Noriel Vilela – Eis o "Ôme" (1969)


Noriel Vilela
Released 1969 on Continental CLP 11565
Reissue 2011 EMI/COPA 0095

1 Promessado
(Carlos Pedro)
2 Saravando Xangô
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
3 Só o Ôme
(Edenal Rodrigues)
4 Meu caboclo não deixa
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
5 Pra Iemanjá levar
(Delcio Carvalho)
6 Samba das águas
(Josan de Mattos)
7 Eu tá vendo no copo
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
8 Acredito sim
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
9 Peço licença
10 Cacundê, cacundá
(José de Souza, Orlando)
11 Acocha malungo
(Sidney Martins)
12 Saudosa Bahia
(Noriel Vilela, Sidney Martins)


Here’s a genuine relic. The sole album from the somewhat mysterious Noriel Vilela. It seems that not a whole lot is known about him. He had a basso profundo voice. He sang with a vocal group in the early 60s, Nilo Amaro e Seus Cantores de Ebáno, whose American doo-wop and gospel-influenced songs featured a huge all-black chorus where he sang alongside three baritones. The group only recorded one 78 and one long-player that I know of, and it was Noriel’s memorable bass voice that carried their biggest hit, “Leva o sodade,” where he sang lead on two verses.

After the Cantores de Ebáno kind of dropped out of circulation in the mid to late 60s, Noriel attended to his family and his job as a machinist, until being encouraged to approach Continental Records about recording his own album.

The result couldn’t be more different than the music of Nilo Amaro. The album is a nonstop upbeat blast of sambalança , samba-rock, and sometimes just plain samba. Accompaniment of funky sixties organ, drums, brass and woodwinds, and an occasional electric guitar that gets a solo on the finale. Smartly there is some baritone sax and bass clarinet to play off of Noriel’s voice. And the lyrics of pretty much every tune treat themes tied to the syncretistic Umbanda religion of Brazil. Devotional prayers to the orishás Xango and Iamanja never swung so hard as they do here. The title track is loaded with the mystique of crossroads vows, cocks crowing at midnight, and getting your problems resolved with, um, a little help from your friends. It’s a scorcher of a tune. Then there is the fairly straightforward sambas of “Meu caboclo não deixa” and “Acredito sim,” which is a simple but effective proclamation of faith in an often stigmatized religion. Which brings me to another interesting thing about this record. In the late 60s and throughout the 70s there was something of a niche market for umbanda records. All the ones I’ve come across were on small labels or specialized subsidiaries of larger labels. They tended to feature mostly batuques, traditional or stylized recordings intended for ceremonial contexts even if listened to for leisure on a hi-fi. There were exceptions, like the album I borrowed from a friend that has a swinging cover of “Jesus Cristo” by Roberto Carlos. But mostly it’s ritualized, ceremonial music, and not shot through with swinging pop elements like this album from Noriel Vilela. Of course, the genre of samba has a rich symbiotic relationship with the terreiros of Afrobrazilian religious traditions, and references both subtle and explicit can be found throughout the history that music’s sung poetry. But this album isn’t straight up samba. In fact it seems more aimed at the discotheques than the botequins. So although the title cut may have been a hit, there was probably a limit as to just how far a record like this could penetrate the mainstream, and it almost surely was regarded as something akin to novelty-music or kitsch by the snobbish gatekeepers of MPB at the time.

Perhaps it’s telling that Noriel’s biggest hit had nothing whatsoever to do with umbanda. It was also not even on this LP. Released only as a single, his rendition of Tennesee Ernie Ford’s hit “Sixteen Tons” was a smash and has become something of a cult hit over the years. Here it is on Youtube

16 Toneladas

As you can hear, it’s pretty badass. The lyrics also have nothing to do with the original from Ernest Ford (via Merle Travis), but are just a celebration of how groovy and badass their samba and sambalança is.. If the producers of these reissues had any sense it would have been included here. Probably a complication with publishing rights or the desire not to pay them by the record execs.

Because Noriel has nothing to say on the subject. He died young in 1974, apparently from an allergic reaction to anesthetic at a dentist’s office. His recording career seemed to already have been at a standstill by then, but I’d like to think that if he’d lived longer he would at least have been cast in the role of a singing frog in an animated film. At least, that’s often the bizarre image that pops into my head. An animated frog singing about umbanda.


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