Brazil in the MidwestMusic

Paulo Padilha looks back on Midwest tour

Paulo Padilha may not be a household name, but the guy has a nearly 30-year-career behind him, and he’s not about to stop.

A graduate of the University of São Paulo school of music, Padilha co-founded the instrumental combo Aquilo del Nisso in 1986. Asides from backing Brazilian music giants such as Hermeto Pascoal and Dominguinhos, the group recorded several jazz-influenced albums, including the award-winning “Chico Buarque Instrumental” (1994).

Padilha has released three CDs since going solo in 1997, and he’s always on the lookout for new audiences and new creative outlets. Asides from embracing streaming, he launched his own Carnival bloco last year, Bloco Todomundo, and he’s finishing up the second of two U.S. tours that took him and his band across the Midwest and beyond.

“We were invited by Arts Midwest,” Padilha said by email. “Our routine revolved around workshop on Brazilian music and culture on weekdays, and a show on the weekends, in small towns that don’t usually have access to this kind of music. Altogether we played in 12 cities in 11 states, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania; we did 90 workshops and 17 shows, reaching an audience of about 20.000 people.”

Padilha (left) at a Penn State Workshop in February
Padilha (left) at a Penn State Workshop in February

“It was a fascinating experience,” Padilha went on. “We saw a side of the U.S. that few people see. We visited the source of the Mississippi River, practically in Canada, and made lots of friends!”

The tour will end Thursday night with a Chicago concert. “The set list will come from my last two CDs, Samba Deslocado Descolado Samba and Na Lojinha de Um Real Eu Me Sinto um Milionário,” Padilha said. “I’ll be accompanied by André Magalhães on drums and percussion, and we’ll have a special guest — pianist Heloísa Fernandes, who’s recording a solo album by invitation of a Chicago label.”

Padilha is not from the mellow Brazil singer-songwriter variety. His tunes are full of vibrant energy, and while he plays samba and other things that go under traditional Brazilian music, he’s an eclectic stylist who knows how to match words with sounds; his last album includes psychedelic guitars, reggae and Caribbean rhythms, and a take on George Gershwin’s “Summertime” that bounces back and forth between English and Portuguese.

Speaking of Portuguese, if you understand the language then you’re sure to get a kick out of Padilha’s lyrics, filled with a fanciful sense on humor that brings to mind Tom Zé, as evidenced by (loosely translated) album and song titles such as “At the Dollar Store I Feel Like a Millionaire,” “Simple Guide to Deal with Difficult People,” and “I Nosed Around Your Facebook.”

“I nosed around your Facebook, and you’re not as good of a person as I imagined,” Padilha sings to a frenetic marchinha beat. “I nosed around your Facebook, and I confess it left me down in the dumps.” Then he asks you to explain the photo that’s bad enough to make your mother spin in her grave — the one where you’re dancing in a bikini, holding an energy drink, going down to the floor with a come-hither look on your face.

Paulo Padilha at the Old Town School of Folk Music
Thursday, March 19, 8 p.m.
Tickets $20 general public, $18 members

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Sergio Barreto

Brazilian-American editor, web developer and (occasional) event promoter. As founder and content director for this site, I keep an eye on what's wrong with Brazil, but what really makes my heart beat faster is sharing the exciting things happening in Brazilian tech, music, film, and other creative industries.

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