João Limoeiro – Poetas da Mata Norte 2: Ciranda (2006)

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João Limoeiro
Poetas da Mata Norte 2 – Ciranda
Released 2006

01 – Ciranda pesada
02 – O mar
03 – Com Deus
04 – Os animais
05 – As praias
06 – Amarre o boi
07 – Cultura nordestina
08 – Ô de casa
09 – Vida
10 – Vem cirandar
11 – Terra de São Severino
12 – Massacre
13 – Homenagem a Gonzaga
14 – Eu fiz
15 – Retrato

João Limoeiro – vocals
Galego – trombone
Roberto – trumpet
Elias – vocals
Edemar – vocals
Walter – mineiro / shaker
José Severino – surdo drum
Biu do Tarol – snare drum

Produced by Siba

Well, my head has been left spinning by the wave of protests and mass mobilization over the last ten days or so, and it has seemed almost silly to be blogging about music with all these other things going on.  At least the demonstration in Pernambuco happened relatively peacefully, with the police watching the demonstrations pass while wearing cute little carnations rather than cracking skulls and firing rubber bullets.  I’m not inclined to use this blog as a platform for speechifying or deconstructing what’s been happening, and there is plenty of material to digest around the interwebs anyway.  But I will offer a word to the wise – don’t believe *anything* you hear or see from Globo media (their insane monopoly of TV, radio stations, and newspapers) about what these demonstrations are all about or who these people are, because Globo is a an evil pathological organization with a reactionary, conservative agenda with roots in the military dictatorship.  If you want news on the stuff happening in Brazil right now, turn anywhere but Globo and their affiliates.  Independent coverage is out there (including a media cooperative NINJA which has provided live streaming), you just have to search for it.

But today is the vespers of São João, St.John’s day, and celebration is mandatory.  I would be amiss if I didn’t post music to commemorate the day.  I am mentally exhausted, though, so I will keep it this write-up brief…

This another entry in the great Poetas da Mata Norte series and one of two volumes devoted to the genre called ciranda.  João Limoeira, of the city of Carpina, has been singing ciranda a long time.  I have an LP of his recorded in the 1980s, courtesy of a lovely lass at a Nazaré radio station who was clearing out their vinyl (for shame!), and I must say that his new recording are much better.  As I mentioned in a previous post, at that time he was using a lot of synthesizers (you know, it was the 80s after all).  This record sounds much like a live performance would, except that it is divided into discrete compositions whereas on stage he would must likely just sing for an hour with hardly a break, just segueing one piece into the next.  On the surface ciranda is a fairly repetitive music and you have to stay with it patiently to catch the micro-movements in its limited range of motion and tonal palette.  Wordplay, boasting, paeans to nature, the sea, an homage to the King of Baião, Luiz Gonzaga, some brief diversions into social commentary, and celebration of the cultura popular of the Northeast region are all included in the lilting and rather beautiful melodies.  Limoeiro brings a little bit of the rhythmic sense of embolada to Amarre O Bio, included in this sample below.

João Limoeiro performs regularly around the Mata Norte of Pernambuco so if you are ever there around this time of year, try and catch him.  On this record he is accompanied by Roberto on trumpet and Galego on trombone, both natives of Nazaré da Mata who are also part of Siba’s project Fuloresta – they may or may not perform with Limoeiro on any given night.  He also has dancers on stage these days, and he has other CDs he has self-released since this one and you can buy them direct.  He is also a singer-poet of maracatu de baque solto, although he took a break from it for a while.  I promise to post some examples of that style next month.

in 320 kbs


Baracho e Imperial – Vamos Cirandar (1972)

Baracho e Imperial
19 autênticas cirandas Pernambucanas

Released 1972 Passarela / Discos Rozenblit, Recife, Pernambuco (LP 40.399)

Produced by Nelson Ferreira
Audio Engineer: Hercílio Bastos
Graphic design & layout – Walderes Soares
Photography: Wladimir Barbosa

Side One

01 – Vou falar de Pernambuco/Olinda,cidade maravilhosa/Roberto Carlos/sereia
Lia,vem pra ciranda dançar/Recife tem praias pra se escolher/fui conhecer a
Paraíba/vida de pescador

02 – Não vá pro mar/o meu navio/castelo de areia/lavadeira

Side Two

03 – Esta ciranda quem me deu foi Lia morena,vem ver..

04 – tomando umas e outras/baralho de ouro/uma moça me perguntou

05 – Ô cirandeira/cirandeiro, eu vou me embora

Transcription Notes:
Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> Normalized to -1db -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1

Ciranda is a type of music and dance that is one of the loveliest things I have seen or heard in my life. It’s origins are, like most things, somewhat disputed but it is fairly clear that it developed initially among the fishing communities along the Brazilian coasts and then spread inward. In the south of Brazil, “ciranda” is a form of children’s music and dance, but in the northern sugar-producing region of the state of Pernambuco in northeast Brazil it is practiced by adults, although very much open to everyone. In fact if I felt up to it I could make an argument for ciranda as “musical communism.” Central to the whole enterprise is a “dança de roda” where anyone who wants to participate links hands and dance around in a great big circle (with an accent on the “one,” highlighting the communistic symbolism, obviously…), and when things are really going well and there are enough people, concentric circles will start forming. I saw some of this in the city of Recife once but I feel like I really didn’t experience ciranda until seeing the famous Lia de Itamaracá singing on the beach of the island where she lives, under a clear and star-speckled sky. I was traveling alone, as I often do, but my solitude was alleviated by the warmth emanating from this whole spectacle, the beauty of children dancing and singing along with their parents and other adults, who may or may not be enjoying a drink or three according to their whim. So different from the country where I was born, to see these kids out having a good time until 4 am, treated in a subtle but profound way as equals.

Of course dance cannot take place without music. The instrumentation is made of brass instruments and percussion (like the zabumba, mineiro / ganzá, maracá, caracaxá, and caixa / tarol), while a vocalist (cirandeiro or cirandeira) sings verses usually with a chorus of a handful of men or women responding. Although apparently the musicians traditionally performed in the center of these big dancing rodas, these days it is more common to have them performing on some type of stage. The music isn’t divided up into “songs” as we might typically define them, but ‘loas’ or verses with particular melodies and rhythmic structures that are sung interchangeably according to the singer’s whim. Thus a ciranda can go on for twenty minutes or an hour without a single break and with mostly the same rhythm, with the singer or the horns announcing a new melody and set of stanzas. Although a strong link to the Portuguese is often cited by the musicologists and folklorists who talk about ciranda, I can’t help thinking about how early the Portuguese were in contact with the western coast of Africa, when they traded with African kingdoms as equals before the onset of the slave trade.

This record features Baracho, probably the most famous of cirandeiros. A native of the town of Nazaré da Mata, he was also a poet-singer of maracatu de baque solto (also known as maracatu do trombone or maracatu rural) before becoming famous as a singer and composer of ciranda. The lyrics of ciranda often deal with quotidian everyday life – enumerating and describing the beaches of Recife, singing the praises of Olinda, getting to know Paraíba (Pernambuco’s neighbor to the north), or the concerns of a fisherman. Although often pegged as a “folkloric” music it is also absolutely contemporary, making use of anything and everything happening in the world. For example this record features one of the most famous cirandas, titled simply “Roberto Carlos”:

Roberto Carlos
É o rei do iê-iê-iê
Jamelão cantando samba
Faz o morro estremecer

Lia na ciranda
Também é de primeira
No baião Luiz Gonzaga
No frevo Nelson Ferreira

I usually hesitate to make such crude and anachronistic comparisons, by the similarity to a hip hop shout-out and/or challenge is kind of striking here. The verse recognizes two huge personages of popular culture from the southeast of Brazil — Roberto Carlos, “King of iê-iê-iê” (pronounced Yeah-yeah-yeah, associated with the Jovem Guarda and in reference to their obsession with mid-60s Beatles music), and Jamelão, one of the giants of samba — and then in the next verse celebrates the cultural contributions of Pernambuco — the first-rate ciranda of Lia, the baião of Luiz Gonzaga, and the frevo of Nelson Ferreira (who, incidentally, produced this album). This verse is probably more striking if you know a little about the history of the Northeast and particularly Pernambuco, the first area to be widely colonized by the Portuguese and for a long time the engine of Brazil’s economy during the “glory days” of its sugar industry, before losing ground both economically and in terms of prestige to the coffee culture of Brazil’s south. Even without knowing about this, any non-Brazilian can probably make a quick mental inventory of the people they know who have visited Brazil as tourists and realize how few of them ever set foot anywhere outside the southeast or even outside Rio de Janeiro. So in this verse, it’s not as if the singer doesn’t like Jamelão or Roberto Carlos (everyone, I mean EVERYONE in Brazil likes Roberto Carlos, a mania it has taken me a long time to empathize with…). The point is that the narrator wants to place his own musical heritage on the same level of parity with these more famous cousins.

Although the musicians are uncredited, only citing “Baracho and Imperial” as the performers, I would wager all the money in my pocket right now (which, granted, is not much) that Lia de Itamaracá is singing on this album. The opening of the second side, “Essa ciranda que me deu foi Lia”, is unmistakeably her voice, to my ears. This verse, first recorded by Teca Calazans in 1963 and credited to “public domain” (a typical way to cheat a composer out of publishing rights, in this case Baracho), is so famous that Lia was practically a mythic figure, also receiving homages from the likes of Paulinho da Viola and plenty of verses from other cirandeiros long before she ever recorded anything under her own name. When that did happen in the late 1970s, she was not paid a single cent and reportedly only given twenty copies of her own album to give to friends and family. Nothing like being poor, black, and female to get yourself exploited in the music business, anywhere in the world. But Lia did finally get her due recognition, finally releasing a second album in the 1990s, touring and performing outside Brazil, getting written about in the New York Times and receiving accolades. Unfortunately even her second album is now out of print and getting scarce, but thankfully she has a new one (a year or two old).

I have a colleague who referred to this record as only “good for studying” but not so much for recreational listening, preferring as he does the most contemporary recordings of ciranda from the likes of Lia, Zé Galdino (who is quietly responsible for a renaissance and revitalization of Pernambucan music), Santino, or Siba. I personally disagree, but I understand what he means – the newer recordings communicate a bit more of the *force* of ciranda, in no small part because of better recording techniques. Even though the early seventies witnessed studios in Rio and São Paulo finding better ways to record samba – recording in multitrack and giving clarity to all the instruments, yet retaining the collective group dynamic better than had been done ever before — the studios of Rozenblit Records in Recife were making some pretty crusty recordings. In spite of the fact that, according to a documentary I recently saw, they had one of the first 16-track tape machines in the country, this record sounds like it was recorded with a stereo pair of microphones and maybe one microphone out in front for the main vocalist. Now, plenty an amazing jazz recording has been done this way with delicious results, but this recording sounds pretty grainy and kind of rough. In accordance with my principles of vinyl rips, I did absolutely NOTHING to the audio in terms of equalization — you can take care of that at your end and to your own tastes. I removed some of the clicks and pops but actually had to leave quite a few of them alone, for example when they fell exactly on the first beat in a measure, which is a particularly strong accent in ciranda (ONE-two-three-four-ONE-two..) Trying to remove a ‘pop’ that falls on that beat results in a weird and nasty sound (a “digital artifact” for those of you interested in such things), so it is far better to leave them there than to mess up the music by taking them out.

Enough of the techo babble. I am sharing this because it’s necessary to point out the Festa Junina, São João holiday, and the Nordeste is more than just forró. Here is another thread of the tapestry for you to enjoy…

in 320kbs em pé tré