Xangô da Mangueira
O Rei do Partido Alto
Released 1972 on Copacabana (CLP 11701)
Reissue 2011 Discos Cobacabana-EMI
1. Moro na Roça
2. Quando vim de Minas
3. Se o Pagode é Partido
4. Cheguei no Samba
5.Que Samba é Esse
6. Se Tudo Correr Bem
8. Recordação de um Batuqueiro
9. Quem não te Conhece é que te Compra (Tiro no Escuro)
11. Diretor de Harmonia
12. Olha o partido
Que samba esse que acabou de chegar?
É partido-alto, mas é pra quem sabe improvisar
A great record by one of the under-heralded sambistas, Xangô da Mangueira aka Olivéirio Ferreira. Every track is a winner, and this has been one of the most-played samba records in my stash since I got it, often getting played twice in a row which is something I NEVER do. A friend of Paulo da Portela, he passed through the samba schools of Portela, Lira do Amor (now defunct) and Mangueira. This record has probably the biggest concentration of Xangô’s better-known compositions that he recorded in one place. Well-known because they have been recorded by the likes of Clara Nunes, Martinho da Vila, Elza Soares, Beth Carvalho, Roberto Ribeiro and others since the 1970s heyday of “samba de raiz.” The record lopes along in an old-school pagode, roda de samba vibe and is one of the best partido-alto records you’re likely to hear.
sacudido, bem jongo,” that is to say laying down a good solid groove: animated, danceable, strongly rooted in the batucada. The first voice you hear on the record doesn’t actually belong to him, but to Jorge Zagaia, his singing partner on three of the partido alto tunes here: Mora Na Roça, Pequenininho, and Diretor de Harmonio, which Zagaia also wrote in homage of his friend. Scholars and even sambistas don’t have a clear-cut definition of the subgenre in any way that can be condensed into a paragraph, but all agree that it has a long pedigree, going back to the Bantu-language presence in Brazil and the sambas de umbigada, jongo, and the lundu, existing in some form or another as a distinguishable dance and music when samba first urbanized in the early twentieth century. The name itself connotes an “elite” of samba, something you have to be damn good to even attempt, so you had best be prepared before you enter into the roda de samba. It’s key distinctive traits were improvised verses with a repeated group chorus or refrain, a refrãozinho really, sung in direct response and typically changing to accommodate the theme elaborated by the lead singer. Sometimes you have more than one singer taking the lead, which along with the element of improvisation places partido-alto in a continuum with northeastern traditions like the repentistas or emboladores. There were set compositions in the style in the 1930s from the likes of Noel Rosa, Donga and Pixinguinha. According to some of its best practitioners, partido-alto had changed considerably by the 1970s, with Aniceto of Império Serrano saying “what we’re all singing today is a lesser thing (samba menor) and we are just calling it partido alto.” His traditionalism was probably a bit overstated for effect – on the best of the 1970s examples, you can still get the sense of spontaneity and call-and-response. But there is no doubt that the limitations of the record business, and even the medium of electronic sound reproduction itself, give us only a small taste of what went on in those old rodas de samba. To paraphrase Aniceto again: partido-alto had a set time to start, but no set time to end. It could go on and on without a break until eventually the energy runs out.. Then someone will start it up again with a different melody and theme. You get a good sense of this watching the tragically brief Hirzman documentary “Partido Alto”, which has finally received a restoration (so I can finally ditch my copy transferred from an old VHS tape). In fact listening to Candeia hold court in the first part of that short film is probably the best class on partido-alto you could wish for, notwithstanding his cara brabo. Interested people would also do well to listen Candeia’s albums that have a couple extended cuts of partido-alto, and perhaps most especially the first record made by the group Partido em 5 (which also featured Candeia).A good number of the tunes on Rei do Partido-Alto all begin with a similar cavaquinho riff, and it doesn’t take much imagination to hear how, with a little variation in rhythm, most of these songs could have been strung together and most likely were at one point. But while there may be some artifice in squeezing that experience into a three-minute composition, you won’t hear any complaints from me about gems like “Diretor de Harmonia.” Xangô was in fact the director of harmony for the Mangueira samba school, a role of no small consequence: the first office-holder of Diretor de Harmonia was none other than Cartola.
Although written by Zagaia it works as autobiography and a bit of braggadocio (Eu sou o samba em pessoa) . Other songs here take the same approach, with concise declarative lines placing the singer inside the universe of samba: “Já cantei muito samba / Já foi batuqueiro / E na roda de samba / Foi diretor de pandeiro” (in Recordação de Batuqeiro). There are so many great verses scattered around the album that evoke a lifetime seduced by samba, its physicality while lived out daily at every opportunity: “Se o pagode é partido/ Ela conta comigo/ Eu vou lá/ Eu vou em casa buscarmeu pandeiro/ Eu sou partideiro/ Não posso faltar.” And later, “Senhora dona da casa / me dê licença pra entrar / Fui em casa buscar meu pandeiro
/ Sou partideiro / não posso faltar.” Remembering hanging out with Donga and João da Baiana. Or going out for a night of samba with a girl on your arm and a desire to “show these guys what I’m made of”Sem meu tamborim não fico
Sem minha cabrocha não vou
Quero mostrar a esses caras
Quero mostrar quem eu sou
(from Cheguei no samba)
This is the convivência of samba that Xangô da Mangueira so capably communicates; the sort of false-cognate in English “conviviality” doesn’t really get to it, because its not just about a festive atmosphere but about the intimacy of social relations and familiarity of people, many of whom earn their livelihood at jobs they don’t care much to talk about, because what they really for is this, the nightlife of music and poetry and friendship that characterized these scenes. Xangô was a retired security guard by this point; Candeia had been a policeman, a job which left him in a wheelchair for life; Nelson Cavaquinho had been in the Policia Militar, apparently not a very good policeman either, prone to losing himself in local bars during his shifts and losing track of the battalion’s horses. When you hear sambistas recount their lives, they may tell stories about the different jobs they’ve held but you rarely get the sense that they identified with them much – their identity was constituted in the botequim and the roda-de-samba, in the hours of leisure when their creative energy was allowed free play.
Probably the biggest ‘hit’ here is “Quando Vim de Minas,” which became immortalized by Clara Nunes. Xangô was a native carioca but Clara was, of course, from Minas Gerais so the song is almost an anthem for her. An unforgettable melody and refrain, and lyrics that invoke images of the slaves put to work in diamond and gold mines who smuggled out gold dust under their fingernails or in religious statues. It’s the kind of ambiguity that give samba and other kinds of popular music an edge of critique and subversion.
Xangô da Mangueira returned to performing and recording for a while before he passed away a few years ago at the age of 85. He recorded a CD that was sold through a website set up by someone in his circle, maybe his family. And we are lucky enough to have a ‘depoimento’ in the form of an interview-performance (ala MPB Especial format) that was filmed at the Múseo do Estado in the neighborhood of Catete, Rio. This is a cool place, by the way, if you ever have the chance to visit it; It also has a movie theater showing Brazilian and international independent films. (One of the things I really like about Rio is the number of independent movie theatres, all of them located conveniently close to Metro stations. Something a lot of cities in Brazil sorely lack — Recife, hello?) I’ve linked to the hour-long film HERE. It’s not exactly riveting stuff but worth a look if you are enjoying this record. Xangô’s voice is considerably more rouca or hoarse, and he has to teach his backing musicians a few numbers on the spot. He tells some good stories, about how he gained his nickname, dispelling the appearance of him being some formidable pai-de-santo by relating how he received the name while working in a textile factory and there was a day when a guy was just giving out nicknames to anyone who didn’t have them. He talks about his first tentative experiences singing samba on the last train leaving the downtown area, where all the sambistas typically met up to commute back to their homes in the periphery or in the morros, when each person would take turns singing. He talks about sambas roots in improvisation, and in marginality; of working and socializing around Rua de Santana and Praça Onze. And of advice he got when he first assumed an official position in a samba school: “There are two things about samba: education and humility,” a value placed on knowing your art form, of a kind of sophisticated worldliness, coupled with the respect for the different roles in a samba school and the people who fill them, the pastores and the musicians, without which carnival would be impossible. Well it seems Mr. Ferreira had plenty of these things. He also recalls that when he went to meet the directorate of Mangueira the
first time, they gave him a “test” in improvising, to show if he was up
to their standards. He then assumed the job of Diretor de Harmonia and
later on became one of their “intérpretes” or lead singers.
I hope you enjoy this addictive record. I think I listened to it at least four times just while writing this blog post.
in 320 kbs