Gonzaguinha – Luiz Gonzaga Jr.. (1974)

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Gonazaguinha
“Luiz Gonzaga Jr.”
Released 1974

01 É preciso
02 Piada infeliz
03 Meu coração é um pandeiro
04 Uma família qualquer
05 Pois é, seu Zé
06 Rabisco n’areia
07 Assum preto
08 Amanhã ou depois
09 Galope
10 Desesperadamente

Sidney Matos – acoustic and electric guitars, organ, electric piano, bass
Arnaldo Luis – bass, acoustic guitar
João Cortez – drums, percussion
Gonzaga Jr. – acoustic guitar, percussion, vocals

Produced by Milton Miranda
Musical direction / arrangements – Maestro Gaya
Production assistant: Renato Corrêa
Technical director – Z.J. Merky
Recording technician – Toninho / Nivaldo
Remix engineer – Nivaldo Duarte

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For the last few days I have been thinking of Egypt, how distant it all seems, and how the people around me seem largely unconscious, somnambulantly disinterested of the historical importance of what is going on there, and how it effects all of us. I’m sure I could have chosen to upload any number of more ‘appropriate’ albums but I have been listening to this one a lot lately and it was sitting here waiting for an upload.

Luiz Gonzaga Jr., o “Gonzaguinha”, did not make music for throwing a good party. He could have made a career just off the simple fact that he was the son of the King of Baião, Luiz Gonzaga, and been a mediocre forró singer and still sold tons of albums just by that association. Instead, he chose a different path, that of a deeply-poetic composer more in the mold of the singer-songwriter archetype that became more common in the 1970s seemingly everywhere in the world, but in Brazil often had a directly proportional relationship to the political repression happening in the country. By the early 70s, the ‘movimento estudantil’ was in tatters, the UNE (the universities’ student unions) officially dissolved by the military dicatorship, their meetings resulting in persecution, harassment, disappearances. As the 60s came to a close, the rather heavy-handed and preachy protest music of “música engajada” from the likes of Geraldo Vandre became more a thing of the past, as the optimism that protest music could change the situation and mobilize people faded, and Tropicália’s confrontational iconoclasm challenged its musical and ontological premises. The increased censorship after ‘Institutional Act 5″ of 1968 shut down the Brazilian Congress and gave absolute power to the military resulted in a change of tactics for the socially-conscious activist-oriented songwriter. The usual example is Chico Buarque, who is famous for having his material censored during this period and would perfect the use of the quotidian metaphor as a vehicle for expressions of social unrest, creating more elusive, complex works that were consequently more difficult to challenge by the censorship boards.

But, obviously, there were other wordsmiths besides Chico that were adepts at this. Gonzaguinha is part of a post-68 generation of singer-songwriters that would also include Belchior and Fagner. These latter two were both from the northeastern state of Ceará; Gonzaguinha was born in Rio, but his father was basically a walking-talking-singing symbol of northeastern-ness, and born in Pernambuco. I always think of all three of them together for some reason, but Gonzaguinha’s musical output precedes the other two slightly. They all their own styles of writing and performance, but shared a certain atmospheric vibe and themes in their early music.

This album is pretty much all down-beat, heavy, somber material. The album opens with the mind-blowing song “É preciso” which has become probably my favorite composition of his. Lyrically framing a scenario of (under-valued) domestic labor of a mother and the child by her side who accompanies her at home, in the streets, in the open street markets, the words seem to recount the memories of the singer/narrator of his own growing up and a remembered or imagined dialog with his mother as he reflects on his life. The couplet that is repeated and slightly rephrased throughout the song, “Labutar é preciso; lutar é preciso” (hard work/labor is necessary; to struggle is necessary) is sung first as wisdom imparted from mother to son while she works at washing laundry. Later it is sung back from son to mother as the son struggles to get by on his own as a young man. The parallels with the political oppression, the crushing of the labor and student movements, the clandestine groups working to overthrow or at least undermine the military dictatorship … All of this runs like a subterranean undercurrent beneath the words sung in the plaintive voice of Luiz that grows more urgent and pleading as the song moves along.

The fastest tempo on the album is the song ‘Galope’ which is still manages to be dissonant and dark. All of the songs are originals except “Assum Preto” which is from Gonzagão (his dad) and Humberto Teixeira, and which Gonzaguinha makes almost unrecognizable from its original version, slowing it down and somewhat pulling it apart. The instrumentation and performances are all wonderful, impeccable musicianship that shines precisely because the musicians know when to hold back and let the song carry *them*, embellishing the music with occasional twists of avant garde post-psychedelic dissonance. The album is consistently great – “Piada infeliz”, “Meu coração é um pandeiro”, “Uma família qualquer”, “Desesperadamente” – there is cinematic majesty and power in these songs, the key to which is their understatement and lack of histrionics.

So give this record a listen. While pockets of resistance in the Arab world try and reclaim their rights after decades of oligarchical tyranny and dictatorships sponsored by powerful allies in the United States and the European community, remember that these struggles have taken place elsewhere and will continue to take place until every last human is free from repression and political violence. Until that unlikely utopia comes about, “LUTAR É PRECISO.”

in 320 kbs em pé tré

in FLAC LAWLESS AUDIO

the secret magickal code word is in the commentaries

Jackson do Pandeiro – Chiclete Com Banana: 1958-60 (2008)

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Jackson do Pandeiro
“Chiclete Com Banana”
The Columbia Records Sessions 1958-60
Released 2008 by Discobertas Records (DB – 002)

DISC ONE

1. Tum, Tum, Tum
2. Pacífico Pacato
3. Boa Noite
4. Nortista Quatrocentão
5. Sem Querer
6. Vou Sambar
7. Boi da Cara Preta
8. Linda
9. Baião do Bambolê
10. Quadro Negro
11. Forró na Gafieira
12. Cantiga do Sapo
13. Naquela Base
14. Quem Não Chora Não Mama

DISC TWO

1. Chiclete com Banana
2. Forró de Surubim
2. Lágrima
3. De Arerê
4. Ogum de Malê
5. Sarava o Endá
6. Casaca de Couro
7. Lamento Cego
8. Valsa Neném
9. Mane Gardino
10. Acorrentado
11. Leva Teu Gererê
12. Vou Buscar Maria
13. Penerou Gavião

I have already lamented previously about the current sad state of Jackson do Pandeiro’s discography. I don’t know if it is due to evil record executives or quarelling family members, but his very extensive catalog of recordings is barely in print, limited to three titles that represent full albums (O Forró de Jackson, O Rei do Rítmo, and A Cabra da Peste) and few compilations with generic packaging that do little to honor the man. But alas it must just be me, the gringo commodity fetishizer, who gets so worked up about OBJECTS and the lack of them. What’s important is the music, right? Well, when you can find it. When you want Jackson do Pandeiro in better quality than a crappy mp3 you found on the internet, then you find yourself with a problem.

Let us welcome Discobertas records, then, into this sad story. They have done the world a service, and brought us a focused, concise collection of music: pretty much everything Jackson recorded for the Columbia record label in his brief tenure there from September 1958 to September of 1960. This is music that makes me glad to be alive.

As the liner notes point out, Jackson do Pandeiro shocked everyone when he left Copacabana Records, with whom he had made a ton of hit records and become a national sensation, and left for the (American-owned) Columbia. Ironic, then, that he end there recording one of his most famous tunes and one of the most famous moments of musical social critique and satire of American imperialism – ‘Chiclete Com Banana’.

By this time, Jackson do Pandeiro was living in Rio, starring in films, and living it up carioca-style. The majority of the tracks on this collection were released on 78’s and many will be unfamiliar even to Brazilian fans. In addition to the expected songs of baião and coco, there are also styles like rojão, batuque, marcha and samba represented here. And it is samba that is perhaps the most starteling revelation here — not that Jackson could sing samba, since he had already done so quite well, but the way it’s presented here. With horn charts and strings often replacing instruments like the sanfona or concertina, one wonders if Columbia was trying to make a samba star out of Jackson. Or perhaps it was his own initiative to do something different? There is a recent book about the man (“O Rei do Ritmo” by Fernando Moura and Antonio Vicente) that may or may not shine some light on this issue.. I have only come across the book once and wish I had bought it, since I am too lazy to remember to order a copy. It has a discography in it that appears almost identical to the one found on the Jackson do Pandeiro ‘official’ website — it appears that one was copied directly from the other, but I won’t point fingers. A great deal of the material here appears to have been recorded with Britinho e Sua Orchestra as his backing band — Britinho was a pianist whose band was sort of the house band at Columbia for putting out popular dance records, mostly samba, in the 50s.

This is usually the point where Flabbergast begins complaining about the quality of audio mastering or packaging or whatnot. Well today I am going to cut Discobertas some slack, because they have done a bang-up job on recent reissues from Beth Carvalho and Elza Soares. This was their second release (not sure which was the first in their catalog)… Armed with only a single photo of Jackson (from the ‘personal archive of the family’), reproduced about five times, they give us the following weird disclaimer in the CD insert: roughly translated, “All efforts were made in the attempt to locate the musicians, composers and photographers involved in the historic material that this project finally makes available. Any corrections will have to be made in subsequent editions (pressings).”

Kind of a weird thing to say on your own record, no? Seems like these guys had as hard a time putting together solid info on Jackson as even the casual listener, which is kind of discouraging.. They do, however, provide the precise catalog numbers of all the releases on 78 and the few that appeared on LPs. As far as I can tell, Jackson had two full length releases (LPs) on Columbia, the majority of which was material already released on 78 with a few new things thrown in. Thus, this seems to be *everything* for Columbia right here on these two discs.

Interesting side note- the producers thank Erasmo Carlos in the liner notes… Maybe just for being a cool guy, or a friend, or maybe they showed up at his house to look at his record collection in desperate need??

Another note — I can’t figure out the source material for this reissue — original tapes, or vinyl? Although the notes above this mention the old standard disclaimer of ‘these original recordings were made on magnetic tape between 1958 and 1960, every technical resource available has been made to improve the audio quality…”, they never come out and say ‘mastered from the original master tapes’. Instead they do a good job of tucking that information away under “Digitalização e pre-edição – Marcelo Fróes” which doesn’t really specify what was digitized. A lot of the tunes too crystal clear to have been done from anything besides tape, but then a lot can be done with pristine copies of original vinyl (such as one might find in Erasmo Carlos’ house..). Usually, working from the original master tapes is something people like to brag about, so the jury is out until they ‘come clean’. But it sounds good to my ears, and this stuff is pure gold musically.

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Luiz Paixão – Pimenta Com Pitú (2006)

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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)

musicians:

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

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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:
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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

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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).

Pastoril do Faceta (1973)

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PASTORIL DO FACETA
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)
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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.

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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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Academia da Berlinda – Academia da Berlinda (2007)

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The conjoined-twin-cities of Recife/Olinda in Brasil boast one of the diverse music scenes in a country full of musical diversity. The bad part is that you only have to be there about ten minutes before you have half a dozen hipsters in plaid pants and oversized sunglasses harangue you with the facts about how great and diverse their scene is. If you had to chose one commonality to highlight as a collective characteristic, it would be the ability of most of these artists to draw on various strands of regional ‘roots’ music and reinvent them, rescuing them from the staid museum-preservations of “folklore” and incorporating them as a vital component of the cultural life of Pernambuco and Brazil. However, such artistic vanguards are (as they have always been in most places) the concern of the upper middle class; In spite of the working-class background of a figure like Chico Science, you would be hard-pressed to find a pedreiro (bricklayer, mason) attending a Mundo Livre show.

A great deal of the artists in these cities have been basking in the stardust glow of the comet known as Chico Science, who died tragically in an auto accident in the late 90s at the age of 30, and at the peak of his creative success. His name was synomous with the Mangue Beat (or Bit) scene that also included the plastic arts, cinema, and literature, and whose musical component would include truly original talents like Mundo Livre S/A (some of the time), Mestre Abrosia, Comadre Fulozinha and others. Unfortunately, when movements in popular music begin to issue “manifestos” to the press and the world, you know they have begun to take themselves a bit too seriously for their own good. In the wake of that initial burst of innovation and creativity surrounding Chico Science and his coconspirators, “the scene” ends up devolving into the fate of most such ‘local’ scenes — a perpetual circle-jerk of musical inbreeding where nobody is inclined to call each other out when they’ve slipped into mediocrity, and where “Six Degrees of Chico Science” seems to be a popular parlor game. Although the contemporary scene there may still be more interesting than the majority of Brazilian cities, that in itself does not say much, and in a substantive way were are talking about “Big Fish in a Small Pond.” The spectrum runs from scenester veterans Mundo Livre, who hit the mark about 50% of the time with some brilliant songs in between bombastic turns of pseudo-post-punk (sounding more like angsty 90’s grunge) and the overbearing pretentious lyrics of their frontman Fred 04; to Nação Zumbi sans Chico Science, for whom I could cut some slack to since they have to walk in that giant’s shadow, but have yet to make any records that I find all that interesting; to the disappointing and often outright unlistenable solo albums from all the principle artists that comprised Comadre Fulozinha, albums that either leave no more permanent impression than a passing breeze, or else make you want to smash your radio into tiny bits like the recent record from indie starlet Karina Buhr. (Edit: I have to try and be nicer – the albums from Alessandra Leão and Isaar are at least listenable, they just don’t do anything for me personally and I don’t find them compelling. The album from Karina Buhr however is just terrible, leading me to wonder “Why would anybody actually listen to this?” In fact I have conducted semi-scientific tests with this record on people who live in Recife: unlike some albums that tend to ‘grow on you’ with repeated listenings, unveiling their charms slowly, Karina Buhr’s album is actually the REVERSE of this process — On first listen is seems kind of bad but possibly worth your time; as you listen to it more, it just gets worse and worse as you realize it’s true mediocrity. I personally can’t make it through the whole record — this test was conducted scientifically on willing participants who claim to enjoy the Recife music scene. I swear.)

There are groups that work better as concepts than actually listenable music, like the now-defunct Cordel de Fogo Encantado who had brilliant lyrics but godawful music; to the empty iconoclasm of DJ Dolores’ electronic globalisms; and then there are a smattering of dull, pedestrian acts like “Otto,” “Eddie” (a band, not a person, whose music is about as interesting as their name), Original Olinda Style, or Orchestra Contemporania de Olinda, and some other Olinda-centric acts, nearly all of whom share musicians and a proclivity for the redundant.

Amidst all this inbreeding of mediocrity, you would probably expect any new-born progency to be cross-eyed and genetically-challenged. This is NOT the case with Academia de Berlinda, who for my money are above and beyond all of the aforementioned acts, even though they are comprised of musicians who have participated or continue to play with a bunch of them. Perhaps because they began essentially as a sideproject from all the musician’s “main gigs”, they didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously and have been creating music that is engaging, well-written, and fun as hell. The first time I heard them, I had a similar reaction to my first encounters with Stereolab — it sounds good and it’s very catchy, but mostly I felt like I was listening to a band whose biggest asset was that they owned extensive and very hip record collections. In the case of Academia de Berlinda I was confronted with cumbia, Peruvian ‘chicha’, Cuban salsa (there is even a track named ‘Bela Vista’ in honor of a proletariat neighborhood that hosts a ‘Cuban night’ of music and dance frequented by the cultural elite), African hybrids, rock and roll, Brazilian brêga, carimbó from Pará… But contrary to Stereolab, who in spite of their many albums and impecable taste in plundering sources just never really moved me much, I found something different with Academia de Berlinda — an excitement and passion they bring to their work that manages to overcome the lurking sense of irony and kitsch. There is definitely some hipster-irony going on here, which may or may not include the laconic and somewhat off-pitch vocal delivery, but also a clear sense that they believe in what they are doing. It is often said of bands that produce highly-danceable music that you have to experience them live to get the full effect. The Academia’s live performances are certainly well worth it and often transcendent in their ability to work a room, although they have a Tim Maia-like propensity to hit the stage remarkably late.. But what is more amazing is that this excitement managed to actually get translated to a recording. A great of deal of the Recife/Olinda music suffers from over-production, an over-ripeness that comes from too much fussiness and not enough spontaneaty in the recording studio (a criticism I also level at contemporary Brazilian music in general). But this album has a very ‘live,’ raw, and very analog sound to it, while still taking advantages of the studio. When I used to work occasionally as a DJ either at parties or on the radio, I would usually try and play a tune off this album (Cumbia de Lutador and Ivete being my favorites to spin) — and I invariablly receied positive feedback and questions: somebody coming up to me (or calling me up, when I was on the radio) asking, “Who the hell is this? Where can I find it?” And I really have to say that, even in the case of Chico Science and Nação Zumbi, I haven’t received that type of reaction from playing much ‘contemporary’ Brazilian music to a non-Brazilian audience. Perhaps it is the ability of Academia de Berlinda to blur genres without being pedantic about it, to push boundaries in a subtle way that never sacrificies substance to style. But something about this music resonnates with people, whether it’s in the crowds that flock to hear them play in cramped bars or in spacious open-air venues during Carnaval, or in someone listening on the low-wattage radio waves in Detroit. In general terms of cultural production, Brazil has often had a historical tendency to refuse to see itself as part of Latin America, often preferring to distance itself from the contributions of its neighbors (even when appreciating or appropriating them) in favor of turning inward and reflecting on its own endless complexities. Brazil’s own hugeness – geographically, culturally, intellectually – has in some ways hampered its ability to stand in solidarity with The Americas and earmarked it as an imperial power to its neighbors. Academia de Berlinda is certainly not the first to break out of this pattern (fellow Recifense Nana Vasconcelos standing an an important remarkable exceptions and innovator in this regard), but it is nonetheless refreshing to hear a group of young, seasoned musicians break out with such a rich, textured work as is found on this this album, a record that draws upon so much without ever being gratuitous in their eclecticism. Oh, except for the final track, which is a pointless remix of the opening eponymous song – but I will forgive them for that, since superfulous, gratuitous and usually boring remixes are a sign of the times.

Another cool thing about this band is their embracing of digital distribution. This album was available on their website for a long time. The post here is audio extracted from an actual physical CD, with art scans taken from the original packing (except, oddly enough, the cover, which seems to have been deleted from my computer before I stored the disc in my bunker in the Kayman Islands). Academia de Berlinda may just be one of the most under-achieving bands in all of this overly-busy music scene, another thing I find sort of charming about them. Founding in 2004, finally put out a record in 2007, and are releasing their second album in 2011. Apparently it is already available online, but I have yet to listen to it — In truth, I wanted to write down my thoughts about this album, before complicating it by listening to their follow-up. As has been said by others and elsewhere, a group’s second album adds a dynamic self-reflexivity that begins to play with the identity of “who” a band or an artist is. When they only have one record out, it is pretty easy to say “who they are” — that one record is generally a fair representation of that identity. With subsequent releases, that identity becomes complicated and multifaceted. I don’t particularly expect their new record to depart from this winning formula overmuch — at least, I hope that they do not. In the mean time, I hope some people who wouldn’t otherwise have encountered this album benefit from this post, and enjoy this band as much as I have.

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Ary Lobo – Poeira de Ritmos (1963)

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Ary Lobo
Poeira de Ritmos (1963)
RCA Victor LP – BBL 1236
Reissue on Coleção “Essential Classics” (BMG, 2004)

O forrozeiro de raiz Ary Lobo (1930-1980) nos mostra em seu sexto LP na RCA, de 1963, um caldeirão de ritmos nordestinos. Alguns bons para dançar juntinho num baile de forró (Coco da Juliana ou A cigana mentiu) ou numa boa quadrilha junina (Mané Cazuza). – Rodrigo Faour

A true representative of the genuine forró, ARY LOBO (1930-1980) shows on his 6th LP under RCA, originally released in 1963, a real “melting pot” of Brazilian rhythms. There are tracks meant to bring couples dancing close together (“Coco da Juliana” or “A cigana mentiu”) as well as a good old Brazilian-style “square dance” (quadirlha) (the track “Mané Cazuza”). – Rodrigo Faour

1. Quem encosta em Deus não cai
2. Mané Cazuza
3. Vítimas do Nordeste
4. Faca de ponta
5. A cigana mentiu
6. Cento e vinte
7. História de um órfão
8. Patrulha da cidade
9. História do Jeová
10. Coco da Juliana
11. Aqui vou bem
12. Escada da glória

Reissue produced by Charles Gavin
Remastered by Jade Pereira and Carlos Freitas at Classic Master, SP

Although I would recommend you start with his other album that I posted here simply because it grabs you immediately, this is also a very fine album. It starts out with a ballad, which seems an odd choice – the beautiful prayer-like “Quem encosta em Deus não cai) from João do Vale, Ary Monteiro, and J.Ferreira. Rodrigo Faour neglects to mention in his blurb that the record also contains a good ‘frevo’ song (a style specific to the city of Recife), in “Vitimas do nordeste.” Another highlight is yet another religious catechism in “História de Jeová,” as well as the inclusion of an Adoniram Barbosa song, “Escada de Glória.” Unfortunately, Ary Lobo himself does not contribute any compositions of his own on this album, but there is a lot that was composed specifically for this album by various permutations of the composers who were working with him. I quite like the sound of these RCA/Victor reissues. And its not like I have any choice — finding these as original vinyl pressings would cost more than I have to spend, and any reissues around would be on the RCA-flexi-disc style pressings that I personally don’t care for.

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