“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Numa vasta extensão // On a vast expanse Onde não há plantação // Where there’s nothing planted Nem ninguém morando lá // And no one living there Cada pobre que passa por ali // Every poor man who passes by Só pensa em construir seu lar // Can only think of building a home E quando o primeiro começa // And when the first begins Os outros depressa procuram marcar // The others rush to try to mark Seu pedacinho de terra pra morar // Their little piece of land to live on E assim a região // And that’s how the region sofre modificação // Undergoes modification Fica sendo chamada de a nova aquarela // Ends up being called the “new watercolor” E é aí, é aí que o lugar // And that’s when, that’s when the place Então passa a se chamar favela // Starts being called “favela”
— “Vida de Operário” by Padeirinho & Quincas do Cavaco (first recording 1966 – Jamelão)
Ora vejam // Now look
Com é a vida de um operário // What the life of a factory-hand is like
Sai todos os dias no mesmo horário // He leaves every day at the same exact time
Fazendo ginástica pra trabalhar // Doing acrobatics to get to work
Ele pega o trem do subúrbio // He catches the suburban train line
Tão superlotado // So overcrowded
Que pra viajar tem que ir pendurado //That to take it he has to hang off of it
Arriscando a vida pra lá e pra cá // Risking his life all over the place
E as vezes // And sometimes
Quando ele chega um pouco atrasado // When he arrives just a little late
Por causa do trem que ficou enguiçado // On account of the train that broke down
O patrão não deixa ele mais pegar // His boss doesn’t let him take it anymore
Mas as vezes quando ele pega // But sometimes when he takes it
Ele perde o Domingo // He loses his Sunday
Porque o patrão que ele tem é mendigo // Because the boss he has is a miser
E nunca lhe deu uma colher de chá // And never gave him even a tea
(Azar do Valdemar) // (What tough luck for Chuck)
— “Cavaco emprestado” by Padeirinho (1974)
Você quebrou // You broke Meu cavaco de estimação // My pet cavaco E não pagou // And didn’t pay Por que razão? // Why was that? Agora mesmo quero indenização // I want indemnity right now Porque se não, se não, se não // Or else, or else, or else Se não não, sei não… // Or else I don’t even know what… Você pegou // You took Meu cavaquinho emprestado // My cavaquinho on loan Viajou pra todo lado //And traveled everywhere E nem sequer me convidou // And didn’t even invite me Ganhou dinheiro // You made money Tirou onda de artista // Played the star Quero pagamento a vista // I want my full cash payment Do meu cavaquinho // For my cavaquinho Que você quebrou // That you broke
— “Modificado” by Padeirinho (1962; first recording 1980s)
Vejo o samba tão modificado // I see samba so modified Que eu também fui obrigado // That I’m also obliged A fazer modificação // To make modifications Espero que vocês não me censurem // I hope you don’t censor me O que eu quero é que todos procurem // All I want is that you all try Ver se eu não tenho razão // And see if I’m not right – Já não se fala mais no sincopado // No one talks about syncopatedanymore Desde quando o desafinado // Since when was out-of-tune Aqui teve grande aceitação // So accepted here E até eu também gostei daquilo // And I even liked that too Modificando o estilo // Modifying the style Do meu samba tradição // Of my samba tradition Gosto de um samba ritmado pra sambar // I like a rhythmic samba to swing to Também gosto de um sincopado pra dançar // And I like a syncopated samba to dance Mas agora tudo é diferente // But now everything’s different Já não se fala mais naquele samba de ritmo quente // No one talks anymore about those sambas with hot rhythms —
“Como será o ano 2000” by Padeirinho (first recorded by João Nogueira, 1983)
Como será daqui para o ano 2000? // What will it be like by the year 2000? Como será o nosso querido Brasil? // What will our dear Brazil be like? Como será o morro sem os barracôes? // What will the hillside without the shacks be like? Como será o Rio sem as tradições? // And Rio without its traditions? Será que no ano 2000 as escolas de samba irão desfilar? // I wonder if the samba schools will parade in the year 2000? Será que haverá carnaval? Será? // I wonder if there’ll be Carnival? Could it be? Daqui para o ano 2000 só Deus sabe como será // By the year 2000, only god knows what it’ll be like E o povo do Brasil verá // and the Brazilian people will see Como será? // What will it be like?
“O Grande Presidente” (1956)
No ano de 1883 // In the year of 1883
No dia 19 de Abril // On the 19th day of April
Nascia Getúlio Dorneles Vargas // Getúlio Dorneles Vargas was coming into this world
Que mais tarde seria o governador do nosso Brasil // And would come to be governor of our Brazil
Ele foi eleito a deputado // He was elected deputy
Para defender as causas do nosso país // To defend our nation’s causes
E na revolução de 30 ele aqui chegava // And in the revolution of ’30 he was arriving here
Como substituto de Washigton Luiz // To take the place of Washington Luiz
E do ano de 1930 pra cá // And from year of 1930 to now
Foi ele o presidente mais popular // He was the most popular president
Sempre em contato com o povo // Always in touch with the people
Construindo um Brasil novo // Building a new Brazil
Trabalhando sem cessar // Working incessantly
Como prova em Volta Redonda a cidade do aço // And as proof, in Volta Redonda, the city of steel
Existe a grande siderúrgica nacional // We have the great national steel industry
Que tem o seu nome elevado no grande espaço // Which bears his name raised high in space
Na sua evolução industrial // In its industrial evolution
Candeias a cidade petroleira // Candeias, the “petroleum city”
Trabalha para o progresso fabril // Works for industrial progress
Orgulho da indústria brasileira // The pride of Brazilian industry
Na história do petróleo do Brasil // In the history of Brazilian oil
Ô Ô // Oh, Oh
Salve O estadista idealista e realizador BIS // Save the idealist statist and man of action
Getúlio Vargas // Getúlio Vargas
O grande presidente de valor // The great president of valor
— Commentary —
Só muitos anos depois entendi a grande importância do Padeirinho no contexto da cultura popular. Ele deixou registrado com música, ritmo e rimas, a linguagem das comunidades mais baixas da sociedade.
— Only many years later would I come to understand the tremendous importance of Padeirinho in the context of popular culture. He left records – through music, rhythms, and rhymes – of the language of the lowest classes of our society. —
– Nelson Sargento
Padeirinho was one of Mangueira’s most versatile sambistas of all time, excellent with improvisation and humorous critical observation of social ills. He was an expert in the slang of Rio’s favelas, and used the “language of the morro” to tell his syncopated stories about life in Rio’s lower social rungs in the mid-twentieth century.
His greatest idols were his elders in Mangueira: Geraldo Pereira, Cartola, and Nelson Cavaquinho, especially. And his sambas represent a mixture of the styles of these three legendary samba composers, including romantic songs, syncopated critical sambas (“Vida de operário,” for example) in the style of Geraldo Pereira, and sambas de enredo like “O Grande Presidente.”
He may be most remembered for his cheeky use of slang from the morros in songs, as the Nelson Sargento quotation above points out. Many sambistas at the time hesitated to lace local dialect into lyrics: they were trying to conform to a more clean-cut image to appeal to larger audiences and appease authorities. But Padeirinho made several successful sambas that relied on slang from his community, including “Mora no assunto” – his first samba to be recorded, by Jamelão, in the early ’50s – “Deixa de moda,” and “Nota de duque,” one of the most popular sambas on the morro in the late 1950s. Around then Padeirinho came to the conclusion that he should provide a translation so some more people could understand him, and he wrote one of his most popular sambas, “Linguagem do morro,” which provides a clever list of concepts that were called by different names on the morro.
Padeirinho was born Osvaldo Vitalino de Oliveira on March 5, 1927, in Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro; he earned the nickname “padeirinho” because his father was a padeiro – a baker. He moved with his father to the samba stronghold of Morro da Mangueira when he was ten, and began to compose around age thirteen.
Padeirinho never had the chance to go to school and felt ashamed of his illiteracy. Through samba — finding rhymes and constructing lyrics — he taught himself to read and write. He began singing his sambas in canteens around the community for whoever would listen. He also began drinking at a very young age in those canteens, and samba and alcoholism would remain two constants in his life.
Padeirinho used to say 1947 was “his year”: that year, an older brother-in-law brought him to sing for the composers at Mangueira, where he performed his samba “Mangueira desceu para cantar,” and he officially entered the composers’ wing of the school. He married his wife Cremilda that year – they stayed together until their deaths forty years later – and he landed a steady job as a stevedore at Rio’s port, alongside many sambistas includingAniceto do Império, one of the leaders of the stevedores’ union. Another sambista and founder of Império Serrano samba school, Eloy Antero Dias, set Padeirinho up with the job, and there were so many sambistas on the docks – imperianos in particular – that Dona Ivone Lara said Império Serrano should actually be called the Union of Stevedores.
Mangueira at the time was a hotbed of samba, and as Padeirinho continued composing, big name recording artists became his fans and recorded his songs, beginning with Jamelão in Rio and Germano Mathias in São Paulo. Other samba legends who released Padeirinho’s sambas include João Nogueira, Paulinho da Viola, Beth Carvalho, Candeia, Martinho da Vila, Moacyr Luz, Xangô da Mangueira, Clementina de Jesus and Elza Soares.
In 1987, forty years after “his year,” Padeirinho was supposed to record his first album. But his wife Mida died in late 1986. Padeirinho, weak and heartbroken, died two months later, in January 1987.
Padeirinho reportedly composed “Favela” as he observed, from his home atop Morro da Mangueira, the favela dos Esqueletos rising up before him. (The favela was torn down to make space for the UERJ campus later on.)
“Modificado” is a response to bossa nova. In 1959, Padeirinho went twice to São Paulo and returned home frustrated, saying he had been hoping to hear Germano Mathias’s recording of his song “Zé da pinga” on the radio, but instead only heard Celly Campelo’s “Estúpido Cupido,” some other pop songs, and bossa nova, which everyone was talking about, albeit with mixed reactions. Padeirinho’s fellow sambistas around Mangueira hated the new style: samba with totally different sounds, rhythmic inflections and accents. But despite his frustration, Padeirinho didn’t mind it, and defended it as “samba all the same.” In response to all the fuss, he wrote his humored syncopated critique of this new, modified samba: “Modificado,” which makes reference to the bossa nova song “Desafinado“(out of tune).
“O Grande Presidente” is one of the finest examples of the kind of bombastic samba-enredo that dominated Carnival in the 1950s and 1960s, full of statements about opulence, magnificence and glory. Mangueira came in third place that year, behind Império Serrano (Caçador de Esmeraldas, by Silas de Oliveira & Mano Décio) and Portela. This specific kind of samba is called a “samba-lençol” (sheet samba) since it covers the story of the person being paid tribute to from top to bottom, start to finish. The samba pays tribute to Getúlio Vargas, Brazil’s controversial populist leader who governed Brazil from 1930-1945 as a dictator and 1951-1954 as a democratically elected president. Vargas came to power in the revolution of 1930 mentioned in the song, and made a big push to industrialize Brazil, as the samba says. In August 1954, growing unrest signalled an impending military overthrow of Vargas. Before that could happen, he shot and killed himself in Catete Palace. Because of his populist principles, Vargas was known as the “father of the poor,” and Padeirinho’s samba in tribute to him, composed shortly after Vargas’s death, is widely considered one of the most beautiful samba-enredos of all time.
Main source for this post: Padeirinho da Mangueira: Retrato sincopado de um artista by Franco Paulino
Album: Soundtrack of film A Falecida (1964); LP Elizeth sobe o morro (1965, Elizeth Cardoso); Depoimento do Poeta(1970, Nelson Cavaquinho)
I live looking for someone
Who suffers like I suffer
And I just can’t find anyone
And life goes on like that
I don’t have anyone who takes pity on me
I’m nearing the end
The black light of a cruel destiny
Illuminates a colorless theater
Where I’m playing the role
Of a clown of love
And life goes on like that
I don’t have anyone who takes pity on me
And I’m nearing the end, and I’m nearing the end…
This is a classic samba de morro – a samba from Rio de Janeiro’s poorer hillside neighborhoods – from one of Brazil’s most iconic sambistas, Nelson Cavaquinho. Cavaquinho wrote the song upon the request of filmmaker Leon Hirszman, a fellow denizen of Cartola’s restaurant Zicartola, for Hirszman’s film “A falecida” (“The dead woman”) based on Nelson Rodrigues‘ play by the same name. The samba was arranged for the film by renowned Brazilian composer Radamés Gnattali.
Nelson Cavaquinho was born October 29, 1911, in Rio de Janeiro. He came from a family of modest means, so he left school as boy to work in a factory. There, his coworkers organized samba gatherings, where he earned his nickname because of his early knack for playing cavaquinho and his peculiar style of plucking with just two fingers. Eventually, Nelson Cavaquinho cast aside his namesake instrument in favor of the guitar.
In 1931, Nelson met and married Alice Ferreira Neves (after her father allegedly dragged him to the courthouse); the couple had four children before separating. Alice’s father recommended Nelson Cavaquinho for the Military Police Cavalry, and Cavaquinho began patrolling the Mangueira neighborhood atop his horse, Vovô (Grandpa). In Mangueira, he met and developed friendships with Zé da Zilda, Carlos Cachaça, and Cartola. As the story goes, he met Cartola in the square in Mangueira and spent so much time talking with him that Vovô grew tired of waiting and went back to the police station alone. Nelson Cavaquinho was locked up for a few days — a punishment he was rather accustomed to at that point. By 1938, Cavaquinho had separated from his wife; he was a fixture in Rio’s bohemian samba circles, an iconic member of Mangueira samba school and a frequent attraction at Zicartola, the restaurant that Cartola ran with his wife Zica. In 1952, he moved to Mangueira, and a few years later he metGuilherme de Brito, with whom he composed some of Brazil’s most beloved sambas such as “A Flor e o Espinho” (The Flower and the Thorn) and “Folhas Secas” (Dry Leaves).
Nelson Cavaquinho became known for his melancholic sambas. He sang mostly about dark themes — death, poverty and perdition. In spite of his disconsolate tone, he never showed any inclination to abandon his bohemian lifestyle. Eduardo Gundin, a friend and fellow composer, recalls a day when he was on his way to pick up Cavaquinho after a radio interview: Gundin tuned his car radio to the interview, and heard the reporter ask Nelson Cavaquinho about his plans for the future. He responded: “My plans? Gudin is going to come pick me up and then we’re going to drink at Bar do Alemão.”
Nelson Cavaquinho died of emphysema on February 18, 1986.