Launched several days ago, the Nara Leão official site comes just in time for what would have been her seventieth birthday on January 19th. But the gift is to us – and a very thoughtful and lovely gift it is.
Created by her daughter Isabel Diegues, the beautifully designed site is a fitting tribute to the elegant Nara, offering an interactive timeline of her life with many photographs of Nara and her contemporaries; a complete discography containing full versions of each album track to hear as well as lyrics and album liner notes; videos; a bibliography; and images of original documents such as a report card, show programs and letters. The site is in portuguese but I think it would be easy to navigate and there is plenty of content you can enjoy even if you only read english. (That said, if you really love brazilian music, you should learn portuguese. I’m not kidding!)
Nara was known as “the muse of bossa nova.” When she was 12 years old, she began studying guitar with future bossa big boys Roberto Menescal and Carlos Lyra. Soon, her family’s home in Rio was among those hosting the informal jam sessions that were the beginnings of bossa nova. Nara began her own musical career at the side of Carlos Lyra and Vinicius de Moraes. Her first album, Nara, was released by Elenco in 1964. During the dictatorship, Nara was a voice of protest and social consciousness. She died in 1989 of an inoperable brain tumor.
I first heard Nara’s sweet voice on the album Tropicalia singing “Lindonéia.” But the subject of the song is anything but sweet. Lindonéia is a woman described as desaparecida (disappeared): a dangerous word to say out loud in 1968 Brazil , let alone on a record. Don’t let Nara’s delicate vocals mislead you: she was as courageous as a lioness.