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Alceu Valença is an extremely successful composer and the owner of a distinctive style that mixes his northeastern roots and contemporary grooves; he is also an energetic and mesmerizing live performer. His songs have been recorded by several major artists, including Luiz Gonzaga (with whom he wrote "Plano Piloto"), Maria Betânia, and Elba Ramalho. His life was depicted in Anamelia Maciel's book Alceu Valença em Frente e Verso (Edição do Autor, recife, 1988).
The son of a locally renowned lawyer, Valença always worried his father with his rebellious character. At four, he participated in an infant concourse promoted by the postman Luís Jacinto, singing a Capiba tune. He didn't win the competition or the prize (a soap box), but his acrobatic performance during the prize delivery won the sympathy of the audience and he won another soap box. Moving with his family to Recife PE, Valença was always a bad student, and was even expelled from school, until he finally graduated from law school in 1970, but he never worked in that profession. There, he began his first professional musical experiences with the band Tamarineira Village, after transforming into Ave Sangria. He later incorporated new musicians into his band who were highly successful artists: Zé Ramalho (who played the Brazilian viola) and Elba Ramalho (as chorus girl). In 1968, Valença did his first show, Erosão: a Cor e o Show, to enthusiastic critical praise. In September, he participated in the I Festival Universitário Brasileiro de Música Popular (Rio) with "Maria Alice" (written with Sérgio Bahia), defended by Ivete e Arlete. The next month, he concurred in the I Festival Regional Universitário da MPB (Recife). In the next year, he classified two songs at the regional phase of the IV Festival Internacional da Canção: "Acalanto Para Isabela" (first place) and "Desafio Linda" (third place). At the national phase in Rio, he unsuccessfully defended the first song. With a scholarship from Harvard University (Boston), he knew some of the U.S. and reconciled himself to the indigenous culture of his home state, perceiving its universalizing possibilities through the interest displayed by passersby while he played on streets and squares.
Returning to Brazil in 1970, Valença married Eneida in June and worked together at the III Festival Universitário de Música Popular Brasileira, receiving second place with "Manhã de Clorofila." He returned the trophy to the jury (under applause), declaring (euphemistically) that the jury already had its decision, regardless of the manifest desire of the audiences. It led him to decide to move to Rio with his wife, son, and a recommendation letter from José Humberto Patu. There he met Geraldo Azevedo, another pernambucano (from the Pernambuco state) who had abandoned music and was working with industrial design. Valença convinced him to return to music and they both wrote a song. Valença participated in July at the V Festival Internacional da Canção (Rio) with the songs "Fiat Lux Baby," "Erosão," and "Desafio Linda"; and at the IV Festival Universitário da Música Brasileira (August 1971, Teatro João Caetano), Valença participated with "Água Clara," "78 Rotações" (with Geraldo Azevedo), and "Planetário." Also with Azevedo's songs (which competed against Valença's at the festivals), they recorded together their first LP Alceu Valença & Geraldo Azevedo (Copacabana, 1972). In 1972, Valença asked the great Jackson do Pandeiro to defend his "Papagaio do Futuro" at the VII Festival Internacional da Canção (September, Rio). The song wasn't classified, but was presented with success in several shows by Valença and Azevedo throughout the country, and opened the doors for a friendship with Pandeiro that resulted in live performances by the duo at the Teatro João Caetano's (Rio), Projeto Seis e Meia (1975), and in the national tour of the Projeto Pixinguinha series (1977). Still in 1972, Valença became disappointed with the result of the FIC and returned to Recife with the decision to abandon music. In January 1974, he opened the show O Ovo e a Galinha (Nosso Teatro, Recife), touring several upstate Northeastern cities. In that same year, participated in Sérgio Ricardo's film A Noite do Espantalho as the main character, and recorded its soundtrack (released on LP by Continental in 1974) as singer. He also released his first solo album, Molhado de Suor (Som Livre). The album didn't get major interest from the audiences, but was well-received by critics. In February 1975, he got a big hit with "Vou Danado pra Catende," inspired in the verses by modernist Pernambucan poet Ascenso Ferreira at the Festival Abertura (Rede Globo). The support from the audience led the jury to create a special "Research" prize. It made possible the show Vou Danado pra Catende (Teatro Teresa Rachel, Rio, 1975), which was a complete failure in the first three days until Valença got dressed as a clown and swept through downtown Rio with a megaphone, promoting the show. It then became a full-house success at the theater and in all subsequent national tours. In the next year, he recorded Vivo, a rock album, and in 1977, Espelho Cristalino. In 1979, he recorded Saudade de Pernambuco, and in the same year, began to record frevos on the LP series Asas da América (compilations with several interpreters). The series and the subsequent dedicated shows by Valença, in parallel with his solo career, turned Olinda's Carnival a national success. During a tour in 1979, he recorded an album in Paris, France, that is still unreleased in Brazil.
In 1980, he released Coração Bobo, which had the hit "Na Primeira Manhã," and in the next year, Cinco Sentidos. In 1982, he recorded Cavalo de Pau with the hits "Tropicana" and "Como Dois Animais." In 1983, he released Anjo Avesso with "Anunciação," and from the live show recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland), Brazil Night — Ao Vivo em Montreux was released. In 1984, he recorded Mágico, which had the hit "Solidão," and in the next year, Estação da Luz.
At that point, with his career established, several of his songs became soap opera themes (the fastest way of reaching high selling records in Brazil). In 1986, he recorded the live album Ao Vivo, and in the same year, Rubi. In 1987, he recorded Leque Moleque, and in the following years, Oropa, França e Bahia (1988), Andar, Andar (1990), and Sete Desejos (1991), which had the hit "Tesoura do Desejo." In that year, he participated in the megafestival Rock in Rio 2. In 1994, he recorded Maracatus Batuques e Ladeiras featuring the track "Pétalas" (with Herbert Azul), which received the Sharp prize for the Best Song of the Year. Together with Geraldo Azevedo, Elba Ramalho, and Zé Ramalho, he recorded the 1996 live album O Grande Encontro and the solo CD Mourisco. In 1997, he released Sol e Chuva and, in 1998, Forró de Todos os Tempos. Sino de Ouro followed in early 2001.