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TUCA – Xango

Philips 6136 001 Série Parade Couleurs France 1970

Track 1 – Xango

Track 2 – Umbanda

The life of the beautiful Tuca was sadly short lived, but she left behind for us some truly glorious musical gifts, including this outstanding 7″. She also played a very important part of a particular album from an artist I have loved my for a big part of my life, Francoise Hardy. So much to celebrate regarding Tuca, but with heart break, there should be so much more.

Brazilian singer, guitarist and songwriter Valeniza Zagni da Silva was born on 17 October 1944 in São Paulo, Brazil. In 1957, Valeniza began to compose while studying classical music at the Conservatory of São Paulo, and a little later during the mid-sixties, she participated in several TV talent-shows while being part of the Group of Popular Music at the University of Architecture and Urbanization of São Paulo.  She made her first steps as a professional musician, writing the music for Homem de Verdade, penned by Consuelo de Castro and recorded by singer Ana Lúcia in 1962. Valeniza made ​​her singing debut on the television show Primeira Audição, produced by João Leão and Horácio Berlinck, and would further participate in several very popular Brazilian TV singing contests.

Photo by Eustaquio Trindade Neto

In 1965, Valeniza came up with her new stage name Tuca, and the year saw the release of her first LP Meu Eu. She composed the music on twelve songs of the thirteen, and wrote the lyrics on three, while co writing all the others, including six tracks along side Mexican pop-folk-singer, songwriter, actress, politician and vedette, Irma Consuelo Cielo Serrano Castro, later known simply as “La Tigresa”. Not an easy album to find these days with no re-release. The following year in 1966, in the second Festival Nacional da Música Popular Brasileira, she performed with Airto Moreira a song called Porta Estandarte which was awarded first place, and won them the 1966 Berimbau Golden Award. She followed that prize with a second place position in the 2nd International Music Festival – National Sector, with her composition O Cavaleiro. These award winning songs would then of course also be released as a singles in 1966.

In 1968, she signed a contract with Philips Records who would release her next album, simply self titled Tuca. Similar to her previous album, this release also contains quite complex arrangements and dynamic rhythms and pacing, but also with some absolute soft tones as within Verde and O Cavaleiro E A Virgem. She would also compete in the Festival Nacional de Música Popular Brasileira, singing one of her composition Paixão segundo o amor (Passion according to love) with soprano Stella Maris, which won third place. You really start to comprehend the broad talent of Tuca, and what she was capable of, when you hear tracks like this. The songs from these performances and artists were released on the LP O Brasil Canta No Rio in 1968.

In 1969, due to political issues and rising tensions in Brazil, Tuca went to Europe and settled in Paris and would perform every night at a Brazilian restaurant called La Feijoada. It is here it is believed, in 1971, where she was noticed and befriended by French singer and songwriter (and Goddess) Francoise Hardy. Tuca and Hardy connected very well; the singer later described their meeting as “love at first sight”, personally and artistically speaking. With Tuca’s expressive mind and her Brazilian influence, Hardy was confident she could escape her marketed pop look and sound, and could now really explore new boundaries. Hardy was particularly infatuated with Même sous la pluie, a song Tuca had written for another artist but eventually gave to Hardy. Together they began working on her eleventh album, Hardy’s magnum opus “Françoise Hardy” (also known as La Question, and Un Recueil De Mes PoésiesA Collection Of My Poems in Japan). Lyrically, the album encompasses themes of love, anxiety, eroticism and fear, attributed to instabilities in Hardy’s relationship with Jacques Dutronc at that time. Tuca was also suffering from an unrequited love at the time of the recording. She desired and wanted to be with the Italian actress Lea Massari, who in contrast, had no romantic connection nor was that way inclined. It is believed that this would also shape the album’s content.

The album was not well received by French audiences and radio stations upon release, but today it is celebrated as one of the most important works in Hardy’s discography, now viewed as a turning point in her career, in which she moved toward a less commercial and more sophisticated style. Tuca composed the music for all but one song on the album (Doigts), and rehearsed them with Hardy every day for a month before recording the album (with Guy Pedersen on bass) finishing each track after three takes. After the recording sessions, the duo took a break in Corsica, returning later to compose the string arrangements. For this, Tuca played different themes on a piano for Hardy; once they were chosen, Raymond Donnez was asked to write them. Thus, the making of La Question also marked the first time Hardy “participated in such a crucial choice”. With Tuca’s musical direction and guitar playing, this is truly an incredible album from Francoise! It’s my favourite LP of hers, and apparently also the record Francoise is most proud of and revered. I am falling in love again with this album, rediscovering it, and it’s helping me through this current tough lock down time.

Tuca would release two singles in 1970. The first single was Negro Negrito, which also had the B side Que C’Est Bon L’Amour, and had three separate pressings, from France, Italy and Brazil. The second 7″, this featured single, includes two incredibly fiery tracks, Xangõ on the A Side, and Umbanda on the flip side. Xango is new territory for Tuca with it’s tribal beat and frantic pacing, and unlike anything she had produced before. The B side is even faster and more up tempo. I couldn’t find any production credits other than “Tuca” with this release. This single would also come with a Venezuela release in 1972, and would end up being her final single. Neither of these releases were met with success, and her contract with Philips was subsequently broken.

However in 1974, on her return to Brazil, Tuca would sign with Brazilian label Som Livre, giving her now the belief she would have the opportunity to really express her music from deep within her soul and with all her musical abilities. Her masterpiece, Dracula I Love You, would be her final album. Recorded with Mario De Castro in Michel Magnes’ Château D’Hérouville Studios, where artists such as Pink Floyd and David Bowie would record, the album is a journey through darkness and light, sometimes experimental, and sometimes with tradition. It’s a blessing that Tuca had the opportunity to make this final art work. With no official re release, this album is incredibly difficult to find, which is a real shame as it really is a testament to Tuca and her artistry. I discovered a great article by Diego Olivas, who writes about this album and recommend you have a read (see fondsound.com link below).

As astonishing as her last album was, it also didn’t receive the sales or accolades it deserved, and with the label reluctant to promote the album, I’m sure investing towards any further recordings wasn’t a high priority for the recording company.

Tuca had a big voice and personality and perhaps a demanding passion that went with it. She comes across as fun and radiating when you see footage of her, but with the media always asking about her weight, diet and appearance, and less about her art, well this would have affected her deeply. She was a musical genius, and far too complex for most to comprehend, and maybe management would have found that difficult to market.

Due to complications from aggressive and intense dieting, and a draconian weight-loss program, resulting in inanition starvation, Tuca would leave us in São Paulo on May 8, 1978 at the age of 33.

– del Piero

NOTE – In 1970 Tuca also played guitar for her compatriot Nara Leão, on her album Dez Anos Depois, a double album of Bossa Nova standards and haunting ballads. 

Research and references:

Tuca fan page with great pics, videos and tributes

Top right photo of Tuca by Eustaquio Trindade Neto.

Dracula I Love You article by Diego Olivas fondsound.com

Tuca – Vídeos Raros ( Rádio Retrô AM ) – This link includes incredible footage of Francoise Hardy singing Même sous la pluie, and also features Véronique Sanson alongside Tuca. 

Entrevista da cantora TUCA na Argentina no começo dos anos 70 videoraridade

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