Brazilian singer Marília Mendonça, known as ‘the Mozart of the Amazon,’ dies in plane crash

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Marília Mendonça, an internationally renowned exponent of the Amazonian mandolin who has helped to bring an indigenous folk music form into the mainstream, has died in a plane crash.

Mendonça was traveling with a professional band from Manaus in northern Brazil when their plane crashed on Monday, killing all seven people on board, including the artists.

In a statement, the Sao Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office identified the other victims as Mariela Torcato, a violinist with the Vila Isabela Band; Maréir Chabavão, a guitarist; Junis Serrano Gomes, one of the band’s founding members; Rodrigo dâncimhigo Béjar, a technician; and the others in the group were female artists wearing indigenous clothing.

Marília Mendonça with DÁncimo Béjar in Copenhagen. (An image taken from Facebook)

Mendonça — who was from Manaus, one of the Brazilian states closest to the Amazon — was one of the most celebrated musical figures in the country. In Brazil, there is a Mandolin and Amazon Meron name. She was a Grammy-winning musician who helped to spread the indigenous music of Pataxo and Água Canyon to a global audience.

Mendonça was born to indigenous parents on March 4, 1971. She started her musical career as a mandolin player and composer, in her mother’s traditional music school, a non-profit collective in Manaus. But she quickly developed an interest in the mandolin, which in the Amazon is considered to be the most important instrument among the native children of the region. Her studies as a student in schools and private music schools in Sao Paulo and Rio also developed a more international style, earning her a UNESCO award.

“Her music recognized the ties between music and the world’s cultural traditions, in particular its indigenous roots,” Nicole Zimmermann, a leading international exponent of the same style, wrote on her Facebook page.

When she was younger, Mendonça also played for former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in one of his many speeches. She played each note as if it were her own, painting in black and white, each note as if it was her life.

The group’s Web site describes Mendonça as “a national emblem in Amazonian music, and today, too, as the best modern exponent of the black style of the Salve Regina Mandolin.” It goes on to list her collaborations with the Brazilian singer Marcia Ballentine and other celebrities including Andrea Bocelli and Michael Bolton.

One of her best-known hits is “The Pasta” and is about her love of cooking, the steamy tango and a couple’s passionate day at the supermarket. She released a biographical album in 2017, and she also released an album dedicated to the Neapolitan music of Davide Filippo Berlucchi, the Italian singer known for his work with Maria Callas.

Brazil’s President Michel Temer tweeted: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Marília Mendonça.”

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