11th Feb 2020
Naná’s legacy stretches deep into the ecology of Serious – a wonderful percussionist, and a charismatic stage presence with the ability to create a rare rapport with those he touched – whether in major concert hall or community workshop. Moreover, he was a gregarious, warm and generous human being.
Naná – Prince Vasconcelos des Bois – was an artist who inhabited much of the company’s work in the late 80’s and 90’s (and for me, into pre-Serious days, even). Over the years, he was a frequent visitor, whether in his classic duo with Egberto Gismonti, or with Don Cherry, Jan Garbarek or with the terrific trio – Inclassificable – that he co-led with Andy Sheppard and Steve Lodder, this last group firing up an award-winning and very substantial dance piece that Serious co-commissioned with the choreographer Jonathan Lunn. More extensively, he made telling contributions to the music of Pat Metheny and many more.
One great memory is of Naná sending a packed Barbican audience out into the night, still singing along with one of his trademark songs – and not long before he’d turned the hall into a two thousand-strong vocal and percussive evocation of the Amazon rainforest. Complete with very carefully orchestrated rain sounds…
We also developed a solo performance with Naná that drew together his ability to create sonic story-telling with a visual backdrop and what was probably my last real foray into lighting design. And he also led inspirational workshops – I well remember taking him to workshops with special needs groups and disadvantaged children during Camden Jazz weeks way back in the 80s and early 90s, where his generosity of spirit and innate humanity was transforming.
He rarely returned to Europe in recent years, and apart from an isolated club show some years back, and despite a few near misses, he had been absent from London for far too long. He has, however, been an essential and revered figure since returning to his home city of Recife.
'An amazing, wonderful person…everywhere he went (berimbau always nestled on his shoulder) he made friends and brought infectious joy to the people around him' (Pat Metheny)
No better words.
John Cumming, Serious director