Rosa Passos’s Giant Step

brazilian singer and guitarist Rosa Passos

After a dozen years of stops and starts, guest recordings, and her own solo albums, the spotlight finally found Rosa Passos.

Rosa Passos’s giant step took place at Ravinia Festival, with a helping hand from a good friend.

First published on Connect Brazil, August 8th, 2003

It happened last night.

After a dozen years, a handful of bi-coastal performances, two or three guest recordings, and after surviving a smattering of import releases from a Brazilian-based label with more than its share of dubious credentials and questionable business practices, the spotlight finally found Rosa Passos, center stage at Ravinia Festival, Thursday night.

And we have the world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma to thank for it. Backstage, I asked him how he came across the Brazilian singer. “It was quite by accident,” he exclaimed. “It was all quite by accident.”

Accidents happen.

Ma, who stands nearly alone in the universe of classical music as a luminary devoid of performance ego happily shared the stage with a brace of talented musicians including pianist Katherine Stott, the guitar mastery of the Assad brothers, bassist Nilsson Matta, percussionist Cyro Baptista and the always playful reedman, Paquito D’Riveira.

Directing the music through a variety of instrumental pairings, Yo-Yo Ma’s easy onstage persona gave the musicians room to flourish; at times, Ma’s obvious enthusiasm for the talent and repertoire found him fully caught up in the moment, along with the rest of the audience.

And so when the diminutive Bahian singer strode across the stage with guitar in hand, the audience was prepared to give this virtual unknown a warm welcome. What they weren’t prepared for was her vocal warmth, inviting personality, and a smile that lit up the August night.

Although Rosa Passos’s giant step was long in the making, we’ve done our best to herald the arrival of singer Rosa Passos as quite possibly the best female vocalist in Brazil.  Delicately creative on her own terms, she possesses the voice of a worldly angel. Her phrasing can be decidedly jazzy, often trailing off to the point where the end of a line comes as an unshakeable sense of suggestion.

And, although her skill has grown considerably over the years, she still carries the impression that she could be the female embodiment of Joao Gilberto at his very best. It’s no surprise to learn that his recordings were a strong early influence.

As an early fan (I first began programming her music into our syndicated radio show The Sounds of Brazil! in early 1994) I was happy to see opportunities come her way, first with Kenny Rankin’s Here In My Heart CD and her own import releases: Pano Pra Manga and Festa being among my very favorites.

Already well established in other parts of the world- notably Europe and Japan – where, at the prompting of her fans she recreated her signature to include a stylized rose, Rosa Passos took a giant step forward last night in Chicago, where YoYo Ma’s sensational Obrigado Brazil concert was broadcast “live” to greater than 70 cities last night.

No Brazilian singer deserves it more. Don’t miss out on her concert appearances with Yo-Yo Ma this fall, and don’t let her music pass you by – visit for more information.


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