Cavaquinho and acoustic guitar player Nelson Latif formed his musical identity in the legendary jazz scene of 1980's São Paulo. With roots in choro and jazz, Latif merges Brazilian styles and a classical guitar technique with diverse musical influences. In his melodic phrasing one hears bebop and Brazilian syncopations, and in his virtuosity the energy of flamenco.
Latif started his studies at age fourteen. At seventeen he was already accompanying singers in the São Paulo nightlife. At this time he won a music school competition and was awarded a scholarship to study conducting and composition at the Faculdade Santa Marcelina. Upon completing this course, he continued his classical guitar studies at the Faculdade Paulista de Música.
In the early 80´s Latif joined several groups in his native São Paulo. Two of these strongly influenced his musical development: the Quarteto Paulista, a choro group formed by some of the best São Paulo musicians, and a flamenco duo with guitarist Julio Ramires. Also during this period, Latif studied electric guitar with Mozart Mello and improvisation with Paulo Belinatti.
In 1988, after a tour in Europe with the choro trio Remelexo, Latif moved to Lisbon, where he gave workshops at the Juventude Musical Portuguesa and taught classical guitar at the well-known Escola de Guitarra de Duarte Costa.
In 1989 Latif moved to Amsterdam, where he lived for twelve years. During this time he was a member of Uit de Kunst, an organization designed to promote foreign culture in Holland. Latif also continued his musical career by playing with several important musicians on the Dutch jazz scene. Latif also toured many countries with Brazilian musicians, playing jazz and world music festivals, and made several recordings.
During the 90's Latif started performing on the cavaquinho, an instrument that has since become his trademark.
Between 1997 and 2000 he led the group Raiz Latina, touring throughout the Asian continent. They recorded their debut album in Seoul with the well-known Korean singer Kim Jun.
In 2001 he formed Trio Baru with the musicians Fernando Corbal and Bosco Oliveira.
He recorded the CD Brazilian Portrait together with the saxophonist Flávio Sandoval in 2003, and promoted this album in Brazil and Europe. In this same year he went to Suriname several times to play concerts and give workshops and lectures. Together with the guitarists Stanley Noordpool and Robby Faverey he played at the Carifesta and the Groen Festival.
In 2004 Latif formed a duo with the multi-instrumentalist Carlinhos Antunes. In 2005 he joined forces with Ustad Zamir Khan, sitar and tabla player and member of the legendary family of Indian musicians. Latif and Khan merged the traditional music of their countries, discovering a whole new world of musical possibilities. Also in 2005, Latif recorded the CD Choro, Samba e Afins with Dutch guitarist Joeri de Graaf. This recording started off the Choramundo Project, uniting musicians from Holland, Suriname and Brazil.
Since 2002 Nelson Latif has been ahead of the Alma Brasileira Project, designed for universities and cultural institutions all around the world. The project consists of workshops, concerts and lectures, addressing the history and diversity of traditional Brazilian music.
Nelson Latif is also a sociologist, graduated from the University of São Paulo.