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 not just a career; rather, it is how he translates rhythms and notes into pure essence, often snatching audiences away, or other times energizing them enough to stand up and simply dance "and sweat until you can’t sweat no more," to use Bob Marley’s lyrics. His ability to run smoothly through virtually all kinds of music makes Nanny a quite noticeable and gifted artist. And that is what he is, a gifted artist.
At the age of 10, Nanny Assis began to reveal a true passion that moved his other people’s lives. Along all his childhood and adolescence, and influenced by his father, who was an evangelical pastor, Nanny took part in several children and youth choirs and sang and played at every little and big church his father preached around Bahia. With music already revolving his deepest feelings, he discovered, at the age of 13, a local musician, conductor, and band leader, Zeca Freitas, at a local bank where Nanny ran 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, specialized in a Brazilian folkloric rhythm. Joining the band forced Nanny away from home, and his father was not very pleased with the venture. 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 Brazilian Jazz, Forro, Bossa Nova and a myriad of Afro-Brazilian sounds, Nanny has cheered audiences around the world and has shown particular skills in engaging the public with a personal charisma and stage interaction that only he has.
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 but Bahia-lover Dorival Caymmi, Tropicalia icons like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, whom he says is maybe his greatest influence in music creation. Djavan and Ivan Lins 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, indifferent of the venue, he has deeply touched people through his music. After 1999, when he moved to New York City, where he is now widely known and have established weekly presentations in some of the city’s illustrious venues, he 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 if the stage on which he is playing is the main ground of an impressive setting. In prominent or unknown places, 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. So many other great places where Nanny has played and enchanted people of all walks are Jazz Standard, Red Rooster and Joe’s Pub, all in New York.
Nanny Assis says his "music is the mirror of his inner expressions." Indeed, 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, Ed Mota, Sérgio Brandão, Jenny Scheinman 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," with Arthur Lipner, and "Double Rainbow." By Fabricio Silva, journalist.