Helena Meirelles

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Helena Meirelles was born on a farm in the heart of the hinterlands of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The images familiar to her since she was a child were of rural workers, the routine of raising large…
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Artist Biography by

Helena Meirelles was born on a farm in the heart of the hinterlands of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The images familiar to her since she was a child were of rural workers, the routine of raising large herds of cattle, and the violeiros (rural musicians). She learned how to play the viola at nine. After an imposed marriage at 17 and the subsequent abandonment of her home, she became involved with several partners and lived in the hottest places, where there always was prostitution, music, and booze. In such hard living, she even had some of her 11 children all by herself, with no help whatsoever. In complete poverty, after 30 years without any contact with her family, she was found by her son who took her to her sister's home where she was taken care of. After a short while, in 1993, her nephew recorded a tape of her playing and sent it to Guitar Player magazine. The magazine's reporters had a hard time when they tried to find the sul-mato-grossense illiterate female musician, who lived in the distant and small city of Presidente Epitácio (São Paulo). She also didn't have a telephone and was completely unknown to the Brazilian specialized press and recording market. But in the next year, Guitar Player had included her in its list of the 100 best picks ever, together with B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix's. In the first of three albums, Helena Meirelles released in that year, she took a large track to account for her life, providing great insight into her peculiar trajectory. She performed in a theater for the first of many times at 67, and her mostly instrumental albums reach an average 80,000 sold copies each, which is considered excellent in this market niche.