ASIDE from feasting on iced fruit shakes, swimming on pools, and basking on sea waters, Filipinos have found another way to beat the summer heat. With the relaxing mood, the music style bossa nova is the cool thing this hot season.

“Bossa nova is supposed to be cool, slow and everything that is used to describe the feeling during a sultry afternoon under the sun. It’s the soothing music during summer,” Conservatory of Music professor Ruben Reyes told the Varsitarian.

Bossa Nova flavor in OPM

The number of bossa nova aficionados in the country is fast-rising, as shown by the high sales of albums by Filipino bossa artists this summer season. One of them is even a Thomasian.

Twenty-two year old Medical Technology alumna Sofia Josephine Mozo came in to the music scene with her 18-track debut album, Bossa Latino Lite, which reached the gold mark last April. The album includes two bossa nova classics, “Desafinado” and “Waters of March,” and one original song, “Just No Ordinary Day.”

Sofia has already released her sophomore album, In Love With Nova Bossa, in 2006 that also consists of traditional Brazilian songs such as “Falsa Baina” and “So Em Teus Bracos.” Her voice is fresh and is deeply sensual that basically gives a cool and relaxing feeling this hot season.

Other prominent Filipino bossa nova singers are Raffi, Pavi and Sitti. Viva’s bossa diva Raffi recorded her voice with the album Manila Blend, which consists of Filipino pop favorites done in bossa nova way like “Sa Aking Pag-iisa” and “Ikaw Lamang.” Together with her band Tropicalia, Pavi shows her bossa nova side with her debut album Bossa Sessions that includes songs like “Call Me” and “The Shadow of your Smile.”

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The most popular bossa diva in the country today is Sitti with her Café Bossa which received double platinum album sales and Sitti Live! which reached gold. Included in her album are her own versions of the songs “Tattooed On My Mind” and ‘One Note Samba.’

OPM bands and groups like 6cyclemind and The Company have also infused bossa nova in their music. 6cyclemind gave a bossa version of “Prinsesa” in their album Panorama, while The Company has also released this summer their official soundtrack Destination: Bossa. The album consists of their own versions of songs like “Harana” and “Summer Breeze.”

The songs are dealt with elegance but not just in the traditional bossa nova. Instead, they infused jazz, pop and the like in order to bring bossa nova closer to the people.

Bossa roots

Often referred to as the Brazilian middle and upper class music, bossa nova emerged in the late 50’s in Rio de Janeiro, introduced by Brazilian guitarist and singer Joao Gilberto. According to Ruy Castro’s Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music that Seduced the World, his chart-topping singles which sound much like samba and jazz along with the prominence of the 1959 film, Black Orpheus, which also featured such songs, stirred radio airwaves and music events in Latin America. Bossa nova also arrived in the USA through American jazz singers such as Charlie Byrd, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.

Bossa nova evolved from samba and jazz. But what distinguishes bossa nova among other music styles is its rhythm. Compared to reggae, bossa nova is less percussive and slower in rhythm while the reggae relies more on skittering guitar and syncopated rhythms. Bossa nova has a less complex rhythm since it has a slower beat than jazz and samba.

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In terms of instrumentation, bossa nova is the same as the other musical styles. There is no specific instrument needed in order to perform it. It can be played by the whole band or orchestra but is mostly played using the piano and guitar.

The music emphasizes the carefree Brazilian way of living, evident in compositions of the lyrics like Gilberto’s “A felicidade” and Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Morais’ “Garota de Ipanema.” Most of the time, bossa nova songs depict love, beautiful women and the beach.

What also separates bossa nova among other styles is its unique Euro-African vibe. European timing is divisible by two, while African timing is divisible by three. When put together, Bossa Nova style comes out. “It is very easy to understand bossa nova. It’s only the background that changes,” Reyes said.

In the 60’s bossa nova music arrived and became popular in the Philippines, retaining the Brazilian form which talks about experiences from a Brazilian point of view. “People here have been playing bossa nova music since the 60’s,” Reyes said. Basically, bossa nova music in the country started through the country’s Jazz singers. In the 80’s, bossa nova lost its popularity in the music scene. But Robert Seña and Isay Alvarez said they still perform jazz songs in music lounges in local hotels.

“Bossa nova, like jazz, has been popular even before artists such as Sitti became famous,” Alvarez said. “I think it was not popular back in the 80’s since in that era, disco music had more following compared to bossa nova.”

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The new wave of bossa nova is a re-emergence rather than a completely new style. The country’s Philippine music scene experienced the rise of bossa nova initially through singer Sitti Katrina Navarro Baiddin, with her debut album, Café Bossa, featuring songs which include “I Didn’t Know I was Looking for Love” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” Maria Aurora F. Mon with reports from Celina Anne Tobias

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