Singer Carmelia Alves, known as the “Queen of Baiao,” one of the most popular folk rhythms of northeast Brazil, died in Rio de Janeiro of cancer, her family said. She was 89.
Alves, who also suffered from Alzheimer’s, died Saturday night of a multiple organ seizure, the Jacarepagua Hospital of Clinics, where the artist had been hospitalized for a month, said.
The Rio artist was considered the best female performer of baiao, a rhythm that originated in one of Brazil’s most rugged regions and which also brought fame to her late friend and accordeonist Luiz Gonzaga, about whom a biographical film is currently being shown on the centenary of his birth in theaters around Brazil.
Alves was married for 50 years to singer Jimmy Lester. They had no children and shared the stage as far afield as Mexico, Germany and Argentina, where she had to open an affiliate of her recording company thanks to the success she had in Buenos Aires on the radio and in theaters with songs like “Sabia na Gaiola.”
The singer launched her career in the 1940s, performing the Carnival hits of then-superstar Carmen Miranda at Rio de Janeiro’s Hotel Copacabana, but later, under Gonzaga’s influence, she devoted herself to the baiao.
Following the death of her husband in 1998, Alves fell into depression and tried to return to the stage in 2000 by forming a group of other veteran singers from the 1950s.