Brazil - BRAZZIL - Rodrigo Lessa, the Man of Seven Instruments - Brazilian Music - January 2000

January 2000

More of Lessa

Instrumentalist, composer, arranger,
and now singer Rodrigo Lessa
has his fingers in many pies,
all bursting with multiple flavors.

Daniella Thompson

Who's Rodrigo Lessa?

He's a master of the bandolim (mandolin) and the guitar.

He's a member of the famed modern choro group Nó em Pingo D'Água (Knot in a Drop of Water).

He's co-founder of the sensational new multi-style band Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club.

He's an excellent popular composer and lyricist who sings his own songs as a solo performer.

He's the composing and performing partner of brilliant saxophonist and flutist Eduardo Neves.

He's arranged music for all of the above formations, as well as for rigorous musicians such as Ivan Lins, Guinga, and Leila Pinheiro.

Above all, Rodrigo Lessa is an artist committed to bridging the gap between "serious" music and "pop" music, between the harmonic and the rhythmic. He believes in being open to many influences while maintaining a solid Brazilian identity in all he does. This inclination manifests itself in compositions in which Afro-Bahian rhythms co-exist with bossa nova, roots samba is infused with exotic Arab flavor, and choro bumps and grinds with funk.

The surprising thing about Lessa is his ability to show a different face in each of his professional endeavors. Recently he's been involved in three exciting and very different releases: the inventive solo disc Solbambá, the acclaimed Nó na Garganta (with Nó em Pingo D'Água), and the masterful Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club (with the group of the same name). With , Lessa is the virtuoso bandolinista, performing what he calls "impure choro." In Solbambá he allows other instrumentalists to shine while he showcases his compositorial and arranging acumen, while with Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club all rules are suspended and pure fun takes over.

There's no better way to get to the bottom of Rodrigo Lessa than through the horse's mouth, so I posed him a few questions about his life and work.

Brazzil—How did it all begin and what were your earliest musical influences?

Lessa—My mother was the musical person in my family. She loved to sing, and when she was a teenager she played the piano. I received my first musical lessons when I was ten. For a year I studied piano. I don't know why, but I stopped. Six years later, I remember coming back from school one day, and a choro started to play in my head and I said to myself, "This is great." Then I asked a friend who was not a musician what would be best for playing choro: bandolim or cavaquinho? And he answered me in a very confident way, "Bandolim, of course." So I bought one and started my bandolim studies.

Brazzil—What kind of music had you been listening to until then?

Lessa—What I liked most until I was sixteen years old was Chico Buarque. I also liked very much Milton Nascimento's Minas album.

Brazzil—Where did you study bandolim?

Lessa—Before I decided to become a professional, I studied bandolim with Ricardo Calafate and Joel Nascimento.

Brazzil—How did you come to be Joel Nascimento's student?

Lessa—After winning the 5th choro festival promoted by MIS [Museu da Imagem e do Som], I decided that I needed to deepen my bandolim skills, and Joel Nascimento had just released the disc Chorando pelos Dedos, in which he could demonstrate his gorgeous and unique sonority on the bandolim. Therefore I thought it would be an excellent idea to take some classes with him. Joel has a rare sensitivity to sonority. He likes to orient luthiers on how to construct a better bandolim, and he stimulated me to buy a bandolim that he was working on with a luthier at that time.

Joel was very important for me. He taught me new techniques and a lot of interpretation on the instrument. One time Joel came, took the bandolim, laid it across his legs, touched it, and said, "I hear the sound!" Then he took an ordinary ballpoint pen and placed it on different spots along the sounding board to show me the subtle variations in the sound produced by the touch of the pen.

Once the decision was made to become a professional musician, I studied harmony, composition, and arrangement with Sérgio Benevenuto at Rio Música, counterpoint and fugue with Carlos Almada (at the same school), and singing in private lessons with Alza Alves. I always had a great desire to work as arranger.

Brazzil—When did you decide to become a professional musician?

Lessa—I made the decision when I was 24-years old. Ever since I started to play bandolim, it wasn't clear to me whether I would become a professional musician or not. I completed my Master's degree in economics, and when I was starting on my PhD, a voice told me, "Give music a chance"—a chance to make a living only from music. So I founded a group, Camisa Amarela, with three friends. For six months I studied economics ten hours a day and rehearsed with this group on weekends. We planned a trip to Europe and left in February 1985 on a ship that took home many Portuguese who had worked for years in Brazil. We traveled for eleven months in Europe, working a lot.

Brazzil—What kind of a group was Camisa Amarela?

Lessa—It was a quartet that included me on bandolim, percussion & voice; Márcio Silveira on cavaquinho, percussion & voice; Tércio Borges on cavaquinho, percussion & voice; and Luís Louchard on guitar & voice. We played a traditional choro repertoire by composers such as Jacob do Bandolim, Pixinguinha & Waldir Azevedo; some bossa nova and samba by Baden Powell and Tom Jobim; traditional sambas; and our own compositions. We participated in some important projects, such as an Ernesto Nazareth disc with the great Spanish pianist Mercedes Cabanach and some recordings with important Portuguese singers like Vitorino Salomé.

After five months in which we were working sufficiently to live of our music, we went to Denmark, where we worked for four months. This was a very rich experience for me, as I met a musician who opened my head wide. Per Trolle was a jazz pianist who played Brazilian music very well and was very interested in many other kinds of music. In some way, he removed a xenophobic nationalism that used to inhabit my esthetic conception until then. Ricardo Calafate, my first bandolim teacher, had already introduced me to jazz and sowed the seed that began to see life during my period with Per Trolle. I discovered that loving Brazilian music doesn't necessarily require abandoning all other types of music.

Brazzil—At what point did you start to play guitar?

Lessa—I began to play the guitar before the bandolim, influenced by Márcio Silveira, who was my neighbor. I always had a close relationship with the guitar. I have enough compositions for solo guitar to fill an album. I've played many solo guitar pieces by Garoto, Villa-Lobos, Baden Powell. There was a time before I recorded the vocal disc Solbambá when I thought of doing something only as guitarist and studied with Marcus Ferrer (a great musician). Then I gave up the idea of being a solo guitarist. These days, the guitar for me is an instrument for accompaniment, arranging, and composition.

Brazzil—When did you join Nó em Pingo D'Água?

Lessa—Eight months after coming back to Brazil, I was invited by Marcos Suzano to join Nó em Pingo D'Água. I joined in 1988. Five months later we recorded Salvador. I believe that Suzano left the group in 1990. In 1993 we recorded Receita de Samba, and our latest is Nó na Garganta (1999).

Brazzil—How did the group go about selecting the repertoire for Salvador, Receita, and Garganta?

Lessa—When I joined Nó in 1988, the group had almost all the repertoire of Salvador in place. We rehearsed for three months and entered the studio to record. I wrote an arrangement with Marcos Suzano for Hermeto Pascoal & Sivuca's tune "Nosso Encontro." The idea behind Salvador was to introduce a repertoire that wasn't originally composed for a choro group and build arrangements for choro instrumentation. We were interested in expanding the possibilities of the repertoire in this sonority. So we chose only composers who didn't belong strictly to the choro universe. I don't mean that they didn't compose choros, but they weren't specialized in choro.

After we finished this record, we felt the need to change the instrumentation of the group. I suggested that we invite a bass player to substitute the 7-string guitar and cavaquinho players who were leaving the group. The idea behind it was to give more space for Rogério's guitar, move the harmony into the treble frequencies with nobody above him, and use a bass to give more depth and a wider range of frequencies. We continue to use this instrumentation; when we miss the cavaquinho accompaniment, I can do it on the bandolim, and at other times Rogério takes care of the harmony or I can work with him on another guitar. I was also playing electric guitar at that time. Just after we finished Salvador, we invited Marcus Ferrer to play viola caipira but he didn't stay long.

Then we began to miss samba in our repertoire, and one day Marcus Ferrer suggested that we make a record based only on Jacob [do Bandolim]. Mário [Sève] liked the idea and talked to Carlão at our then-label Visom. This became Receita do Samba. We selected a repertoire from Jacob's sambas (he was the guy who introduced the samba rhythm into the choro melodies), and I wrote reharmonizations for "Assanhado" and "Alvorada" that turned out very well.

At that time we rehearsed a lot and traveled two or three times to Europe and to the States, so we had a chance to play and check this repertoire; by the time we were ready to record, it was very mature. We were very radical then—if we didn't find a really new way to play Jacob, we didn't do it at all. There were many choros for which we reharmonized the first part very well but weren't able to do something as nice for the second part. Those ended up in the garbage.

From a rhythmical point of view, it was the first time you could hear the bass slaps from funk music in a choro-samba repertoire. This record became a cult favorite among forty journalists who chose it as one of the twenty best choro records of the past forty years, alongside the work of giants like Paulinho da Viola, Jacob, and Pixinguinha. In fact, we were the only musicians chosen from the new choro generation.

Receita de Samba was recorded with two percussionists: Celsinho Silva and Leo Leobons on congas. After the record came out, Leo Leobons left the group and the bassist Leonardo Lucini moved to the USA, so we invited Papito to join us and began to talk about recording our own compositions. Many have been in the repertoire of the shows for more than eight years. Thus came Nó na Garganta with only our own compositions except for two tunes: the title track by Guinga (he also played on the disc) and "Tristorosa" by Villa-Lobos with lyrics by Cacaso, which Leila Pinheiro sang for us. Mário Sève worked hard on the pre-production, and he and Celsinho produced a record with a very good sound.

Brazzil—Nó has played a number of times with Paulinho da Viola. What kind of relationship do you have with him?

Lessa—Paulinho da Viola is a great artist and a good friend of Nó em Pingo D'Água. We invited him to write the liner notes for Receita de Samba, and after that we played more than six very nice concerts together. We're planning to record something with him based on his compositions. We've talked about that, now let's see how it develops. In addition, two members of Nó em Pingo D'Água (Celsinho and Mário) work in Paulinho's band, which deepens the artistic relationship even more

Brazzil—What made you decide to embark on a solo career?

Lessa—I started my solo career after Receita de Samba. It was natural, after playing a long time with the same people, to feel the need to do other things. Also, I was very much in love with the rich universe of the song form. I was teaching harmony at Rio Música, and that brought me closer to the song universe. At one time I had such a passion for the music of Tom Jobim, that all the examples I used in my harmony course came from his songs. So I began to compose, and when I saw that I had more than forty songs, it was natural to record Solbambá.

Here I wanted my composer/arranger side to be more prominent than my instrumentalist side. This record gave me the opportunity to write arrangements for different formations of strings, wind instruments, vocals, and percussion. I needed this more than doing a solo improvisation on the bandolim. At the time I started writing the arrangements, I was very interested in the music of Villa-Lobos and listened to the collection Villa-Lobos par lui-même [EMI]. These discs are obligatory for me; they contain all the Bachianas conducted by the composer and very well played by the French National Radio Orchestra. I had just completed my studies in counterpoint and fugue and was trying to explore ways to create strong melodies that could exist side-by-side with the principal melody.

While many people think that hearing two melodies at the same time hinders understanding of the music, I believe, on the contrary, that the music reveals more in this situation. This happened on the melodic level, while on the rhythmical level I was trying to emphasize percussion and explore the low frequencies.

Brazzil—Your sister wrote the lyrics for a number of the songs in Solbambá.

Lessa—Thereza Lessa my sister is very interested in arts in general. She has published three poetry books, and now she's working on a novel. She was very important for me because she introduced me to the world of poetry. Until we started working on the Solbambá project, I was very focused on pure music. It's not that I didn't read books, but my sensitivity wasn't so developed to the real meaning of poetry. It was a very rich experience to work with her and with Sérgio Benevenuto (the producer). Now when I play my solo concerts, I still sing some of our tunes from the record and some new ones that might be recorded in my second disc.

Brazzil—Lately you've been very active with Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club. What was the impulse behind this band?

Lessa—The idea first emerged out of the close complicity I have with the great composer, saxophonist, flutist, and my partner, Eduardo Neves. We first met more than twenty years ago, and although we've always been playing together in small gigs or at home, we never produced a serious joint work. After I recorded Solbambá, I began to discuss a joint composition project for us. I kidded him, "Let's do two 12-track albums like those that Pixinguinha and Benedito Lacerda had done." He laughed a lot, for the two of us, along with Suzano and Louchard, have long been seeking to remove the "purity" from choro, introducing new influences into this genre. We were against making museum music.

We began to compose, and one day the theme "Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club" emerged. We instantly grasped that we had discovered something very new, and that this music could be the guide to a new concept and new work. We were invited to play in a traditional roda de choro [a choro jam session] and brought drummer Xande Figueiredo to play percussion and Bilinho to play guitar. When we played this composition, the museum exhibition collapsed and everyone started dancing. This confirmed to us the power of music.

Talking with a theatre director one day, I told him that I had a spectacular new 2-hour show. He became enthusiastic and gave me two theatre dates. I talked with Edu [Neves], and we decided to form a group. As we discussed the group's concept, we invited a representative from each shoot of carioca music. Xande Figueiredo is a crack drummer in jazz, funk, and samba. Lula Galvão is one of the best guitarists in Brazil and awesome in jazz. Bassist Edson Menezes specializes in funk and soul. Percussionist Marcos Esguleba is a heavy from the universe of samba and macumba—he plays on almost all the Brazilian samba discs. Roberto Marques, of the gafieira [dancehall] school, is one of the best trombone "singers" in Brazil. I come from impure choro, and Edu from choro and jazz.

At the first show there were Leila Pinheiro, Marcos Suzano, and a good half of the best musicians in Rio. It was a great success, and the group resolved to record an independent disc. Eduardo and I began to compose for this group. Much of the first show was utilized in the disc, but much was created after the show. Xande got more involved and joined us in the artistic and executive production. The whole idea behind the work was one of miscegenation, and because of that we invited Hermano Vianna to write the liner notes. His book O Mistério do Samba has a lot to do with our vision and had much influence on the concept of the disc.

The disc cover by Pedro Lessa and Marcia Sequeiros is a reference to the concept of miscegenation. I believe that we created bridges between worlds that didn't communicate until then: pop and choro, traditional samba and bossa nova, funk, jazz, and jongo. I think that we succeeded in realizing our initial idea of joining the various points of carioca music. Besides, the group is full of lions, and playing with people like that is simply divine.

Brazzil—I was talking to Silvio Essinger at Jornal do Brasil, and he asked me who I thought were the interesting Brazilian composers of today. I mentioned Guinga's name and yours. His response was that both of you make music that's "almost classical," while what distinguishes Brazilian popular music is the rhythm. I said that rhythms are to be found everywhere in Brazilian music, including traditional choro, your music, and Guinga's. Was this the first time that you music has been characterized as "almost classical"? How do you respond to this assertion?

Lessa—Thank you very much for placing me next to my master. It's an honor for me. I have a great friendship and esthetic affinity with Guinga, and I believe that it's for this reason that he invited me to write two arrangements in his latest disc, Suíte Leopoldina. I had written an arrangement for his previous disc, Cheio de Dedos, together with Papito and with Nó's interpretation. I believe that in the popular music of these last two decades a gap has materialized between harmonic and rhythmic music. I've tried to bring these two worlds closer together.

In order to make rhythmic and dance music, it isn't necessary to discount harmony, just as liking harmonic music shouldn't necessarily disqualify the new experiences of current pop music. A communication gap has grown between these two language forms, where I don't feel represented. The first song in my disc Solbambá, "País da Música," talks exactly about this. I made a Jobinian harmony with the flow of Olodum [a percussion bloco-afro in Salvador da Bahia], and I think that the combination of these two languages is harmonious.

My music is highly rhythmic and at times even danceable, only I use harmonic material at the same time. I have a formal musical education but have also constructed my language of improvisation and rhythm in the botecos [bars] of Rio, at rodas of choro and samba—there's nothing more popular in terms of music. It happens that today, pop dance music is deliberately discarding harmony and melody—a fact that I don't criticize; I even see very interesting aspects in this music, above all in rhythm and sonority. Perhaps that's where the confusion between classic and popular comes from.

As for Guinga, he's a genius who gives continuity to the capacity of Brazilian music to be highly sophisticated popular music. I take Essinger's "almost classical" remark as praise and not criticism, for the greats of Brazil were "almost classical," whether in music or in poetry. Actually, I think that the reason for Brazil's being such a musical power resides in the fact of there being strong communication between the classical and the popular.

Brazzil—How did you start working with Guinga?

Lessa—I met Guinga five years ago through Adolfo, a Spaniard who liked Nó a lot and was close to Guinga. He arranged a contact between Mário Sève [Nó's reed player] and Guinga. One day Mário told me that Guinga had set a meeting with him and that he wanted to meet me as well. We went to Guinga's apartment and he asked me to play something, and then he played one beautiful piece after another. The relationship deepened, he liked Nó and invited us to record for his third disc, Cheio de Dedos.

Papito and I wrote an arrangement for the tune "Por Trás de Brás de Pina." Ivan Lins heard and adored the track we recorded and invited us to record four tracks in his VivaNoel discs. Guinga really liked the arrangement I made for "Três Apitos" in VivaNoel and invited me to write arrangements for two tracks in his latest disc. I find that this latest disc of his, Suíte Leopoldina, is truly a major composer's album.

Brazzil—What are your favorite tracks from your three new discs?

LessaSolbambá—My favorite track is "País da Música." Here I was deliberately seeking to do something that would be very rhythmical and harmonic at the same time. The lyrics, the music, and the arrangement work like mirror images of each other. I also liked the result and the groove in "Meta." In the first part, the instruments work as background to the voice, and that changes in the second part, where the instrumental becomes the leading voice and there is a choir playing in the background.

Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club—There are many funny stories connected with this record, since it was all recorded as a big party. One of my favorites is "Transmestiço." Here's an anecdote that I'll never forget. When we were recording the guitar in "Transmestiço," we suddenly heard a blood-curdling scream after the counterpoint part and before the funky part. Everybody loved that scream so much that we all knocked on the studio walls with enthusiasm. The source of the scream turned out to be Julinho, the sound engineer, who calmly said, "I was sure something was missing." We liked it so much that we asked him to make an overdub.

My other favorite track is "Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club." This was recorded as an instrumental, but in the meantime it has gained a great lyric by Mauro Aguiar, which Leila Pinheiro just sang for the first time with Nó em Pingo D'Água. Mauro Aguiar also wrote the tune "Guia de Cego" in Guinga's Suíte Leopoldina; in fact, it was Guinga who introduced Mauro to me.

Brazzil—And you arranged "Guia de Cego" for Guinga, with Ivan Lins joining him on vocals. The lyrics of "Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club" made a big impression on me [see lyrics]. Obviously, they touch on a number of timely issues: the impact of global and state economics on the individual; the pressure to consume; the absence of means to satisfy materialistic consumption and what it does to human relations and to the human soul; the dilemmas that confront every person but especially artists in this respect.

Lessa—I simply loved the lyrics. They aren't in synch with the happy mood of the music but more with its contemporary feel. I feel so well represented by what Mauro wrote that I proposed to him in jest that I'd trade everything I have composed for his line "vou terceirizar a fé" (I'll farm out the faith). It's a very ironic, clever, deep, and sharp critique of the neoliberal years our country has been enduring. It's also an anti-romantic way to talk about love (as Noel Rosa has done). How many people nowadays have a problem with loving because of too much work? The song also speaks about how we, at the end of this millennium, are regressing and forgetting the real human values.

Here's another anecdote connected with this disc. While we were constructing the idea of the record, we talked a lot about the serious aspect of instrumental music. We wanted to turn it into lazy, non-serious music. So when we proposed that Xande (who always uses strange voices to characterize special kinds of people) make funny voices in "Maxixe Paizinho!!!," Eduardo got angry, saying that we shouldn't be funny without reason. Xande retorted, "You always say that we need to be lazy and non-serious, and now you're behaving like a godfather." Later Eduardo bought the idea and we developed it. Many compositions on this disc were finished on the phone—Eduardo played and I answered by singing, and vice versa.

Nó na Garganta—I love "Manu" by Rogério Souza; I think the arrangement is brilliant. I also like very much "Valsa da Noite" by Mário Sève, as well as "Iluminada" by Celsinho (this one had much collective creation). Among my tunes I like the result of "Exaltação." We also have on this record "Tristorosa" by Villa-Lobos. In the original score he didn't sign as Villa-Lobos but as Epaminondas Villalba. I wonder if it's because he was young and didn't want to appear as one who wrote simple things. For me this waltz is simple and brilliant.

Brazzil—What are your most important musical influences?

Lessa—I'd like to mention some musicians of my generation who aren't stars and who influenced me: Rogério Souza, Mário Sève, Papito & Celsinho Silva (of Nó); Marcus Ferrer; Eduardo Neves, Xande Figueiredo, Roberto Marques, Lula Galvão, Edson Menezes & Marcos Esguleba (of Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club); Marcos Suzano; Pedro Luís; Guinga; Carlos Fuchs; Nelson Angelo; Sérgio Benevenuto (producer of Solbambá and my long-time master); and Adriano Souza.

The well-known names include Tom Jobim, Villa-Lobos, Chico Buarque de Holanda, Baden Powell, Jacob do Bandolim, Paulinho da Viola, Nelson Cavaquinho, Caetano Veloso. Among the Americans I love Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Chet Baker, Gil Evans, and some Miles Davis. The Argentine Astor Piazzolla is another composer that I really love.

Brazzil—What kind of music do you listen to now?

Lessa—In addition to classical music, jazz, and MPB, I'm listening to English pop music, drum 'n bass, and the various mixtures of techno with world rhythms. It's dance music. I find that while the harmony and melody aren't very interesting, the rhythms and sonorities are. I see them as less self-referential and more open to influences. I've been listening to Thievery Corporation and London Underground. I don't like everything they do, but they've given me some excellent ideas.

Rodrigo Lessa's website:  

Nó em Pingo D'Água's website: 

From Solbambá

(Rodrigo Lessa)

Que calor estranho
Tempo tá medonho
Cinco tão no banho
Calor esquisito
Já nem tem mosquito
Tempo tá estranho
Calor engraçado
Secos e molhados
Suando no banho
Que suor doente
Nem frio nem quente
Tempo tá estranho
Tempo tá medonho
Buraco de ozônio
Buraco no crânio
Tempo tá no peito
Ritmo do peito
Da humanidade
Pára com o tempo
Da insanidade
O tempo pra pensar
Em si
E deixar nosso céu em paz
E deixar nosso pai no céu
E deixar o coração do tempo
Soprar e cantar no vento
Pra espantar a Besta
Que vem para eliminar
Silêncio das madrugadas
Que vem para eliminar
O canto da passarada
Que vem para eliminar
O cheiro das belas flores
Que vem para eliminar
O sexo reprodutivo

(Translation: Rodrigo Lessa)

What strange heat
Weather is ugly
Five in the shower
What strange heat
Not even a mosquito
Weather is strange
Funny heat
Dry and wet1
Sweating in the shower
What sick sweat
Neither cold nor hot
Weather is strange
Weather is ugly
Hole in the ozone
Hole in the cranium
Beat is in the heart
Rhythm of the heart
Of humanity
Stops with the time
Of insanity
Wake up
The time to think
In itself
And leave our sky in peace
And leave our Father in the sky
And leave the heart of time
Blow and sing in the wind
To drive away the Beast2
Who comes to destroy
The silence of dawn
Who comes to destroy
The singing of birds
Who comes to destroy
The scent of lovely flowers
Who comes to destroy
The reproductive sex

1. Secos e Molhados was a
1970s rock group.
Ney Matogrosso was
its lead vocalist.
2. Satan in St. John's
Apocalypse; also the evil
power of the state.
From Pagode Jazz
Sardinha's Club


(Rodrigo Lessa/Pedro Pelegrino)

Eu queimo
Tu queimas
Ele queima
Eu duro, tu duras, ele dura
E eu queimo
Tu queimas
Ele queima
Eu duro, tu duras, ele dura
Ele queima o pasto
Ele queima o pasto para que verdeje
Ele sabe muito bem que o fogo é pai,
é pai, é pai da fertilidade
Ele aprendeu com seu pai
Ele aprendeu que seu pai
que aprendeu de seu pai
Que se ele recuasse de pai em pai
em pai em pai em pai
Chegaria ao pai fogo
E quando ele chegou ao pai fogo
Vislumbrou o futuro,
Achou que eternamente, eternamente,
eternamente, eternamente, duraria
Ele queima
Ele dura
Ele queimadura
Ele queima
Ele dura
Ele queimadura

(Translation: Rodrigo Lessa)

I burn
You burn
He burns
I last, you last, he lasts
I burn
You burn
He burns
I last, you last, he lasts
He burns the field
He burns the field to make it green
He knows very well that the
fire is the father of fertility
He learned that from his father
He learned from his father,
who learned from his father
That if he regressed from
father to father
He would reach the father-fire
And when he reached the father-fire
He'd guess the future
He believed that he would last
eternally, eternally
He burns
He lasts
He scars1
He burns
He lasts
He scars

1. Queimadura is a skin lesion
caused by fire and also a word
play on queima (burn) and dura (last).


Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club
(Rodrigo Lessa/Eduardo Neves/
Mauro Aguiar)

Entrego a alma de bandeja
a quem quiser pechinchar
Não vou ficar no ora veja
atrás de colher-de-chá
Biscate e bico tá bom?
Se tá!
Tá pra lá de bom. Tô lá!
Se eu perco o fio da meada
o fim do mês me destrói.
Eu não nasci pra rei, sou rato,
e nessa é o rei que me rói.
Difícil é ter que bancar
Sem pestanejar
Se dói.
Perdoa amor
Se empenho o meu coração
É que eu não tenho um tostão
E a prestação me enforcou.
Vendo assim
Nosso amor
Parece que não tem fim
No fundo é calça de brim
Em banca de camelô.
Tô batalhando algum trocado
enquanto o mar não dá pé
Até cortando um bom dobrado
ando passando o boné.
Cansei de caraminguá
Pois é...
Vou terceirizar a fé.
No meu pagode até sardinha
de balcão manda jazz
Quem não pode entrar na minha
mete a mão pelos pés
Tem que se globalizar demais
E tem que suar por dez.
Desculpe amor
Se eu fico aqui com você
Tô me arriscando a perder
Um trampo que já pintou.
Tanto amor
Carece de Marketing
E ando freelance de mim,
Nosso romance acabou.

Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club
(Translation: Daniella Thompson/
Guido Assao)

I'm handing my soul on a tray to
anyone who wants to haggle;
I won't do it
the easy way.
Will an odd job do?
Will it?!
It'll do, and how. I'm game!
If I lose my way, the end
of the month will get me.
I wasn't born to be king, I'm a rat,
and it's the king who gnaws me.
What's tough is playing
The hero
Without blinking;
It hurts like hell.
Forgive me, love,
If I pawn my heart.
It's just that I'm penniless,
And the debts have choked me.
Seen like this,
Our love
Has no end in sight.
At bottom it's blue jeans
On a street vendor's stall.
I'm struggling for loose change
while the sea gives no toehold;
Even doing double my best,
I end up passing the hat.
No more knick-knacks;
I'll farm out the faith.
In my pagode even sardines
from the counter play jazz.1
He who can't follow me
gets mixed-up;
He has to become globalized
And sweat for ten.
Excuse me, love.
If I stay here with you,
I'm risking the loss of
A promised job.
So much love
Demands marketing.
I'm freelancing myself;
Our romance is over.

1. The authors were inspired to
compose this song while seated
at a bar in central Rio's Beco
das Sardinhas, an area known
for the quality of the sardines offered
at its botecos.


Rodrigo Lessa's Discography


Solbambá (CD; 1997)
Independent 17R05L62

Available from:

Produced by: Sérgio Benevenuto

Guest appearances: Alza Alves, Andréa Ernest Dias, Arthur Maia, Bernardo Bessler, Bororó, Carlos Fuchs, Celsinho Silva, Christine Springuel, Eduardo Neves, Jacques Morelenbaum, Lucio Trombone, Marco Lobo, Marcos Suzano, Marcus Ferrer, Mário Sève, Nilton Rodrigues, Nó em Pingo D'Água (Celsinho Silva, Mário Sève, Rogério Souza, Papito), Paulo Muylaert, Paulinho Trompete, Rita Peixoto, Roberto Marques, Rui Alvim, Sérgio Benevenuto, Ubirany, Thereza Lessa, Xande Figueiredo.


01. País da Música (Rodrigo Lessa/Thereza Lessa)
02. Arrastão (Rodrigo Lessa/Thereza Lessa)
03. Meta (Rodrigo Lessa)
04. Besta (Rodrigo Lessa)
05. Blues para Chet Baker/Solidão (Rodrigo Lessa)
06. Samba-Jara (Rodrigo Lessa)
07. Solbambá (Rodrigo Lessa/Thereza Lessa)
08. Azul profundo (Rodrigo Lessa/Thereza Lessa)
09. Revelação (Rodrigo Lessa)
10. Os Brutos Também Amam (Rodrigo Lessa/Thereza Lessa)

With Nó em Pingo D'Água

Salvador (CD; 1988/96)

Produced by: Nó em Pingo D'Água

Arrangements: Mário Sève, Rodrigo Lessa, Rogério Souza, Jorge Simas & Marcos Suzano.

Musicians: Jorge Simas (7-string guitar), Marcos Suzano (percussion), Mário Sève (sax, flute), Rodrigo Lessa (bandolim, tenor guitar), Rogério Souza (guitar), Sérgio Costa (cavaquinho).


01. Salvador (Egberto Gismonti)
02. Quebra Pedra (Tom Jobim)
03. Nosso Encontro (Sivuca/Hermeto Pascoal)
04. Viola Violada (Nonato Luiz)
05. Chorava (Wagner Tiso)
06. Curumim (César Camargo Mariano)
07. Chará (Baden Powel)
08. Bebê (Hermeto Pascoal)
09. Libertango (Astor Piazzolla)
10. Chuva Morna (Heraldo do Monte)

Receita de Samba (CD; 1991/96)

All compositions by Jacob do Bandolim

Produced by: Carlão & Nó em Pingo D'Água

Arrangements: Rodrigo Lessa, Rogério Souza & Nó Em Pingo D'Água.

Musicians: Celsinho Silva & Leo Leobons (percussion), Leonardo Lucini (bass), Mário Sève (sax, flute), Rodrigo Lessa (bandolim, electric guitar, steel-stringed guitar), Rogério Souza (guitar).

Guest appearances: Dino 7 Cordas, Jorginho do Pandeiro, Rildo Hora, Marcos Suzano, Lui Coimbra, Alza Helena Alves, Eduardo Neves, Vitor Motta, Ricardo Rente, David Ganc, Fernando Trocado, Márcio Tinoco, Adriano Giffoni.


01. Assanhado
02. Biruta
03. De Coração a Coração
04. Remeleixo
05. Migalhas de Amor
06. Bole Bole
07. Alvorada
08. Feia
09. Receita de Samba
10. A Ginga do Mané

Nó na Garganta (CD; 1999)
Independent 0013NPD07

Produced by: Mário Sève & Celsinho Silva

Arrangements: Nó em Pingo D'Água

Musicians: Celsinho Silva (percussion), Mário Sève (reeds), Papito (bass), Rodrigo Lessa (bandolim, guitar), Rogério Souza (guitar).

Guest appearances: Guinga & string orchestra, Leila Pinheiro, Leo Leobons, Jorge Filho, Jorginho do Pandeiro, Eduardo Silva.


01. Nó na Garganta (Guinga)
02. Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club (Rodrigo Lessa/Eduardo Neves)
03. Conversa Fiada (Rogério Souza)
04. Tristorosa (Epaminondas Villalba*/Cacaso)
05. Luiza (Papito)
06. Exaltação (Rodrigo Lessa)
07. Manu (Rogério Souza)
08. Valsa da Noite (Mário Sève)
09. Choro de Criança (Mário Sève)
10. Samba (Rogério Souza)
11. Ilha (Rodrigo Lessa)
12. Iluminada (Celsinho Silva)

*Heitor Villa-Lobos

With Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club

Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club (CD; 1999)
Independent 7PJSC99

Available from:

Artistic & executive production: Eduardo Neves, Rodrigo Lessa & Xande Figueiredo.

Musicians: Lula Galvão (guitar), Eduardo Neves (sax, flute), Rodrigo Lessa (bandolim, steel-stringed guitar), Edson Menezes (bass), Xande Figueiredo (drums), Marcos Esguleba (percussion), Roberto Marques (trombone).


01. Transmestiço (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
02. Noites de Gafuá (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
03. Pagode Jazz Sardinha's Club (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
04. Carinhoso (Pixinguinha/João de Barro)
05. A História de um Valente (Nelson Cavaquinho/José Ribeiro de Souza)
06. Fertilidade (Rodrigo Lessa/Pedro Pellegrino)
07. Reggae por Nós (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
08. Maxixe, Paizinho!!! (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
09. Luz Negra (Nelson Cavaquinho/Amâncio Cardoso)
10. Jongo Aliança (Eduardo Neves)

The writer publishes the online magazine of Brazilian music and culture Daniella Thompson on Brazil and the website Musica Brasiliensis, where she can be contacted.

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