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Since his debut recording in 1995 – a self-produced live album that was released on a small, independent Brazilian label – CHICO CÉSAR has been recognized as one of the most creative popular artists in Brazil. Active as both composer and lyricist, César has written songs that have been covered by many of Brazil’s legends, including Maria Bethânia, Elba Ramalho, and Daniela Mercury, but it is as a performer and bandleader that César has made his biggest mark.
His 1996 release Cuzcuz/Clã went gold in Brazil and his 1997 follow-up Belem Mano is considered an MPB classic. The Putumayo Artists release Chico César includes selections from César’s groundbreaking studio albums and serves as a perfect introduction to the music of this stunning new world music star.
While César now lives in the southern metropolis of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, he hails from the small city of Cartolé do Rocha in Paraiba, a state in the northeast. It is a region that is rich in culture but poor in resources. Born to an uneducated farm worker father and a washerwoman mother, he was awarded a scholarship to a boarding school run by German nuns. The nuns had escaped Germany during World War II and established a school with a demanding curriculum, where César mastered the art of writing. César was clearly gifted – at three years old, he had learned to read, and by twelve, without knowing a single musical note, he composed his first song. He went on to earn a degree in journalism and moved to São Paulo to pursue a career as a music critic and reporter. Eventually, he gave in to his passion and natural talents for music and devoted himself to a life as a composer and performer. His music is clearly influenced by the rhythms and accordion-driven melodies of the northeast, but he claims inspiration from a variety of sources, including Donna Summer, Led Zeppelin, Salif Keita, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, and numerous Brazilian artists from a wide range of genres. He has been compared to Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil because of his poetic lyrics and his singing style, but his excellent and colorful live performances have also been greatly influenced by modern African pop music