Elza Soares... Reigning Queen of Samba

23/05/2014 17:05 BST | Updated 23/07/2014 10:59 BST

The Queen of Samba... A survivor. Now in her seventies, she was born and raised in the Favelas, and has had a turbulent life. She is notorious in Brazil not only for her music but for her long affair with Mané Garrincha, the legendary Brazil player. Their son was tragically killed in a car accident. Garrincha had demons himself and later drank himself to death. She was also persecuted under Brazil's miltary dictatorship in the 70s, and spent time in exile in Italy, and spent a few years in relative obscurity in the 90s. Its great to see her being celebrated again later in life.

I managed to persuade her to make an appearance on my Sonzeira project that I recorded this year in Rio. She is notorious for "no shows", so everyone was really tense the day she was meant to come.  

She performs on two tracks... a version of Nana - written by the mighty Maocir Santos - one of Brazil's greatest jazz legends who sadly passed away recently.... Our version was based on the one recorded by Os Ipanemas and it was truly an honour to have original member Wilson Das Neves pass through the studio and add his unique vocal spark to the breakdown.

The other tune we recorded with Elza was the unofficial Brazilian national anthem... Aquarela Do Brazil... written by Ary Barroso the tune has been featured as a standard by everyone from Gilberto Gil to Gal Costa... it was even used for the closing credits of Terry Gilliam's classic film Brazil. Here's the mad bit... Elza was discovered by Ary Barroso whilst presenting his TV show in the late fifties as she was invited on stage dressed like she's just shown up from the Favela (which she had!)... On her entrance Ary asked her what planet she's descended from to which she replied... 'the same planet as you... planet hunger!'... The audience immediately warmed to her after which she performed what was to be her greatest moment live on Brazilian TV... a star was born! And 40 years later I was surprised to find out she'd never recorded Ary's most famous song onto disc. I asked her to sing it for the album in a minor chord, it subverts the song, and its impossible to hear it without feeling so much emotion for the Brazilian Nation - she cried at the end of the session, and then everyone else was having to hold back the tears as well. It was my most magical moment ever in a studio... Obrigado Elza!

Elza's best five

1. Sambas e mais sambas - 1970

Featuring the ultimate and best version of 'Mas Que Nada'!

2. O com a bola branca - 1966

Here she performs a monster dance classic Deixa A Nega Gingar also know as Sandelia Dela later recorded by Flora Purim with Duke Pearson on blue note

3. O máximo em samba - 1967

Somewhere between Eartha Kitt and Ela Fitzgerald - massive old school horn arrangements and production by the master milton miranda - check Tristeza!

4. Elza Soares and Wilson Das Neves - 1968

Reunited in 2014 for the Brazil bam bam bam album and featuring the wild Deixa Isso Par La!

5. Elza Soares - Elza Soares - 1976

A lesser known album released in france which features the cut Bon Dis Portela which will get any party moving!