Academia da Berlinda – Academia da Berlinda (2007)


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.

in 320kbs em pé tré


Cajú e Castanha – Sensação Estranha (1982)


Cajú e Castanha
“Sensação Estranha”
Released 1982 on Copacabana (COELP-41786) {this pressing}
Reissued subsequently on Beverly Records (CLP-81768)

01. Pensei que não pensava (Caju / Castanha / Walter de Afogados)
02. Vindo lá da lagoa (Caju / Castanha / Walter de Afogados)
03. Casamento do meu avô (Caju / Castanha / Ronaldo Café)
04. Bezouro mangagá (Caju / Castanha)
05. Homenagem à Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Caju / Castanha / Amélia Felicidade da Silva)
06. Coco de São João (Caju / Castanha)
07. Sensação estranha (Caju / Castanha / Walter de Afogados)
08. Calango e desafio (Téo Azevedo)
09. Pato gamela (Caju / Castanha / Oliveira)
10. Veja que besteira (Caju / Castanha / Walter de Afogados / Josan)
11. Roda rodete rodiado (Caju / Castanha)
12. Meu amor fez um balanço (Caju / Castanha / Ede Cury)
13. Pra ver o olho do sol (Caju / Castanha / Oliveira

Transcription Notes:
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, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> Normalized to -1db -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1

This is the second album by Cajú e Castanha, natives of São Lourenço, Pernambuco, and masters of the embolada. The album opens up with a couple of forró numbers that good enough, and still highlight the pair’s rhythmic singing style (especially the opener “Pensei que não pensava”), but for anybody who is already somewhat familiar with these guys you will just be impatiently waiting to get to what is coming around the corner with the third tune, “Casamento do meu avô.” This is the type of tune for which these two got famous – clever, witty lyrics with infectiously funky pandeiro playing. (It is worth noting how well the recording engineers captured this by proper microphone placement and getting a crapload of low-end out of those instruments).

Taking public transit in Pernambuco has one fringe benefit that compensates for the irregular service and crowded discomfort – you have a slim chance of having a random guy armed with a pandeiro get on board and start singing improvised embolada and making up verses about the people on board in hopes of getting some loose change. If you have any humanity whatsoever you really have to give these guys a dollar or two, because not only did they just make your day a lot more lively (even if they aren’t particularly good), but if you fail to give anything you will be cursed by the Embolada Gnomes (sort of like a union which regulates their pay scale and right to strike) and when you die you will spend eternity in a brightly lit room listening to Eagles records over and over.

Allegedly, Cajú and Castanha had migrated to São Paulo – like a great deal of Northeasterners including the outgoing president – in search of a better life, and spent some time doing their thing on buses as well. When done in pairs the embolada was and is still played mostly like this – just two guys trading verbal ripostes and rocking out on tambourines, uh, I mean, pandeiros. The genre often gets rather saucy, raunchy, or downright filthy, but these guys keep it mostly “ribald.” Yes, “ribald” is how they roll. And whereas emboladas are often a trading of insults quite a bit like the North American genre of “playing the dozens”, Cajú and Castanha are more storytellers than sparring partners. The melodic forró that makes the title track here, ‘Sensação Estranha’, is however an upbeat little number about gonorrhea.

This particular record contains one of their best-known tunes, “Roda, Rodete, Rodiano”

These guys have featured in a couple of documentaries over the course of their long career. The easiest one to find is a rather horrible, awful film called “Eu moro no Brasil” made by some Norweigan or German or Swede (sorry I can’t call, one of those really tall blokes from a very Aryan place). In spite of the film’s overall awfulness it is worth checking out for some of the performance footage and particularly in the case of Cajú e Castanha, since the original Castanha died in 2001 shortly after the film was completed. The “duo” lives on, however, as his son has taken his place as well as the moniker of Castanha, and so they continue to perform and record under that name. I guess Castanha II or Castaninha just don’t sound as bitchin’ cool.


This is not the best-sounding vinyl rip I have done in my life. It actually took two different copies of this album to get it this good – one for the audio, the other for the album cover. The music was taken off the original Copacabana pressing from 1982, but the cover for that one was graced with an absurdly huge adhesive sticker on it with the number “863” plastered over Caju’s head in accordance with a former owner’s “cataloging” system. I know it is a “system” because I bought another record (also by Caju e Castanha) from the same place, and IT has the number “864” on it. In any case I went out of my way to get my hands on a decent copy of just the album cover to photograph for the beloved community here. Unfortunately the vinyl was equally beaten as the first pressing. In truth it isn’t too terrible, but the embolada numbers are very sibilant (pandeiro and voice, think about it..) and thus coupled with surface noise it can be a little fatiguing on the ears. Since I refuse to use EQ, dynamics compression, or any heavy-handed filtering other than the wonderful Click Repair algorithm, you will just have to make adjustments at home if you feel the need.

Caju e Castanha – Sensação Estranha (1982) in 320kbs em pee tree

Caju e Castanha – Sensação Estranha (1982) in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO

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Dominguinhos – Programa MPB Especial 1974


“A música brasileira deste século por seus autores e intérpretes”
SESC São Paulo / JCB Produções Artisticas

Recorded for the Programa MPB Especial on February 8, 1974, directed by Fernando Faro

Dominguinhos – sanfona de oito baixos
José Braz dos Santos – zabumba
Domingos P. Neres – triângulo


Some years ago the SESC organization of São Paulo released a number of boxsets of interviews and music with musicians and composers. This disc is from the second boxset (the discs themselves are not numbered or in any way chronological). Only a fraction of the stuff filmed for this series has found its way onto DVD, such as Nara Leão, Cartola (very recently), or Elis Regina. If you’ve seen those then you know the format — a little bit of playing, a little bit of talking, some more playing, very relaxed. In fact one curious production technique is that you never (or at least I haven’t yet) hear the actual questions being posed to the artists. This used to really annoy me. Now I see it as some of form of editorial self-erasure, an attempt to efface the interviewer’s subjective presence and keep the focus on the artists. In that sense the technique is mildly admirable. But there are still times when I knew what the hell they had been asking about..

But in this case, Dominguinhos, who is as relaxed and good-natured in an interview as you might expect from his music, tells us a little about growing up in Garanhuns, Pernambuco, his father being a small farmer (pequeno agricultor, not “small” like Azulão) who also worked as a tuner of sanfonas de 8 baixos (eight-button accordions) and playing in the feiras where so much business gets conducted in the interior. He tells of meeting as a young boy with the master Luiz Gonazaga, who would become his mentor and protector throughout this life.


We then get something of a musical travelogue of his life, with him playing some of the different types of music he played to get by when living in Rio – samba, música romantica, boleros, show tunes. Songs by Tom Jobim, Johnny Alf, Jack Lawrence. We even get a short snipped of chansón with “La vie em Rose” immortalized by Edith Piaf. It’s not as if Domiguinhos is alone in knowing this repertoire as it was more or less required of working musicians, but as he demonstrates in this casual setting it is not hard to imagine that his emotive capacity to connect with whatever material he plays is at least part of how he grew to be such a sought-after session player, apart from his association with Gonzagão. This TV program was filmed as Dominguinhos was ‘hot stuff’ with the post-tropicalia scene, having both recorded on my ex-girlfriend’s album “India” (1973) and also touring in her live presentation of it. I may be partial because I am still in love with Gal Costa after all these years in spite of her breaking my heart, but I really think the India tour performance should see a legit DVD release (there is a bootleg pimping itself out over at YouTube…), because I would rather go blind from stroking myself than from squinting my eyes at a blurry image *while* stroking myself, damnit. Anyway, if the only thing Dominguinhos ever did in his entire career was to play on that album, he would still deserve top props from me. But he was also working on Gilberto Gil’s ‘Refavela’ album which would yield one of the most beautiful songs either man would write, “Lamento Sertanejo (Forró de Dominguinhos.” But he opens the show with his most famous and instantly-recognizable song “Eu só quero um Xodó,” which is a staple in the forró song book now, both pé de serra and electric… I had always thought it was co-written with Gilberto Gil because of its appearance on the latter’s “Cidade de Salvador” album (underrated and rather hard to track down, unfortunately), and because the melody seems so obviously GIL to me.. But it’s not, its Dominguinhos and Anastácia. There is however, the Gil/Dominginhos collaboration “Abri a porta” later on, and the fantastic song written with Chico Buarque “Tantas Palavras.” There is even a song he co-authored with his nine year-old daughter Liv titled “Vários caminhos.” And it’s amazing.


I think this box has something like 13 discs in it and a book which transcribes all the interviews and has some commentary by the likes of Tarik de Souza and Sergio Cabral who worked on the SESC project. They are all pretty consistently good but this one is really special and definitely my personal favorite. It’s recorded with the sparseness and simplicity that really brings out the best in Dominguinhos without the frills of (over)production, and to hear him play some of these tunes *entirely* by himself (by which I mean, with the zabumba and triangle players sitting them out in the corner) is a privilege, like having him come by to your house and play for you on your veranda on a crisp autumn evening. Some of the other volumes in the SESC boxes seem to be made from second or third generation back-up tapes or transferred off the video reels, whereas this one has incredibly detailed and warm sound. And, of course, he has some anecdotes peppered between the songs that prove how any good sanfoneiro is also a good storyteller. He ends the show appropriately enough with an homage to his mentor, Luiz Gonzaga, and shows us why is truly the only one worthy of being Gonzaga’s successor and ‘filho postiço’.



Jackson do Pandeiro – Forró do Jackson (1958)

Jackson do Pandeiro
“Forró do Jackson”
Released 1958 on Copacabana Records (CLP 3068 / CLP 11086 )
This CD pressing, Copacabana (99301)
Pressed by Sonopress Brasil, probably 1995

Above are two of my personal favorites, tracks penned by the Rosil Cavalcanti, also a Paraíban who found a second home in Recife just like Jackson, and who aside from contributing some of the most memorable moments of Brazilian music, also played football and worked at the Ministry of Agriculture.

01. Falso Toureiro
(Heleno Clemente – José Gomes)

02. Rosa
(Ruy de Moraes e Silva)

03. Ele Disse
(Edgar Ferreira)

04. Forró em Limoeiro
(Edgar Ferreira)

05. Cumpadre João
(Rosil Cavalcanti – Jackson do Pandeiro)

06. Meu Enchoval

07. Moxotó
(José Gomes – Rosil Cavalcanti)

08. 17 na Corrente
(Manoel Firmino Alves – Edgar Ferreira)

09. Coco do Norte
(Rosil Cavalcanti)

10. Êta Baião
(Marçal Araujo)

11. Cajueiro
(Raimundo Baima – Jackson do Pandeiro)

The sweet smell of São João bonfires is already wafting through my windows. Unfortunately in some strange postmodern (or is it post-ironic?) twist, I have been without running water in my house for five days now, I’ve been sick with alcohol poisoning from someone serving “moonshine” in a single mixed-drink I had over the weekend, and the big musical attraction for São João here has nothing whatsoever to do with “cultura Nordestina”, except for the fact that they are very popular here, numerically speaking probably more popular than the home-grown sounds of pé-de-serra, ciranda, or samba de coco. Indeed, the big attraction today is romantic sertaneja duo BRUNO E MARRONE!! Now, if you happen to have heard any of the GOOD sertaneja from the earlier decades of the twentieth century and mostly made in the south and center-west of Brazil… this has nothing to do with that whatsoever. Think of Lefty Frizzell or Hank Williams Sr. versus Garth Brooks or Alan Jackson, and you get the idea. This stuff is totally corporate, totally mass-marketed, so much so that I am having trouble finding an un-protected YouTube clib to subject you for my masochistic gratification. For tonight’s debacle, the city has erected a stage in the central plaza that is two or three times the size of what we had here for Carnaval. No doubt built according to the duo’s megalomaniac specs, the funny thing is that its a small plaza and I have no idea where the audience is going to fit. The other problem is that some of my friends here genuinely like this crap, so I have to respectfully keep my mouth shut. Although I drew a line when it came to the stage – I was remarking on its absurd size and one of them said, “well they have huge band,” to which I responded..”Um, bullshit. There were a LOT more people crammed onto the stage during carnaval and nobody was seriously inconvenienced by it. It’s just the ego of these famous guys..” Here is a clip, probably filmed on a cell phone, of the duo playing in what seems to be a smallish place in comparison

Another funny thing is that comparatively speaking, there is MUCH worse out there than these guys. At least they seem to avoid the tendency towards over-sized ten-gallon hats and women in trashy outfits on stage who pole dance on and around the musicians and singers. But its still crap, and crap from Goiás, which is far away from the Nordeste. I wish I had that second-hand car I’ve been thinking of buying, so I could kidnap Ariana Suassuna and bring him here to brow-beat these two with his crypto-fascist regionalist puritisms, bludgeoning them into submission with his ancient croaking voice until they beg for mercy and play some damn pé de serra.

All of which brings me to the point of today’s post, Jackson do Pandeiro. It’s been my intention to post something every day during the regional mayhem that is Festa Junina and São João. I am getting rather tired of all of it, frankly. Between the World Cup and this daily party, I can’t get a lot of my work done, at least not the parts that depend on the participation of other people. But then I get revived when I randomly happen across a stage of *decent* pé de serra, or when I put a record like this one — a classic Jackson do Pandeiro from 1958, with a classic cover of him in repose in the lap of the gorgeous Almira.

Jackson (who also went by “Jack” and also “Jaques” in earlier phases of his career) is LONG overdue for a proper box-set treatment of his discography that surpasses the weak ‘retrospective’ type CDs like the “Millenium” collection, one of the only ‘best-of’ packages I think is still currently in print. The guy was a larger-than-life figure, charismatic and innovative, and to my ears he is as important as Luiz Gonzaga, although I understand all the social and historical reasons why Gonzaga’s legacy is more prominent in Brazil as a whole. This record, like just about he everything he did, has no bad songs on it. The tracks “17 na corrente” and “Coco do Norte” were both hits but any of these songs will get a dance floor moving and most of them will be recognizable to the discerning ear of many a fan of Brazilian music. Unfortunately “Forró em Limoeiro”, a song that did a lot for his career and earned him enough money to go and schmooze with music journalists and `ipmortant` industry people in Rio de Janeiro`, sounds like it was sourced from a 78-rotations record rather than a master tape, but the music still shines. Here is a clip of him performing it a good fifteen years later, along with some commentary from various people about his tremendous contributions, principally in the area of syncopated rhythm —

With any luck this MPB Especial which see a DVD release someday if TV Cultura can liberate the tapes. And HOLY CRAP what do we have here?? “O Canto da Ema” performed Jackson and João do Vale (who has a writing credit on this song) performing inside what seems like a train car or a small diner…

Too bad its only a minute long, because its a riveting minute. I should have more incisive critique about this album but I am simply enjoying far too much coming across these great clips of Jackson. He managed to appear in 10 different films during his lifetime (I don’t have any ready statistics on this but I believe his colleague Gonzagão has him beat in terms of film appearances..). This montage shows him in full cangaçeiro regalia, in proper São João spirit:

More sources on Jackson do Pandeiro

An interesting-looking book that I hope to read someday soon, by Fernando Mouro and Antonio Vicente

A rather simple website that does not have a ton of information, but DOES have a fairly thorough collection of song lyrics in an easily accessible format, plus some choice quotes (under ‘depoimentos’) from famous artists about the importance of Sir Jaques. Check it out here at directly in your browser as

And another website, a bit more professional design than the last but is a bit more clunky to navigate. It does have a fairly detailed discography although I have reasons to doubt that all the dates are correct, it is still a useful resource:

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Luiz Gonzaga – Luiz "Lua" Gonzaga (1961)

*note: Gonzaga did not actually have a mustache in the photo above..

Luiz Gonzaga com Acompanhamento Típico
“Luiz ‘Lua’ Gonzaga” Released 1961 on RCA Victor (BBL-1115)

1. Capitão Jagunço baião (Paulo Dantas/Barbosa Lessa)
2. Baldrama Macia rasqueado (Arlindo Pinto/Anacleto Rosas)
3. Creuza Morena, valsa (Lourival Passos/Luiz Gonzaga)
4. Dedo Mindinho, baião (Luiz Gonzaga)
5. Amor que Não Chora, toada (Erasmo Silva)
6. O Tocador Quer Beber, xote (Carlos Diniz/Luiz Gonzaga)
7. Na Cabana do Rei, baião (Jaime Florence/Catulo de Paula)
8. Aroeira, xote (Barbosa Lessa)
9. Rosinha, baião (Nelson Barbosa/Joaquim Augusto)
10. Corridinho Canindé, baião (Luiz Gonzaga/Lourival Passos)
11. Só Se Rindo, xote (Alvarenga/Rancinho)
12. Alvorada da Paz, marcha (Luiz Gonzaga/Lourival Passos)

Transcription notes: 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, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> Normalized to -1 db -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1.
Absolutely no EQ or noise-reduction!

As far as I can tell this was Luiz Gonazaga’s first long-player recorded FOR the format of a long-playing record or LP. Previous to this his work has been on 78s and singles. The record is also unique in that it lacks any songs from his famous partnerships with Humberto Teixeira or Zedantas. There is quite a lot of variety on this album, reflecting how Gonzaga was simultaneously “inventing” a genre of music and also constantly expanding its boundaries. The record starts off roaring with a tale of Canudos besieged by the militias of the First Republic, with their captain in the role of Judas against Antônio Conselheiro, the “messiah” of the sertão. But then the second cut, Baldrama Macia, takes us far from the northeast, to a different style of caipira or ‘country / folk’ music from the state of Mato Grosso and the area around its capital, Cuiabá. The style is called “rasqueado” and I don’t know too much about it, but apparently it grew from the riverine cultures spanning Paraguay to Mato Grosso and included the influence of polka music. To my ears it bears a curious resemblance to certain types of Mexican folk musics far to the north. The third tune, Crueza Morena, is in the mold of a traditional ‘valsa’ sertaneja, the very waltz that found its way to Brazil via the Portuguese court culture when the royal family briefly resided in Rio de Janeiro in the early nineteenth century, and would influence everyone from Villa Lobos to Pixinguinha. The next cut, a pure baião written entirely by Gonzaga himself, is a fine tune, nothing wrong with it in the least, but it pales compared to the song that follows it. “Amor que não chora”, written by the famous samba-cançao composer Erasmo Silva, was the big hit off this record. Just a gorgeous tune, everything about it complementing everything else in perfect proportions of instrumentation, vocal, lyric..

“Lugar que tem chuva, tem felicidade
Amor que não chora, não sente saudade”

Such simplicity executed with deceptively perfect rhythmic exactitude. The only other lines in the tune:

“Meu amor me abandonou, eu não sei qual a razão
Hoje está fazendo um mês que eu fiquei na solidão

Ai, ai, meu amor não chorou
Ai, ai, meu amor me deixou”

All of these are case-book examples of a vocalist knowing how to drag a line behind the beat, then speed it up in just the right place, where the phrasing is more essential than hitting all the notes – which, incidentally, Gonzaga always nailed with his big, expansive voice. Looking at the song structurally or compositionally, “there’s nothing to it,” as the English expression goes — but that’s part of the beauty, of course.

This is followed by a short song detailing the legal campaign to insure the rights of sanfoneiros everywhere to have a drink while on the bandstand. During the Estado Novo of Getulio Vargas (1937-1945), forró musicians were forbidden to drink on the bandstand due to the belief that they would incite riots and unrest and bring back the chaos of the cangaçeiros like Lampião who caused the government so much trouble. The repressive, discriminatory, and senseless law stayed on the books long after the fall of Vargas. Since Gonzaga had come to prominence with plenty of hit songs during this period, he had simply had enough of having to stay ‘dry’ during performances and wrote this song in protest. The song was popular and powerful enough that in 1962 the subject was to be brought before the Câmara of Deputies, where a nearly unanimous vote was held, “O Tocador Pode Beber.” A historic political victory in the name of popular culture.

The second side of this album is also quote good although not as strong as the first half. “Na Cabana do Rei” is another melodically lovely xotê about singing toads and pigeons. The next few tunes kind of float right through my consciousness without leaving much behind except for “Corridinho Canindé” which features a slick refrain of ‘ziggy-ziggy-boom’ as well as a tuba. This makes me happy. And actually the most beguiling track here closes out the album “Alvorada de Paz”, which is a marcha in the style of a samba-exultação, that is to say a patriotic samba singing the praises of not only Brazil but its leaders as well — in this case the election of President Jânio Quadros. Quadros was only president for about eight months, famously resigning his office and claiming that “occult forces” were conspiring against him. This is a literal translation from the Portuguese, which really only means “hidden forces.” But I think that if we take Quadros’ resignation letter literally, we will realize he was talking about the RECORD INDUSTRY, the Devil’s Plaything, more powerful even than the derrubador dos presidentes Carlos Lacerda, and thus by extension — Luiz Gonzaga and his “homage” to his presidency. In this line of reasoning, Gonzagão is responsible not only for the collapse of Jânio Quadros administration, but also the military coup that seized power from his vice-president João Goulart in 1964, and the entire military regime that followed. An still the cangaçeiros await their real revenge. If you play this record backwards, you will realize that forró is not just party music. It’s the Devil’s Music, pure and simple.

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Baracho e Imperial – Vamos Cirandar (1972)

Baracho e Imperial
19 autênticas cirandas Pernambucanas

Released 1972 Passarela / Discos Rozenblit, Recife, Pernambuco (LP 40.399)

Produced by Nelson Ferreira
Audio Engineer: Hercílio Bastos
Graphic design & layout – Walderes Soares
Photography: Wladimir Barbosa

Side One

01 – Vou falar de Pernambuco/Olinda,cidade maravilhosa/Roberto Carlos/sereia
Lia,vem pra ciranda dançar/Recife tem praias pra se escolher/fui conhecer a
Paraíba/vida de pescador

02 – Não vá pro mar/o meu navio/castelo de areia/lavadeira

Side Two

03 – Esta ciranda quem me deu foi Lia morena,vem ver..

04 – tomando umas e outras/baralho de ouro/uma moça me perguntou

05 – Ô cirandeira/cirandeiro, eu vou me embora

Transcription Notes:
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, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> Normalized to -1db -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1

Ciranda is a type of music and dance that is one of the loveliest things I have seen or heard in my life. It’s origins are, like most things, somewhat disputed but it is fairly clear that it developed initially among the fishing communities along the Brazilian coasts and then spread inward. In the south of Brazil, “ciranda” is a form of children’s music and dance, but in the northern sugar-producing region of the state of Pernambuco in northeast Brazil it is practiced by adults, although very much open to everyone. In fact if I felt up to it I could make an argument for ciranda as “musical communism.” Central to the whole enterprise is a “dança de roda” where anyone who wants to participate links hands and dance around in a great big circle (with an accent on the “one,” highlighting the communistic symbolism, obviously…), and when things are really going well and there are enough people, concentric circles will start forming. I saw some of this in the city of Recife once but I feel like I really didn’t experience ciranda until seeing the famous Lia de Itamaracá singing on the beach of the island where she lives, under a clear and star-speckled sky. I was traveling alone, as I often do, but my solitude was alleviated by the warmth emanating from this whole spectacle, the beauty of children dancing and singing along with their parents and other adults, who may or may not be enjoying a drink or three according to their whim. So different from the country where I was born, to see these kids out having a good time until 4 am, treated in a subtle but profound way as equals.

Of course dance cannot take place without music. The instrumentation is made of brass instruments and percussion (like the zabumba, mineiro / ganzá, maracá, caracaxá, and caixa / tarol), while a vocalist (cirandeiro or cirandeira) sings verses usually with a chorus of a handful of men or women responding. Although apparently the musicians traditionally performed in the center of these big dancing rodas, these days it is more common to have them performing on some type of stage. The music isn’t divided up into “songs” as we might typically define them, but ‘loas’ or verses with particular melodies and rhythmic structures that are sung interchangeably according to the singer’s whim. Thus a ciranda can go on for twenty minutes or an hour without a single break and with mostly the same rhythm, with the singer or the horns announcing a new melody and set of stanzas. Although a strong link to the Portuguese is often cited by the musicologists and folklorists who talk about ciranda, I can’t help thinking about how early the Portuguese were in contact with the western coast of Africa, when they traded with African kingdoms as equals before the onset of the slave trade.

This record features Baracho, probably the most famous of cirandeiros. A native of the town of Nazaré da Mata, he was also a poet-singer of maracatu de baque solto (also known as maracatu do trombone or maracatu rural) before becoming famous as a singer and composer of ciranda. The lyrics of ciranda often deal with quotidian everyday life – enumerating and describing the beaches of Recife, singing the praises of Olinda, getting to know Paraíba (Pernambuco’s neighbor to the north), or the concerns of a fisherman. Although often pegged as a “folkloric” music it is also absolutely contemporary, making use of anything and everything happening in the world. For example this record features one of the most famous cirandas, titled simply “Roberto Carlos”:

Roberto Carlos
É o rei do iê-iê-iê
Jamelão cantando samba
Faz o morro estremecer

Lia na ciranda
Também é de primeira
No baião Luiz Gonzaga
No frevo Nelson Ferreira

I usually hesitate to make such crude and anachronistic comparisons, by the similarity to a hip hop shout-out and/or challenge is kind of striking here. The verse recognizes two huge personages of popular culture from the southeast of Brazil — Roberto Carlos, “King of iê-iê-iê” (pronounced Yeah-yeah-yeah, associated with the Jovem Guarda and in reference to their obsession with mid-60s Beatles music), and Jamelão, one of the giants of samba — and then in the next verse celebrates the cultural contributions of Pernambuco — the first-rate ciranda of Lia, the baião of Luiz Gonzaga, and the frevo of Nelson Ferreira (who, incidentally, produced this album). This verse is probably more striking if you know a little about the history of the Northeast and particularly Pernambuco, the first area to be widely colonized by the Portuguese and for a long time the engine of Brazil’s economy during the “glory days” of its sugar industry, before losing ground both economically and in terms of prestige to the coffee culture of Brazil’s south. Even without knowing about this, any non-Brazilian can probably make a quick mental inventory of the people they know who have visited Brazil as tourists and realize how few of them ever set foot anywhere outside the southeast or even outside Rio de Janeiro. So in this verse, it’s not as if the singer doesn’t like Jamelão or Roberto Carlos (everyone, I mean EVERYONE in Brazil likes Roberto Carlos, a mania it has taken me a long time to empathize with…). The point is that the narrator wants to place his own musical heritage on the same level of parity with these more famous cousins.

Although the musicians are uncredited, only citing “Baracho and Imperial” as the performers, I would wager all the money in my pocket right now (which, granted, is not much) that Lia de Itamaracá is singing on this album. The opening of the second side, “Essa ciranda que me deu foi Lia”, is unmistakeably her voice, to my ears. This verse, first recorded by Teca Calazans in 1963 and credited to “public domain” (a typical way to cheat a composer out of publishing rights, in this case Baracho), is so famous that Lia was practically a mythic figure, also receiving homages from the likes of Paulinho da Viola and plenty of verses from other cirandeiros long before she ever recorded anything under her own name. When that did happen in the late 1970s, she was not paid a single cent and reportedly only given twenty copies of her own album to give to friends and family. Nothing like being poor, black, and female to get yourself exploited in the music business, anywhere in the world. But Lia did finally get her due recognition, finally releasing a second album in the 1990s, touring and performing outside Brazil, getting written about in the New York Times and receiving accolades. Unfortunately even her second album is now out of print and getting scarce, but thankfully she has a new one (a year or two old).

I have a colleague who referred to this record as only “good for studying” but not so much for recreational listening, preferring as he does the most contemporary recordings of ciranda from the likes of Lia, Zé Galdino (who is quietly responsible for a renaissance and revitalization of Pernambucan music), Santino, or Siba. I personally disagree, but I understand what he means – the newer recordings communicate a bit more of the *force* of ciranda, in no small part because of better recording techniques. Even though the early seventies witnessed studios in Rio and São Paulo finding better ways to record samba – recording in multitrack and giving clarity to all the instruments, yet retaining the collective group dynamic better than had been done ever before — the studios of Rozenblit Records in Recife were making some pretty crusty recordings. In spite of the fact that, according to a documentary I recently saw, they had one of the first 16-track tape machines in the country, this record sounds like it was recorded with a stereo pair of microphones and maybe one microphone out in front for the main vocalist. Now, plenty an amazing jazz recording has been done this way with delicious results, but this recording sounds pretty grainy and kind of rough. In accordance with my principles of vinyl rips, I did absolutely NOTHING to the audio in terms of equalization — you can take care of that at your end and to your own tastes. I removed some of the clicks and pops but actually had to leave quite a few of them alone, for example when they fell exactly on the first beat in a measure, which is a particularly strong accent in ciranda (ONE-two-three-four-ONE-two..) Trying to remove a ‘pop’ that falls on that beat results in a weird and nasty sound (a “digital artifact” for those of you interested in such things), so it is far better to leave them there than to mess up the music by taking them out.

Enough of the techo babble. I am sharing this because it’s necessary to point out the Festa Junina, São João holiday, and the Nordeste is more than just forró. Here is another thread of the tapestry for you to enjoy…

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