Renaissance Woman Badi Assad

by Márlon Catão

Copyright 1996 by MBC Productions. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Bossa: Brazilian Jazz World Guide.

Tom Jobim once said it seems that Brazilians are born with a guitar in their arms. Badi Assad epitomizes this innate musical sensitivity. Born in '66 in São João da Boa Vista in the state of São Paulo, Badi (pronounced BAH-djee) dreamed of being a dancer when she was a little girl. Little did she know that her family would nurture her to become not only a dancer, but also a singer and a technically astute yet deeply feeling guitar player -- in short, a complete artist. Badi started learning guitar when she was 14. Her father, Jorge Assad plays bandolim and her two older brothers are the worldwide renowned guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad of Duo Assad.

Badi studied classical guitar at the University of Rio de Janeiro. Badi takes her classical knowledge and fuses it with popular and jazz influences. With her Takamine guitar, a few shakers and her voice, Badi takes you on a trip around the world through rhythms. She doesn't want to do "academic" music, saying, "I want to play new sounds." Badi's new sounds makes her more popular every day.

Her first launch to stardom was in '84 when she won the Young Instrumentalists Contest in Rio de Janeiro. Two years later, she flew higher, joining the Guitar Orchestra of Rio de Janeiro, headed by guitar player Turíbio Santos as conductor. By '87, when she was only 20 years old, Badi had played in Europe, Israel and Brazil together with guitarist Françoise-Emmanuelle Denis. Together, they created Duo Romantique. One year later, she wrote "Antagonismus," a solo performance in which she worked as guitarist, singer, actress and dancer. Badi demonstrated her versatility by performing in the musical "Mulheres de Hollanda [Women of Hollanda]" for a whole year in this musical written by Tatiana Cobbett, based on the works of Chico Buarque de Hollanda.

Badi's first album, Dança dos Tons [Dance of Sounds], was released in Brazil in '89 with compositions by her brother Sérgio Assad, Leo Brouwer, and Roland Dyens. Badi wrote the lyrics for two of Sérgio's compositions.

Badi has performed at the Heineken Concerts twice: first in '92 with Raul de Souza, Heraldo do Monte and Roberto Sion, and then again in '93 with Rafael Rabello, Dori Caymmi and Marisa Monte. Dori Caymmi and the percussion band Uakti will be at the Heineken Concerts this year and Badi had already performed with both of them. Uakti, whose members play instruments they build themselves, opened the door to experimental percussion and guitar. Marco Antônio Guimarães, founder of and instrument inventor for Uakti, introduced Badi to a few objects that she uses to create new sounds on her guitar.

The fascinating sounds that Badi creates with guitar, light percussion and voice awakened many Americans evidenced by her signing with Chesky Records which released two of her albums here in the States. Badi Assad-Solo, was recorded in April '93 at St. Stephen's of Hungary Church in New York and features works by Egberto Gismonti, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque and others. Badi and her brother Sérgio make a great partnership, mixing classical and baião, popular music and jazz, imagination and creativity. The other album is Rhythms on which she brings back the arrangement with Sérgio and adds a new partner -- the legendary percussionist Cyro Baptista -- who introduces a new flavor in the few songs such as "À Primeira Vista [At First Sight]" by Chico César and "Ica" by Badi Assad. When Badi performs, her beauty, her music, and her talent fill the room with magic and suspense -- you never know what is coming next. As she says, "I play with my heart -- and my heart plays with me."

Badi Assad frequently tours the States, Europe and Israel. Check out the Concerts & Events section in the Brazilian jazz publication Bossa for the most up-to-date information on Brazilian music happenings around the globe.

Márlon Catão is the publisher of Bossa: Brazilian Jazz World Guide, a monthly publication in English dedicated to the richness of Brazilian music and culture. A limited number of free issues are available. Catão can be reached at +1 617 262-9997 or on the Internet.