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Carlos Nino  in London
Latinos in London Magazine  on 2014-05-29

Mônica Vasconcelos & The London Bossa Collective

Two decades ago, a group of musicians got together in London to create and perform music. Among them, Brazilian singer Mônica Vasconcelos, British pianist Steve Lodder and Brazilian guitarist Ife Tolentino. “When I left Brazil in the early 90’s, it wasn’t cool to be into Brazilian music. My university friends were listening to rock”. Seven albums and many songs later, a collective of 11 musicians, under the benevolent rule of an obstinate - but always loving - Mônica have gathered to make a DVD in celebration of 20 years of music making in the city where they all met.

'London Bossa' features a performance film (where the band is seen playing six original songs on a stage) and the documentary '20 Years of Us', which tells their story. Honest and unpretentious, shot with a modest budget and home made approach, the doc focuses on the rich dialogues that have blossomed from this encounter of creative minds and cultures. (Brazil, Britain, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Germany, Italy, Mozambique, Portugal – all these nations have been represented in Monica’s various line-ups.)

What is the doc about? The attraction of Brazilian music – with its irresistible rhythms and harmonies - to musicians all over the world. The beautiful model of togetherness that jazz offers to the world, where everyone must listen to each other and where everyone can be creative in their own way. The first impressions. English humour meets the childlike, joyful Brazilian approach on life. Stories behind the songs. Mônica’s family life and the eye condition which affects her and her brother Gui (who appears in the film, singing with her). People they met along the way. A guest appearance by rock and jazz legend Robert Wyatt, who collaborated with Mônica on her album Hih. (She sings the duet ‘Just as You Are’ with him on his album ‘ComicOpera’). Brilliant music. The doc features a live performance by Mônica and her band at The Vortex jazz club, in London’s East End, last year. Suitably, the ‘London Bossa’ DVD will be launched at The Vortex on Friday, May 30th. And as the planet gathers to watch the World Cup in Brazil.
Radio and Music Mônica’s devotion to music is only matched perhaps by her passion for radio. Last year, she was heard on BBC Radio 4 presenting the documentary ‘The Secret History of Bossa Nova’. In it, she interviewed (and sang with) Bossa Nova master Marcos Valle.  She also spoke to one of her Brazilian music heroines, jazz samba legend Joyce. In March this year she was heard across the planet, on the BBC World Service radio, presenting (and again singing on) the documentary ‘Brazil: Confronting the Past’, which marks the 50 year anniversary of the coup that installed a military dictatorship in Brazil, in 1964.
Looking Ahead In October 2014, Mônica will perform at the Kings Place, in London. The concert ‘Rise Up and Dance: Brazilian Freedom Songs’ will feature protest songs which helped Brazil endure the difficult years of the military dictatorship – from 1964 to 1985. English versions of the lyrics will be projected on the back of the stage, so the audience can appreciate the text of the songs, often overlooked when Brazilian music is performed abroad.
Looking Back - a few words from Mônica “Making music has become harder, now that recorded music has lost its commercial value. Still, I had to make this DVD to celebrate what are, to me, some of the most important things in this life: Creativity. Friendship. Great musicianship.I also want to celebrate the beauty of Brazilian culture, away from the clichés and stereotypes. Telling the story of my native country from our own perspective, with depth, so the world can understand what we are about, the beauty and the struggles of this huge nation. I have learned so much from the culture and the people of Britain. I think  there are things Britain can learn from Brazil. Funny, I’ve just remembered… years ago, Tony Botelho, bass player in my band Nóis, gave me a nickname: Professora. The teacher. How insightful of him!” J Mônica
The London Bossa Collective is: Steve Lodder – piano and keyboards, Ife Tolentino – guitar, Guille Hill – guitar, Dudley Phillips – bass, Matheus Nova – bass, Marius Rodrigues – drums, Chris Wells – drums, Adriano Aewale – percussion, Ben Davis – cello, Shanti Paul Jayasinha – trumpet, Gui Vasconcelos – backing vocals

Monica Vasconcelos: |
Mônica Vasconcelos & The London Bossa Collective live:
30 May DVD launch at The Vortex, London
18 Oct at Kings Place, London

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