Performance Wednesday, December 5, 2012 | 8:30 PM

Arnaldo Antunes
Orquestra Imperial

Zankel Hall
A double-bill of contrasts from Brazil: Orquestra Imperial, a retro-chic homage to big bands from the 1950s, plays sambas and other dance classics, while poet and singer-songwriter Arnaldo Antunes’s hypnotically quirky vision of contemporary MPB (música popular brasileira) is on display in a set with his five-piece band.

En este concierto doble se muestran los contrastes de Brasil: la Orquesta Imperial, en un homenaje retro-chic a las grandes bandas de la década de 1950, interpreta sambas y otros clásicos de baile, mientras que la visión hipnótica y extravagante del poeta, cantante y compositor Arnaldo Antunes de la música popular brasileña (MPB), se podrá escuchar en un set acompañado de su quinteto.

Um programa duplo, revelando os contrastes do Brasil: a Orquestra Imperial, uma homenagem retro-chic às big bands dos anos 50, tocará samba e outros clássicos dançantes, enquanto que a visão hipnótica e extravagante de MPB de Arnaldo Antunes será apresentada em um quinteto.


  • Arnaldo Antunes
  • Orquestra Imperial



    Arnaldo Antunes

    Poet, singer, and composer, Arnaldo Antunes was born in São Paulo in 1960. He joined the group Titãs, with which he recorded seven albums. Antunes's solo career began in 1992. His recordings include Nome, Ninguém, O silêncio, Um som, O Corpo (soundtrack to a dance concert by Grupo Corpo), Paradeiro, Saiba, Qualquer, Ao vivo no estúdio, Iê Iê Iê, Ao vivo lá em casa, and Tribalistas (with Marisa Monte and Carlinhos Brown). He has several books published in Brazil (including Psia, Tudos, As coisas, 2 ou + corpos no mesmo espaço, 40 escritos, Como é que chama o nome disso, and N. D. A.), in Spain (Doble Duplo), and in Portugal (Antologia).

    In 2009, Antunes and Edgard Scandurra-who have been musical partners for almost 20 years-decided to target a younger audience. Along with Taciana Barros and Antônio Pinto, they released Pequeno Cidadão. That same year, Antunes and Scandurra began writing new songs together. They also shared the stage with Malian musician Toumani Diabaté in a concert at Rio de Janeiro's Back2Black festival. Excited about the resulting sound, the trio released A curva da cintura, which was recorded in Bamako (capital of Mali) and São Paulo in April and May 2011 with producer Gustavo Lenza. This historic meeting was captured on video by Dora Jobim, yielding a documentary that is available on DVD.

    In celebration of his 30-year career, Antunes recorded Acústico MTV last December. With producer Liminha and director Róger Carlomagno, the project was recorded in São Paulo. Acústico MTV Arnaldo Antunes was also released on CD, DVD, and Blu-ray.

    More Info

  • Orquestra Imperial

    Originally conceived from a meeting of friends from different parts of the Brazilian pop music scene, Orquestra Imperial is the result of each member's dream: to be part of a traditional Brazilian orchestra, but with "something else." Since its first appearance in the summer of 2002, Orquestra Imperial has become one of the biggest music sensations to emerge from Rio de Janeiro's Carioca cultural scene. In 2005, Orquestra Imperial achieved wide acclaim, performing in pre-Carnival concerts that each drew crowds of more than 5,000 people.

    The band has since been traveling the world, appearing in Portugal's huge Festival Sudoeste and marking its first US tour, including a performance at the Chicago's Millennium Park as part of the World Music Festival (along with Seu Jorge, one of the band's founders). In 2006, the group performed at London's Barbican Center during an exhibition about Brazil's Tropicália movement.

    In 2007-five years after its first show-Orquestra Imperial released its first CD, Carnaval so ano que vem on the Totolo record label. Later that year, the band recorded with the great Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto on the track "Tranqüilo," composed by Orquestra's electric bassist Kassin and released on Gilberto's Momento album. In 2008, Orquestra Imperial made its European tour debut in several of the best summer festivals, including Roskilde (Denmark) and Cartagena (Spain).

    In 2009, Orquestra Imperial produced and performed a show titled "Gainsbourg Imperial" in tribute to French artist Serge Gainsbourg. Directed by Stephane San Juan (one of Orquestra's percussionists), the event also included the talents of musical director Jean Claude Vannier, Jane Birkin, and Caetano Veloso. In 2011, the band again joined Veloso and special guest Gilberto Gil for a 70th birthday celebration in honor of Brazilian singer and composer Jorge Mautner.

    Earlier this year, Orquestra Imperial released its second album Fazendo as pazes com o Swing, a live CD and DVD from a 2007 performance in Rio.

    More Info


Supermercado Do Amor

Fernando González on Arnaldo Antunes and Orquestra Imperial

In his playful but powerful Manifesto Antropófago published in 1928, Brazilian modernist poet Oswald de Andrade used the metaphor of cannibalism to offer a strategy for creating a post-colonial culture that would be truly national, but also modern and cosmopolitan. Rather than fighting off the cultural products of, say, civilized Europe or the brash, omnipresent United States, he called on his fellow Brazilians to "eat" them and metabolize them Brazilian. It's something Andrade brilliantly sums up in a line that appears in English in his text—"Tupy or not Tupy, that is the question"—which conjures images of the Tupy people (one of the original inhabitants of Brazil and practitioners of ritualistic cannibalism) considering matters of identity while dining on Shakespeare.

Without explicitly championing Andrade, and each in its own terms, the work of singer, poet, visual artist, and songwriter Arnaldo Antunes and the 20-piece Orquestra Imperial speak to the continuing influence of his ideas. Their music—vital, multilayered, and individually Brazilian and cosmopolitan—not only confounds notions of what is foreign and national, but also of what is modern and traditional, sophisticated and primitive, high and low culture.

A rock star in the 1980s as a member of the band Titãs, Antunes has spoken of growing up nurtured by musical influences as disparate as Chuck Berry, João Gilberto, The Beatles, Roberto Carlos, Led Zeppelin, and Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, whose Tropicália movement embraced Andrade's ideas.

"I come from a generation that didn't search for the roots of Brazilian music," Antunes told Russ Slater in an interview for BOMB magazine in 2010. "Brazilian music was for my generation a mix of rock 'n' roll, reggae, samba, maracatú—it was impossible to hear the influence of foreign music. You could say that the only music that is uniquely Brazilian is the indigenous music. The most important thing for me is to be free to transmit the many different influences, either from Brazil or outside, and not worry about mixing them. I think this is a very Brazilian thing because Brazil has always been such a mix of cultures."

And in a previous conversation with poet and essayist Eucanaã Ferraz, also for BOMB, Antunes discussed how the cosmopolitanism of São Paulo, his hometown and a microcosm of Brazil in its diversity, informs his vision and his work. "I believe the experience with this ethnic, cultural, linguistic, architectural, religious, culinary, and behavioral multiplicity allows a certain detachment in relation to notions like homeland or cultural roots ... At the same time, that huge mix of references perhaps represents, in itself, a form of identity, with which I could recognize and express myself."

Meanwhile, Orquestra Imperial is "a psychedelic version of a gafieira orchestra," explains Geraldinho Magalhães, manager and one of the founders of the band in a conversation from his office in Rio de Janeiro. Gafieira is a dancehall samba that emerged in Rio in the 1940s and took its name from the popular halls where it was created. It became, Magalhães says, "a very popular musical genre in the 1950s and '60s—it was basically big bands playing samba." Gafieira peaked in the late '70s; by the turn of the new millennium, he says, "but for two or three very traditional bands, this type of orchestra didn't exist."

Orquestra Imperial was founded in 2002 by "a group of musicians from different bands and different music styles and traditions," recalls Magalhães, "who had the dream of putting together a typical gafieira orchestra—but much more psychedelic." Key players in the creation of the Orquestra include composer and producer Berna Ceppas; notable young pop musicians Moreno Veloso and Kassin (who are both still in the orchestra), and Seu Jorge; plus such historic figures as percussionist and singer Wilson das Neves (who also remains in the ensemble). As the band explains, the idea is "to interpret a varied repertoire, including boleros and songs from the '60s—classics of the ballroom culture in new arrangements."

In fact, the musical updating has led Orquestra Imperial to collaborate with artists as disparate as Caetano Veloso, Marisa Monte, and The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. As for repertoire, the band has been known to pay tribute to classic samba and do a version of the rock group Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart," but also feature Caetano Veloso and Jane Birkin on a show dedicated to the music of Serge Gainsbourg. "This is not a project about researching or preserving tradition," says Magalhães, chuckling at the notion.

Instead, the music of Arnaldo Antunes and Orquestra Imperial are celebrations of some of the improbable mixes, the many sources, the generous embraces that have shaped, and continue to shape, the culture of Brazil.

It's "Tupy or not Tupy …"—played out loud, with electric guitars, pandeiros, and trombones.

—Fernando González is an independent music writer and critic whose work appears regularly in The Miami Herald, JazzTimes, and The International Review of Music.


Arnaldo Antunes performs "Lê Lê Lê."

Orquestra Imperial performs "Fita Amarela."

Latin American Music and Artists at Carnegie Hall: From the Carnegie Hall Archives.

Gilberto Gil and Osvaldo Golijov on international influences on Brazilian music.

Lead funding for Voices from Latin America is provided by grants from the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sponsored, in part, by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mercantil Servicios Financieros.

Public support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Consulate General of Brazil in New York.
This performance is part of Voices from Brazil, and World Views.

Part of