Music for Music: Nossa Alma Canta
Music for Music: The Singular Achievement of Nossa Alma Canta
By Dan Ursini
As you may know, one of the many, uh, unexpected impacts of the Internet on art and commerce is most/all artists now find themselves operating in a vacuum of attention, comprehension, and compensation.
The oxygen level of this vacuum is somewhere between enervating and devastating.
No wonder so many careers have been abbreviated/rerouted by the need for a breath of fresh air.
It can be daunting to ponder artistic possibilities when there is a high dead-air factor in the reception filter. So it is refreshing to consider the long-term commitment to artistic excellence and exceptional self-reliance shown by Nossa Alma Canta—an Italian bossa nova band. Founded in Venice in the late 1990s, this ensemble masterfully refreshes the timeless beauty of bossa nova—a movement in Brazilian music that began half a century ago during a worldwide explosion of creativity in popular music.
Nossa Alma Canta has always gone its own way. Its FB page says, “[D]uring all these years we developed our language, and our style, without compromise, selfproducing and experimenting new way of making music.” They have cultivated a healthy micro-culture which has allowed them to thrive. Indeed, they have released much music through a range of channels, which includes a healthy presence on YouTube. A number of their renditions of bossa nova standards compare very well with any that have ever been recorded.
Here are a good example:
I think this performance flawlessly develops the drama and momentum of the classic, “Berimbau.” The arrangement showcases the exquisite melodic gifts of vocalist Rosa Bittolo Bon.
Over the years, Nossa Alma Canta has experimented with many musician lineups, using as many as eight musicians. But all of them include two people: Rosa Bittolo Bon and Renato Greco—leader and guitarist. Their work as a duo registers as powerful and complete as all the other configurations:
Rosa Bittolo Bon’s vocal on “Eu quero um Samba” animates this whimsical angular song in fully enchanting terms.
Indeed Nossa Alma Canta consistently brings forward overlooked strengths in the songs they perform. A wonderful example is their rendition of “Wave” one of the most frequently recorded songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Within the stately arrangement, there is a gliding airy energy filled with joy.
In the video, the band members convey a gracious presence.
Through its long and deep commitment to high musical standards, Nossa Alma Canta exemplifies the value of striking out on your own and relying on your own resources. Though never directly stated, it appears that Renato Greco has supplied the needed vision. Especially in this era of reduced cultural circumstances, the singular achievement of Greco and his colleagues is inspiring.
Dan Ursini and his wife Valerie live in Oak Park, Illinois. Over the years he has done many kinds of writing. Ursini served as the first resident playwright for the Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago (1978-1983); he worked for ten years as a Contributing Editor for Puerto Del Sol magazine ; he wrote performance art pieces presented at Chicago venues as Club Lower Links and Club Dreamerz. Ursini wrote radio theatre presented on NPR in the early 1990s. Throughout all this, he has worked full-time at the Law Library at DePaul University where for a decade he also wrote articles for Dialogue, the DePaul law school’s alumni publication . In addition, he was active for some years as a bass guitarist in various Chicago blues/gospel/funk/lounge configurations. Currently Ursini is working on his latest novel. A play he wrote with Robert Rothman, A Mensch Among Men, a fictionalized account of real-life Jewish Chicago-area gangsters, recently had two staged readings in Chicago.