Note from BBT: I received this sad news in a similar manner that I’d received other stories and similar to other reports, I intially didn’t realize the reason that people were posting about it and sharing videos.
It started when I saw a short video posted by pianist Amaro Freitas featuring musician Letieres Leite clapping along to a rhythm played by Freitas and other musicians. I didn’t think anything of it as people post numerous videos every day. I only read the first line of the text, which read “So great, Master thank you for so much,” but the words didn’t really hit me.
So great, Master thank you for so much. I met you so few times, I would have liked to live closer to you. From these few encounters so much learning, so much intensity. Master go on in peace, gratitude for everything, Master I miss you and will honor your legacy, Master my heart hurts, my world really fell with your departure. I can only thank you for so much. @letieresleite ❤️🪘 Alongside brother @hamiltondeholanda at @riomontreuxjazzfestival, I received this video from friend @rogeriovonkruger
A few minutes later, I read another brief post by musician Max de Castro, which also featured a video with Leite. This time the words made me stop and think. First, the message read, “My maestro my friend” and then the tags to the accounts @letieresleite @rumpilezz read “Thank you very much. My master. I love you forever.”
These words made me pause, and then it hit me. Let me try to find out what’s going on here. I hope these messages aren’t saying…then the intro to the Letieres Leite Wikipedia page read “Letieres dos Santos Leite (Salvador, 8 de dezembro de 1959 – 27 de outubro de 2021) foi um músico..’’
Reading the word “foi’’, meaning ‘was’, along with the date of birth and death confirmed what I didn’t want to believe. The musician had indeed passed away. All I could think was that the world of Brazilian music had just lost a giant. I’m sure that the average music fan has probably never heard of the maestro, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, but after discovering some of his music last year, I had to have more.
Before actually coming across videos of his performances and albums he recorded with his Orkestra Rumpilezz and quintet, I first learned about Leite through the lively arrangements he created for the award-winning musical Elza, about legendary Afro-Brazilian singer, Elza Soares. I was familiar with much of Soares’ music, but the vocals and arrangements by Leite brought a new, modern force to her songs. Leites’ arrangements for that musical won him a Bibi Ferreira Award for ‘Best Arrangement in a Musical’ in 2019. The ceremony awards the best musicals produced in Brazil.
Leite’s innovative musical creations and collaborations were enough to guarantee his place in Brazilian Music, but he was also a musical historian who understood that black musicians and black music was at the root of most popular music of all of the Americas. He understood that if Bahian singer Margareth Menezes were white, the popular singer of Bahian Axé music, Daniela Mercury, wouldn’t exist.
Leite’s death leaves a huge hole in the creativity of Brazilian music. A hole that I may not even fully grasp as I comtinue to discover the material that he either wrote, arranged or produced for other artists. Leite represented the vision and wide range of musical explorations that black Brazilian musicians have never been fully given access to. In the 21st century, with the rise of new visionaries, this is slowly beginning to change. I can only hope that they can maintain the flame and carry the torch lit by Letieres Leite.
Rest in power Maestro Leite.
A visionary and innovative maestro of Brazilian music, composer and multi-instrumentalist Letieres Leite dies from complications of Covid-19
With information courtesy of Mariana Peixoto, Bahia Social VIP and A Tarde
Conductor, composer, arranger, saxophonist, flutist, percussionist, producer, professor, the Bahian Letieres Leite, who died on Wednesday (27), at age 61, worked on all fronts of music.
So much so that his sudden death, as a result of COVID-19, according to the newspaper A Tarde – he suffered from chronic asthma and his condition was affected by the disease – was mourned by an equally large and diverse number of professionals in the medium.
It was the musician who accompanied Ivete Sangalo for 12 years: “My genial friend. I only learned wonderful things from you”. He was the producer and arranger who worked on the most recent albums, including Noturno, by Maria Bethânia, released in July. He also orchestrated the song “Pardo”, from Meu coco, Caetano Veloso’s new album. Veloso revealed that it was also Letieres who taught his son Zeca to surf). News of the artist’s death also brought tears to the eyes of musician-singer Ed Motta. Motta said, during a live broadcast, that “we need to honor this guy”.
My genius friend! @letieresleite. I only learned wonderful things co-existing with you. The Goddess music united us and gave me this beautiful soul that is yours. I am sad for your departure. I will never forget the countless contributions to music and my career, because your talent is too powerful. Our travels and our secrets 🥲. Love you maestro, for everything and for our eternal friendship . Go on in peace🙏🏻❤️
But Letieres’ music went far beyond his performance alongside celebrated names. Besides his individual performance, since 2006 he has been at the head of Orkestra Rumpilezz, with whom he released two albums. The formation (19 musicians plus the conductor), which has gone through different formations, is an afrojazz orchestra
The word “rumpilezz” already explains a lot: it joins the name of the three main candomblé drums (ru, the bass; rumpi, the medium; and lé, the high) plus the two z’s of jazz.
The orchestra ended up generating a social project, also in Salvador. Rumpilezzinho is a musical laboratory that teaches the Afro-Bahian matrix music to young people from 15 to 25 years old. The method was created by Letieres himself, who released a book about it in 2017. For a musician who has worked on so many different fronts, Letieres had an unusual start to his career.
He was 13 years old when he exhibited, at the Central Library of Salvador, paintings and engravings. He also already played – he was a member of the Afro-Brazilian orchestra of Colégio Severino Vieira – but when he entered college, he chose fine arts at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).
Although the “percussive universe of Bahia” guided his music, it was in the South of the country that he lived in his youth. He lived in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, where he founded bands and played with musicians such as Nei Lisboa, Renato Borghetti, and Antônio Villeroy. He went to Europe in the 1980s.
In Vienna, Austria, he studied at the Franz Schubert Conservatory. He played with many greats of jazz such as Paulo Moura, Hermeto Pascoal, Raul de Souza . After a decade abroad, he returned to Bahia, where he began to divide his schedule between music classes, concerts, and recordings for various artists.
With a close relationship with the music (and musicians) of Belo Horizonte, Letieres presided, in July, over the jury of the 20th BDMG Instrumenta l Award. Among the four winners was the bass player from Belo Horizonte, Pedro Gomes, who enchanted the master from Bahia. One of the prizes of the competition was the production of a concert at CCBB. Gomes’ will take place on November 10. Letieres had already confirmed the invitation to participate in the presentation.
I just received the unacceptable news: Letieres Leite passed away. Formed by the practice in electric trios, self-taught, specific courses at UFBA, and by studies in Vienna, this portent of music, for years leading the Orkestra Rumpilezz, that dazzle of wind and percussion, and the exquisite Quintet that bears his name, Letieres has had dialogue with the most dense expressions of Brazilian music, from Moa do Catendê to Toninho Horta, passing through Hermeto Paschoal, Daniela Mercury, and Lulu Santos – besides having been, for years, the basis of Ivete Sangalo’s work. He arranged Bethânia’s recent album and also the concert that preceded it. He orchestrated the track “Pardo” from Meu Coco. Talking to him was like getting a lesson on rhythmic clefs and harmonic tastes. I am devastated by the news of his death. He was very close. He taught my son Zeca to surf, when he was a boy. Bahian music, Brazilian music, music lost one of its greatest teachers today. Life has lost one of its most worthy representatives.
“in the rhythm of each rhyme of yours, there’s an orixá dancing inside”
My friend and master Letieres Leite, left us today. My chest is in tatters. Eyes full of water and a longing that will only increase from now on.
Thank you for all the master classes.
I can’t believe it…
Other musicians, singers and public figures paid homage to the conductor, who was born in Salvador, Bahia, and was 61 years old.
“We are very sad with this abrupt departure of Maestro Letieres Leite, but we leave the reason to God, the Creator. In us remains the gratitude to him and the certainty that his presence, so strong, significant and with so much inventiveness, will be missed immensely. His attention to our origins has always been exemplary. His generosity in carrying on what he learned, especially for the younger ones, has always been an inspiration for all of us. Letieres is from the breath, and the wind from Oyá will know how to conduct this son of Xangô, so talented, a good friend, and who was in a brilliant moment of his career. Very sad about the loss of this great collaborator soul. Go on in peace, my friend, thank you for everything you shared with us.” – Carlinhos Brown
“It is very difficult to talk about someone we love and admire. Who brought so much beauty and novelty. Creator of @rumpilezz, a very talented musician, arranger and producer. Today is a day to mourn the departure of @letieresleite and thank him for his legacy. – Daniela Mercury
“You, immense, nature receives you with all the praises you planted. You are a unique chapter in the music of the WORLD. A blessing to be your friend, and I feel even more protected by you. Rest in your eternal wisdom” – Ed Motta
“Great master Letieres Leite! What a sadness and what a priceless loss for our music, our culture? A great man who was always present in our lives. When we were kids, Letieres used to give us surfing lessons and would wave with us on top of the trios elétricos. In 2020 he came to see us play in Pelourinho… an immense joy! This photo is from that day. Rest in peace master and our deepest condolences to his family and all his friends!” – Gilsons Band
“Rest in peace my master!!!! @letieresleite It’s hard to believe !!!!! @rumpilezz @rumpilezzinho 😪” Telefunksoul Band
In a note of regret, the Instituto Rumpilezz said that everyone was taken by surprise and is still searching for “the best tone” to say goodbye to the father of the orchestra.
“Letieres was born on December 8, the day of Conceição da Praia, and perhaps that is why he immersed himself like few others in our roots. He deeply understood the Bahian percussive universe, made it into a school, and took it to the world, without ever leaving home. Without ever taking his feet off the terrace. Accompanied by Xangô, he made the black music of Bahia echo and leaves us a legacy, fortunately, transmitted in life. And that will live on, like Letieres Leite’s art. This is a note of regret, but loaded with good memories. Whoever is of Axé well knows that death is not the end. May the Orum receive you well, to the sound of the atabaques! Kaô, maestro! See you soon!”
Singer and composer Pedro Luís recalled that he considered Letieres a “superb teacher maestro” and that he was recently his student.
“He wasn’t one to smile for photos, but he made us smile for being by his side,” Pedro Luis wrote
Friday I talked about him with pride and reverence for a beautiful documentary. Saturday I talked to him about the pleasure of having talked about him for the documentary. I called him a sovereign teacher maestro, which is what he was, even for me recently. We agreed that it was high time for a reunion. There was no time; today his heart has decided that all meetings will be in memory. Thank you maestro, musician, dancer, painter, choreographer, and a great Bahian. You are already being missed.
Musician Eric Assmar considered Letieres’ departure an irreparable loss to Brazilian music.
Eric Assmar next to Letieres and musician Jelber Oliveira.
“Saddened by the news of the sudden departure of the dear maestro Letieres Leite. A huge legacy that remains here in our plan. In the brief moments I recorded under his direction, I learned a lot. Rest in peace, master!”.
Former councilwoman and current president of PCdoB, Communist Party of Brazil, in Salvador, Aladilce Souza showed solidarity with family members, friends, and admirers.
“Shocking and saddening news of the death of the fantastic musician Letieres Leite, who made a gigantic contribution to Brazilian music, especially to music from Bahia. Besides the Orquestra Rumpillezz, he had giant artists in his portfolio. A huge loss!”.
Singer and music producer, André Sampaio remembered a meeting with Letieres and said that these moments “are the best things that remain, the rest is the certainty of life’s impermanence.
“These moments are the best thing that remains,” André Sampaio wrote.
The governor of Bahia Rui Costa (PT), said that Letieres revealed talents with the Rumpilezz project and took the percussion of Bahia to the world.
“I received with great sadness the news of the death of one of the most important musicians from Bahia active in the country, Leitieres Leite. His death is an enormous loss for the culture of Bahia and for all of us who admired his genius. May God comfort the hearts of his family members.
Actress and councilwoman Maria Marighella (PT) considered the maestro ‘a genius of Brazilian culture’. She stressed that the loss is immeasurable, but ‘the chapter that he invented in Bahia’s music remains as a wealth for the world.
Pianists Bianca Gismonti and Claudia Castelo Branco, who form the Duo Gisbranco, considered the maestro as one of the greatest Brazilian artists, truly revolutionary and visionary.