Music Inside (1990)
By Ralph Burnett
The music of South America has increasingly commanded the attention of the world over the past decade--and Brazil, which covers nearly half of that continent, continues to be its loudest voice. With the release of Music Inside, Polygram's distinguished Verve Forecast label extends a passport into the twenty year career of one of Brazil's brightest stars--Joyce.
Even though Music Inside is her American debut, Joyce has released thirteen albums in Brazil and a few more abroad. Her past releases have garnered frequent awards, even best albums of the year in Brazil, and have topped the charts. It is not surprising that many of her songs have become standards. The very sexy "Mysteries" (Misterois), which appears here, is one of the most recorded songs in Brazilian popular music.
Joyce was born in Rio De Janeiro on the thirty-first of January in a year that a Democrat named Truman was President of the United States... and how long has she played the guitar? "I started playing the guitar when I was 14, that makes...a lot of time," Joyce laughs. She recalls one influence in particular that germinated her desire to perform. "I have two older brothers from my mothers first marriage and my second brother used to play guitar in jazz, bossa nova, and rock n' roll groups that would rehearse at our house. When I was very small I use to stand behind the door and watch him play with his friends, that was great."
Joyce picked up the guitar from her brother and began singing in clubs while still in her teens. Her recording career was launched in 1967 when she performed one of her own compositions at the same music festival that launched Milton Nascimento. "It was very hard for me in the very beginning to be a woman composer," states Joyce. "When my first album came out in 1968 my songs were very feminine," something very pedestrian to the ethical norms of Brazilian music before that time. Joyce says that her songs "spoke about being a woman and loving men: I talked like a woman... I talked very, very openly of the feelings of a women... all this was considered offensive to the Brazilian Moral. Joyce continues, "at that time there were no Brazilian women composers at all and those few women composers that existed before that time never wrote as women, in the feminine, they always wrote in a neutral tone so that songs could be sung either by men or women." Joyce is encouraged by the changes that she has seen in the behavior of many people as a result of her openness. Says Joyce, "sometimes after a concert women come to me and they say I'm so glad that someone has spoken for me... and sometimes men come to me after a concert and they say thank you for teaching me how to treat a woman better. That is my part in the big puzzle of Brazilian music... I am this piece that touches men and women relationships."
And why does Joyce only go by 'Joyce?' "When I made my first album in Brazil I was 18 years old and everybody in the record company said 'Joyce' is enough because it's not a common name. If my name was Maria or something like that I would probably have to use a last name because people would say Maria who? Maria What?" And I thought it was some kind of Brazilian thing. By the way, I do know Joyce's last name but you'll have to pay me beaucoup bucks to get it out of me.
Richard Seidel, a name synonymous with Polygram, was the chief mediator in bringing Joyce to the States. He met Joyce years ago when he was producing a record for Brazil's best known composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Joyce recalls, "I had just finished an album that was a Jobim songbook and because of that and because he was writing the notes for my album, I was in close contact with him; this is how I met Richard." It wasn't until 1989 that their ideas for releasing an album in America came to fruition. "Suddenly it was my birthday last year," says Joyce, "and I just came home from a dinner and I found a message on my answering machine and it was [Richard] saying 'happy birthday Joyce, I want to make a record with you now.'"
On Music Inside, Joyce has translated most of her songs into English. "This is so important for American audiences to hear the songs sung in English," states Joyce, "but they also have to know how beautifully musical Portuguese can be." Ironically, she chose to record one of the two American standards found here in Portuguese. "I recorded ['Talkin' About a Revolution'] on my last album which was a live album released in Brazil," says Joyce, "and it was something that I decided to do because I felt that [Tracy Chapman] was talking very political stuff... I thought we have so many reasons to talk about a revolution in Brazil that I should translate that song, not only the words, but the whole meaning of the thing. So in [the translation] I speak about the poor people up in the hills, the people that are being killed in the factories, and the rubbertappers that have been killed in the forests."
This burning desire to voice truth and cultivate change has forged beyond the borders of her native Brazil. "I have toured in France, Japan, Europe, the Soviet Union, and in Latin America," says Joyce. "I think my work is spreading through the world and this is something that really makes me happy because I don't think any more that any artists should be confined to their own country only... I mean with [the advancements in technology] the world's getting smaller and smaller so I think it is the natural way to do touring all over the world." Joyce will begin an American tour, co-billed with renowned Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta, in Los Angeles on June 5th.
When I asked Joyce to choose a favorite song on her American debut she said that would be "like trying to choose a favorite son. I like the whole thing... I like the thing as a whole."
Music Inside demonstrates the wealth and verdancy of a major composer at the peak of artistic maturity and introduces a major Brazilian artist to a deservedly wider audience in a musical style she helped to create.