Singer, composer Elisete writes lyrics for her songs from her awareness of the people and culture that surround her. She says that her song ‘Tipat Osher’ (a little joy) talks about her wish for a little happiness in Israel, the place she loves so much and about her hope for a better Middle East. She writes about the pain of war and her wish to give hope to continue on the difficult way towards peace.
Sadness has a way of echoing in her and stirring her connections in unusual ways. Her song
‘Lifaamim’ (sometimes) has a special story. “At the beginning, when I started writing songs,
all of my songs had a happy rhythm with a lot of groove. One day, (it was a Friday) I started
to sing the song ‘Lifaamim’ to myself. The song just popped into my ears and the lyrics are very sad. I speak about losing a friend, about the people gone with the piguim (terrorattacks) and the sadness of not being able to
see my friend anymore. Well, as I said, I wrote it on Friday, on Saturday (Shabbat) I received a phone call from
Brazil saying my best friend Marcio was gone. He drowned in the waters of a beach in Rio de Janeiro when he was in the company of a mutual Israeli friend. I came to understand why the song was so sad.”
She has a sense of humor about herself saying that she wrote ‘Si Bemol’ as a joke about herself. At the beginning of her career she says almost all her songs were in this note, she decided to give it a tribute! Daughter Of The Arts caught up with Elisete in between recording and performance engagements and she talked about her life and her love for music, her native country Brazil, and her “adopted” country Israel.
DOTA: Where in Brazil are you from?
E: I was born in Salvador, Bahia, a state in the north-east of Brazil. When I was 3 months old my family moved to Rio. My father was an officer in the Marines and we moved a lot. When I was about 7 years old we moved back to Bahia and we stayed there for 4 years. All I can remember from that time is the color green (from the nearby forest) and blue (from the sea and the skies of Bahia). When I was about 11 or 12 we moved back to Rio and we lived in the downtown area. It was nice.
DOTA: Do you come from a big or small family? Are both of your parents from Brazil?
E: I have one brother, and two sisters. One sister lives in Brazil the other one is in Switzerland and I live here in Tel Aviv, Israel. From my father’s family I have lots of relatives living in Bahia. From my mother I have fewer relatives. Both my parents were from Brazil. I have Sephardim from my mother’s side and African ancestors from my father’s side. I also have a few Indian roots in my family; everything is a big mix.
DOTA: How do your parents feel about your pursuing a performing career?
E: My parents passed away years ago. I am sure they would be proud of me in what I do. They both liked music (most Brazilians do!) My brother and sisters are very happy for my accomplishments and they follow my career and support me.
DOTA: Did you have any musical training or perform when you were a child?
E: No, but I was always very musical.
DOTA: Did you always want to be a singer?
E: I always liked to sing in the shower but I started my career as a dancer and it took me a while to discover my real calling – music. My first real singing experience took place in a café here in Tel Aviv when I met a guitarist called Martin Manzor from Uruguay. He, in my opinion, was like the ‘Joao Gilberto’ from Uruguay here in Israel. Unfortunately, he had to go back to his country when his tourist visa expired. I started performing with him in that small café in Sheinkin Street and more and more people were coming to see us performing. It was an amazing feeling!
I started singing known songs from Brazil and later started writing my own songs.
DOTA: What brought you to Israel in 1991?
E: I met an Israeli in Brazil and came here with him. The romance did not last but my love for the country made me stay.
DOTA: What was the first song you wrote and how did you decide to write songs?
E: Well, one day I talked with a musician I knew and told him I wanted to record some cover material and maybe try to write something original and not just covers. He just laughed and said: ‘You are not going to succeed to write original material.’ That was what gave me the initial push. I tried for a whole day to write something and all of a sudden it happened – I wrote my first song: ‘Thinking about the Chorus’ (Choshevet al ha pizmon), that was later included in my first CD ‘Luar e café’.
DOTA: What messages do your lyrics convey?
E: Optimism, happiness, love, etc., all kinds of things I remember from my life in Brazil and that I wish I could bring here.
DOTA: How did you decide to create your first album Luar e Café (Moonlight and Coffee 2004)?
E: Well, I thought that Israeli music needed a little optimistic message from more musicians and artists in general. It may sound phony but I really mean it when I say I want to give the Israelis a little bit of joy in the difficult days we are having here.
I started recording with my musicians and ‘Luar e café’ is the result of my dream!
DOTA: Were any of the songs released as a single prior to the album?
E: Yes. Capoeira, was released as a single prior to the release of the album. I also made a clip for it and it was broadcast in the Israeli music channel.
DOTA: The idea of combining songs with Portuguese and Hebrew lyrics on an album is a bit unusual. How did you decide to do this?
E: It was a natural consequence because I am 50% Brazilian and 50% Israeli. Those are my two languages and nationalities.
DOTA: Who are your 5 musicians on this album?
E: The guitar player is Ron Laor, and he is great. He is responsible for most of the arrangements of this CD.
Rostik Lerman, plays the keyboard and the flute, and he did a few arrangements himself. He is originally from Russia. Roni Ben Ezra, plays the drums, he is the Israeli who maybe best knows Brazilian rhythms in all of Israel!
Juarez dos Santos is Brazilian. He is definitely the best percussionist here. He also made two arrangements for the album. Martin Manzor, the guitarist who went back to Uruguay, has made two arrangements before his departure. Zeev Koren, the bass player plays also in the philharmonic of Tel Aviv.Alon Ohana produced a few songs like: ‘Thinking about the chorus’, Ba gilgul ha Ba (In the next lifetime) and Capoeira with Ron Laor.
DOTA: How did you pick them?
E: Life picked them for me. I believe in destiny and I think that when people meet it is never a coincidence.
DOTA: Describe your performing with Jazz guitarist Uri Bracha in the Brazilian jazz show?
E: With Uri I usually sing known songs from the Brazilian classics with his jazz arrangements. I sing a little bit of his material and some of my own.
DOTA: How did you start working with him?
E: He asked some musician friend about a singer; the guy gave him my number and we started working together.
DOTA: Describe performing with Alon Ochana in the electronic music project “Alef 3.”
How did you get together?
E: Alon is a good friend. We worked together also in my first album where he produced a few songs. I gave him the idea to do electronic arrangements to some Brazilian classic songs. He liked it and we started working together, Alon, Asher Azuelus the guitarist and I.
DOTA: Describe your collaboration with Idan Raichel in his Project?
E: I met Idan at a party in the house of the Brazilian Ambassador. He had just released his first album and was not yet as famous as now. He liked my dancing I guess (there was music in the air and I danced my samba) we talked; and two days after that he invited me to his studio to record a song. I came there, heard the melody he wanted me to sing, and started to write Portuguese lyrics to it. The song was not released yet.
DOTA: You also worked with Si Heiman?
E: I worked with Si doing her back vocals in her shows. My latest work is with Helicon record company. A project that I guess will be out soon. I sing a pop song with a new male singer. He will sing in Hebrew and I will sing in Portuguese. It is a hot song.
DOTA: Who has been a great influence on you?
E: Ehud Manor, the greatest Israeli composer, who died this year. He used to encourage new artists and new original material here in Israel. He worked in a radio station called 88 fm and he told me he liked my music. Ehud wrote songs for every possible singer here in Israel. My new album is dedicated to him. Another artist I really like is Ehud Banai, his songs are very inspiring. Bebel Gilberto, the Brazilian goddess who lives in the States, is also an inspiration to my music.
DOTA: What is the most important thing for your music to accomplish?
E: To get to people all over and to give them joy!
DOTA: How are you hoping to cross geographical and cultural borders with your music?
E: I think when you do something from the heart it shows and people get it.
The language is not necessarily important. Look, in Brazil almost no one really speaks English that well, but everyone knows the songs and melodies from songs from the English speaking countries. If something is true to itself it will show at some point. I don’t believe in frontiers.
DOTA: Whose songs do you like to sing when you are not performing your own?
E: Summer samba (Marcos Valle), Agua de beber, (Tom Jobim), The sweetest taboo (Sade), danca da solidao (Mariza Monte)
DOTA: How would you describe your personal style of performing?
E: I am very much myself on and off of stage. What is my style? It will be Elisete’s style. Maybe I am creating a new genre here in Israel. It reminds me of a song of Djavan (Sina). He wrote this song to Caetano Veloso and he says there, ‘caetanear’, that originally is a word he (Djavan) created to explain the style of life of Caetano Veloso.
DOTA: What have been any obstacles you’ve encountered in your career? How have you overcome them?
E: Well, obstacles, I sure have found them! But I always overcome my obstacles with a smile, and a lot of humor. It always works!
DOTA: What is your greatest passion as an artist?
E: My great passion as a musician is to compose new songs, and to see them coming to life.
DOTA: What other languages do you speak besides Portuguese and Hebrew?
E: Spanish, Italian, a little French and a little bit of Russian
DOTA: Is your husband a musician?
E: No he is not. He is a mechanical engineer.
DOTA: What are the similarities between Brazilian music and Mizrahi (Middle Eastern)
E: Just the wish to do happy music, with the purpose to make people dance and to have a good time. But the lyrics of Brazilian songs are different from those of the Mizrahi music. I would say the Brazilian lyrics have more depth.
DOTA: Describe how you learned Hebrew. What were the circumstances?
E: I learned Hebrew in the ‘sealed room’ in the Gulf war. There I watched most of the times TV shows like ‘Ze hu Ze’ and the news. I had the survival need to learn Hebrew as there was a war out there and I needed to know what to do when the sirens were wailing.
DOTA: What do you believe in?
E: I believe in optimism, love and happiness. They are my religion.
DOTA: Do you have hobbies?
E: I like to paint, go to the movies, to dance.
DOTA: Tell us about ‘Shalom Dikaon’ (‘Goodbye Depression’) and ‘Gaagua’ (‘Longing’).
E: The name of the album is ‘Gaagua’ (‘Longing’). What is different this time is that I started to participate more in the production process. I also did a few arrangements myself with the musicians I work with. In the first CD ‘Luar e café’ I was only responsible for the lyrics and the melodies, the arrangements were made by different musicians. ‘Shalom Dikaon’ is a song expressing my deep wish to ‘import’ happiness to this country.
DOTA: What is your performance schedule like combined with composing and performing?
Where will you be touring for the rest of this year and next year?
E: Composing, performing, doing a lot of PR, doing all the production of the disc,
not easy at all, but very fulfilling. I hope next year to be touring outside Israel. I already started to get offers from people in England, Brazil and also the States.
I am checking all the possibilities and I will be glad if it will happen soon!
For the moment I am touring here in Israel, and also collaborating with other Israeli artists in their material.
DOTA: What else would you like to say?
E: I was happy to learn on the 16 of July that a Spanish radio station dedicated a special program to my music. That was great news to me. They said something interesting that later was repeated by other listeners abroad who do not speak Hebrew: ‘Elisete is singing in Hebrew but it sounds as if she is singing in Portuguese.’ That was a great compliment for me as I think it means that I succeed in conveying my music beyond the barriers of language.
Elisete’s song ‘Choshevet al Hapizmon’ (thinking about the chorus) is her story about living in Tel Aviv, and where she came from (Brazil). It was the first song she wrote; she got stuck with the first strophe of the song and she could not find the chorus, the refrain of the song. Finally, she “found it” and she wrote it!
The world premiere of a folk dance, choreographed to Elisete’s song ‘Choshevet al Hapizmon’ was taught and danced at Ramah Rikkudiah folk dance camp in Ojai, California in January 2006.
See the folk dance ‘Choshevet al Hapizmon,’ video via the following link:
Video clips and clips from her shows:
video clip ‘Be libi keev’
Elisete’s second album ‘Gaagua’ is dedicated to the late Ehud Manor, one of Israel’s greatest songwriters, who has supported Elisete along the way.
Songs do not leave,
They help you get by,
They love and remember.
They do not forget
that you’ve got to come back
on cold days.
They do not change.
They always mean
everything they say
and that is why we,
the songs and I,
are friends for life.
Lyrics: Ehud Manor
The above quote is from the Israeli Ministry Foreign Affairs – Music site at: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Facts+About+Israel/Culture/CULTURE-+Music.htm
To read more about Ehud Manor: