Rodrigo Leãowww.facebook.com/rodrigoleaomusic | www.uguru.net | www.rodrigoleao.pt
“Portugal’s answer to Brian Eno” (Songlines)
You may not recognise the name, but you know the talent behind it, and you're sure to have already heard his enchanting way with a melody.
Rodrigo Leão was one of the musicians and composers behind the extraordinarily successful Portuguese ensemble Madredeus; he was in the band for nearly 10 years before leaving to focus on his own solo career.
Yet, Madredeus was only one of the many stops of an incredible 30-year journey that has seen Rodrigo Leão invite Portishead's Beth Gibbons, The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon or Tindersticks' Stuart Staples to sing on his albums and live shows; perform with Ryuichi Sakamoto or Ludovico Einaudi; see his music used on film soundtracks or praised by Pedro Almodóvar...
Rodrigo Leão remains, though, the same quietly spoken, modestly talented Lisboner who started out as a bassist in an indie-rock band before moving into Madredeus' chamber-pop and into the neo-classical textures of his own early solo material.
Rodrigo was in 1982 one of the founding members of Sétima Legião, one of the most influential rock bands in Portugal's mid-1980s indie scene thanks to their judicious use of Celtic influences. In 1986, he started Madredeus with Pedro Ayres Magalhães and Sétima Legião's Gabriel Gomes as a sideline acoustic project – one that gained a life of its own and snowballed into international success.
In 1993, Rodrigo showed yet another side of his creativity by releasing a mostly instrumental solo album in a neo-classical, minimalist mode, titled “Ave Mundi Luminar”. With Sétima Legião on a long break, in 1994 he left Madredeus to devote himself fully to his solo career; in it he explored the edges of modern classical music and contemporary pop, marrying electronics to string and horn sections, using a separate project, Os Poetas, to set to music words from some of Portugal's greatest poets.
But throughout all these roles two things kept reappearing in his work: film and songs. Madredeus had written the music for a Wim Wenders movie and many of his own instrumental pieces seemed like soundtrack music in search of a film; Rodrigo's 2004 album was called “Cinema”, and from then on his backing group became the Cinema Ensemble. And, as he moved further in his explorations of instrumental textures, he felt the need to return to the simplicity of the pop song.
He has done so over the past ten years, inviting others to lend their voices to his music. Portuguese stars such as The Gift's Sónia Tavares or alt-Fado singer Lula Pena; Brazilian up-and-comer Thiago Petit; and internationally acclaimed singers such as Beth Gibbons, Neil Hannon, Stuart Staples or Rosa Passos and, more recently, Joan Wasser (Joan as Policewoman) have enriched Rodrigo's songs and taken his work on voyages to new and more exciting places.
Let Rodrigo Leão's wondrous talent as a composer and musician lead you on those voyages.