Nanny Assis was born in the northeastern Brazilian city of Salvador, Bahia, in 1969. One of Brazil’s first cities, with predominant African influences, Salvador is the birthplace of some of the country’s most remarkable music creations. That, in part, explains why Nanny has music running through his veins, making him an outstanding singer, a terrific drummer/percussionist, and a talented songwriter who has broadly touched hearts and souls through musical expressions that go beyond comprehension.
Anybody who sees Nanny performing immediately feels that music for him is more than just a career. Somewhat, it is how he translates rhythms and notes into pure essence – often snatching audiences away, and other times energizing them enough so they can stand up and dance “and sweat until you can’t sweat no more,” like Bob Marley once said. His ability to make any kind of music sound smooth makes Nanny a notable and gifted artist. And that’s what he is, a gifted artist.
At the age of 10, Nanny Assis began to reveal a true passion for music that moved everyone around him. All the way through his childhood and adolescence – and influenced by his father, who was an evangelical pastor –, Nanny took part in several children and youth choirs, singing and playing at every little and big church in which his father preached around Bahia. With music already revolving his deepest feelings, he discovered, at the age of 13, a local musician, the conductor, and band leader, Zeca Freitas, at a local bank where he used to run errands.
Zeca Freitas, who later formed a partnership with another conductor, Fred Dantas, played a genuine role in helping form Nanny’s musical personality, as both teachers invited Nanny to join them in the Orchestra de Gafieira, a group that specialized in a Brazilian folkloric rhythm. Joining the band forced Nanny away from home. With some intense travel engagements, Nanny’s father even became unhappy with his son’s musical ambitions, but the boy was relentless.
Since 1986, when he began his successful professional career, Nanny Assis has played with amazing artists like Vinicius Cantauria, Eumir Deodato, and John Patitucci. Yet, despite the grandeur of the folks with whom he’s sided, Nanny has always managed to find his forte. With a great ability to perform Bossa Nova, Brazilian Jazz, Forro and a myriad of Afro-Brazilian sounds, Nanny has cheered audiences around the world and has shown particular skills in engaging the public with personal charisma and unique stage interaction.
Joy and true happiness are unique features of the baianos, the people of Bahia. Some say that the baianos are the happiest people in Brazil, and undoubtedly those who party the most. Nanny’s musical influences came exactly from his birthplace. Growing up, he would listen to Rio-born and Bahia-lover Dorival Caymmi, and Tropicalia icon Gilberto Gil. Nanny says Gil is perhaps his greatest influence in music creation. Djavan, Pat Metheny and Chet Baker are also celebrated artists who Nanny says have impacted him and helped shape his artistic formation as a multi-faceted singer and songwriter of rare existence whose work resembles a delicious and refreshing fruit punch.
Nanny’s appeal and personality have brought him to several parts of the world, where, regardless of the venue, he has deeply touched people through his music. After 1999, when he moved to New York City – where he is now well known and has established weekly presentations in some of the city’s illustrious venues –, Nanny has made presentations all over Europe, including Italy, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and England. Very honorably, Nanny once performed at Queen Elizabeth’s Hall, in London. For him, though, it does not make a difference the stage on which he is playing. If it is the main ground of an impressive setting or a cozy small venue, he dedicates the same amount of talent and respect for his audiences. That in itself singles him out.
In New York City, his artistic hub, Nanny has made presentations at Birdland, Zinc Bar, B.B. King and Blue Note. For the past decade, he is the sole voice on Sundays at SOB’s, with his traditional brunch concert at one venue that’s known for opening the doors for Brazilian music. Nanny has also enchanted audiences around the City with great presentations at Jazz Standard, Red Rooster and Joe’s Pub. It is amazing how Nanny adds beat to the Forro dance, an already stirring Brazilian rhythm, so as to entice Brazilians and foreigners to mingle themselves equally, body with body, “levantando poeira,” or sweeping dust out of the floor, as the Brazilians prefer to say it.
Nanny Assis says his “music is the mirror of his inner expressions.” Really, listening to Nanny is like seeing beyond himself and his voice straight up to his soul. Years ago, that was also what endeared him to Cidinho Teixeira, Morrie Louden, Michael Leonhert, Leo Gandelman, Helio Alves, Melvin Gibbs, Arto Lindsay, Romero Lubambo, Cyro Baptista, Michael Walz, Ed Mota, Arthur Lipner, Joe Carter, Oriente Lopez and numerous other artists who have participated in his brilliant career.
In 1984, Nanny Assis participated in the Bahia Instrumental Festival. In 2011, he was the recipient of the prestigious Brazilian International Press Award as “Best Singer of the Year.” Hundreds of votes cast through the Internet earned Nanny the first stage in musical recognition with the Brazilian community around the globe. Nanny Assis has recorded two albums: “Brazilian Vibes” and “Double Rainbow.”