Artist Profiles: Jorge Ben Jor

Jorge Ben Jor

Jorge Ben Jor is a composer of Brazilian hits likes “Mas, Que Nada,””Chove Chuva,””Que Pena,” and “Pais Tropical.” This happy master of samba-funk consistently has had best selling albums on Polygram, Warner, and Sony.

Jorge Duilio Lima Menezes, better known as Jorge Ben and later as Jorge Ben Jor, was born March 22, 1945 in Madureira and raised in Catumbi, Rio de Janeiro’s suburbs, Jorge enjoyed singing with the church choir and going out with carnival bands from an early age. In his teens, he was a given a guitar and started playing Bossa Nova and Rock n Roll with it. Raised by his mother to be a pediatrician, by his father to be a lawyer, and by his instincts to become a soccer-player, he chose to be a musician instead.

In the 1960s, he performed at Beco das Garrafas, which later became a legendary nightclub area in Copacabana and home of the Bossa Nova movement. And that’s where he was spotted by a producer, who promptly offered him a record deal. Soon, in 1963, the first single was out, featuring “Mas Que Nada” and “Por Causa de Voce, Menina”, performed along with the group Copa Cinco. That same year, he released his first LP, Samba Esquema Novo.

Ben headed to the United States, where his compositions “Zazoeira”, “Mas Que Nada” and “Nena Nan?” hit the charts and were re-interpreted by musicians such as Sergio Mendes, Herb Alpert, Jose Feliciano and Trini Lopez. In the era of musical shows on TV, Ben managed to remain faithful to his multi-faceted techniques, appearing on bossa nova, rock’n’roll and tropicalist productions. In 1969, he relished on success with songs like “Pais Tropical” and “Que Maravilha”, besides competing on a festival with “Charles Anjo 45”.

He was placed first in 1972, when Maria Alcina sang his “Fio Maravilha”. Ben Jor released other albums in the 1970s, including the classics A Tabua de Esmeralda (1974) and Africa Brasil (1976). During the next decade, he dedicated to spreading Brazilian music throughout the world.

In 1989 he changed his name from Jorge Ben to Jorge Ben Jor. His song “W Brasil,” released in 1990, hit the dance floors in 1991 and 1992, turning into a long-lasting fever. At that point, his records took on a more pop direction, nonetheless keeping his trademark swing.

Jorge Ben Jor’s music holds a unique role in the Brazilian scene, due to the merging of new elements in his swinging mix and to the way he plays the guitar, revealing his appreciation of soul music and American funk, yet incorporating the influence of African and Arabic music, legacy of his Ethiopian mother.


Samba Esquema Novo (1963)
Ben é Samba Bom (1964)
Sacundin Ben Samba (1964)
Big Ben (1965)
O Bidú Silêncio no Brooklin (1967)
Jorge Ben (1969)
Força Bruta (1970)
Negro é Lindo (1971)
Ben (1972)
10 Anos Depois (1973)
A Tábua de Esmeralda (1974)
Solta o Pavão (1975)
à l’Olympia (1975)
Gil e Jorge, with Gilberto Gil (1975)
África Brasil (1976)
Samba Nova (1976)
Tropical (1977)
A Banda Do Zé Pretinho (1978)
Salve Simpatia (1979)
Alô, Alô, Como Vai? (1980)
Bem Vinda Amizade (1981)
Dadiva (1983)
Sonsual (1984)
Ben Brasil (1986)
Ben Jor (1989)
Live in Rio (1992)
23 (1994)
Homo sapiens (1995)
Musicas Para Tocar Em Elevador (1997)
Puro Suingue (2000)
Acústico MTV (2002)
Reactivus Amor Est (2004)
Recuerdos de Assunción 443 (2007)
Favourites From Samba Esquema Novo 1963 – África Brasil 1976 (2008)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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