Pepê and Neném

Sister duo Pepê and Neném

Potiara de Oliveira and Potiguara de Oliveira, identical twin sisters, are a Brazilian music duo from Rio de Janeiro professionally known as Pepê e Neném.

The twin sisters Potiara and Potiguara were born in Irajá, in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro on July 6. They grew up in a family of seven children, and by the age of nine, they were singing at parties of acquaintances and baptisms, playing hits by popular black Brazilian singing idols like Sandra de Sa and Alcione. When they were 16 years old, they fled their homes because they had been physically abused by her father (they lost their mother when they were babies) and even had to sleep on the streets, singing on doors of shops in exchange for a plate of food.

The misery almost ruined their plans of an artistic career: Pepê was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sisters were sleeping in the homes of relatives in the city of Niterói (Rio de Janeiro state). It was there in 1995 that the sisters met their first his first manager, Caruso, who presented them to the Virgin record label.

The sisters’ debut album, entitled Pepê & Neném, was released in 1999 with a mixture of black American music and their favela accents. The formula worked; the disc sold over 150,000 copies (earning them their first gold record) and leading to travel to the United States. Songs like “Mania de Você” and “Mais Uma Vez” climbed the popular music charts and led the pair to performing on the most watched television shows in which, invariably, they did a ridiculous imitation of Michael Jackson, complete with dance moves and invented English words.

A year later, Pepê and Neném returned to the media with their second CD, Tudo Bem. The disc was driven by the song “Nada Me Faz Te Esquecer” (a version of “Wild World” by Cat Stevens) but the title sold very little. In 2001, the duo returned to prominence on radio and TV stations, but this time as part of a scandal. They claimed to have been ripped off by a former manager and said that they had lost all the money they had earned from their previous work.

They became embroiled in a court with battle with their managers and their successful careers gradually came to an end. In 2007, the release of album entitled Um Novo Caminho was cancelled. Trying to resume their careers, nearly 10 years later, Pepê and Neném returned to the music scene with a new album in 2010. The sisters spoke to the press about what happened in the near decade in which they disappeared:

“After the court battle, we were discredited and no one gave us any more opportunities. For a long time we were at a standstill, watching on TV all the artists who had started out with us and we were sad.”

Pepê says that because of the anonymity and empty touring schedule, they lost everything they had earned in their glory years:

“We had a house valued at almost R$250,000 (Brazilian reais) ($135,000 in American dollars), I had a foreign car, Neném also had a nice car. After the court battle, with the anonymity and no work, we lost everything. We had to sell (our things) to pay the bills … We didn’t starve because several friends helped us out, called us to do some work. But after all the success, those years were very difficult.”

But in spite of everything, the duo is back. In 2010, they released Imprevisivel Demais, their first CD since Tudo Bem of 2000.

Below are videos of their 1999 hit song “Mania de Você”  followed by the title song of their 2010 CD, “Imprevisível Demais”

“Mania De Você” – Pepê e Neném

Imprevisível Demais – Pepê e Neném

Source: Black Women of Brazil

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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