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Toni Tornado – BR3

Posted on: July 4, 2008

From a shoeshine boy in Rio to one of the most famous brazil music acts in the 70s, Antônio Viana Gomes aka Toni Tornado´s life offers some fascinating aspects. He toured across the world as a musician with different groups after he quit his shoe polisher job and candy selling on the streets, afterwards Toni Tornado moved to New York City and stayed for 3 years. In the USA he came in contact with soul music, the Black Panther movement and he also later met Tim Maia, the founding father of brazilian soul. Maia, who was forcibly repatriated from the U.S. for marijuana possession some years before, slowly established soul music in Rio. After recording two singles in 1968 with little success, more and more of his songs found their way onto albums by some of Brazil’s biggest stars. Most important on Elis Regina´s 1970 album “Em Pleno Verão” where he joined her in a duet for his song “These Are the Songs.” His first self-titled LP was released that same year with no less than three hit singles, remaining on the Rio pop charts for twenty-four weeks. The Black Rio movement was born, weekly parties were established and they opened for young blacks in Brazil a new world of sound, style and a new self-confidence in the time of the military dictatorship. Besides the music and the fashion political ideas filtered down to Brazil through these weekly parties, mainly remigrated blacks brought the new music and black power ideas with them. Also Toni Tornado was one of these guys.

More and more artists started to play soul music, of course they not only did play a blend of American funk and soul, but also added traces of other Brazilian arranging styles, often complex (Afro-) Brazilian rhythms and melody, injected it with some additional percussion and samba swing.

But let´s focus on Toni Tornado again: 1970 he performed at the 5th International Festival of Songs, a very popular festival in Brazil with live concerts, TV broadcasts and accompanying albums. He recently returned from living in New York City and was backed by the black vocal group Trio Ternura, made his debut with a powerful Solomon Burke styled ballad: “B.R. 3”, written by Antonio Adolfo, who you already might know as a reader of urbanology (by the way, with facts like that (guess which colour of skin Adolfo has…), how can people still divide music into black and white musics?).

Standing at over six feet tall, dressed in the latest Harlem fashions and sporting an Afro, Toni Tornado and his performance made a larger-than-life impression on the Brazilian public. With a powerful soul-inspired vocal style and the image to match, he challenged the traditional image of a Black Brazilian performer forever. The Festival of Song proved to be a breakthrough for soul-styled brazilian artists. A controversial performance by Erlon Chaves and Banda Veneno, who showcased a Jorge Ben song, where two blonde dancers lavished kisses on the Black bandleader in a choreographed routine offended the dictatorship’s social and racial sensibilities and resulted in a short jail sentence for Chaves, replete with interrogation and torture. Toni Tornado´s appearance at the festival resulted in two LPs, a bunch of singles, and persistent attention from the military police for wearing his modern Black identity on his brightly colored, polyester sleeve. He was falsely accused of starting a Brazilian chapter of the Black Panthers and routinely harassed for his relationship with a popular white actress.

B.R.3 was originally released in 1971 and opens with a sultry groove, layered horns, and chorus of vocalists, an inspired arrangement which is matched in inventiveness throughout the entirety of the album. The frequent polyphonic play between the horn splices and the legato strings on tracks like “Não Lhe Quero Mais” and the stunning female backing vocals, most notably the title track, judiciously poured over the tight and heavy rhythm section, the lilting current of piano, and plucky guitars are clever and incredibly complex melodically, truly making this a standout in the soul and funk genre.

uma vida


2 Responses to "Toni Tornado – BR3"

Thank you for your great work!

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[…] you´re into brasilian (soul) music you will love this record, but I can present you almost no information about the artist. It […]

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