Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s feature is a blast from the past. If any of you are fans of ’90s-era dance music, you may remember this singer, or at least her hit song. Corona is a true representative of globalization. She was born and raised in Brazil, discovered and gained fame in Italy and her biggest hits were sung in English! Her story is a perfect fit for the BW of Brazil blog for a number of reasons, a few of which will be brought out in her story. In the meantime, take a trip down memory lane with her and be sure to check out the video of the song that catapulted her to the top of the charts in the 1990s below.
Corona – Rhythm of the Night
Singer of “Rhythm of the Night” fame returns to Brazil after 20 years in Italy
Courtesy of Caras, R7, Ego and Barbara Duffles
It’s impossible not to notice the smile and the sparkle in the eyes of the singer Corona (45). The reason? After over 20 years living in Italy, the Rio native is back in Brazil and chose the city of São Paulo as her new home. “Rio is a beautiful city, full of lush beaches and always with warm people, but my heart chose the city that never sleeps, SP!”, says the woman whose move was made to launch a new tour in the country.
In a recent interview the singer who broke out in the 1990s with the hit dance song “The Rhythm of the Night” revealed the difficulties of her early career and how she became a singer. Before the fame, Corona worked as a salesperson, a clerk and even took a test to work at a bank. But, after being advised by her friend, soccer king Pelé, she decided to make a drastic decision and moved to Europe.
She was born Olga Maria de Souza, on July 16, 1968, in the Vigário Geral neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, the daughter of musician father. Her mother was a cook that also liked to sing songs of popular artists such as Roberto Carlos and Ângela Maria as she washed clothes. As such, music has been Corona’s passion since she was young.
Corona has revealed that at eight years old she realized she was black, not having received support to pursue the professional career that she desired at the time. “I was taking classical dance classes, but they said to my mother that I should stop, because I would never dance in a municipal theater,” because she was negra (black).
She would later work as a clerk at the Caixa Economica Federal bank in Rio but says she after being advised by Pelé to go to Europe, she “didn’t think twice” because she is one who believes in destiny. After an initial stint in the US where she ran out of money, in 1990, she moved to Spain, then Portugal and finally settled in Italy where she would be discovered.
When the dance hit “The Rhythm of the Night” started playing on Brazilian radio stations back in the ‘90s, many thought that she was a foreign singer. But the tall, beautiful woman frantically swinging her long legs on stage was pure Brazilian.
You could say that fate smiled at Olga, who drew the attention of a music producer to perform as a singer on Italian television. She auditioned and passed, taking the lead in the Corona project. Soon, “The Rhythm of the Night” single would blow up, remaining 13 weeks at number one on the Italian music charts. The song would also reach #11 on the US “Billboard Hot 100” charts and number one in England. Her CDs have sold five million copies worldwide.
“It started very fast. Before long it was a worldwide success. I traveled a lot and slept little, almost always on the plane. One day in London, another in New York and then Japan..I was very busy, the energy to push on came from the affection of my fans during the shows,” recalls the singer, who at the time was accused of dubbing her vocals.
“I never had to repudiate it publicly, all these years singing live have demonstrated that the voice is really mine,” she defends.
After the first single, Corona managed to chart other successes, including the United States, like “Baby Baby” and “I Don’t Wanna Be a Star.”
Charismatic, she was called to perform on two TV shows, Festival Bar in Italy and Dance Machine in France. With the so-called “Eurodance” style falling out of style in 2000s, Olga launched a project featuring ballads in an R&B style on the album And Me U.
Unofficially married for eight years with songwriter Gianluca Milano, Olga/Corona continues to travel the world. A few years ago she did a stint singing Bossa Nova in Japan, in addition to promoting her latest CD, Y Generation, with influences from house, pop and dance music.
In 2011, after 20 years in Europe, Corona promised to return to Brazil by 2012.
Making good on her promise, and having landed in her native land, she has been making a number of appearances lately. She performed at the Fashion Cruise fashion event in Búzios, a resort town in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and opened the presentation of a fashion line by Andrea Ribeiro for the Diva designer brand. On February 10, she was seen checking out Samba School parades in the Sapucaí Carnaval Stadium in Rio. Corona was also recently featured in a segment of the Record TV news program “Domingo Espetacular” as well as sitting down on the popular interview program, “De Frente Com Gabi” on the SBT network.
Note from BW of Brazil: It’s always great to see people achieve goals and a happy ending against all odds. On the flip side, Corona’s memories of being advised not pursue a career in ballet is yet another example of the racial barriers that black Brazilians must face in their native land. Recently, we featured an Afro-Brazilian classical singer/pianist who was told he should give up singing opera because there were no “black princes”. Add to this the fear of putting black people in commercials and on magazine covers, keeping them silent in kitchen and reacting violently when they are out of their perceived “place” and we see once again how Brazil treats its black people.
Corona’s story also speaks to the ongoing “dictatorship of whiteness” that rules throughout the country. As in the 76% black state of Bahia where white singers are consistently given the media spotlight and Afro-Brazilian singers impeded from gaining mainstream pop music success, note that Corona had to travel to the other side of the world to find stardom. Of course it helped that she sang in English, but given the racial politics in Brazil, what would her chances have been to rise to stardom if she had remained in Brazil? Congratulations on your success Corona and welcome back to Brazil!
Domingo Espetacular feature on Corona’s return to Brazil (in Portuguese)