Happy belated birthday to Dona Ivone Lara: A living legend of Brazilian Samba


Note from BW of Brazil: This post is dedicated to the life and career of one of the great Samba singer/composers, Dona Ivone Lara, whose birthday was two days ago, on April 13th, which now makes her 92 years young.


Ivone Lara, or Dona Ivone Lara as she is respectfully known in Brazil, is one of the prominent ladies of samba, having been the first woman to ever fight gender prejudice in the samba schools. She was the first woman to parade at the ala dos compositores, a masculine ala, becoming then the ala’s madrinha. Counting more than 300 compositions written throughout more than 50 years of her career, she is unanimously revered by (the late) Dorival Caymmi, Martinho da Vila, Zeca Pagodinho, Gilberto Gil, Hermínio Belo de Carvalho, Beth Carvalho, Fundo de Quintal (all well known names in Brazilian music), and many others. Her songs have been recorded by major artists with great success and have earned her several awards. Some of these songs, such as “Não me Perguntes,” “Amor Inesquecível,” “Decepção,” “Sem Cavaco, Não,” “Andei Pra Corimá,” “Alvorecer,” and “Amor sem Esperanças,” achieved great popularity.

Here is a summary of her life and career. Please keep in mind that if you are not Brazilian, the majority of the names mentioned in this piece are probably unfamiliar to you, but the vast majority of them are singers, songwriters and musicians that most Brazilians or music enthusiasts know very well. 


Yvonne or Ivone Lara da Costa was born in Rio de Janeiro, RJ on April 13, 1921.

Her father, João da Silva Lara was a bicycle mechanic, and guitarist and member of the Bloco dos Africanos. D. Emerentina, her mother, was a singer and pastor of the Rancho Flor do Abacate, a famous in house in Rio famous for attracting the best musicians of the era. At six years old, she was orphaned from her father and mother* being admitted by relatives to the Colégio Orsina da Fonseca, in Tijuca, in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, where she remained until she was 17.

Ivone (center) with other respected Samba singer-songwriters, Gisa Nogueira and Leci Brandão
Ivone (center) with other respected Samba singer-songwriters, Gisa Nogueira and Leci Brandão

At 12 years old, she was presented with a bird, “Tiê-sangue”, by cousins ​​and future partners, Hélio e Fuleiro. The bird’s name and the expression “Oialá-oxa”, inherited from her Mozambican grandmother, served as an inspiration for the first samba she composed: “Tiê, Tiê”.

Admired by her music teachers at school, Lucília Villa-Lobos, wife of conductor Heitor Villa-Lobos and Zaíra Oliveira, first wife of Samba master Donga, she was nominated for the Choir of Apinacás, of Tupi Radio, whose conductor was Heitor Villa-Lobos. Leaving school, she went to live in her the house of her uncle, Dionisio Bento da Silva, who played seven-string guitar and was part of a group of Choro musicians who got together with legendary musicians Pixinguinha and Donga, among others. With her uncle, she learned to play the cavaquinho. Her cousin, Mestre (Master) Fuleiro, was also one of the founders of Império Serrano in 1947, the year in which Dona Ivone Lara moved to Madureira and began attending the Escola de Samba (School of Samba) Prazer da Serrinha, the same time that she started composing sambas for this school. At that time she composed many Sambas and Partido-Altos that were shown to other sambistas by her cousin Fuleiro (also a songwriter), as if they were his, because the force of prejudice didn’t favor the acceptance of female sambistas.


Ivone married at age 25, with Oscar Costa, the son of Alfredo Costa, president of the Escola de Samba Prazer da Serrinha. At the time, she went on to frequent the school, where she honed her skills as a Samba musician/singer and also met friends Aniceto, Mano Décio da Viola and Silas de Oliveira, who would later become partners in some of her compositions. With the foundation of Império Serrano, in 1947, she went on to participate in the parades in the green and white colors of Madureira. In that same year, she made a samba of which the school would use in its parade, “Nasci para sofrer (I was born to suffer)”.

She became a nurse and later graduated in the area of Social Work. She specialized in Occupational Therapy, dedicating herself to work in psychiatric hospitals, having worked in the Serviço Nacional de Doenças Mentais (National Service of Mental Disorders) with Dr. Nilse da Silveira.


In 1965 she joined the Ala de Compositores do Império Serrano (Composers Wing of Império Serrano) and composed, with Silas de Oliveira and Bacalhau, the classic “Os cinco bailes da história do Rio (The five dances of the history of Rio).”

In 1968, she became the godmother of the composer’s wing of the Império Serrano Samba School and parades with them in the “Ala das baianas”. In 1970, Ivone recorded her first album Sambão 70 for the Copacabana record label, produced by Sargenteli and Adelson Alves.

1979 LP "Sorriso de criança"
1979 LP “Sorriso de criança”

In 1974, she released the album Samba minha verdade, samba minha raiz (Samba my truth, my samba root), on the Copacabana label In that year, her songs “Agradeço a Deus” (with Mano Décio da Viola) and “Confesso” were recorded by Cristina Buarque de Hollanda on her debut album. She divided her time between music and nursing until 1977, when she retired as a nurse and could commit herself integrally to music. At that time her music was beginning to be recorded by various artists.

1982 LP "Alegria minha gente"
1982 LP “Alegria minha gente”

The next year, she recorded her first album and began to present herself often. Her song “Sonho Meu” (with Délcio Carvalho, her most frequent partner) was awarded in 1978 as the best of the year and recorded in duet by Maria Betânia and Gal Costa. Soon would follow other hits: “Alguém me Avisou” (recorded by many artists such as Maria Betânia and Gilberto Gil), “Acreditar” and “Liberdade” (recorded by Roberto Ribeiro), and “Alvorecer” (recorded by Clara Nunes and Roberto Ribeiro). In 1984, she toured Japan, Italy, Martinica, and Spain, together with the group Fundo de Quintal, Martinho da Vila, and Paulinho da Viola. She then began to present herself regularly at the Teatro Opinião, completing 14 years on that stage. Her mark of 50 years of career in 1995 produced several commemorations, with her appearing in several tribute shows, including one at the Teatro Rival in Rio, together with Leci Brandão, Martinho da Vila, Almir Guineto, Hermínio Belo de Carvalho, and others. She appeared as a special guest on recordings by Dorival Caymmi, Martinho da Vila, and Jair Rodrigues.

1978 LP "Samba, Minha Verdade, Minha Raiz"
1978 LP “Samba, Minha Verdade, Minha Raiz”

In 1996, she participated in Hot Brass in Paris, France.

Almost ten years without recording again, in 1997 she recorded the CD Bodas de Ouro (Sony Music). This sixth CD of her career was the one on which she would have no voice, as the recording label had everything rigidly determined. The record brought the special appearances of figures such as Dorival Caymmi, Gilberto Gil, Zeca Pagodinho, and Martinho da Vila.

In 1998, she received the French honor of the Latino Festival sponsored by Eurodisney, France

In 1999, she came to know Bruno Castro, her latest partner and participated in the Panafest99 festival in Ghana, Africa. In October, Dona Ivone received the Medalha Pedro Ernesto (Pedro Ernesto Medal) from city counselor Jurema Batista, in the City Hall of the Counselors of the City of Rio de Janeiro. Also in 1999, she was paid tribute by the rival school of Mangueira, which brought in its first parade car (abre-alas) the important names of Moreira da Silva, Zé Keti, Zeca Pagodinho, and Martinho da Vila. She was also featured on a tribute to composers Carlos Cachaça and Zé Keti, who died that year. She recorded in duo with Caetano Veloso her song “Alguém me Avisou” on the CD Casa de Samba, which also brought her “Enredo do meu Samba” (with Jorge Aragão).

Vânia Bastos included her compositions on her eighth CD, dedicated to women writers, Belas e Feras. Enjoying a deserved reputation built through all these decades, Dona Ivone Lara has maintained a busy schedule, being present at all the big venues of samba. In 2000, she sang at Rio’s major showroom, Metropolitan, and appeared on the album Velha Guarda da Mangueira e Convidados by the traditional musicians of Mangueira still alive, the Velha Guarda (Old Guard). Also in 2000, she does shows in Torre de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal, in Montreux Festival, Switzerland, in the Festival Viva Afro Brasil in Tubingen, Germany.

In 2001, participates in Brazilfest in New York and does a show in Benguela, Angola. In December she receives the Prêmio da Academia Charles Cros (Award), Paris, France, for the international CD Nasci pra sonhar e cantar (I was born to dream and sing).

In August 2002, she received the Prêmio Caras de Música (Award) in the category “Melhor Disco de Samba (Best Samba Album)” for the CD Nasci para sonhar e cantar (I was born to dream and sing) and, in that same year, won the Prêmio Shell de MPB (Shell Award of Brazilian Popular Music), having received the award for her work in the great Samba festival in Canecão, in Rio de Janeiro, whose script invitation was presented by Ricardo Cravo Albin, one of five judges who gave her the award unanimously. In late August she participated in the project Clássicos do Samba (Classics of Samba), in the city of Aarhus in Denmark.

2004: Releases in Europe, the United States and Brazil, her second international album Sempre a cantar (Always to sing)

2009: Releases the CD and DVD Canto de rainha (Queen’s Song), celebrating 62 years of her artistic career.

2010: Releases the CD Nas escritas na vida, with Bruno Castro and Bodas de Coral with Délcio Carvalho. In August she was honored in the Prêmio da Música Brasileira (Brazilian Music Awards) in the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro.

Dona Ivone Lara being honored by Império Serrano Samba School
Dona Ivone Lara being honored by Império Serrano Samba School

2011: On April 13, 2011, Dona Ivone Lara completed 90 years of age and among the commemorative events was launched the http://www.donaivonelara.com.br official website, a project undertaken with the financial support of the Secretaria de Estado de Cultura (State Secretariat of Culture) of Rio de Janeiro .

2012: Dona Ivone Lara was part of the theme of the Império Serrano Samba School in Carnival 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.

On August 24 Dona Ivone Lara took part in a show of the release of the CD Baú da Dona Ivone in the Teatro Rival containing only unedited songs. That CD was a project sponsored by the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro, to be distributed in the Municipal Schools. Besides the participation of icons of Samba and Brazilian Popular Music, it also featured a new generation singers. Some participants included: Áurea Martins, André Lara, Beth Carvalho, Bruno Castro, Caetano Veloso, Délcio Carvalho, Diogo Nogueira, Luiza Dionízio, Maria Bethânia, Monarco, Nei Lopes, Nelson Sargento and Sombrinha.

Writing about her, Túlio Feliciano, director of the Canecão show, gave testimony in the O Globo newspaper: “She is the epitome of samba. She has the rhythm of the jongo drums and the melodic and harmonic richness of the Choro. In her intuitive song is a bit of African and the black American.”

* – According to other biographies, Ivone’s father died when she was three and her mother died when she was ten.

Below are songs and performances of Dona Ivone Lara throughout the years, from the 1970s up to recent years of her performing with singer/musicians of the new generation. The first video features her singing her famous tune, “Tiê”, the first Samba she composed inspired by a bird that was given to her. 

Dona Ivone Lara canta “Tiê” – 1976

Dona Ivone Lara – Adeus de um poeta

Dona Ivone Lara – “Festa Animada” (TV Globo, 1982)

Dona Ivone Lara Ensaio

Dona Ivone Lara – Tiê


Samba 18 – Império Serrano 2012 – Dona Ivone Lara,

Acreditar – Dona Ivone Lara & Nilze Carvalho HD

Tiê-Alguém me avisou-Sonho meu – Paula Lima e Dona Ivone Lara

Source: Dona Ivone Lara, MPB Net,  All Music

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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