Several weeks ago I posted about the ubiquity of the term “coisa de novela” (literal translation: “it’s something from a soap opera.”), a great expression that Brazilians use whenever they hear a story that seems too over-the-top to be true. In that post, I went on to talk about an outlandishly scripted tale involving passion and intrigue, murder and mayhem. But as any soap fan worth their suds knows, the genre also specializes in those incredibly contrived coincidences that bring about ridiculous good fortune and/or happy endings.

It’s this kind of “coisa de novela” that befell Gloria Bomfim, a 52-year-old native of a small coastal village north of Bahia’s capital of Salvador.

One of the things Gloria looked forward to most about these road trips was listening to music on the radio.

As a child, Gloria loved traveling with her father, a merchant who made frequent trips around the region to stock up on produce. One of the things Gloria looked forward to most about these road trips was listening to music on the radio. But it was on the day that she heard one song in particular, “Viagem” (Journey), that Gloria was so moved that she decided she had to be a singer.

As a child, Gloria let loose with her voice during candomblé rituals. However, at the age of 14 she gave up all dreams of a musical career when she moved to Rio de Janeiro and began working as a live-in housekeeper. In Rio, her passion for singing continued firm – but it merged with a new passion: cooking. Gloria found it impossible to whip up a dish without warbling a tune. In fact, one day, years later, she was cooking and crooning when the lady of the house, Luciana Rabello, walked into the kitchen and found her singing the beloved song of her childhood, “Viagem.”

When Luciana jokingly accused Gloria of “sucking up to the boss,” Gloria was at a complete loss.

It was then that Luciana explained that Gloria’s “boss” – and her husband – was none other than Paulo César Pinheiro, the author of “Viagem.”

After Gloria broke down in tears at the shock of having discovered that she’d spent the last four years working in the house of the man who wrote her favorite song of all time, she and Luciana became fast friends. Moreover, impressed with the pitch, force, and vibrancy of Gloria’s voice, Luciana, who has her own record label, decided to produce a Gloria’s first CD.

In discussing her plans with her husband, Luciana discovered that he had a crop of fresh songs ready to be recorded. Paulo César had considered interpreting them himself, but after hearing his housekeeper tackle the new compositions, he was so impressed by Gloria’s natural talents that he agreed that she was the only one who could do justice to his compositions, many of which draw on themes and elements related to candomblé.

The resulting CD, Anel de Aço, has just been relaunched nationally on the excellent indie label, Quitanda/Biscoito Fino. Gloria herself can be seen live performing in Rio; her next show date is October 20 at the Teatro Rival Petrobras, a traditional and atmospheric theater located in Centro.

Coisas de novela indeed….