Brazil’s leading samba expert dies in plane crash

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Brazilian musician Marília Mendonça, one of the leading voices of the country’s popular samba tradition, died on Friday in the crash of a small plane in Rio de Janeiro, a spokesman for the samba tradition has said.

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“We lost Marília Mendonça,” the spokesman told Agencia Globo news agency. “She died in the plane crash in Rio de Janeiro.”

Regional news agency Agencia Brasil said Mendonça, 40, was flying from Rio’s airport to her base at the Maracanã stadium to rehearse for a samba competition in Salvador, in the east of the country.

Mendonça was the director of Brazana, an institution devoted to the history and cultures of Brazilian samba and founded in 1991.

Known for its resplendent costumes and powerful rhythms, she was in the running for Brazil’s Oscar-based documentary prize.

Born in Sao Paulo to a rural family, Mendonça became part of the samba tradition as a teenager and later led the samba group which travelled to participate in the first Rio World Cup championship, in 1958.

She later began writing music for other musicians and established the Brazana orchestra, with famous samba maestros, to preserve the style.

FIFA is apparently considering including Mendonça in the new official musical soundtrack for the World Cup – currently it is divided between three artists.

Mendonça had already won a Grammy award for her recording of the song Angolense called Angolense in 1992, the Latin American version of I Feel Love, by Donna Summer.

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