary samba singer and force of nature Elza Soares on Friday, a day after she died at her Rio de Janeiro home.

Family and friends gathered at the Municipal Theater in Rio, where his body was brought to be viewed, before the performance hall opened its doors to fans of the artist.

“Elza left the day she wanted, the way she wanted, without suffering. And surrounded by his family,” the singer’s granddaughter, Vanessa Soares, said in an interview with TV Globo. Soares was 91 years old.

There was a flurry of tributes from artists in Brazil and abroad, young and old, samba stars and rappers.

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Singer Maria Rita called her “one of the greatest of our country, a representative of the resistance and resilience of her people. …And now our mission begins: to celebrate it forever!

American singer Beyoncé also thanked the artist on her website for inspiring “so many people from Brazil and around the world”, while Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes declared three days of mourning.

“Woman! Warrior! Elza lives!” he wrote on Twitter.

Soares rose to fame despite having a tough upbringing and being a black woman in a country where slavery left a legacy of inequality. She often spoke critically about the country’s problems, and overcoming these obstacles contributed to her mythical personality.

Elza Gomes da Conceição was born in June 1930, to a poor family in Rio de Janeiro, in the favela of Vila Vintem, a working-class neighborhood then known as Moca Bonita.

She was forced into marriage at 12, had her first child at 13, and at 21 was a widow with several children to support. She lost two to starvation, Brazilian media widely reported. His most recent album, released in 2019, was titled “Planet Hunger” – a reference to the location he said on a radio show in the 1950s marked his origin.

She often told the story behind her distinctive raspy voice: Growing up, she had to carry jugs of water balanced on her head while walking through her favela. “I picked up a jug and moaned,” she said in an interview, illustrating her words with a deep, harsh sound. “And I thought that gave him a swing.”

For years she had to do odd jobs to support her family, at one point working in a soap factory. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that she began to gain fame as a samba singer.

She diversified into other genres, and in 1999 was voted “singer of the millennium” by BBC London, consolidating her international reputation.

“If I didn’t sing, I would die,” Soares said in a more recent TV interview, in 2002. “Sing so I don’t go crazy.”

Throughout her career, she maintained a fierce appetite for work, recording over 30 albums. She also became a fashion figure, often appearing in interviews and on magazine covers or runways wearing extravagant clothes, headdresses and heavy makeup.

She was famous – and, for some, infamous – for forming a relationship with Mané Garrincha, widely regarded as one of Brazil’s greatest soccer players. He ended his marriage to his wife in order to be with Soares, and the public blamed him.

But Soares, a fiercely independent and feminist woman well ahead of her time, strayed from the spotlight on their relationship and then the marriage.

“I never liked being so-and-so’s wife. I am me. I didn’t need to be Garrincha’s wife to be Elza Soares. Garrincha was Elza Soares’ husband,” he said. – she told Globo TV in 2017.

In 2020, the Mocidade samba school featured Soares in its carnival parade, and last month she took part in a documentary series honoring black female singers who paved the way for other artists.

Following Soares’ death, Brazil’s hottest young artists, from rappers to pop stars, shared recent photos of themselves posing next to their idol, a testament to his lasting impact.

Soares was to be buried on Friday near the Vila Vintem favela where she grew up.

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