Sebastião Tapajós was baptised with Amazon water.
And it was on the Amazon that he came to the world.
Better said, on the 16th April 1943, on a boat that was anchored on the Lower Amazon near the Surubiu settlement, roughly twelve hours away from his home town, Santarem. Tapajos' father sailed in those days as a dealer in miscellaneous wares between Santarem and Manaus, selling to the inhabitants there jute, sugar, flour and black beans. The family always travelled with him. In his home town Santarem Tapajós was registered as Sebastião Pena Marçião. When he later pursued an artistic career, he changed his name. The Rio Tapajós, which near Santarem flows into the Amazon served as his name-giver, and in this way the Amazon, as his place of birth, was in a round-a-bout way paid its due respect.
His father Marçião was also the proprietor of a shop where he, on top of dealing in nails and flour, in a wild west manner also sold food and spirits. When the people were full they began to sing and play. Tapajós' father was always the first to reach for the guitar. "The climate there was always very hot and humid and one day my father's guitar just gave up the ghost. At that stage I jumped in and played the whole day. At the age of eight I had to then stay in Santarem in order to go to school." At that time Dilhermando Reis was Tapajós' guitarist idol. At the age of twelve Sebastião Tapajós was already able to play all the melodies he heard from the radio or ones he simply picked up from the street.
Three years later Sebastião Tapajós joined a dance band where he played Choros, Valsas, Boleros and Serestas. His parents did not always willingly agree to these all too often nocturnal pursuits of his. Sra. Marçião did not want for her son a future as an unemployed musician, and so his father imposed night-time house arrest on him. But Sebastião thought up a plan: "We lived in a very simple house, where my room was situated very close to the front door. I tied a thread around my big toe, placed the other end through the key hole of the front door, and when my parents went out, it tugged at my toe, woke me up whereupon I slipped away secretly until the morning."
All this came to a change as Sebastião Tapajós one day listened to the recording of the Brazilian Guitarist Garoto playing a Mazurka from Chopin. From this day onwards he only wanted to play classical music. Friends of his helped him to obtain a stipendium at the Belém College of Music, though even there he earned extra cash playing in a dance band with fellow students.
"In those days and in the following years I played like someone obsessed with classical music. But, if someone asks me today how many hours per day, on average, I spend practising, I always reply, I don't know. I don't keep track of that anymore. I play when I feel like it. And I always feel like playing. I can never force myself to abide by a rigid time table."
Sebastião Tapajós then went to the conservatory in Rio, and as a student of Othon Salieros graduated with a diploma at the Conservatorio Naçional of Lissabon, Portugal. For a while he also studied in Madrid under the tutelage of Emilio Pujol.
Soon after his return to Rio he was invited to play the Concerto para Guitarra e Orquestra by Villa-Lobos with the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira which was originally intended to be played by Segovia.
Sebastião Tapajós in Rio de Janeiro
HIs new home has acquainted Sebastião Tapajós with new tuneful influences. The Música Popular, the Sambas, Samba-Cançoes, Choros, Bossa Novas etc. have enthused him greatly and from there onwards he has been journeying on two stylistic tracks: classical and popular - a combination that he has maintained to the present day and, indeed, adeptly masters.
In Rio he has made friends with many musicians, composers and song-writers. He has written numerous songs that have subsequently appeared on record-releases by other Popstars until he recorded his first own LP in 1968.
My first encounter with Sebastião Tapajós took place 1972 in a hotel room at the Copacabana. The conductor, Julio Medaglia, had sent him up to play a piece of music as a form of audition for the coming second Festival Folklore e Bossa Nova do Brasil. Accompanying Maria Bethania, Paulinho da Viola and others Tião was shortly thereafter on a European tour. It was the start of a an international career that led him throughout the years to concerts all over Europe. In those days transmission time was generously allocated to Brazilian music by television stations and Sebastião Tapajós appeared as a guest in many TV-galas. He often brought musician friends along with him on tour, e.g. the Zimbo Trio, Mauricio Einhorn, Djalma Correa, Pedro 'Sorongo' Santos, Joel Nascimento and others.
Back then we produced a range of albums for MPS, RCA and Metronome. One of them even earned the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis (German Record Award), which was already a kind of Lifetime-Achievement award as the jury said.
Sebastião Tapajós has both in his concerts and in the various recording projects he has been involved in along the way, always sought to work together with other musicians. His co-operative endeavours began with the much admired percussionist, philosopher and allround easy-goer, but now regrettably deceased, Pedro Sorongo Santos (CD Xingu). His initial recording agendas also featured Mauricio Einhorn, Sivuca and many others. For a number of years now, Tapajós has been the most favoured partner of the pianist Gilson Peranzetta, with whom Sebastião Tapajós has recorded several albums (e.g. Affinities).
CDs by Sebastião Tapajós on Tropical Music
CD Sebastião Tapajós - SantaRio (68.802)
CD Sebastião Tapajós & Gilson Peranzzetta - Affinities (68.984)
CD Sebastião Tapajós - Xingu - Guitar & Percussion (68.907)
CD Sebastião Tapajós - Sambas & Bossas OUT OF STOCK (68.930)
CD Sebastião Tapajós - Brasilidade (68.945)