Ionete da Silveira Gama, aka Dona Onete, didn’t start singing professionally until her early 60s, but she spent a lifetime immersed in the rhythms and culture of her native Pará, a northern state in Brazil’s Amazon region. As a child, she sang while washing clothes along the river as a child; as a youth, she sang sambas at a bar in exchange for beers; as an adult, she taught history and Amazonian studies at the university level, and was eventually elected as Secretary of Culture in the Igaparé-Miri municipality.
By the time Dona Onete retired, she’d written over 300 songs. After moving to the state capital, Belém, she jumped headlong into singing; a local artist collective “discovered” her singing at a bar in 2000, helping her launch a national career that gained more traction with the 2013 release of her first album, Feitiço Caboclo.
You could say this is Brazilian folk music, filled local references, legends about pink dolphins and other enchanted Amazon beings, and regional rhythms that inspired the short-lived international lambada craze, such as the sensual carimbó and guitarrada. But at the same time, Dona Onete is totally in tune with contemporary music trends; rapper MG Calibre guests on “Rios de Lágrimas,” while electronic textures adorn “Poder da Sedução” and “Louco Desejo.”
Dona Onete is now sharing her gifts with U.S. audiences in a short tour, and although she mostly performs seated due to hip problems, her powerful voice and torrid rhythms are guaranteed to get people moving.
- Sept 22-23 – Chicago @ Old Town School of Folk Music’s Preston Bradley Hall
- Sept. 24 – Albuquerque, New Mexico @ National Hispanic Cultural Center
- Sept. 27 – New York @Elebash Hall