Rogê, samba idol in Rio, begins once more in L.A.

Final month in entrance of Townhouse, a century-old saloon simply up the road from Venice Seaside, a small, largely Brazilian crowd danced to the swinging samba-funk of West Hollywood resident Rogê, a former idol of downtown Rio.

Within the samba golf equipment of Lapa, Rio’s bustling middle of downtown nightlife, Rogé (pronounced haw-zheh) perfected an athletic artwork of singing and guitar-playing. It includes improvising high-voltage units of as much as 90 uninterrupted minutes and controlling the room’s vitality like a deejay. His tone is graveled however youthfully candy; solely his shouts of “saúde!” (Portuguese for “to your health”) divide the tunes.

At age 47, Rogê not solely sings like a star however he additionally appears to be like like one, together with his George Clooney stubble, everlasting tan and rock-star swagger. However he calls himself “a typical guy from Rio,” and he reveals no airs. When his present at Townhouse ended, Rogê wove by the group, hugging each strangers and mates.

Alexandre Kassin, a high Brazilian music producer, calls Rogê “one of the most talented artists of my generation.” Born Roger José Cury, he earned a Latin Grammy nomination for an album he made together with his mentor, samba star Arlindo Cruz; collectively, they wrote the theme track for the 2016 Olympics, which came about in Rio.

However after having sung for greater than 20 years in Brazil, the place he launched eight albums, he stays barely identified there past Lapa. In 2019, he joined a protracted line of Brazilian artists — notably Astrud Gilberto, Flora Purim, Sérgio Mendes and Bebel Gilberto — who moved to the States to hunt a hit that had eluded them again residence.

Eventually it appears as if Rogê is discovering his. This weekend, he’ll open for the Gipsy Kings on the Hollywood Bowl. The gig sprang out of his lavishly produced forthcoming album, “Curyman.” Its mastermind is Tommy Brenneck, a producer and guitarist whose collaborators embrace Amy Winehouse, Woman Gaga and Jay-Z. Such is his religion in Rogê that he’s utilizing the singer to launch a brand new label, Diamond West.

“Curyman” isn’t a dance document. Using a rainbow of rhythms, Rogê sings, in Portuguese, about main themes in Brazil: the dominance of nature; the sovereignty of the orixás (his nation’s legendary gods); and, most of all, the necessity to cling onto hope within the face of intense strife. On the newly launched first single, “Pra Vida” (To Life), he sings: “It doesn’t matter if a door is closed / There’s always an open window.”

The album provides a vivid style of town that created him. “The music that I write, the way I move, the way I sing — it’s all rooted in Rio,” Rogê says. “I made a lot of progress there. I met my great masters. I wrote sambas for the Carnaval parade. I met the owners of the favelas, the police, the good guys and the bad guys, the rich people and the very poor people. I understand the rules of Rio.”

Rogê performing in July.

(Mauricio Ochoa)

He didn’t be taught them by poverty, nonetheless. The son of an engineer, Rogê was born and raised in Arpoador, a fancy neighborhood between Ipanema and Copacabana. However beginning in his teenagers, he felt the decision of Lapa, the place samba music and throngs of its followers spill out of golf equipment and onto the dirty streets. “This was my university,” he says. “I thought, ‘What I have here they can never teach me in school.’”

Cruz was the primary of a number of Black sambistas to befriend him. Cruz took him into the favelas and the suburbs to satisfy the music’s makers. “I was the only white guy,” Rogê says, and his middle-class pedigree incited distrust. “But Arlindo brought me like a brother, and he opened up doors for me. I began to compose with him, and people started to respect me.”

Rogê was drawn to samba-funk, a recent brew of samba, soul, reggae and the slick, orchestrated polish of Motown. In 2008, Lapa’s flagship samba membership, Carioca da Gema (Native of Rio), took an opportunity on Rogê. Two trial nights changed into a 10-year run; on Sunday nights, he crammed that residence of conventional samba with trendy sounds and younger followers.

Phrase unfold. Seymour Stein, then a vp at Warner Bros. Data, tried to launch him internationally with a dwell CD and companion DVD, “Baile do Brenguelé.” In 2014, when Brazil hosted the World Cup, ESPN selected Rogé to make a collection of Brazilian travelogue movies, full with songs. Nonetheless, he stayed an obscure musician in a metropolis whose mounting violence scared him. When he flew to L.A. to carry out on the 2018 World Cup, he sensed potentialities.

By the tip of the following yr, he had taken “a dive into the dark,” he says, and relocated. It meant uprooting his spouse and their two sons, who couldn’t converse English; his personal was restricted. He began over as an unknown, enjoying at Townhouse on Sundays. Supporting his household, he admits, was “very hard. Some days I went to bed early to not think too much about how I would pay the bills next month.”

In what appeared a surprising break, his idol and good friend Seu Jorge, one of many largest singing stars to emerge from Brazil within the final 25 years, agreed to make an album with him. A Dutch label launched it in early 2020. Requests for reveals flooded in. Then, after solely three live shows, the COVID-19 pandemic sank all the things.

Rogê soldiered on, practising guitar for as much as eight hours a day. Calls got here in to play on document dates, together with that of Robin Thicke’s single “Look Easy.” Final summer time, whereas recording with Molly Lewis, the favored whistler, on the Sound Manufacturing unit in Hollywood, Rogê met Brenneck, one of many studio’s resident producers. Brenneck had him play and sing a number of of his songs. He was “blown away on so many levels,” he says, that he requested Rogê to make an album.

Brenneck poured a “giant expense” into flying himself and Rogê to Rio and hiring Arthur Verocai, a fabled samba-soul arranger of the ’70s, so as to add an orchestra to a number of tracks. All this represents a significant gamble for a startup boutique label, however Brenneck causes: “Songs in Spanish are No. 1 and all over the world. Now, Drake is singing in Spanish. Why not have the words in Portuguese? It’s such soulful music, you can feel it without knowing what the lyrics are.”

Rogê nonetheless burns to beat Brazil, however for now, he says, “I’m prouder of being a Brazilian here, because I’m bringing Americans my culture. It protects me. When I live in that place, when I connect with the orixás, nobody can beat me.”


The Gipsy Kings, with Nicolas Reyes and Rogê

The place: The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Price: $24-$200