Quinteto Violado – Folguedo (1975)

Quinteto Violado
Folguedo
1975 Philips 6349 143 Série De Luxo

A1 Roda De Ciranda No. 2 (Luciano Pimentel, Marcelo Melo, Toinho) 2:31
A2 Rumo Norte (Toinho) 3:00
A3 Chegada De Inverno (Fernando Filizola, Zé Dantas) 2:52
A4 A Volta Da Asa Branca (Luiz Gonzaga, Zé Dantas) 2:52
A5 Olé Menina (Marcelo Melo, Toinho) 3:05
A6 Coisas Novas (Marcelo Melo, Toinho) 2:42
A7 Mundão (Fernando Filizola, Luciano Pimentel) 1:48
B1 Sete Meninas (Dominguinhos, Toinho) 2:24
B2 Brincando De Boi (Fernando Filizola, Luciano Pimentel) 3:07
B3 Prece Ao Vento (Fernando Luiz Camara, Alcyr Pires Vermelho, Gilvan Chaves) 3:13
B4 Crendice (Roberto Santana, Toinho Alves) 2:50
B5 Buruçu Em Garanhuns (Sando, Toinho) 2:54
B6 Canindé (Fernando Filizola, Luciano Pimentel) 2:30
B7 Folguedo (Fernando Filizola, Luciano Pimentel) 1:52

Arranged By – Quinteto Violado
Artwork – Jorge Vianna
Design – Lobianco, Aldo luiz
Mastered By – Joaquim Figueira
Photography By – Rodolpho Machado
Producer – Paulinho Tapajós
Studio technicians – Paulo Sergio, Zé Guilherme

Produced & Distributed by CBD Phonogram
Matrix / Runout: 200 6349143 A1
Matrix / Runout: 200 6349143 B1

Vinyl transfer info:  Original Philips vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; AUdioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on light settings, manually auditioning the output; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

Today (June 24) is the feast day of St. John the Baptist, otherwise known as São João holiday in Brazil, which of course is a really huge deal in Brazil.   Earlier this week we had an offering from Trio Nordestino.  Now let’s have something for the universitário set with this mid-70’s record from Quinteto Violado.  This record seemed a bit more fun to prepare for the blog than the other record of theirs  that I posted a whole FOUR YEARS ago, over here.  There you can read all about my misgivings about this kind of conservatory-trained appropriation of roots music.  I’m not sure if I’ve loosened up, or if they have on this record – the group sounds a little less “studied” and more flowing here.  Even if Berra-boi might be the “better” record, it sounds like they are having fun here.  The blazing instrumental acrobatics of Rumo Norte and its wonderful, almost Beatle-esque vocal harmonies make me hopeful they won’t be hamstrung by any traditionalist puritanism. Or maybe the sense of fun  is  really just the “well-oiled machine” effect of groups that have been playing together for a while as a unit.  It’s hard not to be impressed by their virtuosity here, but it still lacks something in the way of passionate conviction.  Their deconstruction of the Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas classic, A Volta da Asa Brança, is certainly fun to hear.  It’s artful (or maybe just ‘artsy’), clever and playful and non-confrontational (unlike Caetano Veloso’s rendition that pushes into edgy performance art territory, as seen in the Phono 73 film).  It’s cool, and their drummer is on fire in the bridge, but it’s coolness is also kind of emotionally flat, isn’t it?  Quinteto Violado often sounds like they just need a vocalist with some soul to make their case more convincing.  But then again, awkward or uninspiring vocalists seem to be a thing in music linked to Pernambuco, so maybe its just something I’m still not ‘getting’ after all this time.  Like much about ‘roots music’ itself, sometimes you just have to be from there, so just ignore everything I’m saying.  Just listen to the drummer, he’s incredible.  What the hell is he doing on Mundão, besides blowing my mind?

They hit all the Northeastern folkloric touchstones here, with motifs from at least a dozen different genres of music or ‘dramatic dances’ that you will find only in the Nordeste, with particular emphasis on their native Pernambuco.  Obviously there is the presence of forró and even a guest appearance by the late, great Dominguinhos, who co-authored “Sete Meninas,” which opens up the second side.  He even sings a little on it.   You’ll also hear  a simulated glimpse of a sacred jurema ceremony and a devotional homage to the caboclo spirits that animate them on Canindé.   Ciranda, chegança, boi bumba, caboclinhos,  cavalo marinho, and pifanos, pifanos, pifanos!  If those words alone excite you then you will at least enjoy spinning this a few times.  If you don’t know them, well don’t expect me to be all didactic about it, after all I’m not writing a book here.  If I were writing a book, my life would probably be in a lot better shape than it is right now.  At the very least I wouldn’t be spending the night of São João, Midsummer’s Eve in my hemisphere, alone in front of a computer screen.

So sit beside the breakfast table,
think about your troubles,
pour yourself some pinga,
and think about the bubbles.
And celebrate the bonfires
And things made out of corn
because he not busy dying
is busy being born.

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Marinês e Sua Gente – Nordeste Valente (1976)

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Marinês e Sua Gente
Nordeste Valente
1976 CBS 104333

 01. Nordeste valente (João Silva – J. B. de Aquino)
02. Casa de marimbondo (Djalma Leonardo – Antonio Barros)
03. Carimbó de vovó sinhá (Naldo Aguiar)
04. Flor de croatá (João Silva – Raymundo Evangelista)
05. Sou o estopim (Antonio Barros)
06. Grilo na moringa (G. de San – José Gomes Filho)
07. No laço do carimbô (Naldo Aguiar)
08. Você me machucou (Kim de Oly – André Araujo)
09. Mestre mundo (Julinho – Luiz Bandeira)
10. Nosso amor está morrendo (Antonio Barros)
11. Maracá de menino (Assizão)
12. Como vai passando (Cecéu – Ademar Caetano)

———————

Here’s a thoroughly pleasant album by forró singer Marinês, the Queen of Xaxado, because I’ve been remiss in commemorating the Festas Juninas this year.  It probably won’t knock your socks off or anything, but the arrangements and playing are very tight and a make for fun listening.  There are also no less than three tracks of carimbó here, a style that is northern rather than northeastern, proving again that Nordestinos embrace good dance music no matter where it’s from.  And also that the carimbó was getting super popular in the second half of the 70s.

What keeps this record from rising above merely average is the sparsity of stand-out compositions on it, a failing of a lot of records in this genre from the time.  I mean, the first song is kind of an earworm.  I’ve always liked that word, “earworm.”  For me it always seemed like an earworm ought to be a sinister psychic phenomenon from the world of Dune.  You are stranded somewhere on Arrakis with a song you can’t get out of your head.  You start tapping your foot involuntarily, and within seconds a gigantic spice-crazed sandworm has appeared from the ground and swallowed you. My point is that earworms can kill you.  As further evidence I present “Sou o estopim” – I am the fuse – which is clearly intended to manipulate the listener, Manchurian Candidate-style, into blowing up a government building with homemade explosives.

Actually the latter song was written by Antônio Barros, composer of a ton of forró and a performer in his own right along with partner Cecéu, who also has a credit on the final song of this record.  Look, I don’t want to compare all songwriters of forró or baião to Zé Dantas or Humberto Teixeira, because that would be like comparing every English pop band to The Beatles.  It’s not fair.  I also don’t know nearly enough about Antônio Barros to make bold claims, but there is something formulaic in his writing that just doesn’t do it for me.  It’s sort of the “hook school of songwriting” that pushes all the buttons you are supposed to push to make a catchy memorable song, but still ends up producing something that is essentially forgettable as soon as the next catchy song comes around and pushes it out of your ear canal.  He’s got song credits all over the place, including Jackson do Pandeiro’s albums from the 1970s that nobody remembers.

I feel the opposite way about the track featured here from João Silva (and Ronaldo Evangelista), “Flor de Croatá.”  It has a beautiful melody, one that works at different tempos with equal effect.  Check out these two very different versions, the one from this album and another from Jacinto Silva

 

Good, innit?

Well, enjoy the Festas Juninas if you have one in your area.  If not, and don’t have any trendy Euro-American faux forró bands playing in a gentrified neighborhood near you, at least you can put on this record.  It’s fun for a least a spin or two.

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Quinteto Violado – Berra Boi (1973)

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QUINTETO VIOLADO
Berra-Boi
1973 Philips 6349.072

A1         Vaquejada     5:13
A2         Duda No Frevo     2:20
A3         Três Três     1:54
A4         Ladainha     2:22
A5         Engenho Novo     3:39
A6         Minha Ciranda     2:42
A7         Pipoquinha     1:47
B1         Beira De Estrada     2:25
B2         Baião Do Quinjí     1:57
B3         Abraço Ao Hermeto     5:26
B4         Forró Do Dominguinhos     2:17
B5         De Uma Noite De Festa     3:15
B6         Cavalo Marinho     3:13

Sando – flauta
Marcelo – violão
Fernando – viola
Luciano – percussão
Toinho – contra-baixo


Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

** There is an annoying dropout at 46 seconds into the track Engenho Novo.  This is actually on the LP and not do to any post-processing at my end.
I have always had mixed feelings about Quinteto Violado for reasons elaborated below, their music is enjoyable, and this is probably as good a record as any to wind up the Festa Junina cycle – they are the kind of group that would headline an outdoor stage tonight, which marks the feast days of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul. While Quintet Violado had common ground with a lot of post-bossa nova MPB, their records played like an aural encyclopedia of Nordestino folklore. In fact they were so encyclopedic that they were chosen by folklorist and shifty entrepreneur Marcus Perreira to be the “house band” for his Música Popular do Nordeste albums, which launched a larger series of records chronicling ‘folkloric’ music from other regions of Brazil. On this, their second album, Quinteto Violado traverse the musical countryside and give us songs embroidered with forró, frevo, vaqueijada, ciranda, bumba-meu-boi, flute ‘fife and drum’ band or pifano music, and chegança-de-marujos / fandango. They also offer an homage to Hermeto Pascoal on one tune where they stretch out and push their own limits in tribute to that avant-garde alchemist of the Northeast, followed by a version of “Forró do Dominghuinhos” that is pretty original, using Dominguinhos’ unforgettable melody line as a release from the tension they build up around it. Unlike their debut album, which was halfway comprised of compositions associated with Luiz Gonzaga, this record is largely of their own authorship, with one “traditional” theme from Pernambuco’s variant of bumba-meu-boi, cavalo marinho, being given a short rearrangement at the end.
Formed by a group of university music students in the early 1970s and getting their start playing at the famous ‘festivals of song,’ Quintet Violado early on centered their musical identity around an embrace of the traditional sounds and folk musics of their native Pernambuco.  There is a heavy dose of cultural appropriation happening, of privileged individuals drawing on the creative work of the povo sofrido.  But if “my problem” with the Quinteto stopped there then it would be a pretty shallow criticism, because cultural mediation takes place at all kinds of levels and with all kinds of nuances. To cite an example, the world of samba is rife not only with tales of exploitation but also of interesting and productive creative partnerships and business relations that cut across class and racial lines.  So, my misgivings have less to do with the fact that these are conservatory-trained musicians delving into folk music, than with other aspects that in many ways seem specific to the northeast and the historical moment when this group formed. Some of what I have to say in this blog post is even more applicable to the Orchestra Armorial that formed out of playwright and poet Ariano Suasunna’s work. The Quinteto Violado was never formally affiliated with Suasunna’s “movement” as far as I know but they were at least lauded by him as the decade wore on, as the kind of ‘popular music’ that young people ought to like. The elements of the Quintet that I find problematic are also present in even more exaggerated form in the Armorial project; I will surely have to do a blog post for an Armorial album now, not because I particularly want to but because I have opened that proverbial can of worms.
Getting back to this record, let’s take a statement from Roberto Menescal who wrote the blurb on the back cover of the LP:

“I believe that Brazilian musicians, including the entire young generation, are coming around to looking within, searching for their own roots and origins, in a path more personal and true where they can walk with security, originality, and inventiveness, and not just building on what has been done outside our country.”

This kind of sentiment is rich in irony coming from someone so central to bossa nova, a music that was excoriated by traditionalists for being unduly influenced by North American jazz. But neither Menescal or the Quinteto Violado were making claims of traditionalism here. Although there are no electric instruments whatsoever on this record, the upright string bass of the band’s leader Toinho is completely foreign to the folkloric music they draw upon, and you can hear the ‘jazzista’ influence both in the solos the members take and in the close intervals used in some of the chord voicings. So  they were not trying to excavate a lost folklore music like the followers of Cecil Sharpe in Britain (many of whom I am a big fan of, incidentally), but wanted to draw on these elements and create new compositions, even when there was a strong element of emulation. Perhaps they were more like Inti-Illimani or certain others involved in the nueva canción who drew on indigenous music. And just like those artists were not necessarily indigenous, the members of Quinteto Violado did not come from the same social background as the people who originally made and continued to make the “folkloric” types of music they used as their palette. This is not in and of itself a problematic thing, except that these “roots” are celebrated as belonging to everyone – this is “our” culture, ‘o povo nordestino.’ Regional and colloquial references are employed in great density to built up an air of authenticity, to the point of really laying it on thick sometimes: in the song “Ladainha”, they manage to reference the ceramic folk-artist Vitalino from the city of Caruarú, alongside the bandit-heroes Lampião and Maria Bonita, and the deified (and mildly heretical) Padre Cícero from the town of Juazeiro, all in the same verse.
Although they might appreciate the cultural references, the intended audience for the music the Quinteto Violado made was not sharecroppers in the sertão, or cane cutters or wagon drivers like the family described in the song “Engenho Novo” here.  Beginning with this album they had moved from performing at the festivals to giving their own somewhat elaborate concerts, which that like all MPB of the era involved stage designers and art directors.  I would be interested to know what some of the regional folk musicians (whose styles were being appropriated) actually thought of the Quinteto’s music at the time, if they ever encountered it at all.  “The people” who provide the inspiration and raw material for this kind of music are left out of its production, consumption, and critical appraisal; in the end, music like this can become yet another way to write people out of their own history.
The Quinteto’s musicianship is indisputable, and their intentions were sincere.  It’s not as if they set out to dispossess a people of their musical traditions and make a ton of money on the backs of it.  The band never really got rich and famous playing this kind of music, but they have made a healthy career for themselves, and maintain a level of visibility that is largely unachievable by those folk musicians of more humble backgrounds.  This is not simply due to the relevant but also too-obvious fact that privilege and connections in the music business often count more than raw talent.  In aesthetic terms, the trained musicianship and refined, conservatory sensibilities of the Quinteto allowed them to recast these rural folk music forms into a form that is more palatable for Brazil’s educated middle class, honing down the rough edges.  The music is not decontextualized so much as recontextualized, stripped of elements that might offend the sensibility of a more erudite public. The frequently bawdy or raunchy language or double-entendre, the occasionally sexist or even racist jokes, and even the elements of social critique that might hint at an awareness of class struggle or exploitation: all are purged from this sanitized representation of cultura popular. To ask and to answer what purpose such representations serve in the long run would be to launch into a discussion verging on the academic, and dragging in outside references that don’t comfortably fit into this blog as I conceive of it. Besides – you will just have to wait and buy my book, if and when it is ever completed and/or published, when you can have footnotes and references to your heart’s content.
Of course, don’t let this write-up put you off from listening to and enjoying this record. It is well-conceived and well-played music, with an energy and enthusiasm that is palpable. There are gorgeous textures produced by the interplay between the acoustic guitar and Brazilian viola (not the bowed but the fretted instrument in the guitar family). There are plenty of reasons to appreciate this record on its own merits without taking any of the above into consideration. And for many Brazilians of the time, encountering Quinteto Violado was probably the first time they had heard of many of these music genres. Just like the first time I ever heard of the Banda de Pifanos de Caruarú was by way of their glorious opening of Gilberto Gil’s Expresso 2222 album, where I also heard my first Jackson do Pandeiro composition. The fact that most people are not compelled to dig deeper into the roots of their favorite contemporary artists does not cause me any great existential pain. The problem lies more with a particular way of celebrating “tradition” and fixing it in time and space in a way that fits a certain agenda, one that may be odds with the communities that originally cultivated it. All too frequently the people and institutions who herald these celebrations make claims that “the old ways” need to be revived and promoted or they will be lost to the ages, but instead of watering the “roots” and allowing them to flourish, they are watering them down and offering up a diluted simulacrum.

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Luiz Gonzaga – Volta Pra Curtir (2001)

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Luiz Gonzaga – Volta pra curtir (ao vivo)
BMG / RCA 2001

Recorded live at the Teatro Tereza Rachel
March, 1972

Luiz Gonzaga – vocals, accordion, triangle
Dominguinhos – accordion
Maria Helena – vocals, triangle, cabaça
Toinho – Triangle
Renato Piau – guitar
Porfírio Costa – bass
Raimundinho – reco-reco / guiro
Ivanildo Leite – surdo drum / sabumba, percussion

01 Boiadeiro (Klecius Caldas – Armando Cavalcante)
Cigarro de paia (Armando cavalcante, Klecius Caldas)

02 Moda da mula preta (Raul Torres)
Lorota boa (Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)

03 Siri jogando bola (Luiz Gonzaga – Zé Dantas)
Macapá (Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)

04 Qui nem giló (Luiz Gonzaga – Humberto Teixeira)
Oiá eu aqui de novo (Antonio Barros)

05 Asa branca (Luiz Gonzaga – Humberto Teixeira)
A volta da asa branca (Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)

06 Assum preto (Luiz Gonzaga – Humberto Teixeira)
Ana Rosa (Humberto Teixeira)

07 Hora do adeus (Luiz Queiroga – Onildo Ameida)

08 Estrada de Canindé (Luiz Gonzaga – Humberto Teixeira)
Respeita Januário (Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)

09 Numa sala de reboco (José Marcolino – Luiz Gonzaga)
O cheiro da Carolina (Amorim Roxo, Zé Gonzaga)
O xote das meninas (Luiz Gonzaga, Zé Dantas)

10 Adeus, Rio (Luiz Gonzaga – Zé Dantas)
Aquilo bom (Garotas do Leblon) (Luiz Gonzaga, Severino Ramos)

11 No meu pé de serra (Luiz Gonzaga – Humberto Teixeira)
Baião (Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)

12 Pau de arara (Guio de Moraes – Luiz Gonzaga)
Juazeiro (Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)

13 Derramaro o gai (Luiz Gonzaga – Zé Dantas)
Imbalança (Luiz Gonzaga, Zé Dantas)

14 A feira de Caruaru (Onildo Ameida)

15 Olha a pisada (Luiz Gonzaga – Zé Dantas)
Boiadeiro (Armando Cavalcante, Klecius Caldas)

VIVA SÄO JOÄO!

Leap through a bonfire, dance a quadrilha, have a mock marriage, eat lots of food made out of corn and enjoy the kids dressed up in cute little ‘matuto’ costumes of country
people in peasant blouses and rustic clothes. Little girls with freckles painted on and boys with fake mustaches.

I think it is safe to say that there is no symbol more iconic or more strongly associated with São João than the King of Baião, Luiz Gonzaga!
Every one of his records had some reference to it, and he made quite a few LPs entirely devoted to Festas Juninas or São João, and literally
everywhere you go in the month of June in the Nordeste you will hear his compositions being played by all kinds of bands of varying competence, and in all kinds of
styles.  Last year was his centenary so celebrations were even more Gonzaga-centric.  But I expect this guy’s legacy will last for another hundred years, easily.

Gonzaga recorded a ton of hugely-popular 78s in the 1940s and 50s, and while he never stopped recording or performing, his popularity dipped
for a while in the 60s as bossa nova, jovem guarda, and Tropicália saturated the music market.  But he got a boost from the recognition of
the Tropicalístas who recorded a number of his compositions and soon he was back on top.  This live record, released after his death, is pretty
cool.  The notes from Sérgio Cabral claim this was the first time Gonzaga played in the Zona Sul in his entire life; I find this highly doubtful given his earlier fame.  It would probably be more accurate and plausible to say that he had not played in Rio’s south zone for a decade or so.   Notable for having protege Dominguinhos in the band as well as an
electric guitar (a rarity for Gonzaga), they run through a whole bunch of highlights in his oeuvre.  But the concert was a month-long run at a
posh Copacabana theatre, after his “rediscovery,”  and the music lacks some of the urgency and energy you might expect from a live recording.
Granted that Gonzaga was already a bit older than in his heyday, but I can’t help thinking some of it is about the fact that he’s playing for a
seated audience of polite middle-class people.  Without the dancing and drinking and convivial revelry that has always been part of forró pé de
serra
, it loses a little something.  So I usually reach for earlier recordings when I want to crank up the Rei de Baião, but this show is
kind of a good greatest-hits retrospective, with Gonzaga telling stories during the songs, and the arrangements are cool.  This must have been
recorded for television but I don’t know for certain.  It’s a good document and a fun listen even if it’s not on my top-shelf choices of the great Seu Luiz.

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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.

 
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Zé Paraíba – De São Paulo ao Ceará (1974)

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Zé Paraíba – De São Paulo ao Ceará
1974 Beverly (81.269)


01 – De São Paulo ao Ceará (Renato Leite)
02 – Bagunceiro (Zé Paraíba)
03 – São João na roça (Luiz Gonzaga – Zé Dantas)
04 – Teimoso (Renato Leite)
05 – Sarrabuiado (Zé Paraíba)
06 – Remoido bom (Oscar Teodoro)
07 – Fumaçando (Zé Paraíba)
08 – Revendo Brasília (Renato Leite)
09 – Forró no Juazeiro (Renato Leite)
10 – Xodó de 8 baixos (Zé Paraíba)
11 – Remelexo (Renato Leite)
12 – Reboliço (Zé Paraíba)


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This is an instrumental album of forró pé de serra by hotshot accordionist Zé Paraíba, who has recorded dozens of albums. But this one presents the listener with a particularly provocative album cover. It provokes questions and more questions the longer a person stares at it. Who is he talking to on the telephone? Is he receiving a call or making a call? Don’t be ridiculous, it’s Zé Paraíba, you don’t call him — he calls you! Well then, what is the call about? Did he find a lost dog, the one uncomfortably cradled in his lap? Is he calling the cleaners to find out if his other shirt is ready to pick up? “Which one?! The one with the rhinos and giraffes on it, of course. Yes, the one with the sarapatel stains. It’s still not ready? Vai tomar no cú, seu safado!” Zé Paraíba is always getting in arguments with dry cleaners and tailors. It is up to you, the audience, to decide who reigns victorious, but if you encounter Zé Paraíba on the street I suggest you compliment his clothing.

This record came from my friend Tchêras’ collection and was transferred at his house at one of our extended sessions of conversation and music. This is a good record for conversation, especially if you are lucky enough to have a friend as solid as Tchêras, with whom I can hang out with for hours and never get bored, without the need for any alcoholic lubrication. And without the engaging conversation, a record like De São Paulo ao Ceará usually necessitates a drink or two, because twelve tracks of instrumental forró is an awful damn lot. I recommend invoking your inner DJ and pulling out a few tracks for your mix tape, party, or rug-cutting session, because LP’s like this are not necessarily meant to be listened to from start to finish. In fact while editing some of the blemishes out of the vinyl, I began thinking about how João Donato started out as an accordion player and hated it. He once said that if there is music in hell, it would be an orchestra comprised entirely of accordions, and where no one is allowed to sing. (Actually I am not sure if he ever said that, I may be making that up.)  

But with that caveat, this is in fact solid pé de serra, or “traditional” forró,” and at any São João party worthy of the name you will find an instrumental ensemble like this, although the presence here of guitar and cavaquinho is often optional. In cities in the northeastern interior, pé de serra might still be an integral part of São João but it is also frequently segregated onto a separate stage from the more popular electrified forró estilizado (modified or stylized forró) of groups with classy names like Garota Safada. Now, on principle I make an effort not to dismiss entire genres or subgenres of music base on classist or elitist biases. It is all too common a sight to find a middle class member of the university set preaching about the real popular culture and how those uneducated and poor people in the small town just don’t know what’s good for them and go on listening to that brash, vulgar and impossibly-loud forró estiliazado, “music of low quality” (the phrase is música de baixa qualidade, with ‘quality’ having a distinctly classist ring). The paternalistic attitudes behind those kind of sentiments need to be questioned. That being said, I am still trying to find some redeeming musical qualities and examples of ‘forró estiliazdo’ because I generally find it to be god-awful and unappealing, although the best bands are definitely capable of coming up with a catchy tune now and then. So catchy that they are blasted out of car trunks on every street corner from São João until Carnaval, inescapable soundtracks that you hear in your sleep in spite of yourself, like an infernal accordion orchestra except substituted with synthesizers equipped with accordion and brass patches, requiring deep hypnosis to yield a cure.

Putting aside the elitist paternalism of the universitários regarding “the masses” and what they should be listening to, there are legitimate concerns about preserving the old-school pé de serra. In the first place, it is not as if there needs to be an either-or choice: although there might be some who regard it as “old fashioned”, and in my experience many cannot identify an old song with its composer or singer like a generation or two before them, most of the audience that goes to an electric, stylized forró show would also dance to a good traditional pé de serra band if given the opportunity. And therein lies the crux of the issue – opportunity. There is a lot of money to be made off of the slick electric forró bands mounted on the backs of huge sound trucks (trios eléctricos) and typically adorned with scantily-clad dancing females. There is not so much money in pé de serra. In the world of big events, the more traditional styles often depend on state subsidies and arts funding to maintain visibility, although on the local level you can find neighborhoods or church parishes pooling their money to hire a local forró band to play for a family-oriented São João.  I have never gone to commemorate São João in the city of Caruarú, where it holds a record in the Guinness Book for the largest outdoor celebration or concert, because I think I’ve become slightly agoraphobic over the years (a very un-Brazilian trait, mind you).  But the tension between “traditional” and “modern / stylized” forró has been a hot topic there over the last decade.  Elsewhere in Pernambuco, some of the most “traditional” music during São João can be found in Recife at places like Sítio Trindade and the Pátio de São Pedro, free performances that would not be possible without the robust system of cultural subsidies in place there, while in the small towns of the interior – the “source” of much of this cultura popular – the municipal governments are swayed by kickbacks and corporate sponsorship money to allow these gigantic trios eléctricos to set up in their town and rattle windows with their trucks loaded with subwoofers. For whatever reason, in Pernambuco the majority of these touring groups come from Ceará and the music they play is heavily influenced by styles made popular in Bahia like axê and calypso. When you talk to local musicians or music fans over the age of 30 in these small towns, you are likely to hear someone express that their traditional celebrations (like São João) are being “colonized” by this stuff coming from outside their borders, and that there is a need to preserve their raízes or roots. However the flipside of this argument is that these trio eléctrico bands have adopted remarkably successful business models that allow them to exist as self-managed entities. Although some do get quite a bit of radio airplay in the interior, and exposure on television, these styles are by and large not dependent at all on record sales (their fans are more likely to buy pirated copies of their albums on the street), but subsist by relentless touring. The more traditional acts, as well as innovative / artsy / hybrid artists that cater to the university crowd, have depended largely on the aforementioned arts funding and state subsidies to stay visible, and as a result have often suffered from meager renumeration or payments that show up so late as to be leave a lot of people hungry. (It is common for artists to be left waiting up to six months to a year to receive payment for one of the city- or state-sponsored presentation during Carnaval.) So in a sort of ironic twist, more and more independent “high-brow” bands and artists are beginning to look toward corporate partnership to fund mini-tours. This seems to be often presented as some kind of novel idea about ‘sustainable’ art but the more candid artists will likely admit that this model was pioneered by these “low class” bands years ago, instead of being left suckling at the teat of the benevolent state, a situation that can be just as unstable as the free market when you consider how much depends on the patronage systems of local political bosses.

I’ve strayed a long way from Zé Paraíba, his zoological shirt, and mysterious phone call. But I guess the digression can still be relevant, because back in 1974, only a few years into the “Disco É Cultura” incentives that the military regime put into the phonographic industry, this kind of good-time party music was still of relatively little consequence in the cultural hierarchy. Although forró pé de serra had briefly been so fashionable in the 1940s and 50s as to become a new kind of ‘national music’ embraced as widely as samba, it was overtaken in the marketplace by the bossa nova craze and went through a period of relative obscurity. Northeastern composers and a handful of ‘traditional’ singers had become de rigeur again starting with the ‘engaged’ musical theater Show Opinão and later with the Tropicalistas trotting out tunes from Luiz Gonzaga, the king of baião, and Jackson do Pandeiro (the king of rhythm!) whose careers underwent a second wind. Samba giants like Clara Nunes or Elza Soares included forró and baião in their repertoires. Some forró artists began to play in the upper-middle class Zona Sul of Rio for the first time of their lives, where they performed in theaters rather than dance halls, in big “shows” that employed directors and set designers. (This close relationship with the theater, particularly with MPB from the 60s onward, merits a whole other blog post or maybe a book.) Other singers like Ary Lobo or Marinês had more modest careers in this era. The unique Dominguinhos, a student of Gonzaga’s and his natural heir on the accordion, featured prominently on some of the biggest-selling albums of top-shelf MPB in the seventies, but the records released under his own name only garnered a cult following. Forró had become another tonal shading in the palette of Brazilian musicians and composers, a fonte or well to be dipped into for inspiration, but rarely an end in itself. Then there were the regional conjuntos like Trio Nordestino and their fans who never really went away, and virtuosos like Zé Paraíba, always ready to drop into the nearest São João party and play for a receptive public. As much as I like to champion the idea of a symbiosis between the acts of listening and dancing, this type of instrumental forró is really better suited for getting up and moving than for sitting down and critically listening. Most likely, Zé Paraíba’s records were an appendage to his live performances, a physical souvenir to help spread the word for the next time he played in your town. This album may not rock your world, but it will move your feet. Or torso if you are into chair-dancing.