Who Are the Brazilian Artists Playing Rock in Rio USA?

Ivete Sangalo, Sepultura, Marcos Valle, Alok among sampling of Brazilian stars at American edition of the festival.

The first USA edition of Rock in Rio, billed as “The World’s Biggest Music Festival,” kicks off this Friday, May 8, in Las Vegas. American headliners No Doubt, Metallica, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars are among the artists booked to draw massive crowds. But what about the Brazilians at the two-weekend fest?

Superstar singer Ivete Sangalo is the only Brazilian artist set to play the main stage (May 15) at Rock in Rio USA, whose name harks back to the 1985 event that put Brazil on the map for major international artists.

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Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura will play the Merecedes-Benz Evolution Stage on May 9. DJs Ftampa and Alok will DJ from the EDM Stage on May 8 and 9, respectively. And a half-dozen other acts from the festival’s home country are scheduled for the area of the new City of Rock called Rock Street Brazil, where Disneyland-like “charismatic figures from Brazilian culture” and a capoeira group will also entertain the crowds.   

Rock in Rio USA is by no means a festival of Brazilian music; it never has been, even in Rio. But the Las Vegas event will offer festival-goers a chance to see some popular Brazilian artists, including a Sixties bossa nova veteran, a jazz icon, and an 17-piece jazz big band with a Carnival vibe.

Here’s a preview:

Ivete Sangalo

The most popular female singer in Brazil, Ivete Sangalo is a huge star who spends most of her touring time performing for her fans across Brazil. That’s not to say she doesn’t draw audiences outside of her native country: she sold out Madison Square Garden the first time she gave a concert there, in 2010. 

The singer from Salvador, Bahia is known for her high-energy stage shows and pop songs built on the Afro-Brazilian dance rhythm called axé. Sangala has opened for Beyonce in Brazil, collaborated with Shakira and Alejandro Sanz, and sung the themes to telenovelas. Her best-known hit, “Sorte Grande,” became a soccer anthem. Her latest hit was this year’s Carnival anthem “Para Frente.”

Marcos Valle

With a stretchy tennis headband over his long blond hair, Marcos Valle combined the bossa nova craze with California style in the late sixties and seventies, with music that mixed Brazilian sounds with a heavy dose of mainstream pop. Valle lived for a time in Los Angeles. His crossover album Samba ’68 contains the classic “So Nice (Summer Samba) -- you may not know the title, but you’ll recognize the song.

He moved back ot Brazil and continued to get groovy with songs like 1983’s disco-infused “Estrelar.” The Rio native has continued to record and perform what he calls “Carioca soul.”

Spok Frevo Orquestra

The Spok Frevo Orchestra combines the swing of an American jazz big band with folkloric Carnival rhythms and accordion stylings of music from the Pernambuco region in Northeast Brazil. A definite crowd pleaser.

Leo Gandelman

Saxophonist Leo Gandelman is frequently called one of the most influential Brazilian musicians. With a repertoire spanning classical, jazz and Brazilian popular music, he is a reference point in the United States as well, having performed at the very first Rock in Rio in 1985. Well-known among smooth jazz aficionados in the United States, he attended Berklee College of Music and has performed with everyone from Chico Buarque to Bill Clinton. 


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