Daniela Soledade brings reverence, passion and English lyrics to her duet with Rio’s Roberto Menescal
Daniela Soledade sings Rio’s siren song, inspired by the eternal rhythm of her ‘first and forever’ hometown.
by Scott Adams
Daniela Soledade’s ‘Rio’ begins with some Portuguese wordplay. It’ll capture your imagination.
“Sou Rio, sorrio,” she intones. The two parts sound the same, and it’s clever in English, too: “I’m Rio, I smile.”
For songwriters Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Bôscoli, this turn of a phrase was more about lifestyle than it was about poetry. One that ultimately came to define Bossa Nova’s beach culture, especially here in America. More on that in a minute.
The opportunity to record with Roberto Menescal in his island studio, in Rio de Janeiro came while her version of ‘Você’ was still moving up on our personal playlists.
Daniela recalls: “One day, my manager received an email from Menescal’s assistant asking to put him in touch with me. He had heard my recording of his song ‘Você’ and wanted to share some kind words about it. Then, he suggested that we record something together and chose his composition, ‘Rio’!”
‘Rio’ is a Bossa Nova gem, but unlike other Brazilian evergreens like ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ and ‘Summer Samba’, its English version (if there ever was one) never caught on.
So, Daniela Soledade set out to create her own lyrics, based on the original:
“It’s always best to be respectful to the original lyrics because I want to tell the same story,” she offered. “But I also want the poetry to make sense in English. The sentences should flow nicely, the rhymes to sound good, and for the words to match the melody so that it doesn’t affect the rhythm of the song.
“‘Rio’ is not only perfect the way it is, but it was written by two of Bossa Nova’s most important songwriters, so it’s about trying to keep the beauty and the poetry that they wrote. I just want to do it justice, so these lyrics were written with reverence while staying as close to the original lyrics as possible.”
Songwriters and their city
Menescal and Bôscoli hit their stride as songwriting partners during the early 60s, coming up with hit after hit. ‘O Barquinho’ (The Little Boat) came first in ‘61, followed by ‘Nós e O Mar’ (We And The Sea) a year later and then, this song, ‘Rio’ in 1963.
They were so prolific that Bôscoli called their musical marriage “the long holiday.” These two twentysomethings spent their days on Rio’s waters: Menescal loved to fish, so the gang would rent a trawler and set out for the coves near Cabo Frio. But, it wasn’t too long before they bought a little sailboat…
Both had climbed the ladder through Bossa Nova’s brief history and tellingly both identified more with the music of Jobim and João Gilberto than they did with what they were hearing on the radio.
Six little words
Together, Menescal and Bôscoli ignited a generational shift for Brazil’s rising middle class which was sending its children off to college in record numbers. Students needed an optimistic soundtrack for their lives. They found it with ‘Rio’.
Because cleverly inserted deep into the lyrics, the phrase “é sol, é sal, é sul” (it’s sun, it’s salt, it’s south) arrives, waiting for the emotional peak of the song.
Those six little words became a statement of identity for the New Carioca and a generation of rising Brazilians. The phrase influenced the English versions of dozens of Bossa Nova favorites, too.
Daniela’s story personalizes the phrase by bringing the city to life:
Her salt, her sun, her light, revealing all the sparkles in the sky. I’m singing to my Rio with her stunning glow, where loneliness and sadness you will never know. My Rio never sleeps because she doesn’t tire. My Rio swings desire.
“Menescal is one of the original founders of Bossa Nova,” Soledade explained. “He was the Music Director for Rio’s largest music label and he’s produced many of Brazil’s greatest artists. Roberto has done it all!
“You wouldn’t expect someone with his level of achievement to be so down to earth, but that is exactly what he is. He invited us to his studio, and he took us on a tour. He had cake and coffee ready. He was so calm and just a joy to be around.
“At one point, our videographer was worried about taking too long to film our studio performance for ‘Rio’. It was because she didn’t want to take time away from his lunch break. But Roberto just smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I’m only going to have lunch towards the end of July…”. Everything is good with him. Nothing bothers him, and that was just so nice,” Daniela recalled.
A new collaboration
Then, Daniela Soledade surprised us with this bit of news:
“Afterwards, Roberto Menescal said, “We should write a song together” and to my surprise, he sent it to me the very next day! A new song for me to write lyrics to. I couldn’t be more excited!
“And I just can’t believe how active he is, how efficient he is, while at the same time being one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I am very lucky to know him both as a new friend and collaborator.”
You’ll love how ‘Rio’ captures the artistic flow between Daniela’s English and Roberto’s Portuguese; their voices buoyed by his softly-strummed guitar.
Generations meet as the song builds to its end, but no doubt your imagination will linger, caught up in ‘Rio’s’ nostalgic tug.
It’s the same musical patina that’s created a lasting impression of Rio de Janeiro for millions of Brazilian music fans worldwide, who dream of being there, just once.
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