João Bosco

The quintessential Brazilian musician

2017–02–12, São Paulo

I usually like to watch these bastions of MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) backed by a band. Besides the vibe you get just from a live band, I like to check the updated band arrangements the composers make for classic songs. Also, João Bosco is always backed by exceptional musicians such as guitar player Nelson Faria, whom I have never seen live. Even so, alone on stage with his guitar as it was in this concert, João Bosco is spectacular.

João opened with “De frente pro crime”, one of the many songs from his partnership of many years with lyricist Aldir Blanc, followed by other well-known Brazilian popular music gems, only stopping between songs to thank the audience’s applause. João Bosco has a great voice, which in no way shows his seventy years of age. Always impeccably in tune, he effortlessly reaches the highest notes of songs like “Jade”, “Memória da pele” and especially “Corsário” (my favorite of his repertoire), whose performance was overwhelming.

“Corsário” — Bosco talks about russian poet Maiakowski in the beginning of this video (in Portuguese). The song starts at 2:10.

Born in the state of Minas Gerais, a region far from the ocean, Bosco had never seen the sea until 1968, when he was invited by poet Vinicius de Moraes to go to Rio de Janeiro for the summer. Vinicius told him to take a taxi when he’d get off the bus and ask the driver to take the route going next to the beach on the way to his house, so Bosco could see the ocean for the first time. The day was still dawning and the moon could still be seen reflected on the sea. The sun was just about to rise, giving to the sky a lilac hue that Bosco called rosicler (a hard to translate word, a combination between rose and clear and also a woman’s name). João Bosco saw in that unique moment a perfect picture of what’s bossa nova, a music style that “didn’t have the sun of Dorival Caymmi’s songs or the dew of Noel Rosa’s music — but was somewhere in the middle” .

I loved this story. This was the only moment of the show when João Bosco talked to the audience. The story set the stage for the next song, Tom Jobim’s “Fotografia” (“Photograph”), a bossa nova standard.


The way he sings, vocalizes or whistles (!) along his intricate guitar playing is jaw-dropping. And all this with that “this is easy” expression on the face. It’s also nice to see how much João Bosco sings and plays with great pleasure. Even sitting all the time, he gave himself entirely on each song.

By the end of the concert, Bosco counted on the audience to sing “Almirante negro” with him. When it came the time for the classic “O bêbado e a equilibrista” and the popular “Papel Machê”, João didn’t even sing, but only played for the audience to sing the whole songs.

I left the theater with that feeling you have when you’re in the presence of one of those great talents you don’t see around very often. “A rare thing to see”, as Bosco sings on “Jade”.

And when he leaves the stage, he still thanks the public …

Some days after this concert, I was talking to a friend and he told me that João Bosco told that same story about seeing the ocean for the first time on another concert, months ago. So, that must be part of the show. A good story, anyway.

For more pictures of this concert, check the album on my Flickr account:

If you want to have an idea how great is João Bosco when backed by a monster band, check the video below, featuring mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda:

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