“Pra Quem Quiser Me Visitar” & “Rio Orleans”

“Pra quem quiser me visitar” (Guinga & Aldir Blanc, 1996 – tribute to Tom Jobim)

Fiz o meu rancho lá nas nuvens // I made my home up there in the clouds
Onde se pode conversar // Where we can talk freely
onde os anjinhos são cor de chope… // Where the little angels are the color of draft beer
Tomo cuidado só em debruçar // I’m just careful when I lean over
Vendo o mar, aí…// Looking at the sea,…
Toco piano e a virgem canta // I play piano and the virgin sings
Diz pro menino: tio tom // She says to the little boy: Uncle Tom
Senta à vontade, e a coxa santa // She sits casually, and that holy thigh
Me dá saudade de Leblon // Makes me miss Leblon
Sei das manhãs // I know about those mornings
Que só nascem de tarde // That only begin in the afternoon
Entre silêncios de alardes // Between silences of fanfare
Vi que o sol sente inveja das asas do urubu…// I saw that the sun envies the wings of the vulture
Aos meus amigos que ficaram // To my friends who stayed behind
Um portador há de levar //A carrier is sure to bring you
Um par de asas // A pair of wings
E um pára-quedas pra quem quiser me visitar // And a parachute for those who wish to visit me

“Rio Orleans” (Guinga & Aldir Blanc, 1991)

Tonto de gin // Drunk on gin
Vejo a Cinelândia piscar pra mim, sim // I see Cinelândia wink at me, yes
Bebo ao meu fim // I drink to my end
No Amarelinho outra dose de ódio // At Amarelinho, another shot of hatred
Eu sou assim // That’s who I am
Um mocinho triste, de um mau cinema // A sad boy from a bad theater
‘I need’ um sax // I need a sax
Que me conte um tema // That’ll spin a theme for me
‘I want you, I want you…’// “I want you, I want you”
Versos, maio // Verses, May
E essa dor não cede // And this pain that doesn’t give way
Eu vejo, no Rex // I see, at the Rex
O amor que se perde // Love that’s lost
Na beira-mar mais gins // On the seaside avenue, more gins
E o Rio é New Orleans // And Rio is New Orleans
A alma canta um blues // My soul sings a blues
”cause I love you’ // Cause I love you
”cause I love you’ // Cause I love you
Longe um radio // From afar, a radio
Vem no vento // Drifts in on the wind
Diz que ‘I remember you’ // It says I remember you

— Commentary —

guinga-1

“Eu fui e sou um fruto do rádio. Minha paixão é o radio. Meu professor de música que tem sido até hoje meu maior professor é o rádio.”

Today, June 10, is Guinga’s 65th birthday. Guinga is one of Brazil’s greatest composers and guitar players, and his two greatest musical partnerships have been with two of MPB’s most extraordinary lyricists of all time: Paulo César Pinheiro and Aldir Blanc.  And just as Guinga says he uses tributes to his many musical idols as an excuse to write songs — like the tribute to Tom Jobim above, which he composed with Aldir Blanc shortly after Jobim’s death — I like to use composers’ birthdays as an excuse to write posts about them.

Born in the samba stronghold of Madureira, Rio de Janeiro, Guinga — born Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar — went directly to Jacarepagua, where he grew up. The neighborhood, he likes to mention, was home to “Pixinguinha, Jacob do Bandolim, and Candeia,” three of the greatest names in the history of Brazilian popular music.

Shortly after he was born, an aunt gave him the nickname Guinga. She died a few months later, and he says he says her role in his life was to give him his nickname, which apparently is a corruption of the word “gringo” because of his pale skin.  His father was a sergeant in the air force and his mother was a “woman of the home, as they used to say.”  Guinga spent his childhood listening to serestas and modas – genres closely related to choro – on the radio with his parents. He calls himself “a fruit of the radio … my music professor, to this day my greatest teacher, is the radio.”

Guinga learned guitar through observation. When he was a boy his parents separated and he went to live with a great aunt, whose son – ten years older than Guinga – played guitar late into the night, irritating Guinga, who wanted to sleep. He recounts that one day he picked up the guitar and right off the bat was able to play a bit of samba: “I snatched up the [guitar] that day and have never let go of it since.”

Guinga c. 2001 at his dental practice.
Guinga c. 2001 at his dental practice.

Guinga was never one for studying music or reading much of anything, saying he only read what he needed to to become a professional dentist. (Throughout his musical career he has continued to see dental patients twice a week.) He says he feels he gets the same pleasure and spiritual liberation from music that he thinks many people find through reading. He entered formal music studies briefly as a teenager, but they only lasted about two months; he didn’t have the discipline or motivation to learn to play other composers’ music, he claims. From that point on he focused on developing his compositions.

Cartola, Roberto Nascimento, Cláudio Jorge, Milton Manhães, Joel Nascimento, Guinga & João Nogueira (clockwise from left)
Cartola, Roberto Nascimento, Cláudio Jorge,Milton Manhães,
Joel Nascimento,  Guinga  & João Nogueira (clockwise from left)

His first chance to compose came when he was 14. A local composer and dentist, Paulo Faia, wanted to get revenge on another neighborhood musician who had refused to write music for his lyrics. So Guinga composed the music for the song called “Pescador” (Fisherman), and found it surprisingly easy. Upon meeting Paulo César Pinheiro a few years later, around age 18, Guinga says he realized that what he wanted to do – and what he was best at – was compose music first and then have a lyricist write the words; he says working with a lyricist as brilliant as Paulo César Pinheiro, he grew “addicted” to this songwriting process.

Guinga quickly became friends with and played with some of the world’s best-known sambistas, like Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho, having played guitar on Cartola’s first recording of “O mundo é um moinho.”

Guinga-10menorGuinga cites many musical idols, including Villa-Lobos (“The epitome of everything; a phenomenon, not a composer”); Tom Jobim (“the epitome of 20th century popular composition”); Ary Barroso (“Tom Jobim’s ‘musical father'”); Pixinguinha; Ernesto Nazareth; Jacob do Bandolim; Garoto; Moacyr Santos; Baden Powell, Chico Buarque, etc: “Brazilian music is full of geniuses.” And Duke Ellington is another favorite: Guinga jokes that Duke Ellington would have been the greatest popular composer of the 20th century if a boy named Tom Jobim hadn’t been born in Brazil.

He recalls his first recorded composition was “Conversa com o coração,” which he composed with Paulo César Pinheiro and which MPB-4 recorded and released in 1974.  Clara Nunes, the tremendous portelense singer who was married to Paulo César Pinheiro, also recorded several of Guinga’s songs shortly after MPB-4, and he credits MPB-4 and Clara Nunes with having launched him as a professional composer.

Guinga released his first solo album only in 1991, after Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins opened Velas recording studio in part to give Guinga the chance to record his compositions. Singers Leila Pinheiro and Fatima Guedes have recorded several albums of Guinga’s compositions, including Leila’s Catavento e Girassol, which Guinga says he counts as his and Aldir Blanc’s, too.

Chico Buarque declared Guinga’s  “O Silêncio de Iara” (2003, with Luis Felipe Gama) to be “the song of the century”; many have said about the same of “Senhorinha” (1995, with Paulo César Pinheiro).

Accustomed to the songwriting process that he began with Paulo César Pinheiro, Guinga has fewer instrumental compositions,  and he says most of them were either “inspired by or written in tribute to” his musical idols; they include this homage to Duke Ellington:

Here is Guinga at Berklee School of Music a couple years ago playing “Catavento e Girassol

Santo Amaro

Lyrics from “Santo Amaro” by Aldir Blanc, Luiz Claudio Ramos & Franklin da Flauta (1978)

Eu ia a pé lá da ladeira Santo Amaro // I’d stroll down Santo Amaro street
até a rua do Catete num sobrado onde você residia // to that house on Rua do Catete where you used to live
e te levava prum passeio em Paquetá // And take you out to Paquetá
onde nasceu num pic-nic o nosso rancho, o Ameno Resedá  // Where, during a picnic, our rancho Ameno Resedá was born
Verde, grená e amarelo nossas cores // Green, grenadine and yellow, our colors
Resedá, vocês são flores como flor era a Papoula do Japão // Resedá, you’re all flowers just as Papoula do Japão (Japanese poppy) was a flower
Tua rival saiu na Flor de Abacate // Your rival went out with Flor de Abacate (avocado flower)
de destaque no enredo da Rainha de Sabá // star of their parade about the Queen of Sheba (1924)
Os lampiões, os vagalumes // The lanterns, the lightning bugs*
você triste com ciúmes //  You, sad and jealous
eu charlando, resmungando que melhor era acabar // Me grumbling and griping that it would be better to just break up
Pobre farsante de teatro ambulante // Poor farceur of the street operetta
meu amor de estudante não soube representar // wasn’t able to portray my love
e o casamento aconteceu // And the marriage happened
vieram filhos, muitos netos // and children came, many grandchildren
muitas dores, muitos tetos // many griefs; many roofs
mas o amor a tudo isso ultrapassou // But love overcame all of that
Hoje, sozinho, eu voltei feito andorinha // Today, alone, like a swallow I returned
à Pedra da Moreninha onde tudo começou // to the Pedra da Moreninha* where everything began
Olhando o mar, pensei na vida ao teu lado // Gazing at the sea, I thought about life by your side
como um choro do Callado, um piano em Nazareth // Like a choro by Callado, a piano in Nazareth
Saudade grande o dia inteiro // Immense saudade the whole day through
mas com jeito de alegria // But with that cheerful charm
do pandeiro de Gilberto no Jacob // of Gilberto’s pandeiro in Jacob
Pra cada dó, um sol maior, um lá sereno // For every do, a major sol, a serene la
a harmonia do ameno // the harmony of the ameno (pleasant)
o amor do resedá // the love of the resedá
Eu funcionário aposentado, coração não conformado  // I, a retired civil servant, unreconciled heart
antigo e novo feito lua em Paquetá // Old and new, like the moon on Paquetá
Passou a vida com os ranchos, desfilando // Life passed by, with the ranchos, parading
União da Aliança, caprichosa em estrelas desenganos  // União da Aliança, capricious, disappointments in stars*
desci por ela //I ambled down it
como desço ainda hoje //  as I still amble down today
a ladeira Santo Amaro até o sobrado que o metrô matou // Santo Amaro street, to the house the metro destroyed
Bom era ir, batendo perna, tomar chope na Taberna // What a joy it was to stroll down to drink a chopp at the Taberna [da Glória]
é outra história, é uma glória, ser da Glória // It’s something else- it’s a glory to be from Glória
[o que é que há ? // you hear me?]
O rosto dela vela o Rio de Janeiro  // Her face holds vigil over Rio de Janeiro
como a virgem do outeiro // like the virgin of the Outeiro
guarda o Ameno Resedá // protects Ameno Resedá

— Commentary —

Ameno Resedá picnic in Paquetá, 1911. Image via  "Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola" by Jota Efegê.
Ameno Resedá picnic in Paquetá, 1911. Image via  “Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola” by Jota Efegê.
Rua Santo Amaro in 1956. The road links the Rio neighborhoods of Glória and Santa Teresa. This photo is around No. 124 on street.
Rua Santo Amaro in 1956. The road links the Rio neighborhoods of Glória and Santa Teresa. This photo is around No. 124 on street.

Ameno Resedá was arguably Rio de Janeiro’s most important rancho – the street Carnaval groups that predominated in Rio in the early twentieth century, before the emergence of samba schools. Ameno Resedá began a tradition of ranchos with especially operatic characteristics — elaborate costumes and characters and the performance of slow, serene marches that told stories; this led the press to call Ameno Resedá a teatro lírico ambulante (something like “street operetta”), which the song makes reference to. Because of the rancho’s innovations, which included the incorporation of an enredo – or theme for the march – and a wind section, Ameno Resedá also earned the designation rancho-escola, which is one of the possible explanations for the origin of the name escola de samba  – samba school. (More on ranchos at the bottom of this post, if you’re interested.)

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Announcement for the inaugural ball at the Ameno Resedá club on Rua do Cattete 206  Jornal do Brasil – 13 April 1907
Pastoras of Ameno Resedá, Carnaval 1911. Enredo Côrte de Belzebuth.
Pastoras of Ameno Resedá, Carnaval 1911, the year Ameno Resedá paraded for Brazil’s president at the Palácio de Guanabára with the enredo Court of Belzebuth.

 


In this song, Aldir Blanc retraces the history of Ameno Resedá, which was indeed founded during a picnic on Paquetá – a bucolic island borough of Rio de Janeiro – on February 17, 1907, with headquarters on Rua do Catete, and which paraded in Carnaval from 1908 til 1941. Blanc tells the story of the rancho through the story of a romance, blurring a love story with the story of his love for Ameno Resedá itself.

Vagalume – which also means “lightning bug,” a creature that makes an appearance in the song – was the nickname of the Carnaval chronicler and founding member of Ameno Resedá, Francisco Guimarães, who created the city’s first news column dedicated exclusively to Carnaval in Jornal do Brasil. (He is no. 13 in the picture above.) Ameno means “pleasant” and resedá refers to the reseda flower; as the group was deciding upon a name, they reportedly considered first the sabugueiro in bloom, but wanted a flower with a more pleasant scent, and arrived at “Ameno Resedá.”

Cover of Jota Efegê's 1965 book
Cover of Jota Efegê’s 1965 book “Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola”.

Flor de Abacate (avocado flower) and Papoula de Japão (Japanese poppy) were other important ranchos that followed Ameno Resedá’s model, along with União da Aliança, which is mentioned toward the end of the song. (*The line that follows União da Aliança – “caprichosa, em estrelas desenganos” – might be referring to that rancho or other ranchos; several ranchos had “estrelas” in their name.) The Queen of Sheba was the theme of Flor de Abacate’s carnaval parade – its enredo – in Carnaval 1924.

In this 1955 recording, Donga, Pixinguinha and João da Baiana play Álvaro Sandim’s 1913 polka (adapted to choro) “Flor de Abacate,” a tribute to Sandim’s rancho, another of Rio’s most important and beloved:

View from Pedra da Moreninha, Paquetá.
View from Pedra da Moreninha, Paquetá.

Pedra da Moreninha is a rock and look-out point on Paquetá that takes its name from Joaquim Manuel de Macedo’s classic 1844 novel A Moreninha; in the story, the moreninha gazes from a high rock in Paquetá out over the sea, anxiously awaiting the return of her beau, Augusto. As founders of Ameno Resedá recalled, the picnic where the rancho was founded took place under a mango tree right near Pedra da Moreninha.

Joaquim Callado (1848-1880) was a flautist and composer who formed what’s believed to have been Rio de Janeiro’s first choro group, Choro do Callado, in 1870, made up of two guitars, a cavaquinho, and Callado’s flute. The phrase “choro do Callado” could be referring to the group but more likely refers to any choro he composed.

Taberna da Glória in 1972. Taberna da Glória still exists today, across Rua do Catete from the beginning of Rua Santo Amaro. Photo via Rio de Janeiro Memoria&Fotos (Facebook).
Taberna da Glória in 1972. Taberna da Glória still exists today, across Rua do Catete from the beginning of Rua Santo Amaro. Photo via Rio de Janeiro Memoria&Fotos (Facebook).

Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) was a pianist who earned a living playing scores at music stores in Rio and who, over the course of the twentieth century, earned due recognition as one of Brazil’s greatest composers. Author of some of the most beautiful melodies in the Brazilian canon, Nazareth was affiliated with Ameno Resedá and composed the polka “Ameno Resedá” for the rancho in 1912; the song was recorded in 1914 by Grupo do Louro, and has since become one of Nazareth’s most recorded compositions:

Gilberto d’Avila played pandeiro with Jacob do Bandolim – the Gilberto and Jacob that the song makes reference to.

Many homes and buildings were destroyed during the construction of the metro in the 1970s. I’ve included photos below of Rua do Catete in 1906 and Rua do Catete during metro construction, around 1977.

Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro
Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro

“Outeiro” literally means small hill, but here is referring to the cathedral of Our Lady of Glory of Outeiro da Glória, which sits atop a small hill overlooking the neighborhood, and gave the neighborhood its name.

Ranchos

Ranchos emerged first in northeastern Brazil, particularly Bahia, inspired in Portuguese Christmas celebrations that culminated on January 6: Three Kings Day of the Catholic church, and in CandombléFestival de Oxalá, the day to worship Oxalá, the Candomblé deity syncretized with Jesus.  In groups known as ranchos — which can mean something like religious procession — singers called pastores and pastoras (shepherds) danced door-to-door in flashy clothes with small orchestras, asking for money. They always set out dancing toward a Nativity scene, the object of their worship. Ranchos maintained this largely Afro-Brazilian religious aspect until the founding of Ameno Resedá in 1907.

The Pernambucan Hilário Jovino Ferreira was a pivotal figure in popularizing ranchos for Carnaval in Rio. A son of freed slaves, Hilário made his name as a Carnival booster and rabble-rouser in Bahia. He moved from Salvador, Bahia, to the Saúde neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in 1872, and quickly became well-known, a regular at the homes of Carnaval fixtures like Tia Ciata, alongside such illustrious figures as Donga, Pixinguinha, and João da Baiana.

Rancho Caprichosos de Estopa, with the porta-estandarte Celia Afonso vaguely visible in the middle.
Rancho Caprichosos de Estopa, with the porta-estandarte Celia Afonso (vaguely) visible in the middle.

When Hilário moved to Rio he joined the already existing rancho Dois de Ouros, on Morró da Conceição. But he ended up arguing with the rancho’s organizers, and on January 6, 1894, founded the rancho Rei dos Ouros.  Rei dos Ouros set itself apart by parading during Carnaval, rather than January 6, and introducing greater female participation and the use of a  porta-estandarte — a woman parading with the rancho’s standard, a tradition that was passed on to samba schools.

Main float, Clube dos Fenianos, Carnaval 1934.
Main float, Clube dos Fenianos, Carnaval 1934.

Ranchos offered a more elaborate form of revelry for groups that had previously paraded in more tumultuous and clamorous street groups known as cordões, and quickly became the most popular form of Carnaval celebration among Rio’s less privileged classes. They were known as pequenas sociedades (small societies), sharing the Carnaval stage on Avenida Rio Branco in the 1920s and 1930s with the more well-to-do classes’ grandes sociedades: clubs of the white middle class and aristocracy that had emerged in the late 1860s and held European-style processions with floats. The most important of the grandes sociedades were Tenentes do Diabo; os Democráticos (still a popular club in Rio today, and the official “padrinho” [patron] of Ameno Resedá);  and os Fenianos.  Both pequenos and grandes sociedades lasted until the early 1940s, when samba schools overshadowed them for good.

The serene lyricism of ranchos’ music — particularly that of Ameno Resedá and ranchos that followed the rancho-escola’s lead, like Flor de Abacate and Lira de Ouro — led to the development of the marcha-rancho, the most poetic of Carnaval musical genres. Marcha-ranchos are nostalgic and sentimental, with a slower tempo than the marchinhas that were also gaining popularity at the time.  Some examples include “Pastorinhas” (João de Barro & Noel Rosa); “Os rouxinóis” (Lamartine Babo); “Rancho da Praça Onze” (João Roberto Kelly & Francisco Anísio); and “Bandeira branca” (Max Nunes & Laércio Alves).

Trolley tracks being laid on Rua do Catete in 1906. In the photo we see Palácio do Catete and next to it, Escola Rodrigues Alves, which was demolished during metro construction.

Trolley tracks being laid on Rua do Catete in 1906. In the photo we see Palácio do Catete and next to it, Escola Rodrigues Alves, which was demolished during metro construction. Photo: Augusto Malta.

Metro construction on R. do Catete, 1977.
Metro construction on R. do Catete, 1977. Photo via Rio de Janeiro Memoria&Fotos (Facebook).

Main sources for this post: Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola by Jota Efegê; Escolas de Samba do Rio de Janeiro by Sérgio Cabral (2011); Uma história da música popular brasileira, by Jairo Severiano (2008);  100 anos de Carnaval no Rio de Janeiro, by Haroldo Costa; website of Universidade Federal Fluminense.

Bandalhismo

“Bandalhismo” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco, 1980

Meu coração tem butiquins imundos // My heart has squalid taverns
Antros de ronda, vinte-e-um, purrinha // Dives of ronda, blackjack, purrinha [pub games]
Onde trêmulas mãos de vagabundo // Where the trembling hands of vagabonds
Batucam samba-enredo na caixinha // Beat samba-enredos on matchboxes

Perdigoto, cascata, tosse, escarro // Splutter, swagger, cough, phlegm [also can mean a low-down person]
Um choro soluçante que não pára // A sobbing cry that doesn’t stop
Piada suja, bofetão na cara // Dirty joke, a blow to the face
E essa vontade de soltar um barro… // And that urge to take a dump

Como os pobres otários da Central // Like the poor suckers at Central Station
Já vomitei sem lenço e sonrisal // I’ve vomited without a handkerchief and antacid
o P.F. de rabada com agrião… // The P.F. (prato feito) of oxtail with watercress…

Mais amarelo do que arroz-de-forno // Paler than baked rice
Voltei pro lar, e em plena dor-de-corno // I went home, and in the heat of jealous passion
Quebrei o vídeo da televisão // I broke the television screen

— Interpretation —

João Bosco and Aldir Blanc
João Bosco and Aldir Blanc

“Bandalhismo” showcases poet-lyricist Aldir Blanc‘s refined literary side – and how it meshes with vulgarity and humor in his lyrics – and his exquisite portrayals of Rio de Janeiro’s carousing lower classes. The song is a revision of Augusto dos Anjos’ 1902 poem “Vandalismo” (Vandalism, translated below). The symbolist poem begins with “My heart has immense cathedrals” — which Blanc turned into “squalid taverns” — and ends with “I broke the image of my own dreams,” which Blanc twisted into “I broke the television screen.” Blanc deftly adapted Anjos’ sonnet – set in a bygone aristocratic Brazil – into a present-day, hair-raising depiction of a bum’s life at a bar, ending with a comment on the vulgar centrality of the television.

Bandalhismo comes from the word bandalho, which means screw-up or good-for-nothing; bandalhismo essentially refers to the goings-about of a bum.  The soft samba is the title track of João Bosco’s 1980 album, and includes a guest appearance by Paulinho da Viola.

prato feito – referred to in the song by its abbreviation, P.F. – is a generally cheap plate served at lower end restaurants and bars, with rice, beans, meat, salad and fries (with variations of course).

The poem:

“Vandalismo” by Augusto dos Anjos (1902)

Meu coração tem catedrais imensas // My heart has immense cathedrals
Templos de priscas e longínquas datas // Temples of Priscas and far-off dates
Onde um nume de amor, em serenatas // Where a numen of love, in serenades
Canta a aleluia virginal das crenças // Sings the virginal aleluya of beliefs

Na ogiva fúlgida e nas colunatas // In the shining ogive and in the collonade
Vertem lustrais irradiações intensas // Rush intense purificatory radiations
Cintilações de lâmpadas suspensas // The sparkling of hanging lamps
E as ametistas e os florões e as pratas // And the amethysts and finials and silvers

Como os velhos Templários medievais // Like the ancient medieval Templars
Entrei um dia nessas catedrais // I entered one of these cathedrals
E nesses templos claros e risonhos … // And in these temples bright and cheerful…

E erguendo os gládios e brandindo as hastas // And raising the swords and branding the spears
No desespero dos iconoclastas // In the desperation of the iconoclasts
Quebrei a imagem dos meus próprios sonhos! // I broke the image of my own dreams

Main source for this post: Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song MPB 1965 – 1985, by Charles A. Perrone