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Dona Onete in Concert : 14 July, 2017

Dona Onete in Concert : 14 July, 2017

Dona Onete - ‘the grande dame of Amazonian song’ - returns with further tales from the river Amazon on her sophomore album Banzeiro.

Whether she’s championing gay rights, singing about the delights of indecent proposals or praising a former lover for his ‘crazy ways of making love’, Banzeiro is defined by Onete’s honest reflections on life, love, sex as well as her delight in the everyday pleasures of life in the Amazon, whether that’s spicy seasoning, salty kisses or fishy-smelling water.

Formerly a history teacher, folklore researcher, union representative, culture secretary and children’s author - “I never thought I would be a singer” she claims - Onete recorded her debut album Feitiço Caboclo at 73. A cult figure in Brazil and an ambassador for Amazonian culture, the music she sings is a unique mix of rhythms from native Brazilians, African slaves and the Caribbean - epitomised in the joyous carimbós that are her trademark. 

Born in the Amazonian region of Pará in 1938, Onete is a mix of native Indian from her mother’s side and African from her father. She first started to sing after a chance riverside encounter: “I was washing clothes by the river and one day I saw a dolphin and sung for him. The next day I sang again, and two dolphins came, then a whole family!”. 

A self-proclaimed “teenage-dreamer” who embraced music “because everything was forbidden by my parents”, by the age of 15 Onete was singing in bars, yet her musical ambitions were soon crushed: “I was married at 22 and when I tried to sing at home my husband didn’t like it so I had to stop”. 

She became an ardent researcher of the rhythms, dances and traditions of the Amazon’s indigenous and black people, which inspired her to begin composing songs herself. Unable to sing at home, she began to incorporate her compositions in her work as a history teacher, using her songs to explain the history of the region to her students: “Nowadays indigenous people can be proud of their heritage but years ago this wasn’t the case.”

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