Song of the Day: November 2

Written by Joe Nocera

Writer, Journalist

In category: Song of the Day

Published November 2, 2015

We’re excited to have New York Times columnist Joe Nocera join us to curator this week’s Song of the Day. Welcome, Joe! 

From Joe Nocera:

I fell in love with Joyce Moreno—musically, that is—two years ago when I stumbled into Birdland one evening in search of a Brazilian music fix. The well-known composer-singer Dori Caymmi (“Obsession; “The Look of Love”) was playing that night, and his group included a special guest from Rio de Janiero, a woman known only as Joyce.  About halfway through the set, she came on stage, and began playing a remarkably complex rhythm guitar to accompany Caymmi. When she sang, her voice had a rich, full-throated, supple quality: here was a woman fully in control of her voice, and her art. At one point, her husband, the drummer Tutty Moreno, had to stop to fix his high-hat. Joyce grabbed the guitar and knocked off a version of “Waters of March” that left the audience breathless.

I’ve since learned a lot about Joyce Moreno (she began using her last name professionally a few years ago.) She is part of the post-bossa nova generation of composers intent on finding their own way, while acknowledging in their music the foundational importance of bossa nova and samba. For Joyce, finding her own way meant writing songs with a first-person, female-centric point of view—indeed, she was the first Brazilian singer to do so.  In her teens, she wrote a song that began, “I was told that my man doesn’t love me.”  She was immediately engulfed in controversy, as many critics found her approach vulgar.  Although momentarily stung, she never backed away.

Nearly 50 years later, Joyce is still singing songs from a woman’s point of view. “Feminina,” her signature song, is about a girl who asks her mother what it means to be female. She has also been remarkably prolific and adventurous in the course of her long career. Of her two most recent albums, both released this year (though so far only in Japan, where she has a big fan base), “Cool!,” recorded with her quartet, is her interpretation of American standards. “Poesia”  is a duet recording with the pianist Kenny Warner.

Today’s song is a short medley of two of her better-known tunes, “Clareana,” a lullaby she wrote after two of her daughters were born,  and “Monsieur Binot,” which, she once told me, is about her yoga instructor. She has also recorded a version of that song with Gilberto Gil; it turns out that Monsieur Binot was his yoga instructor too.

Join NYFOS at Compositora: Songs of Latin American Women on April 26, 2016, 8pm at Merkin Concert Hall to hear more music by Joyce Moreno and other Latina composers. More info and tickets >

author: Joe Nocera

select author’s name to read all of their posts


  1. Avatar

    And she writes beautifully, improvises and is a lovely person. I am a fan.

  2. Avatar

    I first saw Joyce in 1999 at a concert in a church in Montclair, NJ. She had to walk up the aisle to get to the stage. “I feel like a bride,” she said. Also with her were top Brazilian musicians now living in the US — Claudio Roditi, Helio Alves, Duduka Da Fonseca, a very impressive guitarist I’d never heard of, Romero Lubambo — and a non-Brazilian, Paquito. Her part of the concert was a mostly tribute to Elis, including “Aguas de Marco,” but then she did some of her own songs (“Como o chinês e a bicicleta”)


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *