By Pedro Souza
November 28, 2017
The guitar is an instrument that has inspired millions of people all over the world, giving birth to a plethora of musicians that took the instrument to its limits and created new forms, some more enduring than others. Among this legion of guitar players, few musicians have been able to play the instrument with as much mastery, intimacy and passion as Baden Powell de Aquino, more commonly known as Baden Powell.
Born in 1937, Powell was named after the founder of the scouting movement by his father, who used to be a boy scout. At the age of seven, he started playing the guitar when his father taught him a few basic chords. The young Powell quickly fell in love with the instrument, and soon learned everything his father could teach. The next year, he began to take classes from Jayme Florence, who used to play with legendary MPB musician Benedito Lacerda.
Powell learned very quickly, and at 9 years old he competed in a musical contest named “Papel Carbono”, which was played in the famous radio network “Rádio Nacional”. With his cover of Dilmerando Reis’ “magoado”, he was awarded first place in his category, which made him even more motivated to dedicate himself to playing guitar. At 13 years old he finished his guitar course, having had contact with many great musicians. He started then playing as a professional, playing for a cache in many different venues.
After finishing high school, Baden started playing at the orchestra of the “Rádio Nacional”, travelling through Brazil and playing through the country. In the fifties, he joined the trio of a pianist named Ed Lincoln, playing with them in a venue in Copacabana named Boite Plaza. As Powell made a name for himself, he started composing and playing with many musicians, such as Nilo Queiroz, Aloysio de Oliveira and Ruy Guerra. From this period, many of his hits were born; songs like “Não é Bem Assím”, “Rosa Flor”, “Vou Por Aí” and “Samba Triste”, which remains one of his most popular songs.
In the sixties, his life would change when he was visited by legendary poet and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes while playing a concert in Copacabana. Moraes called out to Powell and proposed that they write a few songs together. Soon, they would spend three months together in Moraes’ apartment with a tape recorder, a guitar and plenty of whiskey. This was the start of a legendary partnership, which resulted in some of Baden’s best works. It was from this partnership that the “afro-sambas” were born, albums that mixed classical samba with African rhythms and lyrics that were heavily influenced by African-Brazilian religion candomblé.
Still in the sixties, Powell would begin to make international tours and spread his music through the world. While he lived, he took the guitar to a new level, exploring a variety of styles such as jazz, bossa nova, MPB and samba. When he died in 2000, he had produced more than 40 albums, as well as a countless single recordings with some of the best musicians of his time. Though the man is gone, he has left some of the most beautiful guitar songs that have ever been recorded, and his memory lives on in every one that was inspired and touched by his music.