João MacDowell

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João MacDowell
Joao MacDowell - trio performance 6.png
João MacDowell performing in New York in 2011
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Joao MacDowell is a Brazilian composer who is known for fusing contemporary and popular styles with classical music. His work includes opera, symphonic and chamber music as well as early albums of Brazilian pop.

Life and career[edit]

Early Works - Brasília[edit]

Brazilian musical artist Joao MacDowell, born in Brasilia, started his professional career as leader and vocalist of the Brazilian cult band Tonton Macoute. The composer was in a couple of bands before that, one of them called Antiperipleia, another called "Sabado Cedo Nao Tem Carne" with Brazilian artist Marcio Faraco on guitars, Cascao on drums, from the band "Detrito Federal", Pedro Hiena on bass - Arte no escuro and the late Ric Novaes (DJ Mr Spacely) on vocals.[1]

The band Tonton Macoute left a mark on a generation of artists in the capital of Brazil and further. They had a track record of independent radio hits. The songs Electric Light and A Pele became instant radio hits, starting at Fluminense FM, and then at Radio Cidade and Transamerica FM. This radio exposure led to a consistent following on their performances. They also made hits in radio stations across the country, many of these stations, such as Radio Cidade and Transamerica, would normally refuse to play independent bands, which made their achievement quite a unique feat for the time.[2]

Joao Mac Dowell went on to work as record producer and composer, working with names such as Claudia Otero, Fabio Lobo, Little Quail and The Md Birds, Funk Fuckers and Rubao Sabino, . He wrote soundtracks for films by Mauro Giuntinni, Katcha Donida and others. In a peculiar practice, Joao MacDowell would get different nicknames in different towns, adding to the number of identities that he has personified. He would also have local guests to his solo performances, often writing new material to suit the characteristics and different styles of the people he was interacting with. Over the years Joao Mac Dowell used a number of identities: Kau MacDowell, Joao Kahuna, jKau, Joao do Sertão, Joao do Mar, Joao do Mundo, Joaozinho das Candongas, Uncle Joey and his own name.[3]

Solo Albums - Rio de Janeiro[edit]

In 2000 João Mac Dowell released his first solo album: "Parece que Existo" (It Seems That I Exist). In the following years João toured as a solo performer.[4]

From 1998 to 2001 Joao was Composer in Residence with Henrique Schuller's contemporary dance company, Tabula Rasa. Joao Mac Dowell wrote the score for "Baldes", performed at the International Contemporary Dance Biannual (2001).

"The Traveling Man and His Music Box" (2002), was the artist's second solo album release. An album that still preserves the popular melodic aspect of his previous works, though it points to the direction that his music would take after that. In it his audience heard for the first time the motif theme of Tamanduá, with an introduction that bridges Brazilian traditional music with contemporary classical orchestration. This album brought MacDowell to tour in the United States, with performances in New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia. In Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro he performed at major venues such as the Teatro Nacional and Teatro Nelson Rodrigues.[5]

Joao Mac Dowell's electronic composition "Lanterna" selected for the Lucky Strike Lab, contemporary music festival (2002). His soundtrack for the multimedia event and CD Rom "A Deusa" by Cila MacDowell, video-artist collaborator, presented at the Electronic Language International Festival (2002).

Also in 2002, JoaoMacDowell's score for "Tecido Marinho" won a prize at the International Circus Festival of Belo Horizonte. This show went on to tour seventeen countries in Europe, with the "Circus Chen". The music was chosen to be broadcast on a Children's Day TV Special of Rede Globo, "O Circo do Huck", reaching an audience of over 10 million people.

"Quarteto" (2004) was Joao Mac Dowell's third solo release, featuring his Brazilian-Jazz band based in Rio de Janeiro.

"Alice In Miami" (2007), an EP release, featuring tracks produced in Philadelphia, with Paul Atkinson and Max Laskavy at Aurum recording studios.

A career shift - New York[edit]

Joao Mac Dowell's talent as composer and record producer started to be demanded USA in 2002, he moved permanently to New York City in 2006, where he also acts as Creative Director for Come Together Music.[6] and also as Artistic Director of the International Brazilian Opera Company (IBOC)[7][8]

In the USA Joao Mac Dowell has produced a number of recordings, including: Wayne Hsu, Lydia Witman, BB, Noel Garcez, and an album of World music with various Ethiopian vocalists, co-produced by Mengistu Melese of Masinko productions.

Tamandua, NJ 2009 - Applause

MacDowell has also written soundtracks for Graham Elliot's documentary "Grayhound to Cuba", Debra Solomon's animation "777, 6th Ave." and Oscar nominated director John Dilworth's "Cartoon Physics", and the theater play "Barry White - Guided by Destiny". A participation on TV personality, singer/songwriter Jane Norman/Pixanne seventeenth solo album, "With Love"; together, MacDowell and Norman deliver a performance of the Jobim standard "Quiet Nights", featuring a full orchestra, conducted and arranged by Grammy Award-winning arranger Richard Rome.

In New York Joao Mac Dowell has been performing as a solo artist, with his band and participating in performances of singers such as Brazilian baritone Claudio Mascarenhas with whom he did concert previews of selections from the Brazilian opera "Tamanduá" in 2006 and 2007.[9] In NY joaomacdowell can also be found performing as guitarist of Cuban pianist/songwriter Alina Brouwer.

Joao MacDowell Trio, New York, 2011.

Contemporary Classical - Opera and Symphonic Music[edit]

In June and April, 2008, Joao MacDowell conducted premiere concerts of selections from Tamanduá - A Brazilian Opera - in New York city. In the cast Guto Bittencourt - Tenor (Pedro & The Editor), Amy Buckley - Soprano (Carol), Claudio Mascarenhas, Baritone (Aruanan), Abby Powell - Mezzo-Soprano (Julia). Tamanduá is a contemporary Brazilian operatic work that fuses folk rhythms, experimentalism, and classical composition. Scored for symphonic orchestra, choir and a cast of soloists, it draws on the tradition of operatic emotion; a total work of art that embraces dance and multimedia technologies. Tamanduá takes the audience on a psychological journey into the depths of the Brazilian soul. Like Brazil itself, it reflects cultures coming together to create something new. .[10]

In December 2009, Montclair State University, John J Cali School of Music, New Jersey, presented 16 staged scenes from Tamandua at the Alexander Kasser Theater. The MSU Opera Workshop was directed and conducted by Jeffrey Gall, featuring videoscenography by Cila MacDowell. Clips from the performance have been made available through YouTube.[11]

In September 2011 premiered in NY the feature documentary "Parece Que Existo" (I Seem to Exist), focused on the life and works of composer João MacDowell, directed by Mario Salimon, shot in Portuguese, with English subtlitles.[12] In 2012 the documentary received the CLDF awards for Best Film and Best Soundtrack at the 45th Festival de Brasilia do Cinema Brasileiro.[13][14]

On December, 17th 2012 MacDowell premiered a concert version of his chamber opera monodrama "Plastic Flowers" in New York City. Featuring the mezzo-soprano Abby Powell in the lead role of Penelope.[15][16]

On March 18, 2014 João MacDowell's Symphony n.1 titled "Um Sonho Brasileiro" premiered in Brasilia, with the Orquestra Sinfônica do Teatro Nacional Claudio Santoro (OSTNCS) under the baton of Maestro Claudio Cohen. Following the world premiere, the symphony received 4 performances in April 2014, by the Orquestra Sinfônica UniCamp conducted by Cynthia Alirete.;;[17][18][19]

In 2015 the Chamber opera "Cries and Whispers" a tribute to the Ingmar Bergman film of the same name premiered in New York.[20][21] An instrumental suite with themes from the opera was presented in the opening ceremony of Bergman Week 2015.[22] The work was composed during the composer's residency at Ingmar Bergman's estate in the Island of Fårö.

In 2016 João MacDowell premiered in New York at Scandinavia House the music of first act of "The Seventh Seal" a work in progress under contract with the Ingman Bergman Foundation, sung in Swedish.[23][24][25][26]


  • Tonton Macoute - O Bicho Papão do Planalto - 1989
  • João Kahuna - Parece Que Existo - 1999
  • jKau - O Caixeiro Viajante e a Caixa de Música - The Traveling Man and his Music Box - 2002
  • Quarteto - 2004
  • Alice em Miami - 2006
  • Tamanduá - 2009
  • Plastic Flowers - 2012


  1. ^ "Brazilian Music's Latest Moment". Retrieved August 1, 2007.
  2. ^ "Estrela da Musica Brasileira". Retrieved July 12, 2007.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Brazilian Music's Latest Moment". Archived from the original on September 3, 2007. Retrieved September 21, 2007.
  5. ^ "Joao esta de Volta com muita Energia". Retrieved June 1, 2007.
  6. ^ "King For a Day". Archived from the original on January 28, 2007. Retrieved March 24, 2008.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^!/story/sayao-saudade-brazils-contributions-opera/
  9. ^ "João Está Ativo em Nova York". Archived from the original on April 20, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2007.
  10. ^ "Tamandua The Opera". Retrieved February 4, 2009.
  11. ^ "Tamandua - A Brazilian Opera at MSU". Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  12. ^ "Filme que documenta a história de João MacDowell estreia nos Estados Unidos". Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  13. ^ "Festival de Brasilia, Parece Que Existo". Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  14. ^ "História de menino". Archived from the original on 2013-04-07. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  15. ^ "Correio Brasiliense, Mariana Moreira". Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  16. ^ "Arte Institute". Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  17. ^ "Sinfônica da Unicamp apresenta obra de João MacDowell em Campinas". Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  18. ^ "O brasiliense João MacDowell dá outra roupagem ao mais erudito dos espetáculos". Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  19. ^ "UM ROQUEIRO A SERVIÇO DO CLÁSSICO". Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^,brasileiro-transforma-o-setimo-selo-em-opera,10000087384
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^!/story/sayao-saudade-brazils-contributions-opera/

External links[edit]