September 2002 issue 


Text: Lula Freire
English translation: by Anthony J. Waugh


There is an age-old prejudice, now rapidly losing ground, which, unjustly, attributes a better performance to a man if compared to that of a woman exercising the same function. Evidently this prejudice is offensive to women: in the eyes of those who defend it, the woman is, and always has been, predestinated for the function of mother and helpmate, being totally unfit for any other meaningful role. However, step by step, the woman has claimed her place in all the fields of modern life, and, in some cases with rare excellence. Today it is almost impossible to think of a sector of society - the professions, politics, science, arte etc. - where women are not energetic participants. In the world of music - more as singers than as instrumentalists -, women have already achieved just recognition. Great female stars, coming from almost every country in the world, have a guaranteed presence on any stage on the planet. Evens as instrumentalists, it is not uncommon to find a market female presence in a band or orchestra: not so many years ago, a lady playing a horn or the drums in the line-up of one of the big bands would have caused a scandal. However, despite the fact that the great symphonic orchestras  of  New  York, Berlin or London all count upon a considerable female contingent, in pop segment, the appearance of a great instrumentalist, is still greeted as something of a surprise. Such artists still have to overcome a residue of the old prejudice. Even when they receive good reviews, there will always be at least one critic who include the accolade "she plays like a man...", which is seldom a fair or accurate comment. One of the best examples of this is the brilliance of Vera Figueiredo on the star-studded Brazilian musical scene. What is really unusual is the area which Vera chose to study: percussion, and she has gained such a dominion over her difficult art that she has become one of the greatest, if not the greatest, percussionist in Brazil. Historically, percussion is a strictly male preserve - if only because of the energy and stamina the practice demands - the presence of a woman behind the bongos and drums is a decidedly unusual sight. And, when that woman is Vera Figueiredo, the level of surprise is even greater. The exuberant technical quality of her performance transports the audience close to ecstasy. In addition to being the percussionist and composer, Vera also leads the other musicians in the group. No matter what the rhythm, her agile and impressive gyrations never leave any doubt as to who is in command. If the spectator closes his eyes during a performance, he hears more than one sound: Vera's beat and sound effects irradiate the impression of a veritable band, which magically fills the musical space with high temperatures, clear-cut forms and radiant colours. With this CD, which is just now coming unto the Brazilian market, we can travel along with the percussionist in perfect safety, without worrying about possible technical defects - there are none. All the same, it might be a justifiable surge of emotion, which could well lead to a permanent refusal to every go back to the world of silence. Vera Figueiredo's CD is a fine and vigorous musical gift for the Brazilian public, and, undoubtedly , also for the international market. And to finally put an end to the old prejudice, we can look forward to the day when, on hearing an extraordinary, remarkable percussionist play, someone will surely comment: "He's really good: he plays like Vera Figueiredo".


1. Vera Cruz Island - This first track evokes the atmosphere of North-eastern Brazil, in a mix which insinuates contemporaneity with traditional ingenuousness.

2. Tererê - Here the mix is a mysterious samba with an accentuated Caribbean flavour.

3. Devagar - The change in tempo right at the beginning of the track gives a good idea of the rhythm the band leader wants to impose, insisting that it be rigidly followed. And it is.

4. Renata - A delicate moment on the CD, where Vera Figueiredo pays a sweet and tender tribute to her mother.

5. Double V - The multiple sketches in Vera's percussion colours the whole track, which is punctuated by the timid presence of a musical rhyme which takes us back to the good old days.

6. Deep Inside - Perhaps the most beautiful musical piece on the whole CD. A romantic and sensual ballad in tones of calm moonlit nights.

7. Reaching Another Day - The Vera Figueiredo Samba School parades its colourful costumes in the chords of the guitar, piano and bass, all led safely to the end of the avenue.

8. Reverse - a light-hearted chorinho which was a must on this CD, which pays regal homenage to Chiquinha Gonzaga. A carefree trip to all our yesterdays.

9. Chamamé - another Brazilian classic, interpreted with interesting solos by Elias Resende on his "finely-tuned" accordion.

10. Mr. Banana - The geat drummer, Milton Banana, receives a just tribute from his fan, who, on this CD, shows herself to be as brilliant as he was.

11. Figão's House - In this track, which is dedicated to her father, Vera Figueiredo uses the metals in a vigorous and intelligent manner, carried along at a firm, solid rate by Maurício Marques' keyboard. One of the best tracks on the CD.

12. Cai na Real - A dance involving all the members of the group, all with the same upbeat, jovial swing.

13. Dave - A performance of the group's multiple variations, with an ectravagant avant-garde flavour.

14. Saudade - prepared by poetry, the last track says farewell to the Cd, leaving us with fond memories.


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