Portrait of the Artist: Jair Oliveira

“Portrait of the Artist” is a new series by Claudine Williams, a photographer specializing in portraits for personal and business use. The Q&As are with people in the arts and culture industry—actors, musicians, painters, writers, etc.—with photos to suit each artist.

Jair Oliveira is a Brazilian singer, songwriter, arranger, and producer with his own production company. He comes from a family of musicians, including his father, Jair Rodrigues, and sister, Luciana Mello. Oliveira and his wife, actress Tania Khalill, live in Battery Park City with their two daughters.

Tell me about yourself, Jair.
I’ve been a musician since I was 6 years old, so it’s been awhile. My dad, Jair Rodrigues, was also a singer and a very famous one, so, when I was born in ’75, he was already a big name in Brazil. I grew up in a musical environment, and I went on to graduate from Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1997. So I’m a singer, songwriter, arranger, and producer of Brazilian music. I have my own production company in Brazil and we do lots of stuff, not only for the record business but also for advertising, writing songs that are used in ads.

Is that mostly in Brazil and South America?
Yes, we do lots of stuff in Brazil and South America. We are trying to do some things here as well, since I’m in New York.

Have you ever considered doing anything else but music for a profession?
Not really, because I knew from a very young age that I have this passion for music, although I did briefly try journalism out. In Brazil, the public colleges are better than private colleges, and you have to pass a test to be accepted into a certain college. I passed the test for journalism. So, when I was 16 or 17, I started college for journalism, but I realized quickly that it was not my thing, so I came to the U.S. to go to Berklee College of Music and graduated in 1997. It was never my idea to become a journalist. I just started that because I passed the test. My mom is not a musician, but she really supported me since the beginning, and so did my father, of course, so I had all the support for being a musician—which is not very common for most of the musicians that I know of.

Do you like any other genres of music besides samba and jazz?
I like lots of genres in music—I think everything is important. I like classical music, jazz, and soul music (from the 60’s and 70’s). These are the genres that influence me, but I like everything. I like rock and roll and pop music a lot, too.

Any tours or new albums coming out soon?
Yes. I’m recording my new album here in New York. We’re just finishing it, and I think it will be out in November. It’s my 11th solo album, and it’s called Selfie because it’s my most personal one. I decided to record some songs that I wrote that have to do with myself. It’s entirely in Portuguese right now, but I’m preparing some English versions of some of the songs. It’s going to have 11 songs that I recorded at Flux Studio on the east side. It is the first time that I recorded an entire album in New York City. The new album is interesting, it’s different. I wrote some of the songs here, so it’s very New York.

Why is Lower Manhattan a good place for you and your family?
Well, I love New York. I think I may have been a New Yorker in a past life, because I really love the city. When we decided to move to New York, we had two areas in mind for our family, especially for our kids, because of the schools. We were considering the Upper West Side and Battery Park City. A friend of mine who was living here, Jairo Goldflus, said don’t move anywhere until you check out this area. We came for a visit and fell in love with this area. It’s still Manhattan, but it feels like a very different Manhattan. It’s very pretty and also very calm. My wife loves it here, and so do my kids. I think it’s a good place to be with your family because there are lots of families and everybody’s looking out for each other.

What are your favorite area spots?
We love going to Takahachi. We love hanging out with our kids at Rockefeller Park and also Pier 25.  I really enjoy the movies, so I like the fact that we’re close to the Regal theater. I go almost every week. This whole area is great—you just pick a restaurant or a café and most likely it’s going to be good.

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
My wife is a famous actress in Brazil. We have two daughters, Isabella and Laura. Tania has been working as an actress for a while now and has done a lot of projects in Brazil. She has worked on some major soap operas, which are a big thing in Brazil. Right now we are working together on a project which is called Grandes Pequeninos, which translates to “great little ones.” We started the project when Isabella was born. I began writing songs for my newborn daughter and my wife, which resulted in an entire album in 2009. When Laura was born, I wrote a bunch of new songs, and we recorded them as well. They can be found on our YouTube channel. These songs, they are…. Well, they are very important to us because they talk about our family and how we would deal with our family.

Right now, the YouTube channel has more than 100,000 subscribers and more than 40 million views. My kids are also interested in the arts. Two years ago we did a TV program for Discovery Kids Brazil together as a family before we moved to New York. We love being together as a family here in New York. So now, our daughters feel like New York is the family home.

Tell me one thing that has been surprising to you about our neighborhood.
Well, it’s not a surprise because I’ve been to New York a lot, but here I think people are really helpful and kind. We love the school, P.S. 89. There are a lot of parents in the neighborhood and everybody is trying to help one another. I love Brazil, but when we came to this area, we knew that it was going to be relatively safe for us. We can walk out on the streets late at night and nothing happens. It’s really quiet and safe.

What does the future hold for you and your family?
Well, that’s interesting because in the new album that is coming out, I wrote a song called “Agora,” which translates to “now,” and I basically talk about living the now, living the present time. This has been very important to me because I think it’s a very important message for myself to try to live in the present moment. My wife and I meditate. We talk a lot about living in the present moment. So right now, we are trying to live in New York and do the things that we are doing here. The plan is to go back to Brazil next year because our work is mainly concentrated in São Paulo and Rio, but we extended our stay for the next six months. It’s time for us to make some decisions regarding middle schools next year. So, we really don’t know when we’ll leave New York—maybe it will depend on how our work goes. I’m trying to establish my production company here as well. If that happens then maybe we’ll stay a little longer. Tania is also working as an actress a little bit here. So, we’ll see.

What else would you like people to know about you? Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you feel like you’d like to say?
I love music—music translates me most of the time. If people know my music, I think they know me in full. I came here to New York this time to study, but right now I’m not because we switched our visa from F1 which is for students to O1, so I could work. I initially came to take a course on movie-making because I really love movies, and I love photography as well. I studied at ICP a couple of years ago, so I know a little bit about photography—I like to photograph my family and the places I travel to. I really love any artistic expression. I love literature, I love going to museums. I think all of this goes into my new album, Selfie.



  1. Parabéns pela matéria sou da cidade do Jair Rodrigues adoro a as músicas eu acompanho o Jair Oliveira des da turma balão mágico quando teve o tributo à Jair Rodrigues aqui em igarapava sp eu adorei as músicas e pude relembrar

  2. I loved the interview! We missed Jair Oliveira here in SP! We love his music!!!