Seu Jorge ignited a samba fury during his sold-out show last Tuesday at the First Unitarian Church. Better known as the minstrel seaman with a penchant for acoustic Portuguese renditions of David Bowie classics in last year's The Life Aquatic, Jorge has emerged from humble beginnings in the slums of Rio de Janeiro to become a hot import in both the film and music worlds.
Jorge and his charismatic band commanded the packed audience of urban hipsters, ethno-musicologists, and Brazilian fanatics with their no-frills local samba stylings. With his latest album, Cru, meaning "raw," and North American tour this fall, Jorge is set to capture American listeners with his refreshingly smooth baritone voice and songs filled with pure everyday emotions.
Referring to his work as "music of the people," Jorge says, through a translator, "My approach is more of vision and reflection. I write of things I see and hear around me, not necessarily a beautiful place or a beautiful woman. A song works for no reason at all; there's no explanation for that."
Cru is generating buzz with its sun-soaked vibe and authentic instrumentals. In addition to Brazilian-rooted originals, Cru features a cover of the Elvis Presley standard "Don't." "The song fits so well for my voice, and I just grabbed onto its emotion," he says.
Jorge's work in film world has also turned heads. His acting debut came in the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated City of God, playing a key role in the story of gang wars in the Rio slums in the '70s. He caught the eye of writer-director Wes Anderson, who cast him as Pele in Aquatic. Jorge had the opportunity to work with such acclaimed American actors as Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston and Willem Dafoe, among others--"monsters" of cinema, as he calls them.
"I never expected to represent Brazil in movies," says Jorge. "The generosity of Wes Anderson was fantastic. He introduced me to the music of David Bowie, and I learned a lot about acting working with him."
Jorge began playing guitar at age 20, growing up on such artists as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder as well as underground Brazilian master Gabriel Moura, who showed him how to play guitar and write songs. He discovered a natural ability for acting in local theater and decided to pursue it along with music.
After his tour, which includes stops in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, Jorge plans return to his home country to help with a Spike Lee documentary about Brazilian music in the works. He can also be seen this year's Casa de Areia (House of Sand).