Already a veteran of the Música Popular Brasileira scene with nine albums released to date since his début in 1998 – either as a solo act, with a band or in collaboration with Arlindo Cruz or Seu Jorge – singer songwriter Roger José Cury aka Rogê is a leading figure of an infectious samba-funk style. Following a radical move from his native Rio de Janeiro to Los Angeles in 2019, Rogê returns with an outstanding collection of 11 new songs in Portuguese boasting superb arrangements and an impeccable production. Curyman was released on 30th March 2023 last on the brand-new Diamond West Records label.
Following in the footsteps of Jorge Ben, Milton Nascimento and Seu Jorge, Rogê sustains a soulful and funk-inflected samba style underpinned by a robust acoustic guitar swing and a distinctive voice. Having honed his skills while a resident musician at the Carioca da Gema samba club in the Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro for over a decade, the singer radiates a magnetic stage presence.
Rogê’s new album is the end result of a series of personal and creative decisions initiated in 2019. In an elusive quest for artistic recognition beyond his native Brazil like many of his peers before him, but also growing increasingly dissatisfied with the volatile political and cultural climate of the Bolsonaro regime, the singer decided to relocate to Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. Once in the US, Rogê connected with legendary Brazilian singer and actor Seu Jorge with whom he launched a live EP. Seu Jorge & Rogê: Night Dreamer was recorded in August 2019 in The Netherlands and released in February 2020 on London’s Night Dreamer label. The release unfortunately coincided with the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic, and the two singers could only complete three of a 23-date US tour schedule.
A few months later though, a chance meeting with producer Tom Brenneck was instrumental in securing a record deal. Curyman was recorded in a live “old style” fashion over four days with an all-American band. The spontaneity of the guitar and voice combination alongside an outstanding acoustic rhythm section immediately stands out from the outset and the raw energy never abates. Traditional Brazilian percussion instruments including the Cuíca, the trademark friction drum that instantly identifies samba and carnival music, feature prominently on a song like “Retumbar Do Meu Tambor”. So does the flute, another staple of classic Brazilian popular music borrowing from the choro style on “Camará”. Backing vocals by three female singers (Caro Pierotto, Diana Di Battista and Flor) adds a polyphonic dimension to seven songs.
But what transforms Curyman into a terrific gem are the strings arrangements. Once the vocal and rhythmic parts were recorded, Rogê and Tom Brenneck flew back to Rio to meet legendary sought-after producer and arranger Arthur Verocai who has worked on countless records from Jorge Ben and Milton Nascimento to Gal Costa and Marisa Monte since the early 1970s. Five of the eleven songs on Curyman feature stunning string arrangements (for a 13 to a 21-string ensemble), lending a majestic vintage classicism to the recording, especially on two gorgeous slow ballads like “Se Eu For Falar De Amor” and “Yemanjá”. Already a celebratory samba about resilience and resistance, the string arrangements turn “Pra Vida” into a euphoric anthem.
The record concludes with “O Vento”, a short acoustic chorus for guitar and voice. The brief cover refers to an original by Dorival Caymmi (1914 – 2008), the legendary singer songwriter whose comprehensive songbook has had a major impact on the birth, the evolution and the worldwide success of modern Música Popular Brasileira. Through a deliberate lack of effects or overdubs, a live recording process, lavish string arrangements, the use of traditional acoustic Brazilian instruments and vintage keyboards (Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, Wurlitzer and organ), Curyman pays homage to a golden era of Brazilian popular music without falling into nostalgia. It is also an instant modern classic.