By Dave Pehling

BERKELEY (CBS SF) — While he still may be best known for the sonorous recasting of David Bowie’s glam-rock hits into acoustic sambas heard in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Brazilian songwriter Seu Jorge is far from a novelty act.

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Born Jorge Mário da Silva in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, Jorge was able to pursue a career in music despite living homeless in the favelas for several years prior to forming the hip-hop influenced, samba-funk band Farofa Carioca in 1995, singing, playing guitar and writing or co-writing a bulk of the band’s material. The group had several hits before releasing its debut album Moro no Brasil in 1998, but Jorge would split off to start a solo career the following year.

His first album — Samba Esporte Fino from 2001 — drew heavily on the ’70s sounds of Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento. His star rose further after he appeared in the hit Brazilian film City of God, playing the antihero drug dealer Knockout Ned in the favela gangster movie that would later be hailed as a classic. Jorge also contributed to the movie’s popular soundtrack.

The songwriter’s rising fame led to his first album being released globally under the title Carolina in 2003. He would have his breakout moment in 2004, appearing in director Wes Anderson’s quirky Jacques Cousteau tribute/parody The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, playing one of Zissou’s crew members and, more importantly, providing much of the film’s soundtrack with his solo acoustic Portuguese language versions of David Bowie songs.

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The stripped-down takes on Bowie’s hit songs from the 1970s struck a chord with music fans, boosting the  sales of the soundtrack album (which featured five of Jorge’s renditions) and leading to the 2005 release of The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions Featuring Seu Jorge with a full 14 covers plus one original tune (“Team Zissou”). Since then, Jorge has maintained busy careers as both an actor and a musician. The talented singer has proven himself adept at everything from delicate bossa nova balladry to celebratory dancefloor workouts.

In 2010, Jorge teamed with the Brazilian band Almaz to record an eclectic collaborative album that delivered a mix of soulful Brazilian standards and dub-tinged versions of tunes by Kraftwerk, Roy Ayers and Michael Jackson, touring the States with the group to wide acclaim. More recently, he has released two volumes of funky, party-starting originals entitled Músicas para Churrasco. After David Bowie’s passing, Jorge embarked on a solo acoustic tribute tour, telling stories about the making of A Life Aquatic and delivering heartfelt performances of the Bowie songs he recast to such acclaim.

For his current tour of the U.S., Jorge performs with his latest collaborator, Brazilian songwriter Rogê. A talented guitarist and singer inspired by the music of Brazilian masters Baden Powell and Dorival Caymmi, Rogê has released six albums since making his solo debut in 2003. The longtime friends have produced their first collaborative effort — the largely acoustic recording Seu Jorge & Rogê: Direct-to-Disc Sessions on the UK-based Night Dreamer label — that is set for international release next month. Expect the two artists to feature songs from the forthcoming effort in addition to delving into their respective solo catalogs when they share the stage at the UC Theatre Sunday night.

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Seu Jorge and Rogê
Sunday, January 19, 8 p.m. $47.50
UC Theatre