Brazilian music invades New York

Michael Astor
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This undated image released by Brasil Summerfest shows Lenine who will perform at the fourth annual Brasil Summerfest in New York. Beginning Friday, July 18, nearly 20 acts representing a cross section of Brazilian popular music will play at venues across the city. (AP Photo/Brasil Summerfest, Harper Smith)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Brazilians are coming. Over nine days starting on July 17, some 20 acts representing a cross section of Brazilian popular music will descend upon New York playing at venues across the city for the fourth annual Brasil Summerfest.

The ensuing party may do little to avenge the country's spectacular World Cup flameout, but at the very least it will serve to show that Brazil has more than just soccer: They still have their samba.

"Hopefully all the artists will be happy because soccer is a sensitive topic to talk about in Brazil," explains Brasil Summerfest founder Petrit Pula, adding that he thinks the festival will get a boost from the Cup, "because you're thinking about Brazil all the time, you're hearing, you're watching a sporting event that's taking place in Brazil and here you have a Brazilian music festival."

While Spanish-language sounds are amply represented in New York City, Portuguese-language Brazilian music has long flown below the radar.

Pula aims to change that.

"There was never really a platform for these Brazilian musicians," he explains.

When he tried to convince producers at Central Park's Summerstage to do something to change that he couldn't seal the deal until he took one of them down to Brazil and they saw loads of great music together.

"It was supposed to be a day or two but it turned out to be week and now it's growing fast," he said.

This year's acts range from Bebel Gilberto, daughter of bossa nova giant Joao Gilberto, who will be opening the festival with a free show at Celebrate Brooklyn to Lenine, who spikes intricate rhythms from Brazil's northeast with dashes of electronica, and will play a free show on July 19 at Central Park's Summer stage.

One of the most intriguing acts is Roge, who will play the City Winery on July 22, a modern samba star with a surfer boy image that has many likening him to a Brazilian Jack Johnson — a comparison he chafes at.

"Our sounds have very different roots. I have a swing, a dance beat that he doesn't have. But you know, having a beach life style, being a beach character I can see that we share a similar image but I don't see it in the sound," Roge said in telephone interview from his home just off Ipanema beach.

Regardless of how you classify him, Roge's sound is winning converts through with his album, "Brenguele," recently released in the United States.

"With the World Cup, Brazil will be in evidence, because of some songs I'm doing for ESPN people will have more access to my work," Roge explains. "It's my time to arrive."

Warner Brothers Vice President and Sire records co-founder Seymour Stein, who signed Roge, agrees.

"I saw him live at a club and my god he had everybody up and moving and was just incredible. Just an incredible band, they're all players on their own, and it was just a wonderful evening," explained Stein, adding he believes Roge's energy can translate in America even if he's not singing in English.

Pula says that recreating the context for Brazilian music is one of the Brasil Summerfest's main goals.

"The festival itself brings a lot of that energy here. Even in Brazil you wouldn't see all of these artists together. Last year, I felt like I was in Brazil the whole week," Pula said. "So the idea was to like capture that and this is the best way to do it."