Raised with the Rhythm: an interview with Paula Gelly & Marco de Carvalho

A Rosa de Rio, the current show at Teatro ZinZanni, features cool and breezy Brazilian music sung by newcomer Paula Gelly. Marco de Carvalho joins the Teatro ZinZanni house band to heat up the tent with his smooth guitar. He also joins Paula in several duets.

Paula Gelly began singing a cappella at the tender age of 11. She added guitar to her repertoire at age 14 and quickly became a devoted student of both Brazilian music and American jazz. A quadruple threat (she sings, dances, acts and models), Paula’s career as a dancer began at the Alvin Ailey Dance Center. Since then, she has performed in Broadway musicals such as Chicago and Sweet Charity. She makes her Teatro ZinZanni debut in our current show. Her character starts out as a busser working in her aunt’s cabaret. Transformed by the magic of the tent, she blossoms into an exotic chanteuse throughout the evening, capturing the heart of Chef Caesar along the way.

Guitarist, composer and arranger Marco De Carvahlo moved to Seattle from his native Rio de Janeiro about 11 years ago. He plays an immense repertoire including bossa nova, samba, MPB, choro, classical and traditional jazz music, as well as his own compositions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in guitar performance from the Brazilian Music Conservatory, and he has studied and played with many great Brazilian musicians including Luiz Eca, Afonso Vieira, Lucas Robatto, Helio Delmiro, Ronaldo Miranda and samba singer Alcione. Some of the Seattle-based musicians he plays with include Jeff Johnson, Reade Whitwell, Geoff Harper, Tad Britton, Byron Vannoy, Buddy Catlett, Lori Goldston, and others. He teaches private lessons and at the Seattle Drum School of Music and has also been an instructor at the North Seattle Community College and a guest instructor at Cornish College of the Arts.

How has it been for you both so far being part of the Teatro ZinZanni family?

Paula Gelly (PG): “I’m having a lot of fun, yes, a lot!”

Marco De Carvalho (MDC): “I’ve been performing with Luis Peralta and Hans Teuber for a long time and to be back on stage with them is wonderful. Also having Norman Durkee as musical director is great because he knows exactly what he wants and what he needs from us, especially from me since this is my first time performing on the show. It makes everything easier.”

When did you get first get started in theatre, Paula?

PG: “I have been singing and playing guitar since I was a teenager since I was thirteen. I am a dancer too. I am actress and a model. Ten years.”

We are now in our six-performance weeks at Teatro ZinZanni through the holidays. Do you find this challenging, exhilerating, exhausting!?

PG: “Yes, but there is something very different about Teatro ZinZanni, and that is the relationship with the audience. They are really part of your show every night, and this is very, very interesting for me. It is changing me as a performer – you are not only there and showing your art, it’s more than that, you are really exchanging with people. And also sharing the stage and the show with performers from all over the world, it’s a wonderful experience. And music wise, it’s wonderful to do Brazilian music with American musicians. Having Marco is like a present because it’s very important for the band and the songs we play in the show they are very important to our culture, right Marco? Aguas de marco the first song we did is a very special song because Elis Regina performed it in Montreux in the festival and anyways we really chose special songs for the show.”

How did the song selection come about?

MDC: “We all came up with ideas but Durkee as the musical director made the final decisions. He can see the whole show as one. For me, I could only see individual songs, but he knew exactly how each song would be related within the context of the show, including the length of each song.”

And you’ve been performing for how long?

MDC: “For my whole life, I’ve been performing. I’ve always made my living playing guitar. So when I came to the United States eleven years ago, I continued my career as a professional musician here doing what I was doing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Playing everywhere and recording. Then Teatro came along and TZ is a unique opportunity because it’s not just about the music. I feel like I am playing a live soundtrack every night – I have always loved soundtracks, but this is all together. Comedy, dance, music, effects, dinner, acrobats, – there are so many cues. I have a stack of music on my stand for all the scenes. In a regular gig, we play a song and we sit back and look at each other and say something and than decide what to play next. At TZ it is non stop. Song after song, effects with some percussion instruments. No time to think or talk about the last song you just did. It’s exciting. It takes me a long time to decompress after each show.

“I met Paula at TZ. Durkee called me saying we have this Brazilian singer and we shoud get together. And the very first song I played, Paula said – “

PG –“Oh!”

MDC: “Paula said – this is my favorite song. She knew the lyrics.

What is the difference between playing with American musicians and how they interpret the feel of Brazilian music? How has it been?

PG: “It’s challenging and eye-opening at the same time. In Brazil we are raised with the rhythm. This is different from culture to culture. It’s been a great experience to share that with people, because for us. We count music here, they say off-beat. But for us it’s not off-bear. Here you count on the beat It’s very interesting for me to work with Americans – they know what they are doing all the time, so you can construct many different melodies and phrases in the music. It’s a great exchange.”

MDC: “Nowadays with all the internet and tv and communication, the world has become so compressed. You can hear all kinds of music. If you go back just a few years, you could listen to something and say wow what kind of music is that!? People played regional music – people didn’t have cds, computer, international tv or radio stations . Nowadays the communication is so incredible, you can learn about any kind of music. Being born in that region makes it natural – you don’t have to learn the rhythm. It’s all about the rhythm. That is the difference. There’s something to this. I’m from Rio so I play samba. I’ve been living here in the United States for a while working as a professional musician and I think after I learned the language and lifestyle and listening to the jazz albums and more than anything playing jazz with real jazz musicians and listening to them , that I can now play a little bit of jazz. I teach them my music and vice-versa. It’s been great!”

In the time you’ve been here have you noticed a more knowledgeable audience?

MDC: “I came in here in 1997. Back then people used to buy cds at the gigs, nowadays they download. The amount of information out there is incredible. When you play on a daily basis in a club, the fact you are playing a real instrument attracts people in a certain way. And today everything is so mixed, especially with the remix, the lounge music, which was popular back in the 1970s and it’s back with a whole electronica apparatus and support and then mixing rhythms from everywhere with no melody . The rhythms are not as distinguished as before – African, Brazilian, Cuban, American rhythms. They all sound the same. Most of the people are driven by that kind of industry information and knowledge, by the so called “world music” . Everything is becoming very similar. Unless you go back to root or folk music, regional. Yes eleven years makes a big difference.”

What are the differences between American audiences and Brazilian audiences?

MDC: “That’s a very complex question. It’s all cultural. In Brazil, for instance bossa nova concerts are very intimate – it doesn’t have visual appeal or volume appeal. Here the influence of Hollywood is significant . ZinZanni is a great formula – comedy, music, food. Culturally in Brazil the audience can be content with just the music.

PG: “When I do the walk-around, singing, in Brazil people would touch you. Here people don’t do that but they are wonderful, very curious about the music, they ask me the names of the composers.”

“When Tina Turner gave a concert in Rio de Janeiro at Maracana soccer stadium, she walked into the stage wearing a t-shirt of the most famous soccer team in Rio de Janeiro and the crowd went nuts. She didn’t even have to sing the first song and everybody already loved her. That is visual appeal.How has it been for you both so far being part of the Teatro ZinZanni family?”

Here’s a sampler of the songs Paula and Marco perform in A Rosa de Rio, now playing through February 15, 2009 in our magical spiegeltent at Teatro ZinZanni.


2 comments on “Raised with the Rhythm: an interview with Paula Gelly & Marco de Carvalho

  1. […] Raised with the Rhythm: an interview with Paula Gelly & Marco deGuitarist, composer and arranger Marco De Carvahlo moved to Seattle from his native Rio de Janeiro about 11 years ago. He plays an immense repertoire including bossa nova, samba, MPB, choro, classical and traditional jazz music, as well as his own compositions. […]

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