Lia de Itamaracá – Ciranda de Ritmos (2008)

Lia de Itamaracá
‘Ciranda de Ritmos’
Released 2008 – Independent
with support of Petrobrás
and the Ministry of Culture

1. Dança do povo (3:15)
2. Quem me deu foi Lia / Moça namoradeira (5:32)
3. A vizihna (3:41)
4. Morena de Pernambuco (3:26)
5. Coco limoeiro / Baralho (4:32)
6. Mamae oxum (2:37)
7. Verde mar de navigar (4:25)
8. Ciranda feiticeira / Ciranda nova / Santa Teresa (6:13)
9. Balança moreno cirandeiro / Marinheiro samba (5:41)
10. Coco meu barco velou / O passarinho (6:26)
11. Cirandando pela praia (3:37)
12. Essa ciranda é minha (3:01)
13. Recife (3:31)
14. Moreno Dengoso (2:53)

Lia da Itamaracá is a legend.  So much so that some people think she is, literally, a figure of myth and folklore and not an actual person.  She has songs named in her honor from the likes of Paulinho da Viola and the ciranda singer Baracho in the 1970s, but she has recorded very little.  In fact her first album, recorded for the label Tapecar in the late 70s, brought her absolutely no money whatsoever – she was paid with 20 copies of the LP – and she wouldn’t record again more than twenty years.  Through performing at an influential hipster music festival in Recife, she began enchanting a wider public and was lured into recording again.   Her second album, Eu Sou Lia (2000, Ciranda Records) is excellent, probably better than that first effort. It is also already very out of print.  That album contains a version of her famous song, “Quem me deu foi Lia” that also appears here.  It was written by Baracho, who also recorded barely at all but did reasonably well for himself when ciranda underwent a surge of interest in the 1970s, and whose daughters currently sing backup vocals with Lia.  That song begins with the beautiful melody and lyrics of:

Eu estava na beira da praia
Ouvindo as pancadas das ondas do mar
Esse ciranda quem me deu foi Lia
Quem mora na Ilha de Itamaracá

I was on the shore
Listening to the crash of the ocean’s waves
It was Lia who gave me this ciranda,
Who lives on the island of Itamaracá

This record is more diverse stylistically than her first two efforts.  The humorous song “A vizinha” about a nosey busy-body neighbor, puts me very much in the mind of Clementina de Jesus’s album with Pixinguinha – it is a “maxixe” (a precursor of samba and relative of choro) rather than a ciranda, and a “public domain” tune about which I am ignorant.  There are other traditional tunes here that are wonderful, like Mamãe Oxum and Balança moreno cirandeiro/Marinheiro samba (whose melody you might recognize as one that Caetano Veloso lifted to put in a song he gave to, yes, Clementina de Jesus…).  There is also a tune written by famous frevo composer Capiba, “Verde mar de navigar”, here performed in the style of maracatu nação for which Recife is famous  (the lyrics make reference to Maracatu Elefante, the oldest maracatu in the city that still functions)..  There are two tracks on this album in the style samba de coco’, also strongly associated with Pernambuco — “Coco limoeiro / baralho” and “Coco meu barco velou / o passarinho.’ The majority of the original tunes on this album come from Lia’s saxophone player, Bezerra do Sax.  At the time of this album he had played with her for 40 years and was 91 years old.

The island of Itamaracá is also a real place, and its beauty is legendary.  That legend may have passed into history somewhat, as increased development and tourism have left the beaches not quite as pristine and picturesque as they once were.  But it still has its stretches of breathtaking beauty if you are patient enough to seek them out.  If you do ever have a chance to visit this town of roughly 18,000 people, ask around for the Centro Cultural Estrela de Lia, which has live music on Fridays and Saturdays.  Lia has also received the title of “Patrimônio Vivo” from the state of Pernambuco, which in recognition for her contribution to the cultural patrimony of the region provides her with a yearly financial stipend.  This program (one of many well-meaning programs launched by the Ministry of Culture under Gilberto Gil’s tenure) is a little odd but mostly a good thing.  At least it’s giving some recognition to someone who has practiced her art for decades and is only recently receiving the attention and renumeration that she deserves.

Lia also starred in a short film called ‘Recife Frio’ by talented director Kleber Mendonça Filho which won a bunch of awards but not nearly as many awards as his newest film, O Som ao Redor which is getting a ton of great press all over the world.  “Recife Frio” is a comic faux-documentary about the effects of drastic climate change on that tropical capitol brought about by a fallen meteorite that plunges the equatorial regions into frigid temperatures.  But there’s no reason to worry about that with this album, which will warm your evenings in any latitude.

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