You don’t have too much luck if you search for informations on Dona Onete in English. Her website is only available in Portuguese, her biography is brief, and there is hardly anything else about her in the big music databases. She is so humble and hiding, as if she herself couldn’t believe to be an international star. However, we should just see what she’s doing on stage to see why she is one. Here are ten facts about a lady who mixes the experiences of eight decades with a cultural heritage of several centuries, until we can’t even know where the one ends and where the other starts.
- Her first audience was a family of dolphins
She was born as Ionete da Silveira Gama in Brazil, in the state of Pará, and she realized her passion for music and singing in a very young age. She tells a story about washing clothes in the Amazonas, when a dolphin came to hear her singing. Next day, she sang to the river audience once again, and two doplhins turned up, followed by even more on the coming day. Could she be a late descendant of Greek mythology hero Arion…?
- Banned from singing, became a historian
After the aquatic creatures, she swiched to a kind of „lush” audience: she became a bar singer. Her first husband didn’t want her to do this anymore, so Ionete had to give up her career in sake of conjugal harmony. She didn’t want to be a housewife in the background, though; she started a university and graduated as a historian. Of course, her musical talent stayed with her as an underground stream…
- Just a bit of folklore studies – or more?
After the archives, she went on fieldwork and asked Amazonas people about their traditions and own perceptions of history. While exemplifying folk songs heard from them, the serious and appreciated researcher often burst into song. Even her severe husband couldn’t complain against this, could he? ?
- She started her career when others end it
Shortly before retiring, she had a nice life behind her: she was culture secretary, wrote poems and children’s books, but something was still missing. She started to sing again, and the little underground stream burst out as a wide and wild river such as the Amazonas. Dona Onete’s star rised right at the start, and now her second husband didn’t want to convince her to stop. Thank God!
- First album recorded with 73 years
It’s called Feitiço Caboclo. With 78, she released her sophomore album, Banzeiro. And who knows what she’s working on now?
- Sings about sex, stands under the rainbow
But please don’t think that she’s some old grandma who only writes about innocent subjects! Dona Onete is a real rebel who sings about old love affairs and her own experiences. Like she wrote to someone: „I adore your crazy way of making love!”. South American sensuality and joyfulness is spreading from her music, but sometimes she also evokes painful memories to more melancholic songs. And let’s be honest: this woman, almost 80, is still incredibly sexy. Otherwise, she also speaks for social issues, like LGBT rights.
- Fish and waves and collected treasures
Another element of her music is the authentic sound of Amazonas area folk music. We don’t her a mere cachy song with outspoken lyrics, but also feel the fish-odored river splashing into our faces, and hear the locals selling their products at the marketplace. Also the title of the second album is a reference to the waves of the river.
- Rolled on the stage, greeted with ovation
This music makes anyone move who plays it, even if Dona Onete – due to her age – has to sit down while singing. It also happened that she came to the stage in a wheelchair, and the audience greeted her with an applause as if she was a twenty-year-old superstar jumping in front of them.
- An anthropologist wrote a book about her
Folk music expert and anthropologist Antônio Maria de Souza Santos, kind of a colleague to Dona Onete, published the singer’s biography in Portuguese in 2013.
- She comes to Budapest soon!
As a Hungarian, I can’t be more pleased to announce that this incredibly active lady, roaming around the Globe, comes to my homeland soon. There’s nothing more to say here, except that there are still tickets left. Who knows how long, though.