Maria Rita Steps Out Of Mother's Shadow

Excerpted from the magazine for

She is a member of one of the most hallowed pop music dynasties in Brazil.

Her mother, Elis Regina, is widely considered the greatest Brazilian singer of all time. Her father, Cesar Camargo Mariano, is a renowned pianist/keyboardist/arranger/producer. Her younger brother is talented singer Pedro Mariano, and her older brother is musician Joao Marcello Boscoli, who is also the chairman of indie record label Trama.

Her name is Maria Rita, and she is the greatest phenomenon in Brazilian music today.

In only 50 days, she has sold more than 350,000 copies of her self-titled debut album, according to her label, Warner Music Brazil. The album was released Sept. 9. Warner expects it to sell more than 500,000 copies by the end of the year, making Rita the biggest-selling act in Brazil in a year plagued by piracy.

Although "Maria Rita" is already out in Portugal, the album is slotted for a full international release in March 2004.

The music and legend of Regina, who died in 1982 when she was only 35 years old, transcends continents. Despite her pedigree, Rita's success has taken everyone by surprise.

The least musical in her family, she lived in the U.S. and studied communications there (where her father lives) for several years before returning to Brazil two years ago at age 24.

At the time, no one imagined she would follow in her parents' footsteps. In fact, Rita only started singing in public two years ago, performing in small venues with a capacity for fewer than 60 people.

Even then she had a personality, and she declined an invitation to sign with her brother's label.

"I wanted to avoid those kinds of comments," Rita says. "You know, like, 'She is the label owner's sister, even I could record an album like that.' Of course, the natural thing would be for me to be in Trama, where artists have total creative freedom," she adds. "But I decided to wait and postpone my debut."

In the meantime, her concerts had to be relocated. The venues where she used to perform were becoming too small for the crowds she drew, and the concerts were sold out weeks ahead of time. The press reviews were highly positive, attracting attention from the audience and, obviously, record companies.

Surprisingly, Rita has studiously avoided material previously recorded by her mother.

"Our resemblance is genetic, not conscious," Rita says. "But in matters of music, I hear much more Ella Fitzgerald in me than Elis Regina. For me, Elis is my mother, above all things. When I sing, I get totally involved in the music, the musicians, the audience."

Like her mother, Rita is emerging as a champion of young songwriters. In her day, Regina was instrumental in launching the career of legends like Nascimento, Gilberto Gil and Ivan Lins.

Similarly, "Maria Rita" mostly consists of previously unrecorded material written for the singer by artists like Nascimento, Rita Lee, Claudio Lins and Marcelo Camelo (lead singer of Los Hermanos).

Last month Warner Brazil released a DVD of a live concert at the 600-seat Sao Pulo's Bourbon Street Theater. Also titled "Maria Rita," it has already been certified platinum, with more than 50,000 copies sold to date.

Excerpted from the Dec. 6, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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