Beleza Brazil

Posted on February 10, 2010 by


The heart and soul of Brazilian music has been filling Charlottesville’s air since 2005. However, for Humberto and Madeline Sales, it all began in Salvador, Brazil, where they met and began playing music together. Madeline traveled to Brazil as a “gift to herself,” or a break from her Arlington cubicle job, and fell in love with the culture – and Humberto.

The duo toured in Turkey in 2004, and, due to Madeline’s family residing in Charlottesville, returned to the U.S. a year later. “I never thought he’d stay,” Madeline explains, as Humberto’s hometown of Salvador has a population of 3.2 million in comparison to Charlottesville’s mere 41,487. However, the Brazilian bossa nova captivated the audiences of Charlottesville, and the duo began to play regular gigs around town.

Although Beleza Brasil still plays as a duo, the band expanded into a quartet with bassist Dave Berzonsky, a U.Va alumnae who also plays with the Olivarez Trio, and drummer Matt Wyatt, who not only has his own band, Rhythm Mantis, but also plays with two Richmond-based bands, Os Magrelos and Quatro Na Bossa. “We all have a shared love and appreciation for Brazilian music,” offers Wyatt, a Richmond native. “We also really click(ed) musically in many ways.”

However, the band quickly realized the need to adapt the Brazilian bossa nova for an American audience. “They didn’t know how to dance to it,” explains Madeline of the accessibility of the beat.

The band moved towards “Brazilian lounge,” which pairs a funk back beat with Brazilian roots, creating an original samba funk sound. However, it was not about assimilating into American culture, explains Madeline, but rather the audience responses to their layering of various musical styles.

In ten words, the band members creatively described their musical sound.

“Samba funk soul rock with some heavy groove to move,” offers Wyatt.

“Luscious tropical activating dance music that makes the booty move,” affirms Dave.

Humberto and Madeline add, “Rhythmic captivating sensual soulful inviting dance of the eternal saudade,”

… a Brazilian phrase expressing the experience of ‘crying and laughing at the same time.’

All in all, the band layers bossa nova, samba, funk, jazz, and soul to generate music not of the individual, but of a culture of people.

“The weakness of American music is that musicians are obsessed with being original, without understanding music,” says Berzonksy, explaining that Brazilian music is not like the American idea of an individual genius, but a lineage of music, artists, and a culture simply channeled through the musician. “Decide what you want to sound like first,” adds Madeline, “and it should come pretty easily (songwriting/lyrics).”

One key element of Brazilian music is energy. Last summer, Wyatt went to Brazil with the Sales duo, and was impressed by the openness and participation of music performances there. “(There was) a lot of audience participation, regardless of whether someone ‘knows the steps’ or the words, and whether the band is ‘known’ or unknown,” explains Wyatt of the festive nature of genuine Brazilian music and culture.

“The source or inspiration for performing is often the audience (i.e. dancing),” explains Madeline. “We feed off the audience’s response and energy.” Wyatt also encourages audience participation, explaining, “We always carry an extra pandeiro or shaker. Bring your own cuica.”

Aptly named “Beautiful Brazil,” the band’s four passionate musicians speak highly of their Charlottesville music scene. “It’s an amazing for a town this size,” expresses Berzonksy. “I challenge you to find a more diverse and thriving music scene.”

Berzonsky encourages Cvillians not to focus on merely the big venues and the big name bands stopping in town for one night, stating, “Local music here is awesome not because U2 came here, but because the local music is honestly talented.”

With the recently opened Jefferson Theater, local artists are able to play in a bigger show, an ideal opportunity for this town’s music scene.

Although their name has been mistaken for a salsa band or even a rockabilly or reggae band, Humberto is regularly mistaken for an American by audience members. “I’d like the audience to know that I’m the Brazilian one!” jokes Humberto. However, through thick and thin, the band has stuck together, because, as Wyatt says, “We knock on wood; and metal.”

Humberto and Madeline can also be found playing with Toma que Toma every other Thursday at Maya for Flamenco night. Find out more information about shows and upcoming events.

Favorite Date Spots:

1. Eat at Ten

2. Sugar Hollow

3. Carter Mountain to enjoy the view

4. Monticello Trail

5. Keswick Hall’s Fossett’s

6. The Mockingbird in Staunton

7. Blue Ridge Parkway

8. Bashir’s Taverna

9. C&O on a Tuesday night

10. Maya when Beleza Brasil plays on the patio!

Posted in: 10 in 20ten, 2010, music