You have probably never heard of Cajamar, Sao Paulo; a small town with a population of about 60,000 in the center of this important Brazilian state. Each year a local festival that lasts for about two weeks is the most important event in town, it is organized in a stadium that was built mainly for this purpose in the heart of the city. Tonight something different is happening, two brothers, Victor & Leo, are performing in front of 20,000 people, the stadium’s maximum capacity; after their performance they explain to the public their main intent.
“We want to be sure that you leave this place feeling better than when you came in, carrying home a positive attitude for the people you love”.
In reality, it was not only about one show, but about two going on simultaneously, the one the artists gave on stage, and the one the fans created by singing each and every song and feeling what these two brothers transmit, stories that reflect in the people’s live. This scene has repeated itself at least 230 times the entire year, in the tour that’s promoting their most recent album in Portuguese and has already surpassed a half-million units sold. By the end of the year they will have performed in front of 4 million fans, just in Brazil.
Their success was far from immediate; it is the result of more than 15 years of hard work, sacrifice, losses and triumphs. Victor Chaves Zapala Pimentel and Leonardo Chaves Zapala Pimentel, 33 and 31 years respectively, grew up in Abre Campo, Minas Gerais; a small and humble city in the center of the state. Since they were very little the two youngsters would sit and listen with their grandfather to his favorite songs of “country” local music, as well as the international hits that were played in the radio.
When Victor was around 12 years old, he tentatively began to play an old and abandoned guitar that he found in the house, while Leo was singing with local bands, but it was one day in 1992, when joking and fooling around they sang together for the first time, and Victor introduced Leo to his first lyrics. The brothers found that there was something special between them, and realized they had to work together to develop their own style, a fusion of local country and international pop that they had listened to all of their lives.
In the mid 90’s, when Victor was composing his first songs, their family moved to Belo Horizonte, where they were hit by a harsh economic situation. The two brothers opted to play in local bars to try and ease the family’s condition when they had to quit their studies, but the learning and experience they gained on stage provided them with a great opportunity to practice and refine their songs and melodies.
Eventually success started knocking at their door and they were given the opportunity to record two demos, they moved to Sao Paulo looking for better opportunities, hoping their music could reach more people.
“It seems that we had landed by parachute in Sao Paulo, we didn’t know anybody, but we knew we had to be there if we really wanted to develop our own music and build something special, we had to be in that city”, Victor said.
Sao Paolo ended up being a great challenge, they arrived in the city with a contract from an independent record label in their hands, but they couldn’t choose the repertoire or make their own changes, and the songs were produced in a totally different style than what they had planned, resulting in a complete disaster for the brothers. In less than two years they broke up with the record label and found themselves starting from the bottom once again. The frustration caused by this experienced taught them the importance of having total control of everything related with the music, after that they committed to compose, fix and produce the material for their albums under their conditions and original style.
“For years we linked success with fame and status, trying to reach it… but it was all useless; the truth is that as soon as we stopped thinking that way and began to concentrate in spreading positive messages with our music, we started to see the difference and a better outcome”, said Victor.
In bars all around Sao Paulo Victor and Leo noticed a strong increase in fan attendance, taking advantage of the strength of their presentation they recorded an album with unheard songs and another album with a compilation of some of their live performances called “Ao Vivo”, sold only at their shows. In a short time, and without knowing about it, a radio station started playing one of their songs. After the first one more stations followed, and they were given the opportunity that they had dreamed of, their music was spreading all over Sao Paulo along with their message.
Their next CD and DVD “Ao Vivo Em Uberlandia” was recorded in front of 30.000 fans, in the city where they now live. After five successful singles, and with the CD & DVD in first place in total sales simultaneously, the two brothers exceeded expectations.
The same force that made them leave Belo Horizonte, now urges them to share their music beyond their frontiers with the Spanish speaking public.
This represents for the talented brothers a huge challenge that is full of questions.
Can they sing in Spanish? Will their music connect and bond with people from other countries, with the same positive sense? Several decades have passed since the last time a Brazilian artist’s successfully busted the barriers of Latin-American music.
The brothers have prepared, taking Spanish classes and adapting their songs carefully to a new language, with the help of composers such as Leonel García (Sin Bandera) y Aureo Baqueiro. The time spent in the recording studio was not easy at all; they had to sing and try to transmit the same passion and feelings as if they were doing it in their native Portuguese.
After lots of patience and dedication, they got to the point they were looking for, an honest sound, simple and with a pure and real romanticism.
Songs like “Amigo Apasionado” (passionate friend), “Recuerdos de Amor” (Love mementos), “Sigo Extrañándote” (I keep missing you), and the first single that also gave the name to the album “Nada es Normal” (Nothing is normal) are all Victor’s songs, and they are expressions and feelings that reflect the daily lives of the artists. No matter what song you listen to, you are probably going to feel familiar and connected to it. The melodies stick with you from the moment you listen to them, the musical mixes and acoustic sounds make it even easier for the vocal harmony to stand out; the music is friendly, direct and honest – just like the brothers.
Victor & Leo accepted this challenge with the same humbleness they’ve exhibited in the past. As Leo puts it “We go where people want to listen to our music, to find hope and to move on, or a moment of peace, a musical place of safety,” and Victor adds, “If we can give this to at least one person in Mexico, Argentina or Colombia, we will have achieved our purpose”.