- Diamond West
One of Rio de Janeiro’s most exciting singer-songwriters of the last fifteen years is now living in Los Angeles, where he stands on the verge of an overdue breakthrough. Before the move, Latin Grammy nominee Rogê (pronounced haw-zheh) was the prince of Lapa, the bustling downtown center of Rio’s nightlife. Charismatic and scruffy, with a distinctively raspy yet boyish voice, Rogê—born Roger José Cury—gained an avid following for his swinging samba-funk, tinged with Brazilian Soul. His acclaim rose when he co wrote the theme song for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
Rogê’s extremely promising debut on the American scene—which included a 2020 tour with world-famous Brazilian singer-actor Seu Jorge and a New York Times profile—was cut short by the pandemic, but Rogê is back with a vengeance. This summer he will tour six cities on a bill with the Budos Band, the famed Afro-funk group from Staten Island; in August he will play the Hollywood Bowl for two nights as the opening act for the Gipsy Kings.
He has completed his first American-made album, Curyman. Lavishly produced by the Budos Band’s Thomas Brenneck, a top session guitarist and collaborator with the stars (Lady Gaga, Beyoncé & Jay-Z, Amy Winehouse), Curyman launches Brenneck’s new label, Diamond West. The first single, “Pra Vida” (To Life), is a joyous, celebratory samba “is like a cry for redemption and resistance, of resilience,” says Rogê, “so that we don’t give in to sadness, to laziness, to a lack of desire to move on with life. It’s the certainty that a new day will dawn.”
Rogê began his ascent at Carioca da Gema, Lapa’s preeminent samba club, where he reigned for a decade. Rogê recorded a live DVD (Baile do Brenguelê) and six solo albums. Another recording, Na Veia (In the Veins), teamed him with venerated sambista Arlindo Cruz; it earned the singers a Latin Grammy nomination. But the violence and corruption in Brazil so disturbed him that in 2019 he moved with his wife and two sons to West Hollywood. The next year, he and Seu Jorge played three dates of a 23-city tour to launch their album Seu Jorge & Rogê: Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions, recorded in the Netherlands. Then the pandemic hit.
Rogê stayed home, perfecting his guitar technique and writing songs. In August 2021,his new friend Mathieu Schreyer, a music supervisor for film and TV, introduced him to Thomas Brenneck, who invited him to make an album the traditional way: “guitar and voice together,” the singer says, “with everyone in the same room, like the seventies.” The band is mostly American—“to make my music more universal.”Strings were added in Rio by a master arranger of the last fifty years, Arthur Verocai. Curyman explores themes of nature, the Indian and African roots of Brazil, and endurance in times of strife. Its release will fall on the Festa de Iemanjá, an annual Brazilian holiday in honor of the goddess of the sea; like Rogê’s album, it’s an occasion of cleansing and rebirth.