A story: Stokowski, Cartola, Herminio Bello de Carvalho & Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Cartola_Herminio Bello
Cartola with Herminio Bello de Carvalho.

“Estou encantado e sinto-me feliz de vir ao Rio.” 
(I’m enchanted and feel happy about coming to Rio.) – Leopold Stokowski’s only public statement, upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro in 1940.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (right) introduces Leopold Stokowski to composer Donga. 

In the summer of 1940, as Hitler expanded his power over much of western Europe, the Roosevelt administration anxiously invested in the United States’ “good neighbor policy”- first announced in Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural speech – meant to deter South American countries from potentially aligning with the Axis powers.

This policy included expanded cultural exchange with southern neighbors, and one of the first U.S. goodwill ambassadors to Brazil – before the more famous visits of Walt Disney (1941) and Orson Welles (1942) – was the star conductor Leopold Stokowski. Stokowski had been tremendously popular as conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, and earned more widespread admiration through his conducting of popular projects such as Disney’s recently released Fantasia. 

The S.S. Uruguay docked at Rio’s Praça Mauá in 1940. 

Rio de Janeiro was Stokowski’s first stop on his 1940 summer tour of South America with his All American Youth Orchestra and technicians from Columbia Records, traveling on the ocean liner S.S. Uruguay. Stokowski, already enamored with Brazilian music for decades, asked composer Heitor Villa-Lobos to help him find examples of the “most legitimate Brazilian popular music” to record on a Columbia album during his time docked in Rio’s harbor.

Cartola’s “Quem me vê sorrir” was one of only 16 songs, out of 44 recorded, to make it onto the Columbia albums “Native Brazilian Music.” The albums were never released in Brazil.

Forty songs were recorded in a less than ideal makeshift studio on the Uruguay. For most of the recordings, with some  exceptions, Villa-Lobos presented semiprofessional samba composers like Cartola, Donga, Zé Espinguela and Zé da Zilda, who usually sold their compositions to successful recording artists and remained out of the limelight – and mostly in deep poverty – themselves.

Of the forty songs recorded, just sixteen made it onto the box set Native Brazilian Music, including Cartola’s “Quem me vê sorrir.”

Unfortunately for Cartola and other composers who recorded, Columbia Records marketed the album in the United States as Brazilian “folklore,” relegating the artists to near anonymity; tellingly, most of the composers’ names are misspelled or totally missing from the album. Few received compensation for their recordings, and none received royalties.

A year and a half after the box set was released, Cartola received a check that would cover just about three lousy packs of cigarettes.

But the recording, with the help of Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Herminio Bello de Carvalho, was responsible for what was perhaps one of Cartola’s final moments of joy.

Drummond’s “Cartola, no moinho do mundo” (Nov. 1980)

On 27 November 1980, Cartola, sick with cancer, overcome with pain, had less than a week left to live. That morning, Herminio Bello de Carvalho went to the hospital with Jornal do Brasil, featuring a story by the renowned and beloved poet and writer Carlos Drummond de Andrade: “Cartola no moinho do mundo” (“Cartola in the the mill of the world,” a play on the title of Cartola’s classic “O mundo é um moinho”).

Herminio read Drummond’s praiseful words for Cartola: “By recording [Cartola’s] samba “Quem me vê sorrir” (with Carlos Cachaça), the maestro Leopold Stokowski didn’t do Cartola any favors; he merely recognized just how much musical inventiveness can be found in the most humble tiers of our population.”

After finishing the entire story, Herminio cut it out and taped it on the wall next to Cartola’s hospital bed; he recalls Cartola losing himself in a blissful, fulfilled gaze, sneaking frequent glances at the story by his side. Cartola passed away three days later.

Sources: For a more detailed account in English of Stokowski’s visit, see this post. Other sources include Os Tempos Idos, by Marilia T. Barboza Silva, and Hello Hello Brazil, by Bryan McCann.


Sala de Recepção

Lyrics from “Sala de Recepção” by Cartola (early 1940s, recorded on Cartola II [1976])

Inhabited by people so simple and so poor
Who have only the sun for shelter
How can you sing, Mangueira?

(response) Well we’ll have you know we don’t desire any more
At night, the silvery moon, in silence, listens to our songs
Up atop the hill there’s a cross where we say our prayers
And we take pride in being the first champions

I say and repeat that happiness resides here
And the other schools even cry with envy of your position, my Mangueira
This reception room
Here we embrace our enemy as if he were our brother

— Interpretation —

Cartola recording his second album in 1976, with his daughter Regina.
Cartola recording his second album in 1976, with his daughter Regina.

In this recent post, I wrote about Paulo da Portela and his falling out with the samba school he’d helped to found in Oswaldo Cruz. Part of this falling out had to do with Paulo’s close friendship with sambistas from downtown Rio, Heitor dos Prazeres and Cartola. Cartola was one of the founders of the rival Mangueira samba school. In 1941, Paulo da Portela wanted to include Cartola and Heitor in the Portela Carnival parade, since the three had just arrived together from São Paulo. This provoked a nasty fight that caused Paulo da Portela to abandon the school.

Cartola, 1940s
Cartola, 1940s

When Paulo da Portela left Portela in 1941, he was taken in by his friends in Mangueira (though he ended up joining the small samba school Lira de Amor, in Bento Ribeiro, near Oswaldo Cruz). Soon after, Cartola composed this samba, which makes reference to the school’s warm reception of Paulo da Portela – “we embrace our enemy as if he were our brother.” The “pride in being the first champions” is because Mangueira won the first Carnival parade competition, sponsored by the newspaper Mundo Sportivo,  in 1932. (Portela, with a samba composed by Paulo’s friend Heitor dos Prazeres, had won the first samba competition, in January 1929, and went on to win the first city-sponsored parade competition, in 1935.)

Lyrics in Portuguese
Habitada por gente simples e tão pobre
Que só tem o sol que a todos cobre
Como podes, mangueira, cantar?

Pois então saiba que não desejamos mais nada
A noite, a lua prateada
Silenciosa, ouve as nossas canções

Tem lá no alto um cruzeiro
Onde fazemos nossas orações
E temos orgulho de ser os primeiros campeões

Eu digo e afirmo que a felicidade aqui mora
E as outras escolas até choram
Invejando a tua posição

Minha mangueira essa sala de recepção
Aqui se abraça inimigo
Como se fosse irmão

Main source: Escolas de Samba do Rio de Janeiro, by Sérgio Cabral (2011)

“Mangueira, Não” and “Silenciar a Mangueira, Não”

“Mangueira, Não” by Herivelto Martins and Grande Otelo (1943)

They destroyed Praça Onze
They demolished plazas and roads, I know
They can even do away with Estácio, grand old Estácio de Sá
Knock down all the morros, tear down my shack
But silence Mangueira, no!
Mangueira was a morro born dancing samba
And lived singing
Mangueira was born, Mangueira became…
Let me hear you, tamborim! Let me hear you, percussion!
Nobody will be able to say Mangueira passed away
Mangueira can’t die!

— Interpretation —

Cartola, pictured here on Morro da Mangueira, was   not happy with the message sent by "Mangueira, Não" and wrote a version of his own the following year.
Cartola, pictured here on Morro da Mangueira, was not happy with the message sent by “Mangueira, Não” and wrote a version of his own the following year.

Herivelto Martins and Grande Otelo were loyal fans of the samba school Mangueira, as this song from November 1943, makes clear.

Praça Onze was destroyed to make room for Avenida Presidente Vargas, which was inaugurated in September 1944.
Praça Onze was destroyed to make room for Avenida Presidente Vargas, which was inaugurated in September 1944.

In the song, they mention the destruction of Praça Onze, an act the pair had immortalized about a year earlier in one of Brazil’s most well-known sambas, “Praça Onze.” Praça Onze de Junho  hosted Rio’s first samba gatherings and samba school parades in the 1910s – 1930s; it was demolished to make way for Avenida Presidente Vargas in the beginning of the 1940s.

In this song, Grande Otelo and Herivelto Martins acknowledge that Praça Onze is gone — fine — and say for all they’re concerned Estácio, Rio’s first samba school, can go too; but not Mangueira. But as it turns out, the pair’s dismissive attitude toward other samba schools in “Mangueira, Não” was not a big hit. The next year, Estácio samba school held a party in honor of Mangueira, and for the occasion, Cartola, one Mangueira’s founders, composed a samba by almost the same name – “Silenciar a Mangueira, Não” – that stood up for other schools in the name of tradition and friendly competition, since “one swallow does not a summer make.” The original samba ended at “…old Estácio de Sá.” Monarco added the rest of the lyrics in his 1980 recording, one of just two recordings of the song.  (The other is from 2002.)  Pastoras (feminine of pastor, left in Portuguese in the translation below) are what the women singing the chorus in rodas de samba are often called.

Appropriately, the most famous recording of this song ended up being by Monarco, a celebrated samba composer from Portela samba school:

“Silenciar a Mangueira, Não” by Cartola (1944)

Silence Mangueira, no
Someone said one swallow alone does not make summer, either
We need to have adversaries, like Oswaldo Cruz
The proverb says it’s from dispute that light is born
A school that shouldn’t go anywhere
Is the old Estácio de Sá, old Estácio de Sá
In Mangueira, poetry lives in our heart
A poet put it this way
To see Mangueira is tradition
Mangueira has Cartola
In Estácio, Ismael
Portela had Paulo, who was our God in the sky
Silence Mangueira, no
If you go to Mangueira, where beauty seduces
Send a big hug, sent from Oswaldo Cruz
Don’t despair, pastora, listen to what my samba says
If you fight for Mangueira, one day you’ll be happy

 Lyrics in Portuguese

“Mangueira, Não”

Acabaram com a Praça Onze
Demoliram praças e ruas, eu sei
Podem até acabar com o Estácio
O velho Estácio de Sá
Derrubem todos os morros
Derrubem meu barracão
Silenciar a Mangueira, não!

Mangueira foi um morro
Que nasceu sambando
Mangueira foi um morro
Que viveu cantando

Mangueira nasceu…
Mangueira se fez…
Fala tamborim!
Fala bateria!

Ninguém há de dizer
Que Mangueira faleceu
Mangueira não morre!

“Silenciar a Mangueira, Não”

Silenciar a Mangueira, não
disse alguém
uma andorinha só
não faz verão também
devemos ter adversários
como Oswaldo Cruz
diz o provérbio
da discussão é que nasce a luz
uma escola que não devia acabar
era o velho Estácio de Sá
em Mangueira a poesia
mora em nosso coração
um poeta assim dizia
ver Mangueira é tradição
a Mangueira tem Cartola
no Estácio, Ismael
a Portela tinha o Paulo
que era o nosso deus no céu
se tu fores à Mangueira
onde a beleza seduz
leva um abraço apertado
lembrança de Oswaldo Cruz
não desanime, pastora
ouça o que o meu samba diz
se lutares pela Mangueira
um dia serás feliz

Main source for this post: Grande Otelo: uma biografia, by Sérgio Cabral and conversation with Jairo Severiano.