Candeia – Luz da Inspiração and Axé (1976-78)
Dose Dupla (2 on 1)
Luz da Inspiração (1976) and
Axé! Gente Amiga do Samba (1978)
LUZ DA INSPIRAÇÃO
1 Riquezas do Brasil (Brasil poderoso)
(Waldir 59, Candeia)
2 Maria Madalena da Portela
3 Olha o samba sinhá (Samba de roda)
4 Vem menina moça
5 Nova escola
6 Já curei minha dor
7 Luz da inspiração
8 Me alucina
(Candeia, Wilson Moreira)
9 Falso poder (Ser ou não ser)
10 Era quase madrugada
11 Cabocla Jurema
12 Pelo nosso amor
AXÉ! GENTE AMIGA DO SAMBA
1 Pintura sem arte
2 Ouro desça do seu trono
(Paulo da Portela)
Mil reis (Candeia-Noca)
3 Vivo isolado do mundo
(Alcides Malandro Histórico)
Amor não é brinquedo (Candeia-Martinho da Vila)
4 Zé Tambozeiro [Tambor de Angola]
5 Dia de graça
Peixeiro granfino (Bretas-Candeia)
Ouço uma voz (Nelson Amorim)
Vem amenizar (Candeia-Waldir 59)
OMITTED FROM CD VERSION – 7 O invocado
Beberrão (Aniceto do Império-Mulequinho)
Hoje é manhã de carnaval (ao esplendor)
As escolas vão desfilar (garbosamente)
Aquela gente de cor com a imponência de um rei, vai pisar na passarela (salve a Portela)
Vamos esquecer os desenganos (que passamos)
Viver alegria que sonhamos (durante o ano)
Damos o nosso coração, alegria e amor a todos sem distinção de cor
Mas depois da ilusão, coitado
Negro volta ao humilde barracão
Negro acorda é hora de acordar
Não negue a raça
Torne toda manhã dia de graça
Negro não se humilhe nem humilhe a ninguém
Todas as raças já foram escravas também
E deixa de ser rei só na folia e faça da sua Maria uma rainha todos os dias
E cante o samba na universidade
E verás que seu filho será príncipe de verdade
Aí então jamais tu voltarás ao barracão
It’s the 13th of May, a holiday in Brazil commemorating the abolition of slavery in 1888, when Princess Isabel found it in her benevolent, saintly heart to “free the slaves.” Commemorations only work well when you exclude the inconvenient, which in this case would involve decades of debt peonage, landlessness, discrimination, and systemic racism shielded by a self-serving myth of so-called ‘racial democracy’ (“Brazil does not have a race problem, it has a class problem…”). It is inconvenient for commemorations to pay attention to the harassment of people of color simply for being in the “wrong place” (like a shopping mall), to the militarization of the slums to make sure that people “know their place,” or if that still doesn’t work, vigilante citizens chasing and beating a teenage petty thief, stripping him naked and then chaining him to a lamppost with a bike lock. Inconvenient that all of these last items have happened in the 21st century, in spite of provisions in Brazil’s 1988 constitution that make racism and racial discrimination a crime punishable by prison time, but which is of course never enforced. It’s also probably best not to think about the voluminous documentation of forced slave labor and human rights abuses in the remote interior of the country (mind you, as an occasionally pedantic American historian insisted to me once, this is “not the same as the chattel slavery” of the transatlantic slave trade.. She’s right, but she was also kind of missing the point).
So with all that in mind, a blog post of music by Candeia might be better suited for the holiday commemorating the death of Zumbi of Palmares rather than this patriotic flag-waving, parade-holding one. After all Candeia did found his own samba organization called Grêmio Recreativo de Arte Negra e Samba Quilombo. The song “Dia de Graça” is a gorgeous little composition, whose lyrics (cited above) trace a hopeful, somewhat utopian vision that messes with the classic “inversion” theme of carnival that is a beloved subject of erudite analysis from Bakhtin to Roberto DaMatta to that annoying book by Alma Guillermoprieto. That well-trodden debate tended to be framed as: Is the upside-down, burlesque and irreverent world of carnival – where the poor and dispossessed could dress and act like aristocrats or royalty – a kind of social critique made by those whose voices were historically silenced, or was it a kind of ‘steam valve’ to release the bottled-up tensions of a hierarchical society to prevent them from erupting into genuine chaos and disorder. Candeia’s poem, however, is from the point of view of the people who participate in the courtly procession of the samba school, which has roots stretching back to the black brotherhoods of Our Lady of the Rosary and the coronation ceremonies of the Congo Kings of the colonial period. My ‘free’ translation with no attempt to maintain meter or rhyme, hence laid out as a paragraph here:
It’s carnival morning in all its splendor, the samba schools are going to parade in their elegance; these people of color with the majesty of kings are going to stride along the concourse (hail Portela!). Forget our troubles and suffering that we’ve lived through, live the happiness that we dream of all year long, give our hearts, happiness, and love to everyone with no regard for their color. But when the illusion is over, poor thing, the black man returns to his humble shack. Black man wake up, it’s time to wake up. Don’t deny your race. Make every morning your day of grace and freedom. Black man don’t be humiliated and don’t humiliate anyone else, all of the races were also once slaves. Stop being a king only in the pageant and make your Maria a queen for all days. Sing samba in the universities, and see that your son can be a true prince in real life, and then you will never again have to return to that humble shack.
Samba has no shortage of bittersweet songs about carnival, but I can’t think of too many that also sneak in jarringly direct negations of the supposed inferiority of black people with a line like “todas as raças já foram escravas também.” It’s a we-shall-overcome expression of racial uplift clothed in the silk and velvet of Louis the XV.
“Dia de Graça” is from Candeia’s greatest album, “Axé – gente amiga de samba” recorded shortly before he died. He was a samba purist in the era of the commercialized spectacle that would culminate in the building of the Sambadrome, disillusioned with the direction of the samba schools were taking. His father was a flautist who played choro and was part of Portela’s first comisão da frente. In his own words, Candeia was something of an intermediary between the generations, bridging the two Paulos – the original Paulo de Portela, and the great Paulinho da Viola. You can see both Candeia and Paulinho (although not at the same time) in this amazing short film by Leon Hirszman called Partido Alto
The first half of this film centers around Candeia holding court from his throne of a wheelchair, giving a didactic demonstration of the partido alto style, its base in improvisation and similarity to Northeastern repente or embolada, different ways to sing it and dance it. Check out the posters from Senegal on the walls behind them, which are very possibly from the first Festival of Black Arts held in Dakar in 1966 which had a big Brazilian contingent. The second half, “In the house of Manacéia” captures as well as any film can the informal cauldron of creativity at a Sunday lunch of feijoada and samba with the old guard, seemingly extending quite long into the evening. Paulinho, in the only narration in the film placed at the very end, talks about how from a very young age he saw partido alto as a type of communion, a participatory rite in which everyone could enter in their own way of improvising. He remarks how “today” (i.e. the latter half of the 70s), samba had so many external obligations, emphasizing the “spectacle” at the expense of the sambista. Returning to the partido alto was a way to stay grounded in samba’s authentic roots. The concept of “authenticity” is one that has preoccupied me on this blog and in other writing that I don’t put here. Typically, along with my fellow travelers, I am preoccupied with the way elites have created and sustained the notion of an “authentic” form of culture, excluding much in the process, at the service of one or another ideology (both conservative and revolutionary). What I’ve been interested in lately is the different ways that the idea of “authenticity” is used by participants themselves of a given form of cultural expression as a way to safeguard against the cooptation of outsiders. Of course this gets hopelessly complicated when we have to consider state interventions that designate “patrimony,” and partido alto received that official recognition by IPHAN in 2007. Journalist Lena Frias points out on the back cover of “Axé” that Candeia launched his Samba Quilombo foundation without any reference to the “whitening” of the art form that was a polemic at the time, and cites lyrics to show that he wasn’t interested in excluding anyone from the world of samba based on skin color. A valid observation, but it doesn’t contradict in any way that Candeia felt pretty strongly about defending the black, Afro-Brazilian roots of the art form.
When I first did some blog posts of Candeia records I was mildly chastised by a French blogger friend for not having written more at length about the greatness and importance of this important artist. Naturally this discouraged me from posting anything else about Candeia for the better part of two years – What is it with these French dudes and their impressive 5000-word posts about samba, ain’t nobody got time for that!
Anyway, it is a non-trivial travesty that the Brazilian recording industry (and/or its multinational overlords) let this album stay out of print for decades. Too add insult to injury, when Warner finally did reissue this album, as part of a double disc set including both of his Atlantic records, they left off the final track for no reason that I can discern. Possibly an issue over publishing rights, but it could also just as likely be pure negligence or sloppiness on their part. This was sort of a budget release (R$30 when it came out, now going for R$20), but doesn’t even bother with even a blurb of text from Tarik de Souza, let alone actual liner notes. I hate to praise EMI for anything but their budget series of 2-em-1 CDs from the early 00’s did much better in this regard. It also fails to note the participation of other great sambistas like Dona Ivone Lara, Manaceá, Clementina de Jesus, and Aniceto de Império who all sing on different tracks. Seriously, none of these people get mentioned anywhere on the CD. I will say one good thing about this reissue – the remastering is quite nice and a huge improvement over the garbage reissues that the label Discobertas put out.
Which reminds me that I’ve yet to offer a single word about the other album in this set, Luz da Inspiração from 1976. It is a fine album in its own right, overshadowed by Axé but a very different record in a lot of ways. Opening with the samba enredo of “Riquezas do Brasil”, it also has some first-rate offerings in the partido alto style – “Maria Madalena de Portela,” “Olha o samba, sinhá,” and “Vem menina moça.” There are slower tunes too, almost samba-canção, like “Me alucina” and the title song whose arrangements have flavors of the Golden Age of samba (and, incidentally, a lyric about slaves transformed into kings). The tune “Nova Escola” seems like it had his new foundation Quilombo in mind. A few tunes have a more ‘samba de asfalto’ style like the work of Paulinho da Viola or João Nogueira, and then there’s the spare spiritism of “Caboclo Jurema.”
“Luz de Inspiração” is a more stylistically diverse album than “Axé” but also less cohesive as an artistic statement. “Axé” really shows Candeia firing on all cylinders, with writing partners spanning his entire lifetime as a sambista, from Paulo de Portela to Martinho da Vila. In fact the album deserves a post all to itself, but I will either leave that to the French, or perhaps I will make another one using a vinyl needledrop since it has ALL THE SONGS ON IT for fuch’s sake…
This blog post doesn’t really come around full circle to 13 de Maio or anything like that. It’s a day for parades and for getting drunk. Freedom is never “granted” by princesses or politicians. Everyone knows that.
Texto maravilhoso. Adoro quando você faz um post assim, Flabber.
Ahah, the doc Funkathus would appreciate 🙂 Unfortunately he's less into blogging lately.
Great albums and very cool review!
Much obliged. Never heard anything by Candeia, now i'm anxious to start.
Axé! is one of the best samba albums ever. Thanks, dude.
Quite possibly a vinyl rip of it is coming in the near future 😉