Muito Obrigado Axé: Why Ivete Matters To Me

ivete sangalo, são paulo

Ivete Sangalo performing August 28 at Espaço das Américas

Ivete. How do I begin to describe what this woman has done for me?

I was first introduced to her about ten years ago in college. I happened to see a sign announcing samba classes on Saturdays, and I decided to try it out. One of the songs they played, “Toque de Timbaleiro,” featured her vocals, and it was one of those songs that just goes inside you and takes you prisoner. Days after I first heard it, the percussion combined with her deep voice were still reverberating in my mind. At the end of the semester, my samba class had a party, and one of my instructors played us Ivete’s DVD celebrating her 10 years of career. I decided to look more into her songs and soon my fandom was born.

Her lyrics are happy, her music infectious and her personality absolutely magnetic, which would soon serve me well. Later that year I was diagnosed with an eating disorder (and at the time was undiagnosed with bipolar II). Simply put, she kept me going. In my manic episodes, I would play her music and dance so hard it eventually brought me back. In my depressive episodes, her warm voice commanding everyone to get up was the only thing that gave me motivation.

When I first heard of her, Brazil was foreign to me. I was taking Portuguese in school, but couldn’t understand all of the lyrics. I had to look up what galera and arerê and  meant. (The latter took me awhile to learn that it’s just a shortened version of estou, or I am. I consider it a true testament to my language abilities that I now instinctively say  instead of estou.)

Now it’s ten years later and I just went to her twentieth anniversary concert in Barra Funda. She came out shouting Levanta a mão! and my hands shot up. I ran to the left, I ran to the right, I sang along. Best of all, her show was good. She and her band gave it their all, while being playful and spontaneous.

Towards the end of her (forty-five minute) encore, she asked the audience what they wanted to hear. Someone yelled out “Flores,” and it brought me back, as it was one of the first songs I learned. I was late to the party, but now I could sing along with everyone else.

Taking a bow after nearly three hours of show

Thanking everyone after nearly three hours of show

Ivete has been with me through every phase of my relationship with Brazil as well as myself. She got me moving at my most depressed and calmed me down at my most manic. Her effervescent, joyful spirit is something I aspire to have. And her 20th anniversary concert reminded me: I’ve become well enough to learn the language, move to Brazil and watch her sing. What can I accomplish by the time she hits 30 years?

The video below is not the best quality, but it’s mine, my personal reminder of what makes her so special to me.


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