Lyrics from “Ingenuo” (“Naive”), 1930s
Audio Version with Lyrics (Elizeth Cardoso)
I was naive when I believed in love
But at least I never gave in to pain
I cried my first sorrow
I cried it all out, so as not to cry anymore
And my heart became serene
Expelling the poison through my gaze
I tried to be as God commanded
Without taking revenge, because revenge has no value
And then, to also forgive he who errs
Is to be forgiven on Earth
Without having to plead forgiveness in heaven
I didn’t mean to resolve
I didn’t mean to refuse
But from a love in ruins, a force ends up
Taking over us
And then protecting
From the abysms that life plots
When time becomes the only evil
And lonesomeness starts to be fatal
I didn’t mean to reflect, no…
I didn’t mean to repress, no
I didn’t mean to fear…
Because against good, I’ve done nothing
And I only want, someday
To be happy, as I’m unhappy
— Interpretation —
In 1964, historian and musicologist Ary Vasconcellos wrote in his classic Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira,”If you have 15 volumes to talk about all Brazilian popular music, you can be sure that it’s too little. But if you have only enough space for one word, not everything is lost; write quickly: Pixinguinha.”
After all, Vasconcellos continued, “What other name, besides Pixinguinha — an instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator, conductor, and all this in brilliant form — could really better represent Brazilian popular music of all time?” Pixinguinha was not only wildly popular but also well-respected among “erudite” music critics of the era. He is also credited — — though controversially– with being one of the first to incorporate influences from jazz into Brazilian popular music.
(In the 1920s, Pixinguinha began to record with saxophone, rather than flute. As his hands began to tremble in the 1930s and 1940s, Pixinguinha switched permanently to saxophone. This move, along with the trumpet and trombone he incorporated in his arrangements, were attributed to influences from American jazz, in part since they came after an international music exposition in Rio de Janeiro in 1922 and Pixinguinha’s visit to Argentina from 1922-1923. These instruments were present in Brazilian music since the 19th century, though, so the influence of jazz in the instrument choice has been questioned.)
Pixinguinha was born Alfredo da Rocha Viana Jr. on April 23, 1897 (though the year is controversial because his birth certificate says 1898) in Rio de Janeiro. His father was a flute player who organized musical gatherings with well-known musicians in their family home. Pixinguinha took part, and by age 9 or 10 was already playing cavaquinho.
Though even Pixinguinha admitted uncertainty about the roots of his nickname, his family members confirm that it started out as Pizindim, meaning “good boy” in Afro-Brazilian dialect of the time. Late in life, Pixinguinha attributed the name to his “African grandmother,” but his sisters agreed that a cousin – Santa – had given him the nickname as a boy. Regardless of its origin, everyone agrees that the nickname was well-deserved: throughout his life, Pixinguinha maintained the reputation of “goodness personified,” and many friends or acquaintances referred to him as Saint Pixinguinha.
By 1911, Pixinguinha was already composing his first song — “Lata de Leite” (“Can of milk”), a choro about kids drinking milk taken from their neighbors’ doorsteps. Choro — considered the first truly Brazilian urban popular music — emerged around the turn of the century (1880 – 1920), as Brazilian musicians composed songs that fused European influences like polka and waltz with African and Afro-Brazilian rhythms and styles. The style started out being played in trios of flute, guitar and cavaquinho. In the years after he wrote “Lata de Leite”, Pixinguina went on to become perhaps the most important, influential, beloved and revered choro composer of all time. He began playing in bars and theaters around Rio de Janeiro in 1912; by 1915 his professional success as a composer was sealed and his career took off when the publishing house Carlos Wehrs released his “tango”, “Dominante.”
Those days, only songs following a particular three-part structure were classified as choro; the rest were most often classified as polka – quick or slow – or tango. Even Pixinguinha’s most well-known choro, “Carinhoso,” was originally identified as a “slow polka” by the composer since it didn’t follow the three-part model. In the late 1960s, Pixinguinha said if he were to classify the song again, he would call it a “slow choro.”
“Ingenuo” is credited as one of the first two-part choros, following a structure that would become frequent by the 1950s.
Sources for this post include Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira by Ary Vasconcelos (Livraria Martins Editora, 1964), p. 84 – 88, and Pixinguinha: Filho de Oxum Bexigueno by Marília T. Barboza da Silva and Arthur L. de Oliveira Filho (Gryphus, 1998), along with the documentary Pixinguinha: Nós Somos um Poema and “Tópicas na música popular brasileira: Uma análise semiótica do choro e da música instrumental” by Marina Beraldo Bastos (Univ. Estadual de Santa Catarina, 2008).
Post by Victoria Broadus