Banda de Pífanus de Caruaru – Programa Ensaio 1999

Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru
Progama Ensaio (1999)
SESC São Paulo Collection
“A Música Brasileira Deste Século por sue Autores e Intérpretes”

1. Bendito
2. A Briga do Cachorro com a Onça
3. Levando o Santo
4. A Bandinha Vai Tocar
5. Pega Pra Capar
6. Despedida de Novena
7. Cantiga de Lampião
8. Saudades de Caruaru
9. Esquenta Mulher

Sebastião Biano – Pífanos
João Biano – Zabumba
Gilberto Biano – Tarol
Amaro Biano – Surdo
José Biano – Prato

Recorded for Programa Esnaio on October 14, 1999, directed by Fernando Faro.

In this installment of the TV program Ensaio (audio-portion only here), the Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru play some of the career highlights of their repertoire and tell some interesting stories about the origins of the band, playing for the bandit / cangaçeiro Lampião in the early 20th century, playing the nine nights of a religious ‘novena’, and a kick-ass recipe for sarapatel. The band is still going today in 2011 although I’ve never caught them live. This is a good companion disc to the studio album on Marcus Perreira shared here last week.

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Luiz Paixão – Pimenta Com Pitú (2006)


Luiz Paixão
“Pimenta Com Pitú”
Released 2006
Label: Independent
Produced by Renata Rosa and Hugo Lins
Recording engineers: Zé Guilherme, Marcilio
Mixing engineers: Zé Guilherme, Térence Briand, Mathieu Pion
Mastered by Térence Briando and Mathieu Pion
Graphic layout – João Lin
Photos – Michele Zollini

Recorded at the Universidadde Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) studios in January and February of 2005. Mixed at UFPE stuios and Nyima (Saint Jean de la Ruelle, France)

1 Baião de cavalo marino (Domínio Público)
2 Ponta de pedra (Sidrak)
3 Forró de cambará (Seu Luiz Paixão)
4 São Gonçalo do Amarante (Domínio Público)
5 Forró bem temperado (Seu Luiz Paixão)
6 Toada do cavalo (Seu Luiz Paixão)
7 Pimenta com pitú (Seu Luiz Paixão)
8 Arrumadinho (Seu Luiz Paixão)
9 Parari (Biu Roque)
10 Forró de vó (Seu Luiz Paixão)
11 Pisa pilão (Domínio Público)
12 Toada solta (Domínio Público)
13 Machucado (Seu Luiz Paixão)
14 Viuvinha (Sidrak)
15 Amor, amor, amor (Domínio Público)


Seu Luiz Paixão: rabeca
Sidrak: voz
Guga Santos: bombo, mineiro
Dó: pandeiro e vocais
Maica: vocais
Renata Rosa : vocais
Pepê: cavaco
Hugo Linns: contrabaixo
Ana Freire: triângulo
Carlos Amarelo: zabumba
Mina: pandeiro e voz
Biu Roque: baje e vocais
Guga Santos: mineiro e vocais



I probably should have shared this record a few weeks ago, but I forgot I had this album sitting around…. And it’s a shame, because it is a LOT more listenable than “Pastoril”, the other album seasonal Pernambucan music I put up on the blog the other week. But it’s not too late — this music is still being performed right up until Three Kings Day (the 6th) where some of the biggest events take place that feature CAVALO MARINO music. And that’s what this disc primarily is, music you would hear at a presentation of Cavalo Marino. What is Cavalo Marino? well, it is NOT this:

Cavalo Marino is a popular culture / folkloric art form that developed on the sugar plantations of Pernambuco and is a type of open-air theatrical performance that traditionally can have 63 different “acts” with up to 76 distinct characters (!!!). It is difficult to explain how it all links up to the ‘Christmas cycle’ with giving you a dissertation on the topic, but its a weird type of ‘magical realism’ that mixes characters from lives of the sugar plantation workers (ex-slaves or descendants of slaves, for the most part) with fantasy and religious homages to various saints and to God. Some of the principal characters are the roles of Matéus and Bastião, two ex-slaves (in blackface, even if they are actually, by ‘anglo’ standards, black..) looking for work and sharing the same woman (Catíta); the Capitão (‘coronel’, landowner, political big cheese of an area); the Soldier (policeman, overseer); the Caboclo (indigenous spirit, in this case, related to afro-indigenous religious cults), and an ever-present anthropomorphic bull / guy in a cow-costume. All of these characters have spoken and sung lines, and improvise to a degree while interacting with the audience in a spectacle that is satirical and critical of the harsh circumstances in which this ‘folkloric’ tradition was born, and also somehow religiously reverent. All of this is also said to be the Pernambucan variation of “Bumba-Meu-Boi”, a tradition which is found throughout the Brazilian northeast in states such as Maranhão and Ceará.

I would not necessarily call this “holiday music” but it is ‘seasonal’ in that it truly is rare to hear this music outside of the Christmas seasonor “Ciclo Natalino’ (although you will begin to see presentations popping up as early as August), except perhaps in the small town of Condado, Pernambuco, where the tradition started. Why is it called ‘cavalo marino’, literally “sea horse”?? Well, nobody knows for sure, although there are a variety of legends and tall tales about it. Mostly though, they involve a sea-captain on shore leave or ex-sea captain who was known to ride around on a horse a lot, earning the nickname ‘cavalo marino.’

It is much easier to describe this all with visual aids, here are a few You Tube clips

One, performed partly on a stage and with some academic-types talking about how necessary it is to “protect” this music although I will concede their point as much as they are dealing with the tricky area of ‘public domain’…

Here is another video filmed at the ‘terreiro’ (really in this case, a full-fledged performance space) built by the family the now-departed Mestre Salustiano in Tabajara, Olinda. The big gathering is on December 25 but there will is usually another one around January 6th on the ‘Festa dos Reis’ which actually lasts three days. I have been at some of these events but thankfully I am nowhere in the sidelines of this video, my apologies if YOU are


The musicians on this record are a mixture of old veterans of this music and younger ‘roots’ musicians from the Recife area. It is one of those, MPB singer, actress, and faux-Pernambucana oddball Renata Rosa, who organized this album and produced it for Paixão, perhaps as a thank-you gift for having taught her how to play the rabeca and thus build a career off of pretending to be the daughter of exploited, sunbeaten cane cutters. I give her a lot of credit for keeping it free of any attempt at commercializing the sound — this is truly what it sounds like when you hear it ‘in the street’ (so to speak). During the theatrics, a bank of seated musicians play throughout the night, and these things usually go all night until dawn. Lead by one or several players of “rabeca”, sort of a country-fiddle but constructed a bit differently, and accompanied by pandeiro, the reco-reco (gourd or metal scraper), shaker, and an inflated goat-bladder used to beat out the rhythm. Several of the oldsters here learned under Mestre Batista, allegedly the first (or at least one of them) to develop this artform into the way we know it today. Biu Roche, who sings and contributes a few original contributions, passed away just shortly after Carnaval of 2010. Luiz Paixão also contributes original material alongside compositions from fellow mestre and friend Sidrak, as well as songs considered ‘dominio público’, and some of them have the style of baião or coco but mostly they end up sounding like variations on cavalo marino music anyway.

The CD booklet has some stunning photographs and a nice graphic layout (the scans don’t do it justice), and a well-written essay by Renata Rosa as well. This is already become something of a rarity, released independently but with various donated funds (from ‘patrocinadores’ who love to stamp their logos on album jackets, like Petrobras or Banco do Nordeste).

Townes Van Zandt – For The Sake Of The Song (1968)


Townes Van Zandt
For The Sake Of The Song
1968 Poppy Records (PYS-40.001)

Reissued 1993 on Tomato Records (598.1091.29)

1 For The Sake Of The Song 4:45
2 Tecumseh Valley 2:40
3 Many A Fine Lady 3:52
4 Quick Silver Daydreams Of Maria 3:41
5 Waitin’ Around To Die 2:22
6 I’ll Be Here In The Morning 2:42
7 Sad Cinderella 4:40
8 The Velvet Voices 3:12
9 Talkin’ Karate Blues 3:01
10 All Your Young Servants 3:04
11 Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls 2:36

Produced by Jack Clement and Jim Malloy

It’s a new year. I am short of words. Barely hanging on here really. Where did everybody go?


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*note: the track titles for numbers 9 & 10 are reversed, sorry about that but that is how they apppeared via the all-knowing cddbase
This one will be cross-listed at the long-defunct FLABBERGASTED FOLK page

Pastoril do Faceta (1973)


1978 WEA Records (BR 83.003)
Original release 1973
possibly on the Rozenblitz label?

01 – Chamada do Velho Faceta
02 – Apresentacao do Velho Faceta – Os 25 Bichos
03 – Marimbondo Miudinho
04 – E Mais Embaixo
05 – Cuidado Cantor!
06 – O Casamento da Filha de Seu Faceta
07 – Brinquedinho de Taioba
08 – A Pulga
09 – Bacurinha
10 – A Nossa Mestre Tem o Pe de Ouro
11 – Despedida do Velho Faceta

Accordion – Zé Cupido
Other musicians uncredited

Liner notes by Hermilo Borba Filho

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, some isolated clicks removed using Audition -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000

Ever since my narrow escape from John Wayne Gacy’s ice-cream truck in the 1970s, I have had a phobia of anything that mixes clownes with music. So it took me a while, many months if the truth must be told, of having this album sitting in my house propped up against a stack of other records, with its delirious clown face staring up at me, before I could bring myself to play it. I kept hiding it from myself, putting it far back in the stacks of records, burying it behind beat-up, unplayable copies of Roberto Carlos and Reginaldo Rossi albums, but still I knew it was there the whole time. Just waiting for me, daring me, to play it.

Well I finally got over my phobia and played it, and found it not to be very menacing at all. I should have done so sooner though, since in terms of this blog the only time worth posting this album is during the Christmas holidays. The phenomenon of Pastoril is linked to the `Ciclo Natalino` in the northeast of Brazil. But it’s not too late to have a listen.

On the back cover of this LP are some notes from dramatist/intellectual/literary critic Hermilo Borba Filho. Here is my loose translation of the final paragraph:

“Since we cannot save and protect, as human beings, these musicians, these choregraphers, these dancers and ballarinas, these actores, these singers, these poets – at least we can try to save their art by way of an honest representation or “script.” A strange thing is going to happen: the spectacle will die but the music and the verses will live. This is going to occur with Bumba-meu-Boi, with Mamulengo, Pastoril, Fandango, with Côco, Reisado, Chegança, Taieira, the Bambelo, with Ciranda, Maracatu, Caboclinhos, and Cavalhada. And thus here is one of the ways to provide some financial help and subsidies for the composers: the phonographic disc.”
— Hermilo Borba Filho 1973

As we can see, in this as in many things, Hermilo Borba Filho is full of crap. Most if not all of these traditions he mentions are alive and well and continue to be practiced in various pockets of the interior of northeast Brazil and in presentations found in the larger cities. Surely some of them have undergone a process of “folkloricization” over time, that type of ossification brought about by a curious mixture of a genuine desire to preserve the essence of a cultural practice combined with the tendency to want to freeze it in time like a fly caught in amber. But regardless of their character and how they have changed or developed over time, one thing is certain about this laundry list of popular cultural forms that Hermilo Borba lays out for us: they have *not* disappeared. This urge to preserve, or “salvage”, the cultural practices of ‘simpler’ people threatened by the relentless assault of modernity and mass culture was of course a central drive behind such academic disciplines/exercises as anthropology and folklore studies for a great deal of the twentieth century. Implicit in its assertions is that the people who have created and developed these artforms are incapable of either maintaining their own traditions or (gods forbid!) adapting them creatively into new contexts, without the helpful paternal guiding hand of better-educated elites.

Returning to the music in this post: if Pastoril HAD disappeared, and all we had left to show for it was this LP (you know, for those Martian archeologists that will descend on us one day to find out what humanity was all about) — well, this would be a pretty sad representation indeed. Essentially what we have before us here is the musical soundtrack that might accompany the figure of O Velho — the clown, jester, or harlequin of this dramatic ‘popular theatre’ that takes place in around the 25th of December. I present it here mostly for those who are more interested in such things than I myself am, for the sake of curiosity or nostalgia or research or all of the above. As Brazilians say, ‘this is not my beach’ (não é minha praia), and aside from my phobia of singing clowns I am just not terribly interested in Pastoril. I probably should be, and there is a fair amount of interesting stuff written debating its origins, just how ‘sacred’ or ‘profane’ its pratice is or has been, and of course whether or not singing clowns should even be allowed in public in the twenty-first century. One thing only that I am sure of, and that is that there is a lot more to Pastoril than what you will here on the two sides of this vinyl LP. Here is the a piece written by anthropologist Waldemer Valente in the 1970s that does a good job of encapsulating it all (but note again the tendency for doom-ridden sooth-saying about its eventual disappearance)

O Pastoril integra o ciclo das festas natalinas do Nordeste, particularmente, em Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte e Alagoas. É um dos quatro principais espetáculos populares nordestinos, sendo os outros o Bumba-meu-boi, o Mamulengo e o Fandango.

De tais espetáculos, participa o povo ativamente, com suas estimulantes interferências não se comportando apenas como passivo espectador, a exemplo do que acontece com os espetáculos eruditos. Muitas destas interferências, servindo de deixa para inteligentes e engraçadas improvisações, imprimindo ao espetáculo formas diferentes e inesperadas de movimento e animação.

A comunicação entre palco – geralmente um coreto – e platéia – esta, quase sempre ocupando grandes espaços abertos – entre personagens e espectadores, não se faz somente sob influência que a peça, por seu enredo e por sua interpretação, possa exercer sobre a assistência. Nem simplesmente – aqui admitindo teatro erudito bem educado – através dos aplausos convencionais, quase sempre sob forma de palmas. Palmas que às vezes revelam apenas educação ou incentivo.

No Pastoril, os espectadores, representados pelo povo, a comunicação com os personagens faz-se franca e informalmente, não só com palmas, mas com vaias e assobios, com dedos rasgando as bocas, piadas e ditos, apelidos e descomposturas.

Tudo isto enriquece o espetáculo de novos elementos de atração, dando-lhes nova motivação, reativando-o, recriando-o pela substituição de elementos socialmente menos válidos, por outros mais atuantes e mais condizentes com o gosto e os interesses momentâneos da comunidade para a qual ele exibe. Deste modo, revitaliza-se o espetáculo, permanecendo sempre dinâmico e atualizado, alimentando no espírito do povo e no dos próprios personagens um conteúdo emocional que tem no imprevisto e no suspense sua principal tônica.

Nos começos, o auto natalino, que deve ter surgido na terceira década do século XIII, em Grecio, sua primeira apresentação teatral não passava do drama hierático do nascimento de Jesus, com bailados e cantos especiais, evocando a cena da Natividade.

Com o correr do tempo, os autos baseados na temática natalina se separam em duas direções: uns, seguindo a linha hierática, receberam o nome de Presépios ou Lapinha, outros, de Pastoris.

Em Pernambuco, o primeiro Presépio surgiu nos fins do século XVI, em cerimônia realizada, no Convento de São Francisco, em Olinda.

Com as pastorinhas cantando loas, tomou o Presépio não só forma animada, mas dramática, ao lado da pura representação estática de gente e de bichos.

A dramatização do tema, agindo em função didática, permitiu fácil compreensão do episódio na Natividade. A cena para da, evocativa do nascimento de Jesus, movimenta-se, ganha vida, sai do seu mutismo, com a incorporação de recursos, não apenas visuais, também sonoros.

O Presépio, representado em conventos, igrejas ou casas de família, reunia mocinhas e meninas, cantando canções que lembram o nascimento de Cristo.

As canções, obedecendo a uma seqüência de atos que se chamam jornadas, são entoadas com o maior respeito e ar piedoso pelas meninas e jovens de pastorinhas.

O Pastoril, embora não deixasse de evocar a Natividade, caracteriza-se pelo ar profano. Por certa licenciosidade e até pelo exagero pornográfico, como aconteceu nos Pastoris antigos do Recife.

As pastoras, na forma profana do auto natalino, eram geralmente mulheres de reputação duvidosa, sendo mesmo conhecidas prostitutas, usando roupas escandalosas para a época, caracterizadas pelos decotes arrojados, pondo à mostra os seios, e os vestidos curtíssimos, muito acima dos joelhos.

Do Pastoril faz parte uma figura curiosa: O Velho. Cabia ao Velho, com suas largas calças, seus paletós alambasados, seus folgadíssimos colarinhos, seus ditos, suas piadas, suas anedotas, suas canções obsenas, animar o espetáculo, mexendo com as pastoras, que formavam dois grupos, chamados de cordões: o cordão encarnado e o cordão azul. Também tirava o Velho pilhérias com os espectadores, inclusive, recebendo dinheiro para dar os famosos “bailes”, – descomposturas – em pessoas indicadas como alvo. “Bailes”, que, muitas vezes, terminavam, terminavam, nos pastoris antigos dos arrabaldes do Recife, em charivari, ao qual não faltava a presença de punhais e pistolas.

O Velho também se encarregava de comandar os “leilões”, ofertando rosas e cravos, que recebiam lances cada vez maiores, em benefícios das pastoras, que tinham seus afeiçoados e torcedores.

Nos Presépios atuais, como nos Pastoris, encontram-se ainda os dois cordões. O Encarnado, no qual figuram a Mestra, a 1ª do Encarnado e a 2ª do Encarnado, e o Azul, com a Contra-Mestra, a 1ª do Azul e a 2ª do Azul.

Entre os dois cordões, como elemento neutro, moderando a exaltação dos torcedores e simpatizantes, baila a Diana, com seu vestido metade encarnado, metade azul.

Foram famosos no Recife, até começos da década de 30, os pastoris do Velho Bahu, que funcionava aos sábados, ora na Torre, ora na ilha do Leite, também, os dos velhos Catotas, Canela-de-Aço e Herotides.

Hoje, os pastoris desapareceram do Recife. Só nos arrabaldes mais distantes ou em algumas cidades do interior, eles são vistos. Mesmo assim, sem as características que marcavam os velhos pastoris do Recife, não deixando, no entanto, de cantar as jornadas do começo e do fim: a do Boa Noite e da despedida. O que vemos hoje são presépios ou lapinhas.

Presépio tradicional do Recife, exibindo-se em grande sítio do Zumbi, era dos irmãos Valença, infelizmente há vários anos sem funcionar.


So, there are most likely better musical documentations of Pastoril out there, or even more useful – filmic representations — but I see this album in the used record stalls on the streets so often that I had to finally check it out. At least I finally got up to the courage to play it.

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John Fahey – The New Possibility: John Fahey's Guitar Soli Christmas Album (1968)


“The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album”

Released 1968 on Takoma Records C-1020
Reissue 1986 Takoma Records CDP 727-20
Distributed by Allegiance Records
Japanese disc pressing

John Fahey – Guitar

CD Mastering by Michael Boshears

1. Joy to the World
2. What Child Is This?
3. Medley- Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful
4. We Three Kings of Orient Are
5. Auld Lang Syne
6. The Bells of St. Mary’s
7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Fantasy
8. Go I Will Send Thee
9. Good King Wenceslas
10. The First Noel
11. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
12. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
13. Silent Night, Holy Night
14. Christ’s Saints of God Fantasy


I am on principle oppossed to the very idea of “Christmas music” records. It does not even stem from my firm self-identification as an agnostic pantheist that I feel such strong opposition. It is purely out of my allegiance to the idea of good music, or — if you must — music snobbery. Holiday music just tends to bring out the worst in everybody. I don’t even have to use the new Bob Dylan record as an example, because everyone knows that album was recorded as a Dadist satire resulting from a bar bet Dylan lost to Allen Ginsburg in New York in 1963 and he is only just now getting around to honoring it. No, with very few exceptions, “Christmas music” is one of the stronger arguments for atheism out there.

Not so with John Fahey’s wonderful “The New Possibility” recorded in 1968. Committed to tape with more pathos than piety, this record emerges as a sober meditation amidst a string of more irreverent, experimental, and chaotic work that Fahey was engaged in while acting as self-appointed curator and deconstructionist of the entire musical canon that would someday be termed ‘Americana.’ In this auditory journey he proves himself equally adept at plumbing the depths of European as well as (North) American folk musics in selecting his Yuletide favorites. Fahey’s guitar playing is not at its best here (in fact his slide playing on ‘Silent Night’ ranks among his most sloppy and careless) but the oneness of intent with which he carries it all off makes technique unimportant. Fahey put out a few other Christmas albums after this, all of them more polished, but this one is by far the most compelling. It’s just him, his guitar, and a wallop of plate reverb. If you listen close you can hear some pretty drastic tape splices but if they don’t bother me that much, then chances are they won’t bother you either.

There are some obvious choices here in the repertoire — Joy to the World, Aud Lang Syn, The First Noel – but all are given new life in Fahey’s hands. The less obvious choices are especially a delight – William Dix’s hymn “What Child Is This?”, more familiar to our ears as “Greensleeves” being one of them. Other fine performances are “Go I Will Send Thee”, a blues rendition of a black spiritual, and “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming”, which might well be my favorite song on the whole record, a sixteenth-century German song (Es ist ein Ros entsprungen) that found its way into the Anglophone songbook in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Also of note is his slow finger-picked version of “The Bells of Saint Mary’s”, which according to legend inspired yet another version of the song played with mallets on white mice that charted as a hit single during the Christmas season of 1969 (reaching #13 in the UK, #27 in the US, and #1 in Japan).

Fahey simply can’t restrain himself from some experimentation, and he stretches out on “Christ’s Saints of God Fantasy”, a loose and freeflowing adaptation of a J.C. Hopkins tune that, oddly enough, has a copyrighted interpretation on file from Madeline Peyroux although I am not sure if she ever recorded it.

An interesting oddity about this 1986 CD pressing — the inlay card has the last two songs out of order, listing ‘Silent Night’ as the closing track. In fact Silent Night is the logical choice to end the album, and it appears to have been so with all vinyl pressings (I am not sure about subsequent CD reissues). The track order is printed correctly on the disc itself (by which I mean, correctly as the music contained on it plays). You might want to do some rearranging in you music player of choice and put Silent Night back where it belongs, at the end of the record….

Original cover

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