Ivete Sangalo on Protests in Brazil: "The Country Is Developing and We Want a Share"

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Saudade is an untranslatable Portuguese noun that describes a feeling of yearning that goes deeper than the English equivalent miss. And saudade is what so many expat Brazilians feel, no matter how acclimated or integrated they might have become with life in the U.S. After all, their rich culture and laissez-faire lifestyle is something that not even Florida -- home to arguably the largest immigrant Brazilian community in this country -- can provide.

That is where Ivete Sangalo -- Brazil's biggest-selling solo artist today -- comes in, helping to soothe that feeling with a lively, high-energy concert.

See also:

-Ivete Sangalo on Gil and Caetano: "I Have Lived With These Tunes From the Crib"

Sangalo is a charming, charismatic singer with an easy smile who won fans' hearts during her years as lead vocalist of Banda Eva (she followed in the footsteps of performers like Daniela Mercury and Luiz Caldas). Once she struck out on her own in 1999, she quickly became one of the country's most popular voices.

We caught up with Sangalo over a phone interview from her hometown of Salvador, Bahia. During our chat (done in Portuguese), she spoke of the show format, her recent releases and also took the time to give her thoughts on the recent protests that have rocked the country.

Crossfade: Let's talk about your new show. It is your first major tour of the U.S. since you came here in 2011?

Ivete Sangalo: Yes, in 2010 we had a show in Worcester (MA), another in Miami and finally at Madison Square Garden - they were all sold out, and we used the footage for the live DVD (2010's Multishow ao Vivo: Ivete Sangalo no Madison Square Garden). This time I am playing in cities I've never been to, which is the case of Los Angeles. I am very happy with this show, which is based around my new record, but since this is a show outside the country, this will be a very mixed show that will feature today's hits but the set list will tell a little about my musical story for those who have missed their home country and its music for such a long time.

Are you looking to expand to a more international audience with this tour? On your previous stops here, like during Brazilian Day in 2003, you focused mostly on expats...

I am quite aware that I do have a foreign following - there are Americans who travel to Brazil during Carnaval and I also notice this via social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and Twitter. We also notice that when we do live shows, there is a considerable presence of non-Brazilians in the audience. However, Brazilian fans are a priority for us, because they are like agents for us - they are like promoters of Brazilian artists because if they have a restaurant, they will play the records - if they run a manicure salon, they do the same - so it's like thousands of promoters. I have lots of respect for them, lots of love and the "saudade" they feel - they miss the land, the habits, the food - it's a way that I have to give back to them, so I am excited to play for these people who feed my work to new listeners over there - when the audience is out there, we don't know who is who or where they come from - the music comes to them and it speaks to them - and that is very important.

Are you bringing the same band you play with in Brazil? Or will there be any changes?

No, it's my regular band, my whole team travels with me. The props, the clothing, and everything is like we do in Brazil.

You recently released Ivete, Gil & Caetano, a collaboration with Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. How did that project come together? I mean, you were taking a place usually occupied by either Maria Bethania or Gal Costa, and they are from a much earlier generation than you are.

They certainly are from a different generation, but their music is so representative of my own music. I grew up to their songs. Their music to this day is very present in my life - I have a very personal relationship with them that it is almost on a family level. I was very at home with those songs, because I have heard them a lot since I was a child. When it came the time for the rehearsal, there were no questions either from me or them. Everything was very natural; it just flowed well because I have lived with these tunes from the crib.

They are true pioneers from Bahia who opened the doors for performers like you and Daniela Mercury, for instance.

Their music plays such a big part in our lives, I think the best way that they can stimulate me is by making music with me. They both have this vision that I think is really cool, and it was a beautiful project, and it ultimately got us the Latin Grammy - it was really special.

Changing the subject a bit, you are in Brazil and there is a lot going on there. What is your opinion of these protests that are happening all over the country these days?

As a citizen, I think that Brazil is now a country that is developing, and as such it also develops a voice. People are taking to the streets in peaceful manner to say, 'I don't want things to be this way.' I believe that this is a right of the Brazilian people. Brazil's status has attracted a lot of international attention because of the economic situation and because things are changing here. I think people are waking up, but what exactly are they waking up to? Well, I am part of a developing country; I deserve health care and education that reflects this situation. It's no longer a situation like, "Thank God I have a doctor to help me," but "I want the best I can possibly get." So I think that we as Brazilians can have this freedom of expression. It is sad that in the midst of these groups there are some who don't really want anything but to cause confusion and the destruction of public and private property. This makes us really concerned, because while this movement should be interpreted as coming from people that want things to improve, there are these vandals who turn this into a negative thing. However, I can tell you that Brazilians have a lot of awareness, we want change, and I think that this is an exercise for the politics of Brazil to see the country really reach development.

Earlier, we had a different image. We were a third-world country. I used to hear this quite a lot. "Brazil is underdeveloped, blah blah blah," so everything about the country was in accordance to that condition. So no matter how much you complain, you are in a third world country. The moment that the country has a decent economy, people start becoming aware of what is possible and what is owed to them. So it is just fair, if the economy grows, inflation goes down and the buying power of Brazilians grows, and so do jobs. We have become a country everyone's looking at, so since this is the status, let's fight for better things. It is a fact that this country has been underdeveloped for many, many years - but it is true that we are in a different path now. So we say, 'We are developing and we want a share of that development.' It's like downloading - no one wants to download anything if you have to wait for half an hour to get it.

There was a piece on the NY Times recently that talked about how high prices have become there - specially the cost of food - they mentioned that a pizza can go for as much as $ 30 in some places. I felt that in my last visit, because I went to the supermarket and paid as much as I would have in a New York supermarket. Do you think this influenced the public outrage?

No doubt about it. It's not just the food - schools are too expensive. Developed countries have decent public schools with decently paid teachers and good structure. You know how I see Brazil? It's like the body evolved but the head didn't. So the body is way ahead and this downgraded head has to adapt to this new body. There is an issue of administrative mentality not to realize that the people will accept to live in the same conditions as before. We want and have the right to have access to everything. The way that the administrators think has to change, because before the protests began, it seemed like it was Brazil's turn - and in a way it still is - the Olympics, The World Cup and so many world events are happening here, and so we are in the spotlight now.

When Marisa Monte toured here earlier this year, she addressed the protests and even did a song reflecting that. Do you plan to do something similar?

No, I don't. I prefer to have a dialogue with the audience. Each one finds a way to have that dialogue in the way that makes them the most comfortable - I think doing it through song is cool, but since I'm more of a talker, I prefer to do it that way.

-- Ernest Barteldes

Ivete Sangalo. Sunday, August 18. American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $49.50 to $103 plus fees via ticketmaster.com. Call 786-777-1250 or visit aaarena.com.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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