DONA INAH PROFILE | MUSIC ON MCB
Photo: Joana Gudin
Born on May 17, 1935 in the city of Araras (São Paulo), Ignês Francisco da Silva – better known as “Dona Inah” – took her first steps in music to the sound of waltzes and boleros taught by her father, trumpeter, and to the 9 years old, he started singing at dances on farms in the region and at parties in the city.
She started her career in the 50s, singing in radios and clubs in her hometown. Pioneer and irreverent, she was the first black woman to sing at the famous Araras Clube, a stronghold of the local elite at the time.
A few years later, the family moved to São Paulo and “Inah” started to perform on radio stations, such as Rádio Record, and on television programs, alternating the artistic activity with the work of domestic and nanny, which she did during the day.
In 1960, she recorded her first album, at 78rpm, for the now extinct label Trovador, but shortly thereafter she abandoned her music career because her husband did not want her to sing. In 1971, she returned to the stage after her divorce.
In the 80’s, she performed in circles and in São Paulo houses, singing in shows and themed programs on TV Cultura, but the big turning point in her career occurred in 2001, when she met producer Heron Coelho, who invited her to act in the musical “ Rainha Quelé-Tributo to Clementina de Jesus” (2002) alongside singer and actress Marília Medalha and Fabiana Cozza.
In 2004 – during a presentation at the World Culture Forum, at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo – the singer was noticed by the director of Maison descultures du monde (MCM) and creator of the Festival de l’Imaginaire de Paris, Chérif Khaznadar, who invited her to participate in the eponymous festival. In the same year, Dona Inah, at the age of 68, released her first CD “Divino Samba Meu”, composed of thirteen sambas, among new and reinterpretations with arrangements by the São Paulo musician Zé Barbeiro that gained identity in her interpretation.
To promote the CD, she started an international tour and performed for the first time abroad at the Festival de l’Imaginaire in Paris, accompanied by musicians Zé Barbeiro (guitar and arrangements), José Carlos Cipriano (guitar), Marco Bailão (guitar ) and Cássia Maria (percussion), the singer presented as “Reine du Samba” (Queen of Samba) and was applauded by the audience in her three performances in the French capital.
The emotion and spontaneity of the singer – who several times could not contain her tears – moved the audience who attended the event registered in the official calendar of the Year of Brazil in France. According to the singer: “this whole trip was a dream in which I stayed awake, from beginning to end.”
After her successful season in Paris, she performed at the 4th Mawazine Festival, in Rabat (Morocco), to more than 15 thousand people. In Spain, in Zamora, she was advertised by newspapers as “The Queen of Samba de São Paulo”. Soon after, she was recognized by the critics, winning the TIM Award in the Revelation category.
Festival Mawazine. Marrocos, 2005.
TV Show Ensaio Com Fernando Faro – TV Cultura (04/23/2006)
TV Show Sr. Brasil – TV Cultura – “Lá Se Vão Meus Anéis” by Eduardo Gudin and Paulo César Pinheiro, track from his CD “Olha Quem Chega” (23/06/2009)
At the end of 2008, he released his second CD, “Olha Quem Chega”, in a show at Sesc Pompéia, totally dedicated to the work of Eduardo Gudin, one of the greatest composers of Brazilian music and author of an extensive and renowned work. To compose this work, Dona Inah immersed herself in Gudin’s musical universe and, with great sensitivity, highlighted sixteen of the sambas she most appreciates, among them: Velho Ateu (with Roberto Riberti), Maior é Deus (with PC Pinheiro), Verde ( with JC Costa Neto) and Even More (with Paulinho da Viola).
Completing the CD is “Praça 14 BIS”, a tribute by Gudin to the Vai-Vai samba school, from the Bixiga neighborhood, Dona Inah’s “flagship” during the nights of São Paulo. Dona Inah paid for the production of the album out of her own pocket (distribution is by Dabliú) and had the collaboration of the musicians, who played practically for free. In 2009, she was nominated again for the Brazilian Music Award (former TIM Award), in the Cantora De Samba category, alongside Leci Brandão and Mart’nália.
Dona Inah and Eduardo Gudin “Ainda Mais” (Gudin/ Paulinho da Da Viola). Project Conversa com Verso no Centro Cultural Aúthos (10/22/2011).
Mulheres do Samba Sorriso Negro – Project “É Tradição e o Samba Continua” (Adilson Barbado, Jair de Carvalho and Jorge Portela) (05/05/2012).
Video Release of Dona Inah’s new album, “Fonte de Emoção”, recorded in the studio.
In 2010, he spent a season in Cuba, where he recorded 14 songs with musicians from the Buena Vista Social Club and pianist Pepe Cisneros, breaking box office records and winning critical acclaim. The vast majority of the songs were by Cuban composers and all the musicians and arrangers who participated in the recordings were also from Cuba.
In 2012, she participated in Luiz Melodia’s show, together with Céu, at the opening of SESC Sorocaba. In 2013, he recorded his third CD, “Fonte De Emoção”, which was released in 2014 with works by Dona Ivone Lara, Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, Monarco, Ivor Lancellotti and Delcio Carvalho, among others. Mrs. Inah herself, “Cry Never”.
In mid-2016, Dona Inah took up residence in a nursing home, where she remains today due to complications with Alzheimer’s disease. In 2018, the artist was also honored in the documentary “Que Cantadora a Vida Made Me”, by filmmaker Patrícia Francisco.
Follow the artist’s songs:
Sesc Pinheiros – Alaíde Costa & Dona Inah – Samba Em Prelúdio (02/14/2014)
Jornal da Gazeta – Aos 70 anos, sambista Dona Inah é nome de sucesso (03/14/2014)
Sesc Pompéia – Último show da Dona Inah (09/17/2016)
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