Adriana Giordano photo by Daniel Sheehan
BY ALEXA PETERS
Singer and promoter Adriana Giordano, born in Porto Alegre, one of Brazil’s southernmost cities, and raised in São Paolo, wants Seattle to understand and enjoy the richness of her culture as she does. That’s been her aim since 2000, when, after years of apprehension, she first began performing in Seattle.
Known for her work with woman-led sextet En Canto, genre-melding Entremundos Quarteto, and her production company Giordano Productions, Giordano has made a concerted effort to make Seattle’s music scene more inclusive—both of more Brazilian styles and artists, as well as of women musicians.
After all, enjoying and learning from a variety of different musical styles is a habit Giordano’s had since she was young. Her Uruguayan father, who regularly spun records on the weekends when Giordano was a kid, exposed her to folk music from Uruguay, as well as music from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Also, her Italian mother, who grew up singing opera with her conductor and pianist father near Naples, listened to a wide variety of styles and would often belt along in her sweet soprano to the radio at home. Giordano, multilingual and accustomed to easily switching between Portuguese, Spanish, and English, began to sing along too.
“Brazilians breathe music. Music is everywhere, all day…I was always singing along to radio songs…. Hearing a song and being able to replicate was very natural for me,” she said. “There was definitely some jazz and I remember trying to imitate Ella Fitzgerald.”
Still, other than a short, unfulfilling experience singing in a garage rock band and less than a year spent in a choir in São Paolo in her twenties, this was the extent of Giordano’s singing experience before moving to Seattle in 1991. And, for years after arriving here, Giordano worked as a project manager and recruiter for tech companies in the area, hardly singing at all. Occasionally she would sing at parties, often receiving praise for her bright voice and exuberance, but the idea of performing more regularly seemed too daunting.
“There was just a little shyness,” she said. “Sometimes I was a little embarrassed about my lack of knowledge, [of the] form of the song, the keys of the song…how to communicate in [the musician’s] language.”
That shyness began to fall away in 2000 when Giordano met former KBCS radio host Samia Panni.
“She hosted a show that played Brazilian music on Saturdays [for] over 30 years…. We connected immediately. She was wonderful,” said Giordano. “I joined Samia’s group Abráce and I started dabbling, you know, working and trying to sing.”
Gradually, Giordano began singing and performing with Abráce and going more regularly to local jam sessions. At one of those sessions in 2010, she met percussionist Jeff Busch, another early cheerleader of Giordano’s who would become her bandmate in Entremundos Quarteto.
“He encouraged me many times to sing and slowly, I really started digging. I would sit [in the jam sessions] for hours and wait for my turn,” said Giordano. “Then eventually I got asked to sub for a singer [who] got sick.”
Through the support of locals like Panni and Busch, Giordano began to believe more in her voice and identity as a performer, learn, get more gigs, and find “little pockets” of Brazilian music in Seattle. As her confidence grew, she realized she wanted to expand Seattle’s Brazilian scene and the audiences’ understanding of her culture.
“There were way more Latin bands [in Seattle in the 1990s]. Brazilian music, there wasn’t a whole lot,” said Giordano. “For a while, I only knew Jovino Santos Neto. Then, there was a band that Jeff Busch played with that had a singer that sang in Portuguese very well, Mikaela Romero…and there was Kiko Freitas. To me, that’s a very small community.”
Giordano also realized that most Seattle listeners were only familiar with bossa nova and samba, only two of a myriad of styles that make up Brazilian music, which she describes as a mix of “European melodies, African rhythms, and Indigenous influences.”
As she began playing with two new groups in 2010—En Canto, a female-led six-piece dedicated to performing upbeat, dance music from northeastern Brazil, and Entremundos Quarteto, a quartet blending funk, jazz, and soul with Brazilian samba and bossa nova—a new goal coalesced for Giordano.
“My mission [was] to show people what an amazing culture Brazil has,” said Giordano. “I felt [like], wow, they don’t know that we have [these other] genres. I started bringing new genres [to the stage]—some things that are maybe more folkloric and other things are more contemporary.”
En Canto is a perfect example of this effort. Focused on forró music, an accordion-led genre from Brazil’s northeast region, the sextet brings to Seattle a Brazilian style that even Giordano was less versed in.
“En Canto started [by] playing more [Brazilian popular music style] choro…and then [my bandmates] Jamie [Maschler] and Meese [Tonkin] came up with the forró idea. And I’m like, really? I was a bit judgmental about it, to be honest,” said Giordano. “[But] now I’m really digging the music. We try to stay closer to the most traditional sound, which is called pé de serra, which means ‘the foot of a hill.’”
In addition to broadening Seattle’s access to Brazilian musical styles with her bands, Giordano began to produce shows for Brazilian musicians in Seattle starting in 2013 and eventually founded her own company Giordano Productions. With the company, Giordano has produced shows and festivals for Brazilian musicians throughout the west coast of the U.S. and Canada.
“I’m proud to say I did help to change the landscape for Brazilian music in this area,” said Giordano. “I’m very proud of all the artists I was able to bring to Seattle, and all the collaborations that came out of it.”
Since 2014, Giordano has also dedicated time to opening doors for women in music by regularly hosting a multi-genre jam session at Capitol Cider. At the Cider Sessions, which she currently hosts monthly, she focuses on nurturing a space of inclusion.
“One of the reasons why I pushed myself to host the jam sessions is because there were no women doing that. I didn’t know of any places [with women hosts] and I also noticed there were very few female musicians and I wanted to change that,” she said, adding that women are just as musically gifted and often lend a different mood or approach to a jam session that everyone can learn from.
In 2023, after so long serving others in Seattle’s music, Giordano is entering a new phase of nurturing her own career, and in the next few years, she hopes to get to the point where she can leave her day job to do music full-time. With that in mind, she’s pulling back a bit from show promotion, beginning to take Zoom lessons with a singer in Brazil, and focusing on composing.
That doesn’t mean she’s done sharing her Brazilian roots or supporting women in music. She’ll still be performing with En Canto and Entremundos Quarteto this spring, collaborating with other musicians like Marina Albero, and she is currently enjoying teaching a few workshops on Brazilian music with Jeff Busch at the University of Washington.
“Brazilian music…can be very emotional. It can be very joyful and adventurous and free-spirited. I think the music is very satisfying because you have the rhythm, you have the beautiful melody—and it really helps me. It helps guide my emotions,” said Giordano. “Whatever hurdles [I face], Brazilian music helps.”