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A legend is reborn in Brazil

Sao Paulo (Brazil), Dec. 7 (Reuters): She sashays across the stage. She throws back her head and stretches out her arms in dramatic poses. Her voice is clear and strong.

Maria Rita is Brazil’s latest musical star.

But she is more than that. Maria Rita is also the daughter of the tragic Elis Regina, one of the country’s greatest singers and still a beloved figure 21 years after her death. “If I am similar to my mother, I can’t do anything about it,” Maria Rita says.

There is no doubting her current popularity. Little more than a year ago she could still be seen in a small Sao Paulo club performing with young guitarist Chico Pinheiro.

Now, her image — with her mop of curly hair — is plastered over music stores. She has sold over 350,000 copies of her eponymous debut album. Recent shows in concert halls in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro sold out rapidly, with more dates added.

“The concrete fact is that Maria Rita has become, in less than a year-and-a-half, the revelation and biggest success in Brazilian popular music in recent years,” Epoca magazine said.

The question for critics is whether the 26-year-old can emerge from the giant shadow cast by her mother’s legacy.

Elis was a kind of Brazilian Edith Piaf and Janis Joplin in one. She soared to acclaim and adoration in the 1960s and 1970s as one of the stars of MPB — Musica Popular Brasileira, a blend of rock, samba and bossa nova. Her voice was packed with emotion, exuding both joy and anguish.

But her personal life was tumultuous and fuelled the legend. She had binges with drugs and alcohol. Managers ripped her off. There was a string of love affairs, some less disastrous than others. Maria Rita’s father is the distinguished pianist and arranger Cesar Camargo Mariano.

When she died of an overdose in 1982, aged 37, fans were plunged into prolonged mourning.

On stage, her daughter oozes charm, energy and vivaciousness. Maria Rita sings with a four-piece band — drums, percussion, keyboards and bass. “My concern was to show myself as an interpreter. I wanted a simple instrumental base to show my voice,” she said in an interview with the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

“I am like my mother and I am happy with life,” she said.

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