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Daniela Mercury

The music of Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury brought together the regional Afro-Caribbean axé idiom with Latin pop to create a new, internationally popular sound. Born in Salvador in 1965, Mercury grew up in a middle-class household and began studying dance at age eight. She decided to become a singer at thirteen and, having learned a bossa nova and MPB repertoire, began singing in clubs at fifteen. She made her carnival debut in 1981 and enrolled in the Federal University of Bahia’s dance school in 1984. From 1986 to 1988 she sang with Cheiro de Amor and later performed as a backup singer for Brazilian artists including Gilberto Gil. She sang with another pop group, Companhia Clic, but decided to pursue a solo career in the early 1990s. Her debut—self-titled—album, released in 1991 through Eldorado, spawned a hit, the title of which, “Swing da Cor,” led her to rename the album. From 1992 onward, she self-produced her albums and released them through whatever label showed interest. After forty minutes of a concert at the Art Museum of São Paolo, concerns over damage being caused by the 30,000 attendees led authorities to cancel the show. Mercury was subsequently signed to Sony Music for her second album, O Canto da Cidade, which sold over 2.5 million copies in Brazil and brought the Salvador regional axé genre into the mainstream. Through the end of the 1990s, Mercury’s fusion of samba and reggae continued to sell albums. In 2000, with her fifth album, Sol da Liberdade, Mercury began to infuse her sound with modern electronic instrumentation. Through the early 2010s, Mercury continued to innovate in Brazilian popular culture and incorporated large-scale artistic projects, such as video albums and visual art accompaniments, into her releases. Mercury received attention in the United States after feminist academic and writer Camille Paglia had praised her as representing Madonna’s ideal for a performer. No stranger to controversy from the country’s religious population, in 2013 Mercury made her same-sex relationship with journalist Malu Verçosa public.