Inezita Barroso – Alma Brasileira (1993)

Inezita Barroso
Alma Brasileira
1993 Copacabana

01 – Luar do Sertão
02 – Moda da Pinga
03 – Morena Morena
04 – Engenho Novo
05 – Soca Pilão
06 – Meu Limão, Meu Limoeiro
07 – Prenda Minha
08 – Saudade de Matao
09 – Asa Branca
10 – Maringa
11 – Peixe Vivo
12 – O Menino da Porteira
13 – Negrinho do Postoreio
14 – Tristezas do Jeca


I don’t have a tremendous amount to say about this album, which is a collection of material from Inezita Barroso’s first few decades as a performer.  But she passed away earlier this year at the dignified age of 90, and I have a few of her LPs on vinyl so I might someday digitize them for this place if there is interest.

Inezita Barroso was Brazil’s long-reigning queen of música caipira and traditional sertaneja, music from the rural interior associated with southern Brazil.  This genre of music has a similar symbolic valence as other “folk” musics in other parts of the world, so naturally when she passed away there was a lot of eulogizing about how she represented the “authentic” and “real” Brazil.  Born in São Paulo to a wealthy family, but spending much of her childhood on the many coffee plantations they owned, she was college educated, married young to a lawyer, formally trained in music – sociologically she was about as “caipira” as Pete Seeger was a freight-train hopping hobo.  Having played in talent-show type affairs in theaters since she was a young girl, her first paid performance came when she was asked to interpret some songs collected by Mario de Andrade during his famous ethno-musicological field trips of the 1930s.  That’s an old folk music “tradition” of its own:  (re)presenting the music of rural people in a cleaned-up package, sung in dialect, that is more amenable to urban, middle/upper-class aesthetics.

But none of these musical ad hominem observations really matter too much, because she was indeed the most visible proponent and advocate for this type of music, and hence an inspiration to many less famous singers and duos to keep going.  For thirty-five years, Inezita hosted a Sunday morning TV program devoted to música caipira called Viola, Minha Viola.  She appeared in films and on the theatrical stage, and also did original research and wrote books about folklore.  Her repertoire was not limited to only the the sertaneja music of the south but included folk songs from the center-west and further east around Rio and, naturally, the Northeast.  In this college we have a very stylized version of Gonzagão’s “Asa Branca” that you can add to your collection of the umpteen versions of that tune.  I like it.

Unfortunately this single-CD retrospective does not give even the bare minimum of information as to the provenance of the recordings – when they were recorded, where they appeared elsewhere.  For that kind of detail, you probably want to look for the collection by the Revivendo label or else the 6-CD boxset released by Copacabana Discos that spans 1955-1962.  Unfortunately this latter collection suffers from a case of severe sonic degradation due to  heavy-handed use of ‘no noise’ filtering, leaving everything sounding like an mp3 you might have found on eMule or Limewire fifteen years ago.  I haven’t heard the Revivendo collection, but while I’m a big advocate for the earlier releases of that label, in recent years they have also been sucking the life out of their audio with the blanket application of noise filtering.  (Seriously guys, just leave the noise – recordings from the 1930s and 40s are never going to sound like they were recorded yesterday so just stop trying already.)  I’m not sure when exactly things started to go all wobbly in their mastering practices, but their one Inezita collection (that I know of), titled ‘Ronda’, dates from 2005, so it could go either way in terms of quality.

So while the information included in this disc is nonexistent, the sound is actually quite nice.  Highlights here include the humorous “Moda da Pinga,” more commonly known as “Marvada Pinga,” the tune “Meu Limão, Meu Limoeiro” whose sing-songy childlike verses were also recorded by one swinging cat named Wilson Simonal, “Prenda Minha” (also recorded by Caetano), “Tristeza do Jeca” (originally by Tonico and Tinoco), hell everything here is pretty good.  I’m partial to “Engenho Novo”.

I had considered posting this CD to my dormant companion blog to this one, Flabbergasted Folk, because except for the fact that this is Brazilian, it might thematically fit better over there than it does here.  But then I remembered that the drum beat from Engenho Novo was sampled by Racionais MC’s and decided it was okay to post this collection at Flabbergasted Vibes after all…

Check out the interesting development of this sertaneja staple, “Tristeza do Jeca”, which closes out this CD.  Below I have posted the 1947 version of the song by the duo Tonico and Tinoco on the left, followed by another recording a decade later, in 1958, to the right.  Below this is Inezita Barroso’s version, and then again another by Tonico and Tinoco performing it in the 1970s for the TV program MPB Ensaio.  I prefer the earliest two from Tonico and Tinoco myself.  The 1947 has a special sauce ingredient of Hawaiian-style steel guitar combined with a sanfona or accordion.  Perhaps the guitar was  played by my favorite Brazilian steel guitarist (because he’s the only Brazilian steel guitarist I know) Poli or Poly (Ângelo Apolônio), who would eventually make some sertaneja records of his own.  The 1958 version is very different: it has a rhythmic baião-type lilt to it that could lend itself to some slow dancing.  Unfortunately the YouTube clip cuts out halfway through the track but you get the idea.

Then there is Inezita’s version, played in a looser solo arrangement. It is interesting that in the 70s clip, they are playing the song more like Inezita’s rendition, which is maybe more “traditional” sertaneja.  Is it possible that she influenced the way they played their own signature song?  It almost seems like the reverse of a case of one staple of North American folk music – when Pete Seeger said he liked The Byrds more ‘modern’ arrangement of Turn, Turn, Turn more than his own and deciding to just start playing it their way at some point.  Somewhere in my closet I have a CD recordings of all the MPB Ensaio programs, including episodes with both Inezita and Tonico and Tinoco.  Perhaps they tell some stories about this, so now I will have to check.

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