“Quem São Eles (a Bahia é boa terra)” – “Já Te Digo”

Quem São Eles  (“Samba Carnavalesco gravado pelo Bahiano e o corpo de coro para Casa Edison – Rio de Janeiro!”) – 1918

___

A Bahia é boa terra// Bahia is a good land
Ela lá e eu aqui – Iaiá // Her up there and me down here, iaiá
Ai, ai, ai // Ai ai ai
Não era assim que meu bem chorava  (2x) // That’s not how my darling cried
(repeat)

Não precisa pedir, que eu vou dar // You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
Dinheiro não tenho mas vou roubar (sambar) // I don’t have money but I’ll steal it
(repeat)

Carreiro olha a canga do boi //  Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Carreiro olha a canga do boi // Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Toma cuidado que o luar já se foi // Be careful, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone

__(extra verses added for the recording) __

O castelo é coisa a toa // The castle is nothing
Entretanto isso não tira, Iaiá // But that doesn’t matter(?), iaiá
Ai, ai, ai
É lá que a brisa respira (2x) // It’s up there that the breeze breathes
(repeat)

Não precisa pedir, que eu vou dar // You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
Dinheiro não tenho mas vou roubar (sambar) // I don’t have money but I’ll steal it
(repeat)

Carreiro olha a canga do boi //  Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Carreiro olha a canga do boi // Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Toma cuidado que o luar já se foi // Be careful, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone

Quem são eles? // Who are they?
Quem são eles? // Who are they?
Diga lá e não se avexe – Iayá // Go ahead and say it, and don’t get flustered, iaiá
Ai, ai, ai
São peixinhos de escabeche (2x)// They’re little pickled fish
(repeat)

Não precisa pedir que eu vou dar //You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
O resto do caso pra que cantar (2x) // The rest of the case – why sing it?
O melhor do luar já se foi // The best of the moonlight’s gone
O melhor do luar já se foi // The best of the moonlight’s gone
Entre menina que aqui estão de horror // Come in girl, cause they’re in a frenzy here (?)
Ai, que aqui estão de horror // Ai, they’re in a frenzy
Ai, que aqui estão de horror // Ai, they’re in a frenzy

— Commentary —

Sinhô rei do samba
In 1920, José Barbosa da Silva — known by his nickname “Sinhô” — was dubbed the “King of Samba” by the newspaper Correio da Manhã. And the title stuck.
Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.07.19 AM
February 1920 – Correio da Manhã crowns Sinhô the “king of carioca samba”. Sinhô had three major Carnival hits that year.

In 1917, Sinhô (José Barbosa da Silva, 8 September 1888 – 4 August 1930) learned a rather bitter lesson about the money that could be made with Carnival songs when he witnessed the unprecedented commercial success of Donga’s “Pelo Telefone.” The song is widely and erroneously cited as being Brazil’s “first recorded samba.” It’s actually a maxixe, and there were at least 23 recorded  “sambas” released prior to 1916; nevertheless, it was the first recorded “samba” to achieve such resounding commercial success, and to demonstrate to composers that composing songs for Carnival could be a lucrative business. The release of “Pelo Telefone” hence opened the era of Carnival compositions.

The success of “Pelo Telefone” didn’t sit well with Sinhô because the song had in fact been a collaborative effort, based on a popular folk song, in which he had played a significant role, along with others who frequented the famed home of Tia Ciata, the most legendary of the tias baianas (Bahian aunties) who opened their homes around Praça Onze to this gaggle of pioneering composers. But when Donga registered the song, he listed only himself and Mauro de Almeida as the songwriters.

Sinhô’s frustration at being erased from the official history and rights to royalties of “Pelo Telefone” helped spark the inspiration for his first major success, “Quem são eles (a Bahia é boa terra),” first recorded by Bahiano and back-up singers at Casa Edison in Rio de Janeiro.  And this song set off the first major duel in the annals of Brazilian popular music.

carro-alegorico-antigo-fenianos-1923
Fenianos float, Carnival 1923.

Sinhô had initially named the song “A Bahia é Boa Terra,” but the samba ended up taking the name of a Carnival bloco (street parade group) that he was helping to lead that year, Quem são eles, which was associated with one of the city’s three major Carnival societies, Os Fenianos. The provocation “quem são eles” (who are they), then, originally referred to that club’s two principal rivals in Rio,  Democráticos and Tenentes do Diabo. The “castle” mentioned in the song was the name for the Democráticos headquarters, and their members were called carapicus, a kind of fish, hence the “pickled fish” reference. (The Fenianos were called cats, which presumably devour pickled fish.) I assume the observation “it’s up there that the breeze breathes” must be some veiled insult against the rival Carnival club.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 9.38.53 AM
19 January 1921 – Jornal “O Imparcial” announcing the presence of Rio’s three most popular Carnival clubs at a great “battle of confetti” in Vila Isabel

On its surface, in its references to Bahia, the song lampooned an ongoing political skirmish between Bahian politicians Rui Barbosa and J.J. Seabra.  But Sinhô took advantage of the theme to incorporate what were easily interpreted as digs at Bahia and Bahians in general, honing his storied knack for double entendre. His teasing wasn’t taken lightly: tias baianas like Tia Ciata were essential to the emergence of Rio’s samba. They provided the space for musical creation mixed with Afro-Brazilian religious practices that incubated carioca samba in its earliest manifestations. And many of the composers who hung out there – most notably João da Baiana and Donga – were sons of Bahian migrants. Bahia was deeply woven into their upbringing and musical influences. Sinhô  wasn’t born to Bahians, but he was still a musical progeny of this group, having spent a good chunk of his early days as a musician at the homes of tias baianas. So when he released this samba that started out “Bahia is a good land/ her up there, me down here,” that clan not only took offense, but also considered it something of a betrayal by a composer who’d suddenly gotten a bit too big for his britches.

Pixinguinha_João da Baiana_DongaThey were affronted by “I don’t have money/ but I’ll steal it,” interpreting it as a message that Bahians couldn’t be trusted. (Sinhô’s biographer Edgar de Alencar published “sambar” in the place of “roubar,” steal, as the original lyrics. I’m not sure about that.) And they were likely extra galled by the smashing success of the song, which drowned out their 1918 release “O Malhador,” (registered to Donga and Pixinguinha, and also recorded by Bahiano), which had been Donga’s attempt to repeat the success of the prior year’s “Pelo Telefone.”

Funnily enough, in spite of its light mockery, the samba ultimately fit nicely into the style of sambas written by the “Bahian wing” of composers, with its syncopation; the “ai ai ai” that recalls the second part of “Pelo Telefone” (ai, ai, ai, deixa as mágoas para trás, o rapaz), and its evocation of rural scenes like the reference to the ox-cart driver.  Iaiá and ioiô were terms with origins among slaves referring to masters’ sons (ioiô) and daughters (iaiá); the terms eventually evolved into terms of endearment used among slaves or freed slaves, or their offspring. As noted above, the original lyrics ended after the first “o luar já se foi.”  But as was common practice those days, someone — maybe Sinhô, maybe Bahiano, maybe both  — added the extra verses for the recording.

Sensitive to issues of rights and royalties after the case of “Pelo Telefone,” Sinhô ordered a custom stamp made to mark the authorized scores, thereby also marking the start of an era when royalties began to be taken more seriously – the advent of the professionalization of the popular composer.

“Quem são eles” quickly inspired four new compositions in retort: “Não és tão falado assim” (You’re not so widely spoken of), by Hilário Jovino Ferreira, a native of Pernambuco who had grown up and made his name in Bahia and moved at the end of the 19th century to Rio de Janeiro (more on him, an important Carnival booster, here); “Fica calmo que aparece,” by Donga; “Já te digo,” by Pixinguinha and his brother China; and “Entregue o samba aos seus donos,” also by Hilário Jovino, who asserted in the lyrics that Bahians were the true owners of sambas, while Sinhô was just a lame sell-out. What’s more, this song also decried Sinhô’s plagiarism, in this case specifically regarding Sinhô’s latest hit, another rib aimed at Bahian politician Rui Barbosa, “Fala meu louro” (aka “Papagaio louro”). Hilário published the lyrics together with a note denouncing Sinhô for “the most brazen plagiarism in the history of sambistas” and calling on all “sambistas” (with sambistas still published in quotation marks in 1920) to write sambas on this theme:

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 10.42.38 AM.pngEntregue o samba a seus donos // Turn samba over to its owners
É chegada a ocasião // The time has come
Lá no Norte não fizemos // Up north we didn’t make
Do pandeiro profissão // A profession of the pandeiro
Falsos filhos da Bahia // Phony sons of Bahia
Que nunca passaram lá // Who’ve never even been there
Que não comeram pimenta // Never eaten chili sauce
Na moqueca e vatapá // In moqueca and vatapá
Mandioca mais se presta //Manioc is the good stuff
Muito mais que a tapioca //Much more than tapioca
Na Bahia não tem mais coco? //There’s no more coconut in Bahia?
É plágio de um carioca //That’s plagiarism by a carioca

Neither of Hilário Jovino’s responses were recorded, and today there’s unfortunately no record of “Não és tão falado assim” – lyrics or melody. Pixinguinha recorded an instrumental version of Donga’s “Fica calmo que aparece,” and the banal lyrics on the score make no apparent reference to the spat (“Keep calm, love will appear/ Passion is something that’s never forgotten”), suggesting these were merely the “official” lyrics, and that the song likely had an alternative set of spicier lyrics that have since been lost.

The most beautiful (by my judgment) and enduring of these four responses — “Já te digo” (also recorded by the fixture Bahiano for Casa Edison) — was also the most pointed roast of Sinhô, taking aim at his looks (“he’s tall/skinny/ugly, missing teeth”); his extravagant manner of dressing (“he suffered to use a stiff standing collar”); his short-lived flute-playing days (“When he used to play flute/ What agony!”), and his general  dandy persona (“today he’s all dapper / on the dime of the suckers of Rio de Janeiro”):

“Já te digo” by Pixinguinha and China (1919)

__

Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é // One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é // One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé // He suffered to use a stiff standing collar (?)
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé// He suffered to use a stiff standing collar

Vocês não sabem quem é ele, pois eu vos digo // You all don’t know who he is, well I’ll tell you
Vocês não sabem quem é ele, pois eu vos digo // You all don’t know who he is, well I’ll tell you
Ele é um cabra muito feio, que fala sem receio // He’s a real ugly guy, who says whatever he wants
Não tem medo de perigo // Has no fear of danger
Ele é um cabra muito feio, que fala sem receio // He’s a real ugly guy who says whatever he wants
Não tem medo de perigo // Has no fear of danger

Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é //One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é //One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé // He suffered to use a stiff standing collar
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé// He suffered to use a stiff standing collar

Ele é alto, magro e feio // He’s tall, skinny and ugly
É desdentado // He’s missing teeth
Ele é alto, magro e feio // He’s tall, skinny and ugly
É desdentado // He’s missing teeth
Ele fala do mundo inteiro // He bad-mouths everyone
E já está avacalhado no Rio de Janeiro // And is already scorned around Rio
Ele fala do mundo inteiro // He bad-mouths everyone
E já está avacalhado no Rio de Janeiro // And is already scorned around Rio

To the dismay of Sinhô’s detractors, the public really didn’t care about the feud or the accusations of plagiarism; they loved Sinhô’s songs, and he quickly established his place as Brazil’s most successful popular music composer of the 1920s,”teaching Brazil to like samba,” as Jairo Severiano has put it.

Just in 1920 he had three major hits, which all hid digs at his rivals: “Vou me benzer” (I’m going to get blessed/ to rid myself / of those evil eyes / they cast on me”);  the marchinha “Pé de Anjo,” a blatant copy of the French waltz “C’est pas difficile,” which took aim at Pixinguinha’s brother China, who was known for having huge feet (and which also launched Francisco Alves‘s career as a recording artist); and “Fala meu louro,” mentioned above, about Bahian Rui Barbosa’s loss in the 1919 presidential elections.

Likewise, the success of “Já te digo” propelled Pixinguinha’s career, which of course was so paramount and prolific that historian and musicologist Ary Vasconcellos famously 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.”
_____

Main sources for this post: Uma História do Samba, vol. I, by Lira Neto; Nosso Sinhô do Samba by Edgar de Alencar; Feitiço Decente by Carlos Sandroni; and conversations with Jairo Severiano

 

 

Tempos idos

Lyrics from “Tempos idos” by Cartola and Carlos Cachaça (1961)

Os tempos idos// Times long past
Nunca esquecidos // Never forgotten
Trazem saudades ao recordar // Fill me with saudades as I remember
É com tristeza que eu relembro // It’s with sorrow that I reminisce about
Coisas remotas que não vêm mais // Long ago affairs that won’t return
Uma escola na Praça Onze // A school in Praça Onze
Testemunha ocular // An eye witness…
E perto dela uma balança// And near it, a scale
Onde os malandros iam sambar // Where the malandros would dance samba
Depois, aos poucos, o nosso samba // Then, little by little, our samba –
Sem sentirmos se aprimorou // without our noticing – grew refined
Pelos salões da sociedade // Into society’s ballrooms
Sem cerimônia ele entrou // Without pomp, it entered
Já não pertence mais à Praça // It doesn’t belong to the Praça anymore
Já não é mais samba de terreiro // It’s no longer samba de terreiro
Vitorioso ele partiu para o estrangeiro // Victorious, it departed for abroad
E muito bem representado // And very well represented
Por inspiração de geniais artistas // By the inspiration of brilliant artists
O nosso samba, humilde samba // Our samba – humble samba –
Foi de conquistas em conquistas // Went from one triumph to another
Conseguiu penetrar no Municipal // Was even able to penetrate the Municipal (Theatre)
Depois de percorrer todo o universo // And after crossing the entire universe
Com a mesma roupagem que saiu daqui // In the same trappings as it left here
Exibiu-se para a duquesa de Kent no Itamaraty // Put on a show for the Duchess of Kent in Itamarati

— Commentary —

Cartola_carlos-cachaça-_NelsonCava2-770x460
Cartola and Carlos Cachaça with Nelson Cavaquinho.

 

“Um dos julgadores não devia gostar de mim ou de Cartola. Deu zero,  e a contagem era 1 a 5.”
[One of the judges must have had something against me or Cartola. He gave us a 0 on a scale of 1 to 5.]
— Carlos Cachaça commenting on this samba’s loss in Mangueira’s 1961 samba selection process.

This samba by Cartola and Carlos Cachaça traces a nostalgic history of the genre, contemplating the more commercial direction it had taken by the beginning of the 1960s.  

The pair composed the samba for Carnaval 1961, at the urging of some of Mangueira’s head honchos, who wanted Cartola more involved with the school he’d helped to found decades earlier. But the song lost in the school’s Carnaval samba selection to an easily forgotten samba with a faster beat. Disheartened, Cartola swore off composing sambas-de-enredo for good. 

Cartola and his wife Zica in February 1975. Displeased with the direction samba had taken by the early 1960s, the couple opened their short-lived but famous restaurant Zicartola, which was largely responsible for giving new life to samba de morro in the 1960s.
Cartola and his wife Zica in February 1975. Displeased with the direction samba had taken by the early 1960s, the couple opened their short-lived but famous restaurant Zicartola, which was largely responsible for bringing renewed success to samba de morro in the 1960s.

At the time, Cartola was renewing his ties with Mangueira after having all but vanished from the morro and Rio de Janeiro’s samba scene in the late 1940s and early ’50s. A succession of misfortunes had led him away from Mangueira: In 1946, at 38, he had a life-threatening case of meningitis, which left him incapacitated for about a year (and inspired his samba “Deus, grande deus“); shortly after, he lost his wife Deolinda. He moved away from Mangueira to Caju with a stormy new love interest, Donária, leaving even his guitar behind. He only made his way back to his old neighborhood when he began his best-known romance, with Zica, whom he’d grown up with in Mangueira — and who was Carlos Cachaça’s wife’s sister.

Meanwhile, in the decades that followed Mangueira’s founding in 1928, samba had grown  increasingly popular as a national genre, in step with the quick expansion of the radio industry in Brazil. Through the voices of radio stars like Francisco Alves and Mario Reis, sambas composed in Rio’s poorest morros became popular among middle-class listeners in Rio’s upscale Zona Sul and across Brazil (see “Divina dama” and “Perdão meu bem,” both Cartola, below). Almost all financial returns, unsurprisingly, went to these radio crooners and industry insiders who made dubious deals to purchase the sambas; the composers continued to live in deep poverty as their songs rippled over radio waves across the vast country. One of several odd jobs Cartola kept to earn a meager living was as a painter, which is why he wore the famous hat responsible for his nickname.

Middle class composers like Ary Barroso gained ground in the 1930s and 1940s, popularizing a brand of samba that didn't sit so well with sambistas do morro like Cartola.
Middle class composers like Ary Barroso gained ground in the 1930s and 1940s, popularizing a brand of samba that didn’t sit so well with sambistas like Cartola.

Noel Rosa was also a crucial figure in bringing elements of samba from the morros to Rio’s more upscale neighborhoods. And with the increasing popularity of the genre among well-heeled Brazilians,  more middle-class composers like Ary Barroso, João de Barro, Lamartine Babo, Dorival Caymmi and Assis Valente emerged into the samba spotlight, and artists like Carmen Miranda popularized their sambas abroad. This further reduced the space for composers from Rio’s samba seedbeds.

Marginalized in this regard in the ascension of the genre they’d helped create, sambistas do morro  also quickly lost any say in the same samba schools they had founded. When the municipal government of Rio de Janeiro included the samba schools’ Carnaval parades on its official calendar in 1935, it set in motion a process that gradually took the spirited communal parade in a dramatically direction from its origins in Praça Onze.  In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, the desfile became increasingly commercial, with a greater focus on promoting the artists of each schools’ floats and ultimately the schools’ financiers, rather than local samba composers.

Praça XI c. 1930.
Praça XI c. 1930.

What’s more, in the early ’40s,  Praça Onze — where the first samba school displays took place in the late 1920s and early ’30s, and where malandro sambistas would hold dance-offs on the scale Cartola mentions in this song, a weigh station for animal-traction vehicles —  was destroyed to make way for an expansion of Avenida Presidente Vargas, inaugurated in  1944.

The “school at Praça Onze” that Cartola mentions in the song is GRES Estácio de Sá, which started out as Deixa Falar. It’s widely recognized as Rio’s pioneer samba school, whose sambistas modified the genre in the late 1920s to make it easier to samba and parade to – “samba de sambar do Estácio.” Ismael Silva, one of the most prominent samba composers from the school, also took credit for for the name “samba school” itself, recalling that when they founded Deixa Falar, there was a school nearby, and he said, “We’ll be the professors of samba!” While Portela was out the Central train line in distant Oswaldo Cruz, Mangueira and Deixa Falar were friendly neighbors near the praça: “We would parade on Sundays of Carnaval at Praça Onze and, on Mondays, the sambistas from Estácio would come up the morro do Mangueira; on Tuesdays, Mangueira would go down to Estácio. It was a great friendship,” Cartola recalled.

The destruction of Praça Onze was symbolic of the fate of composers like Cartola during those years. Largely brushed aside by the music industry, they also saw their Carnaval coopted,  with wealthy big-wigs running the show that had begun with ragtag Carnaval corps parading on their own. More and more attention was focused on middle-class Brazilians and tourists, and to appeal to this wider, wealthier audience, schools favored faster, noisier songs (in contrast to more traditional sambas like “Tempos idos”) – the precursors of the incredibly uptempo sambas-de-enredo of the schools today.

A more explicit musical expression of the latter phenomenon can be found in the samba “Terreno baldio” by Marimbondo:

Era um terreno baldio / Que eu mesmo capinei / Com um surdo mal feito de lata / Uma escola de samba fundei / Usei corda na avenida / No desfile principal / Esquentava a bateria / Com pedaço de jornal / A minha escola cresceu / E o terreiro hoje tem cobertura / Quem ficou pequenino fui eu / Diante da nova estrutura / Eu quem fundou a escola / Entre trancos e barrancos / Na galeria de sócios / No lugar do meu nome tem um branco / E vou contar a minha mágoa, minha minha dor / Fui barrado na porta da escola que sou fundador (It was an unused plot of land/ That I myself cleared/ And with a crude surdo made from a can/ Founded a samba school/I paraded in the avenue/ in the main parade/ I warmed up the battery/ With a piece of newspaper/ My school grew/ And the terreiro today has a roof/ I´m the one who grew smaller/ Before that new structure/ I who found (sic) the school/ by fits and starts/ In the gallery of associates/ There’s a blank space where my name should be/ And I´ll tell you my wound, my pain / I was barred at the door of the samba school that I founded).

Portela 1959
Portela 1959

As “Tempos idos” makes reference to, Portela was Carnaval champion in 1959, and representatives of the school were indeed invited to Itamaraty, Brazil’s foreign ministry, to perform samba for the Duchess of Kent.

Cartola and Carlos Cachaça adopted an almost admiring tone in parts of this song, as if they were slightly proud of samba’s success, but much more deeply saddened by the route and costs of that success. This was the context in which Cartola made a final attempt, with Carlos Cachaça, at composing a samba-de-enredo for his school.

Shortly after, Cartola opened the restaurant Zicartola together with Zica. Though it only functioned from 1963 to 1965, it immediately became a bastion for sambistas of Cartola’s stock, and inspired cultural gatherings and groups like “A Voz do Morro” which were in part responsible for a ressurgence in popularity of samba do morro. 

zicartola

More explanations of terms in the song below:

Praça Onze
Praça Onze and its terreiros – as this post mentions – served as the birthplace of carioca samba. The homes in neighborhoods surrounding the praça comprised a large community  Afro-Brazilians who had come from Bahia after the end of slavery in 1888, along with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Heitor dos Prazeres famously said, “Praça Onze was a miniature of Africa,” which led many to refer to the region as Rio’s “Little Africa.” The denomination of Little Africa came to refer to the area from Praça Onze (Cidade Nova) to modern-day Praça Mauá.

Terreiros
Terreiro refers to the large patio-like spaces – usually with earthen floors – in these homes where composers would spend sometimes days on end rehearsing their latest sambas and experimenting with new compositions. Terreiro also refers to the similarly characterized space for Afro-Brazilian religious rituals. In the beginning, samba and macumba were almost inextricably linked. One of Carlos Cachaça’s sambas from the late 1920s went, “Eu fui a um samba na casa de Tia Fé/ de samba virou macumba/de macumba candomblé” (I went to a samba at Tia Fé’s/from samba it turned into macumba/ from macumba, candomblé). Originally, samba schools had Orixás that were considered their protectors, which their particular beats paid salute to: Mangueira was Oxóssi, for example, and Salgueiro, Xangô.

In the area surrounding Praça Onze, composers gathered in the terreiros in homes of several Bahian women who were immortalized in the samba world as the tias baianas (Bahian aunties), most famously Tia Ciata. The mixture of musical influences they played around with there — which included deeply African percussion and song alongside melodic and harmonic influences of contemporary European French and Italian composition — came together as samba carioca. (These tias included the mothers of two of Rio’s earliest samba composers: Tia Amélia do Aragão, mother of Donga, and Tia Perciliana de Santo Amaro, mother of João da Baiana.)

Tellingly, as samba and carnaval became more of a lucrative industry, the terreiros took on a more middle-class, secular denomination: “quadras,” or courts.

Scale
The scale the song refers to was one of ten installed in the city in response to a 1901 decree that aimed to control overweight animal-drawn carriages. The scale in Praça Onze became better known for serving as a stage for samba competitions, and its name might have provided some symbolic meaning as well, as it was used to “weigh” who was better in their batucada and swing.

Main sources for this post: Cartola: os tempos idos by Marilia T. Barboza; Zicartola, by Mauricio Barros de Castro; Dicionário da História Social do Samba by Nei Lopes and Luiz Antonio Simas; and Uma história de música popular brasileira, by Jairo Severiano.

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 hill
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 // And 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 of ill-reconciled 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 hill, to the house the metro killed
Bom era ir, batendo perna, tomar chope na Taberna // How wonderful it was to go  rambling 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 ? // what is it?
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.
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 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.)

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, for the most part, whether he’s recalling a love story or just 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 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.) 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 was a pianist and one of Brazil’s most renowned choro composers. He 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.