Jorge Ben Jor
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Jorge Ben Jor

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | INDIE

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | INDIE
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The best kept secret in music


"Jorge Ben Jor back in the USA"

Big Ben
"I am an urban suburban poet and my beat stays the same," says Jorge Ben Jor one of the most enduring Brazilian pop musicians. His old compositions have resisted the inclemency of time and he himself has renewed constantly and successfully his repertoire.
Liana Alagemovits

"Mas Que Nada," (Why, No Way), one of the biggest hits ever in Brazilian pop music, was the first single release of an until then unknown singer/composer called Jorge Duílio Ben Zabella Lima de Menezes or Jorge Ben for short. That was just the beginning of a career still going strong that would span three decades of successes and all the musical genres from samba to iê-iê-iê, from rock to bossa nova, passing through tropicalismo, jazz and reggae. He has never limited himself to a particular style of music and has never looked down at any musical style.

"Mas Que Nada" was recorded about 200 times around the world and according to his author it was just to pay homage to happiness. It was precisely this light spirit that made Jorge Ben an exceptional musician. In 1993 he changed his name to Jorge Ben Jor but never stopped his search for new experiences that could enrich the message of his songs. Four years earlier he had adopted the Jorge Benjor moniker to avoid being confused with George Benson, who once had some money deposited is his checking account for payment of a Jorge Ben's European tour. Despite all the rumors Ben Jor denies that the name changes have anything to do with numerology.

Jorge was born in a slum of Madureira, a working class district in Rio, and was raised in a section of the north side of the city. All of this has contributed to his long time passion for the samba school Salgueiro, which is in Tijuca, a neighborhood in the north zone of Rio. More recently, however, he has also been close to Mangueira, another samba school. "I'm a musical reporter," he says. "To write my songs I read a lot of newspapers including those from Italy, England and France." His lyrics are chock-full of popular expressions and terms used in the working class-suburbs of Rio.

He has begun his singing career at the famous "Beco das Garrafas" (Bottles' Cul-de-Sac), a small dead-end in Copacabana where bossa nova bloomed. The name derives from the fact that the area residents annoyed with the noise would throw bottles at the young musicians who in the early sixties promoted jam sessions in the neighborhood.

Some of the stories involving Ben Jor are almost hilarious. No one would image, for example, that "Mas Que Nada" was written and recorded for the first time during his military service. The song was an homage to Rosinha, a friend who lived in Copacabana and who had the habit of using this expression all the time. For some time, young Jorge wanted at all costs to become a soccer player. He even started, as a junior, a career at Flamengo, Rio's most popular soccer team. Fortunately, music was the winning choice. His lyrics would exalt, however, his life-long passion for Flamengo.

The fact that Ben Jor's parents were friends of Ataulfo Alves, one of the most important Brazilian composers of all times, helped the youngster make his mind. His father composed some Carnaval tunes, but he wanted his son to be a lawyer and his mother dreamed for him a career as a pediatrician. At 18, Ben Jor, the youngest of the household was given his first guitar and he learned the first chords by himself. By then he had already spent apart of his young life as an altar boy and singing in churches. It comes from this period his admiration for angels. In his song "Charles Anjo 45," which was censored by the military regime, the inspiration was Robin Hood.

Many came to define his music as something Black and Latin. This kind of sound could be heard, for example, in the sound track of Xica da Silva, a film directed by Cacá Diegues almost twenty years ago. Ben Jor has become an internationally acclaimed musician. He had 14 records released in France, 10 in Japan, four in Germany and four in Italy. He made a song for Marilyn Monroe in the 80s entitled "Norma Jean" when he was in Los Angeles at the Paramount Record Studios. He even brought a suit -- and won it -- against English rock singer-songwriter Rod Stewart whom he accused of plagiarism

Recently the Ben Jor surprised Brazil's new generation with songs about social awareness. In 1993, the tune "W Brazil," inspired by one of Rio's slums, and a tribute to adman Washington Olivetto, came as an opening statement. It was a national hit which indicted in a festive rhythm the corruption of impeached president Fernando Collor de Mello.

Through radio stations but also through cult parties in the suburbs Ben Jor has won over the heart of the urban adolescents as he had done with their parents in the 60s. In his most recent album, Homosapiens, the musician talks about life, other worlds and man's evolution. He is happy with this latest ventur - Brazzil . com

"Jorge Ben Jor"

Born in Madureira and raised in Catumbi, Rio de Janeiro’s suburbs, Jorge enjoyed singing with the church choir and going out with carnival bands from an early age. In his teens, he was a given a guitar and started playing bossa nova and rock’n’roll with it. In the 60s, he performed at Beco das Garrafas, which later became a legendary nightclub area in Copacabana and home of the bossa nova movement. And that’s where he was spotted by a producer, who promptly offered him a record deal. Soon, in 1963, the first single was out, featuring "Mas Que Nada" and "Por Causa de Você, Menina", performed along with the group Copa Cinco. That same year, he released his first LP, "Samba Esquema Novo". Ben headed to the States, where his compositions "Zazoeira", "Mas Que Nada" and "Nena Naná" hit the charts and were re-interpreted by musicians such as Sergio Mendes, Herb Alpert, José Feliciano and Trini Lopez. In the era of musical shows on the TV, Ben managed to remain faithful to his multi-faceted techniques, appearing on bossa nova, rock’n’roll and tropicalist productions. In 1969, he relished on success with songs like "Cadê Teresa", "País Tropical" and "Que Maravilha", besides competing on a festival with "Charles Anjo 45". He was placed first in 1972, when Maria Alcina sang his "Fio Maravilha". Ben Jor released other albums in the 70s, including the classics "A Tábua de Esmeralda"(1974) and "África Brasil"(1976). During the next decade, he dedicated to spreading Brazilian music throughout the world. In 1989 he changed his name from Jorge Ben to Jorge Ben Jor. His song "W/Brasil", released in 1990, hit the dance floors in ‘91 and ’92, turning into a long-lasting fever. At that point, his records took on a more pop direction, nonetheless keeping his trademark swing. The tribute album "Música para Tocar em Elevador", from 1997, features new generations of Brazilian composers, like Carlinhos Brown and Fernanda Abreu. Jorge Ben Jor’s music holds a unique role in the Brazilian scene, due to the merging of new elements in his swinging mix and to the way he plays the guitar, revealing his appreciation of soul music and north-American funk, yet incorporating the influence of African and Arabian music, legacy of his Ethiopian mother. His vocal and instrumental riffs had great influence over the sambalanço ("swinging samba") trend, developing into a style to be followed, and therefore assembling numerous fans and rip-offs. Ben’s songs have been re-recorded over and over, and he has been praised by many of the new generation’s big acts like mundo livre S/A (with the record "Samba Esquema Noise") and Otto. - All Brazilian Music

"Brazilian Day festival"

This is the first time Jorge Ben Jor will participate in the Brazilian Day events. Charismatic and deeply appreciated by the Brazilian public, Jorge Ben, as he's also known, is definitely an icon of the Brazilian music. He had first concert in New York City during the old famous Waldorf Astoria carnivals, in the '70s, organized by the Brazilian Promotion Center.

With his celebrated hits “Mas que nada” and “Chove Chuva,” Jorge Ben has offered the world a spectacular and distinct rhythm, influenced by names such as João Gilberto, to whom he would listen during his youth. The Tropicália movement also heavily influenced his career, bringing him close to Caetano Veloso, who helped boost Ben Jor's career with an invitation to participate in a famous TV show that Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Elis Regina anchored at the Tupi TV station.

Beyond being a composer and singer, Jorge Ben Jor is also an arranger. He monitors his works phase by phase, looking at every possible detail. One his most famous songs, “Mas que nada,” is the notorious Brazilian song most played in Portuguese in the United States ever, having also been recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and numerous other artists. Who would be able to recognize the lyrics “O ariá raiô, Obá obá obá”?
Among Ben Jor's most famous works are: "Balança pema"; "Menina bonita não chora"; "Por causa de você, menina"; "Zazueira"; "Agora ninguém chora mais"; "Bebete vãobora"; "Cadê Tereza"; "Charles, Anjo 45"; "Que Pena"; "Take it easy my brother Charles"; "O telefone tocou novamente"; "Mulher Brasileira"; "Fio maravilha"; "Taj Mahal"; "Caramba... Galileu da Galiléia"; "Os alquimistas estão chegando"; "Menina mulher da pele preta"; "Minha teimosia, uma arma pra te conquistar"; "Jorge da Capadócia"; "Ponta de lança africano (Umbabarauma)"; "Xica da Silva"; "A banda do Zé Pretinho"; "Ive Brussel"; "Salve Simpatia"; "O dia que o sol declarou seu amor pela terra"; "Santa Clara clareou"; "Roberto corta essa"; "W/Brasil (Chama o síndico)"; "Engenho de dentro"; "Alcohol" and "Gostosa." -


2007 - Recuerdos de Asunción 443
2004 - Reactivus Amor Est (Turba Philosophorum)
2002 - Acústico MTV
1997 - Músicas Para Tocar Em Elevador
1995 - Homo Sapiens
1995 - Roda Viva (1995)
1984 - Dádiva
1993 - Mestres da MPB
1993 - 23
1992 - Live in Rio
1989 - Ben Jor
1986 - Ben Brasil (1986)
1985 - Sonsual
1982 - Energia
1981 - Bem-vinda Amizade
1980 - Alô Alô, Como Vai?
1979 - Salve Simpatia
1978 - A Banda do Zé Pretinho
1976 - África Brasil
1975 - Solta o Pavão
1975 - Gil & Jorge: Ogum, Xangô
1975 - Jorge Ben à l'Olympia
1975 - Dal Vivo Al Sistina
1974 - A Tábua de Esmeralda
1973 - 10 Anos Depois
1972 - On Stage
1972 - Ben
1971 - Negro É Lindo
1970 - Força Bruta
1969 - Jorge Ben
1967 - O Bidú: Silêncio no Brooklin
1965 - Big Ben
1964 - Ben É Samba Bom
1964 - Sacundin Ben Samba
1963 - Samba Esquema Novo



With no package leaflet or contraindications, that is the music of Jorge Ben Jor. He got interested in music when Bossa Nova was still in charge of the Brazilian and world artistic scenery. Just like the majority of the teenagers at that time, his idol was João Gilberto, whose colloquial voice woke up his admiration. But Jorge Menezes, known in the whole world as Jorge Ben Jor, listened to Luiz Gonzaga and Ataulfo Alves during all of his childhood. At home, his parents used to talk about a certain Nelson Gonçalves who was the crooner of Severino Araújo’s orchestra. We can also remember from the same time the special voice of Cauby Peixoto who, one day, about decades later, would record one of his songs, Dona Culpa Ficou Solteira.

Jorge Ben Jor was revealed by the song Mas Que Nada and soon confirmed his talent with another great success, Chove Chuva. Two songs which had nothing to do with Bossa Nova or with the traditional samba either. The purist believed his music was too modern. It was hard for the musicians at that time to follow him, so much that his first albums were recorded with a group that played jazz in the Beco das Garrafas, the Meireles e os Copa 5.

So, from the beginning of his career, Ben Jor has shown himself innovative. As a composer, singer, musician, bandleader and arranger, Ben Jor is the only one. It is impossible to classify his music and balance, which are unmistakable. But “this samba mixed with maracatu”, a registered mark of Jorge Ben Jor, has found its place in the world and became a worldwide success. He is the only Brazilian unanimity. Respected and received with respect, by every artist, in every musical movement, from the post-bossa nova until nowadays. The remaining artists of bossa nova, such as Tamba Trio, Pery Ribeiro and Walter Wanderley recorded Mas Que Nada and other of his compositions. Mas Que Nada was the only song in Portuguese to ever reach the top songs played in the United States.

At the beginning of MPB (Brazilian Popular Music), Jorge circulated as performer through the TV shows Fino da Bossa, leaded by Elis Regina and Jair Rodrigues, Jovem Guarda, leaded by Roberto Carlos and O Pequeno Mundo, of Ronnie Von. They were terribly different. An artist who participated in one of such programs would be immediately forbidden to sing in the others. The only exception was Jorge Ben Jor. And when the tropicália emerged as the most innovative musical artistic movement, who was the only artist already consecrated which was invited to get into the movement? Him, of course, Jorge Ben Jor, mandatory presence also in the TV show Divino Maravilhoso, presented by Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa and directed by Fernando Faro and Antonio Abujamra.

Since the end of the 60s until nowadays, Jorge is the only composer to be recorded by artists of every musical kinds. Mas Que Nada is registered in the voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzie Gilespie, Julio Iglesias, Al Jarreau, Trini Lopez, José Feliciano, Fred Bongusto, Mina, Nicoletta, Los Hermanos Castro and in hundreds of other records of artists and musical groups in hundreds of countries in the world.

When MPB emerged as a movement of the Brazilian musical elite, Elis Regina made Zazueira immortal. She also recorded Se Segura Malandro. Jair Rodrigues recorded Papa Gira. Elza Soares, Paulinho Nogueira, Maria Creuza and Tania Maria recorded Mas Que Nada. At the same time, a Young Singer called Wilson Simonal reached the success in all the radios with the hit País Tropical, praising the happiness and pleasure of being Brazilian. This song has just been recorded, almost thirty years later, by Ivan Lins.

In these years of great artistic boom, a group of artists of the Jovem Guarda, Os Incríveis, recorded Vendedor de Bananas, a spectacular success, which came back 20 years later, in the amazing performance of Ney Matogrosso. Erasmo Carlos, the partner of Roberto Carlos, also composed with Jorge at that period and recorded the composition Menina Gata Augusta. In Ronnie Von’s TV show, Os Mutantes reached the fame with the song Minha Menina.

And then Gal Costa started to record Jorge’s songs. Que Pena, one of the most important hits of her career has taken her to the group of the top Brazilian singers of all times. Also part of such group, Maria Bethânia recorded Mano Caetano.

A little later the black music emerged. With Diagonais, Cassiano, Fábio, Banda Black Rio and the king of soul music, Tim Maia, the shows and parties, which were the joy of the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, became popular in almost all the country. What artist was invited to be the Pope of the movement? Him, old friend of Tim. Thus, during the following years, Jorge Ben Jor crowded the parties of the ones who liked this kind of music. The annual parties of Chic Show were famous, crowding gymnasiums, with his mandatory presence.

Claudete Soares became famous recording Que Maravilha, which was first presented in an album by Jorge and Toquin