Dona Mariah’s only daughter, Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos, was born in Salvador, Bahia and was brought up listening to music – on the radio always turned on in the house, in the record store where she worked as a teenager, at the Tenis Baiano Club – with friends, until she got in touch with the group of rising stars, such as Caetano Veloso who in the early ’60s was already pioneering towards the new Brazilian Popular music. Later came the courage to come down to Rio and São Paulo. The first show in São Paulo, “Arena Canta Bahia”, wasn’t exactly a hit but who ever saw it, will never forget it: Gal still called herself “Gracinha”, was quiet and thoughtful, listening most of the time and being only listened when she sang Bossa Nova standards.
When everything became psychedelic and marvellous with Gilberto Gil‘s, Tom Ze‘s, Torquato Neto’s antropophagic Tropicalismo, Maria de Graça turned into Gal (from the nickname “Gau”, given by a younger cousin), Brazil was going through a dictatorship totally against new ideologies and concepts, and while Gil and Caetano chose to become political exiles in London, Gal took part in politically radical concerts, thighs and hair swaying to the sound of Jorge Benjor, Adoniram Barbosa, Luis Melodia, Roberto and Erasmo Carlos. Even then Gal already had the ability to turn any song immersed in prejudice, such as the wishy-washy romantic songs on the hit parades and the almost forgotten sambas by old composers, into dark jewels of unbelievable value for the cultural Brazilian soul. She started using words more and more, preferably to sing, to express herself through other composers’ lyrics, she never wrote a song.
The habits were changing and Gal was showing the change. She went through several periods: the belly button, and the barefoot periods, changing and trying to find the right temperature of a country made of miracles, highways, sugar cane, soccer World Cup, feathers and high-rises. Gal gave her name to the dunes of a beach in Rio. She was known to all who had long hair and colorful necklaces. She started to guide the camping groups of the first and last Brazilian hippies, natural rice and bananas – and set up a trademark, an enormous mouth with bloodred lipstick, bleeding over the Carnivals, bathed by the merry sounds of its music, the sun and an ever rising success.
The campus stages and those of alternate show places suddenly became too small. It was time to cross the borders. And in the early ’80s, several countries received her setting up an international bridge, with concerts in Japan, France, Israel, Argentina, USA, Portugal, Italy…
“O Sorriso do Gato de Alice is the twentieth album of a career that confirming João Gilberto’s omen, turned into one of the most successful in the international music world. Actually, as was previously said, Gal Costa’s voice is our best exportation choice.
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