Carmen Miranda – Imperatriz do Samba

Carmen Miranda is probably the greatest female singer in Brazilian music history. In the 1930s Brazilian music was at the peak in its long and creative history and it was Carmen Miranda who was then in the vanguard of every innovative musical trend as the leading star. Through these recordings it’s possible to understand how Brazilian music developed into the great force it was to become.

Carmen Miranda was also a much misunderstood artist. Many remember her better through her American recordings (or rather her movies). She was in fact a phenomenon in the USA and internationally known through some Hollywood movies, though the cheap Hollywood image distorted her real figure and masked out her true excellence. This album was compiled by Brazilian music expert Katsunori Tanaka, and follows the history of Carmen Miranda in Brazil selecting and arranging the recordings in chronological order.

Many people take Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, artistically known as Carmen Miranda, for a native Brazilian but she was in fact born in the Portuguese town of Marco de Canavezes in the Porto district on the 9th February 1909. As she immigrated to Brazil with her family at the age of one, however, she had no recollection of Portugal. Like other immigrants in those days, Carmen’s family wasn’t well off in Brazil. They settled in the downtown of Rio de Janeiro and reportedly her father worked as a barber. Carmen got a job herself selling ties and hats at a local shop after she finished school at age 14.

Carmen, who always loved singing and dancing at the family’s or friends’ parties, started her career in music at age 20 in 1929, when urged on by her friends she participated in a contest for amateur singers held at the National Music Academy. Josué de Barros, a composer and guitarist from Salvador in the Bahia province, was really taken by her singing at the contest and offered to give her lessons in person. De Barros later took on the task to find and recruit hopeful singers for the record industry and radio network which would go through a rapid development in the 1930s, and Carmen was the first star he nurtured. Thanks to his successful promotion, Carmen got on to the radio as early as in March of 1929 and made her first recording for the Brunswick label around September the same year. From December on, she recorded for the Victor label as well. Thus Carmen’s professional career began under the tutelage of Josué de Barros.

In his extensive liner notes, Katsunori Tanaka traces the story of Carmen Miranda and the development of samba music through the 24 tracks on this CD. It starts with a rare version of her first recording Se O Sambae Moda, from 1929 and ends with her last recording in Brazil in 1940. The unparalleled singer Carmen Miranda died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles on August 5, 1955.

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