The Brazilian Diaspora in the United States: Music and Dance Schools & Featured Artists

Sergio Mendes
Brazilian music legend Sergio Mendes moved to the United States in 1964 and first made it big here with his group Brazil ’66.  He’s still going strong though: his 2006 album Timeless was a huge hit all over the world and his recently released (June 2008) album Encanto is quickly heading up the charts.


Youtube – “Mas Que Nada”

Carmen Miranda
Already a big star in Brazil when she moved to New York to appear on Broadway in 1939, Carmen Miranda was one of the major Hollywood stars of the 1940s.  Although she was criticized for presenting a heavily stereotyped version of Brazilian culture to the world, she was one of the great samba singers of her time.


Youtube – “Aquarela do Brasil”


Astrud Gilberto
The voice of bossa nova in the United States, she certainly made a spectacular entrance into U.S. musical life.  “The Girl from Ipanema,” which was released in 1964, beat out the Beatles for that year’s Grammy Award and went on to become one of the iconic recordings of the post-World War II era.


Youtube – “The Girl from Ipanema”

Katia Moraes

The energetic singer/songwriter/dancer Katia Moraes is from Rio de Janeiro and has been living in Los Angeles since 1990.  Prior to moving to the U.S. she already had a significant hit in Brazil with her band O Espirito da Coisa and their song “Ligeiramente grávida” (“Slightly Pregnant”).  Since moving to L.A. her most fruitful collaboration has been with American musician Bill Brendle (former musical director of Sergio Mendes’s band). They’re a fabulous song writing team and their group Sambaguru has released some fantastic records including their 2005 album Navegar ao Sol.



Bebel Gilberto
The daughter of bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto and singer Miúcha, Bebel was born in New York City and grew up in Brazil where she released her first album and, with rock star Cazuza, composed the hit song “Preciso dizer que te amo” (“I Need to Say that I Love You”). She returned to live in NYC in 1991.  She’s a singer/songwriter of international stature, with a unique sound that merges bossa nova with contemporary electronica.



Claudia Villela
Claudia Villela was born in Rio de Janeiro and moved to Northern California in 1984.  Downbeat has called her a “thrilling improviser” and Jazz Times said that “she’s the closest thing the jazz world is likely to come to a female Bobby McFerrin.” Her main collaborator is the guitarist Ricardo Peixoto and their highly praised album Inverse/Universe was released on Adventure Music in 2003.



Brazilian Voices
The Brazilian Voices is a unique female vocal group and non-profit made up of more than 40 women who hail from all parts of Brazil.  They’re based in South Florida and are lead by co-directors Beatriz Malnic and Loren Oliveira, both of whom were born in São Paulo. The group released their first album “Brazilian Voices” in 2004 and have been engaged in motivating and mobilizing the Brazilian immigrant community in South Florida to celebrate and preserve their rich musical heritage.




João Grande
photo by Jason Stanyek
Born in Bahia, Mestre João Grande is one of the most important masters of capoeira, a stunning Afro-Brazilian cultural form that combines dance, martial arts, acrobatics and music.  He moved to New York City in 1990 and he runs the Capoeira Angola Center on 14th Street, a site of pilgrimage for capoeiristas all over the world. In honor of his momentous accomplishments he was awarded an honorary
doctorate from Upsala College in 1995 and won a prestigious National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001. He’s now 75 years old and still performs the breathtaking moves that make capoeira so captivating to so many people around the world.



Jorge Alabé
Photo by Jason Stanyek
Jorge Alabé was born in Rio de Janeiro and, before moving to the United States in 1996, made recordings with Brazilian music superstars Martinho da Vila and Milton Nascimento (check out Jorge on Milton’s marvelous album Missa dos Quilombos). Beginning in 1980 Jorge served as the percussion director for the internationally acclaimed touring group Oba Oba with whom he appeared in some of world’s major performance venues (including long runs on Broadway in New York City).  He is the godfather of a number of samba schools in the United States including Samba New York, Casa Samba in New Orleans, Lions of Batucada in Portland and Vamos La in Seattle and currently runs Grupo Samba Rio in Oakland, California where he lives, performs and teaches.


Bataketu Website

California Brazil Camp

Luciana Souza
Luciana Souza grew up in São Paulo and moved to the U.S in 1985 to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  She is one of the great voices of the Brazilian diaspora and her singing has been called “transcendental, “perfect, ” and of “unparalleled beauty. ” Entertainment Weekly has said that, “her voice traces a landscape of emotion that knows no boundaries.”  As a bandleader, Luciana has seven acclaimed releases including her three Grammy nominated records: Brazilian Duos (2002), North and South (2003), and Duos II (2005). Her 2007 recording The New Bossa Nova won Billboard’s award for “Latin Jazz Album of the Year.”



The Assad Family
The brothers Sergio and Odair Assad are recognized as two of the major living Brazilian guitarists. Extremely virtuosic and deeply musical, Odair lives in Belgium and Sergio lives in Chicago (and he just took a job at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music). In 2005, they put out a CD called Brazilian Songbook that featured their extended family including their parents, their phenomenal sister Badi (a phenomenal guitarist in her own right) and their children, one of whom, Clarice, is herself becoming a major force on the U.S jazz, classical and Brazilian music scenes. The Assad brothers were featured on Yo Yo Ma’s Grammy Award winning album, Obrigado Brazil which included a large number of Brazilian artists active in the U.S.

Assad Brothers Homepage

Badi Assad’s Homepage

Clarice Assad’s Homepage


Cyro Baptista
Since arriving in the U.S. in 1980, Cyro Baptista has emerged as one of the premier Brazilian percussionists in the United States.  An experimentalist in the mode of Brazil’s great tropicalistas of the 1960s, he has played with everyone from Paul Simon to David Byrne, Kathleen Battle to Ryuichi Sakamoto, John Zorn to Medeski Martin & Wood, Marisa Monte to Nana Vasconcelos and has toured extensively with Yo-Yo Ma’s Brazil Project.  He lives in New Jersey and leads the groups Beat the Donkey and Banquet of the Spirits.



Liliana Araújo and Nation Beat
Singer/songwriter Liliana Araújo was born in the city of Fortaleza in the Northeastern state of Ceará.  She relocated to the U.S. in 2007 to join forces with Nation Beat, the Brooklyn-based group lead by American drummer and composer Scott Kettner.  Their new album Legends of the Preacher was released in June 2008 and combines thunderous Brazilian maracatu drumming and New Orleans second line rhythms, Appalachian-inspired bluegrass music, funk, rock, and country-blues.



Think you have what it takes to get down to the music you heard in “The Brazilian Diaspora in the United States?”  Then check out some of these music and dance schools across the country…

Capoeira Academies

New York
Mestre João Grande, Capoeira Angola Center, New York, NY

Mestranda Edna Lima, Abadá Capoeira, New York, NY

Mestre Acordeon, Capoeira Arts, Richmond, CA

Mestre Marcelo, Capoeira Mandinga, Oakland, CA

Contra-Mestre Paulo Batuta, Capoeira Mandinga, San Diego, CA

Mestre Amen, Capoeira Batuque, Los Angeles, CA

Mestre Boneco, Capoeira Brasil, Los Angeles, CA

Mestre Deraldo Ferreira, Brazilian Cultural Center of New England, Boston, MA

Mestre Efraim Silva, Raça em Movimento, New Haven, CT

Mestre Panão, Capoeira Resistência, Richmond, VA
Samba Schools

Jorge Alabé, Grupo Samba Rio, Oakland, CA

Maria Amabilis Souza, Aquarela, San Francisco, CA

Metzi Henriquez & Jose Rivera, Fogo na Roupa, San Francisco, CA

Maisa Duke, Energia do Samba,  San Francisco, CA

New Orleans
Curtis Pierre, Casa Samba, New Orleans, LA

New York
Philip Galinsky, Samba New York!, New York, NY

Quenia Ribeiro, New York, NY

Ivo Araújo, Manhattan Samba, New York, NY

Brian Davis, Lions of Batucada, Portland, OR

Grant Emery and Vincent Gonzalez, VamoLá, Seattle, WA

Paulo Gualano, Brazilian and Latin Sounds Co., Miami, FL

Robert Patterson, Academicos da Opera, Austin, TX

Contributed by: Jason Stanyek, Ian Staub