Luiz Bonfa was a Brazilian guitarist and composer best known for the compositions he penned for the film Black Orpheus.
Bonfa was born on October 17, 1922 in Rio de Janeiro. He began teaching himself to play guitar as a child; he studied in Rio with Uruguayan classical guitarist Isaias Savio from the age of twelve. These weekly lessons entailed a long, harsh commute by rail and on foot from his family home in the western rural outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to the teacher's home in the hills of Santa Teresa. Given Bonfa's extraordinary dedication and talent for the guitar, Savio excused the youngster's inability to pay for his lessons.
Bonfa first gained widespread exposure in Brazil in 1947 when he was featured on Rio's Radio Nacional, then an important showcase for up-and-coming talent. He was a member of the vocal group Quitandinha Serenaders in the late 1940s. Some of his compositions were recorded and performed by Brazilian crooner Dick Farney in the 1950s. It was through Farney that Bonfa was introduced to Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, the leading songwriting team behind the worldwide explosion of Brazilian jazz/pop music in the late 1950s and 1960s. Bonfa collaborated with these and with other prominent Brazilian musicians and artists in productions of de Moraes' anthological play Orfeu da Conceicao, which several years later gave origin to Marcel Camus' legendary film “Black Orpheus” (Orfeu Negro in Portuguese). In the burgeoning days of Rio de Janeiro's thriving jazz scene, it was commonplace for musicians, artists, and dramatists to collaborate in such theatrical presentations. Bonfa wrote some of the original music featured in the film, including the numbers “Samba de Orfeu” and his most famous composition, “Manha de Carnaval” (of which Carl Sigman later wrote a different set of English lyrics titled “A Day in the Life of a Fool”), which has been among the top ten standards played worldwide, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.