Monday, January 2, 2012

Article in Brazilian newspaper

I did an interview with a fellow by the name of André Simões who writes for a daily paper in Maringá in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná.

André's blog is here.

Here's the link to the article:

For those that don't read Portuguese, here's my translation:

Mr. Guitar of the Web

Ten million hits on Youtube. Some adolescent cracking jokes for the camera? Some young girl confessing her sexual intimacies? Who knows, maybe a pop star? As improbable as it may seem, the North American Tony Clef, 52, manages this impressive number of views just making videos with his guitar on the Internet. Without jokes, without special effects - just instrumental music of the best quality.

More relevant to us is that a quarter of his output (47 of a total of 182 videos) is dedicated to new arrangements of classics of Brazilian music. Only the finest things: Villa-Lobos, Tom Jobim, Edu Lobo, Carlos Lyra, Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso...

When it comes to adapting songs for guitar solo, Clef attains the most impressive results. In his arrangement of ""Um Girassol da Cor de Seu Cabelo" (A Sunflower the Color of your Hair) (by Lô and Márcio Borges, originally recorded on the album "Clube da Esquina", from 1972) the guitarist synthesizes the vocal melody, the basic harmony and the complex instrumental arrangements of Wagner Tiso.

On rarer occasions, Clef plays the arrangements of other Brazilian guitarists, but always working with the cream of Brazilian guitar: Baden Powell, Paulinho Nogueira, Luiz Bonfá, among others.


His promotion of Brazilian music on Youtube has earned him enthusiastic comments from Brazilians that seek him out on his channel, and there are others from other parts of the world that encounter MPB (Brazilian popular music) for the first time through the interpretations of this North American. "I'm interested in getting people to listen to new things. But there are already many people all over the world who know about the beauty of MPB" says
Clef, in an exclusive interview with O Diário.

His first contact with Brazilian music, "like many Americans", happened when he was still a child upon hearing "Garota de Ipanema" (The Girl from Ipanema), in the version of Astrud Gilberto accompanied by her then-husband João Gilberto on the guitar. Later, studying classical guitar, he came in contact with the works of Villa-Lobos.

But the big bang only came about when a friend recorded a cassette for Clef with an ample selection of MPB containing many classics as well as "lesser-known gems" from artists like Os Cariocas and Leny de Andrade. "It took me to the next level. What really made me crazy was "Tarde em Itapoã". I couldn't stop listening to it", remembers the guitarist.

His enthusiasm for Brazil inspired the musician to study Portuguese, now exhibiting sufficient fluency to respond to his fans in writing and even to sing in our language on a version of "Pra Dizer Adeus" (To Say Goodbye), by Edu Lobo and Torquato Neto. On his blog, he also translates Brazilian songs into English, as he did with "Olha Maria" (Look Maria), by Chico Buarque, Vinícius de Moraes and Tom Jobim.


Beyond Brazilian songs, Clef also has had success with new arrangements from the most diverse musical genres. Having started in rock, he has adapted with a classical guitar touch songs by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Kinks along with many other bands.

Recognition in this area came from the most vaunted source possible: when Paul McCartney promoted a contest on his website for the best version of the classic "Maybe I'm Amazed" (from his first solo album of 1970), the winner was Tony Clef, with his guitar incorporating the voice, organ, piano, bass and guitar parts.

A little of this eclecticism can be found on his album, "Tuesday Afternoon", released in September. Along with Brazilian music ("A Felicidade", "Clube da Esquina nº2" and "Melodia Sentimental") and rock (Beatles, The Kinks) there is space for waltzes, French songs, soundtracks, Broadway themes and classical pieces. "I sought to mix in a selection of what I do on Youtube with other things that I haven't posted there. That way people would have a reason to want to buy the album!", he says.

Success came as a surprise

How did the idea of making videos on Youtube come about?

A friend told me about youtube in April or May of 2006 (about 6 months after it went online) and I posted my first video in early June of that year. For years I'd worked on the same songs over and over with no way of registering them and considering them *done*.

Was your success unexpected? How has it influenced you personally and musically?

It was very unexpected and delightful. Getting views and comments from people all over the world within an hour is something that is strange and beautiful and really remarkable. I credit the fact that when I started, there were maybe only a couple hundred musicians on Youtube in the whole world! Nowadays, there's probably 200 in my neighborhood alone! I was just lucky to be in the right place as Youtube was becoming the worldwide phenomenon it is now.

When did your interest in writing arrangements come about?

I fooled around with working out transcriptions and arrangements at a pretty early age but never
really took it seriously. Even now I don't *really* take it seriously! :D I feel like mostly I do "transcriptions" as opposed to true arrangements. A good arranger has to be a bit of a composer, and I don't compose at all. A transcriber just needs to have a good ear and a knack for working out the solutions lurking somewhere on the fretboard.

Among the youth of Brazil, there are relatively few who know about the great composers like Tom Jobim, Edu Lobo, Francis Hime, Baden Powell. How do you see that in relation to the youth of your country and their knowledge of the great American songwriters (Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin)?

Oh, yeah, that kind of thing is true everywhere, right? The marketing people have a vested interest in making sure the kids only listen to what they want them to listen to. But everybody has to grow at their own rate. Most kids hate it when someone says "Eat this, it's good for you" or "Listen to this, it's better than what you're listening to". It's like parents who try to force their children to like classical music or something. If it doesn't come naturally to the child through your example of enthusiasm, they're never going to get it. Like swallowing a pill. No fun.