Listening Post 65. It’s no surprise that samba featured prominently at the Rio Olympics. But in the 100 years of Brazil’s iconic music form —the first song was registered in November 1916—samba has often struggled for respect. The singer-songwriter-novelist Chico Buarque remembers a critic who called him a sambista in a belittling way he took as an insult. When Carmen Miranda conquered Hollywood some Brazilians turned up their noses, at least in part because of her samba roots. Roberta Sá, one of today’s great samba artists, gave a rousing and sensitive Miranda interpretation at the Olympic closing ceremony; Delírio (Delirium), her sixth album, is a rich collection of samba diversity, drawing on a range of composers—some long gone, at least one still in his teens—and includes a duet with Buarque. The title song is a quest for love in a seductive Carnaval frenzy: “On a galloping horizon, coming toward me like a wave,” she chants, “I see ghosts of my beautiful delirium” (video 1). In the samba reggae Meu Novo Ilê (My New Sanctuary), Sá searches for a lost love in the vocabulary of candomblé: “Rise, my drum/From my new shelter,” she sings, “Find my love/And return to life” (video 2). Her duet with Buarque, Se For Pra Mentir (If I Lied to You), is a bossa nova-inflected tribute to romantic honesty: “You don’t deserve distress/You only merit protection,” the lyric says, “I prefer to run away with you/To any corner of the world” (video 3). Album standouts include Me Erra (Let Go of Me), with touches of Cape Verdean morna; and the pagode-tinged Boca em Boca (Word of Mouth). All respect to Sá and samba. (Som Livre)
Bonus video 4: Any primer on Roberta Sá deserves a nod to her vibrant 2007 Carnaval salute, Âlo Fevereiro (Hello February) about an enchanting conversation between guitar, tambourim, cavaquinho, whistle, surdo and cuica—the instruments of samba.