Forget Momo, the fat guy that, every year, is crowned Carnival King. The real sovereign of the giant feast that begins in a few weeks is Martinho da Vila. This composer of irresistible smile, now in his seventies, was responsible for some of the most memorable samba-enredos of Unidos de Vila Izabel, escola de samba that he personifies. Thanks to his creation “Kizomba – a Festa da Raça“, Vila Izabel won Rio’s Carnival in 1988. This samba enredo, as so many other compositions by Martinho, is about slavery, freedom and Zumbi, the rebel slave leader. The composer is a big activist for the right of Afro-Brazilians.
You can see this samba enredo here, interpreted by Dudu Nobre, with subtitles in Portuguese (I wish I could find a good footage of the carnival parade itself, but wasn’t that lucky):
Brazilians have a somewhat disturbing tenderness for certain types of criminals. Let me drop some names that will prove my point: Meneghetti, Adhemar de Barros, Lampião and your generic malandro.
Take, for instance, the figure of Gino Meneghetti. Born in Pisa, Italy, in 1870, he became a huge celebrity in São Paulo, between 1914 and the sixties. He was known as the “good thief”, “the greatest criminal of Latin America” and the “roof cat”, due to his ability of jumping from one house to another to deceive the police. The public passion for Meneghetti florished thanks to the massive media coverage of his feats and the fact that he never hurt anybody, only stole from the rich and performed spectacular escapes.
The second name in our list: coffee producer and politician Adhemar de Barros, the very popular governor that ruled over São Paulo state during part of the forties, the fifties and the sixties. One of his mottos, of striking candor, is still remembered by those who distrust politicians: “Roubo, mas faço” (I steal, but I also build). Indeed, he was very hard working and left a legacy of power dams, roads, schools and hospitals. But his government was also marked by several corruption episodes. Till today you can find elder adhemaristas that still long for those days.
If you’ve had your share of Bossa Nova, if you feel that you already know all the Tropicália big shots well, if you’re tired of samba, if you already listened all that matter from Clube da Esquina, or if funk ball is not your cup of tea, but you still want Brazilian sounds to rock your life, here are some picks of great musicians who deserve your attention. Not famous outside of Brazil, from different genres and generations, these guys made my life happier many a time. Enjoy.
Secos e Molhados – They are a band from the 1970s, a mix of glam rock and prog, inevitably and proudly gay, in a time that being all those things could land you in jail or worse, dead in the hands of the extreme right vigilantes. The band leader and singer, Ney Matogrosso, went to become a big star in a solo career, with a huge following of middle aged women. One of those Brazilian mysteries that is hard to explain: how a flaming gay singer becomes a hero in a openly homophobic environment? Now he makes (well) more traditional Brazilian music, and still has that incredible voice. Recommended album: “Secos e Molhados” (1973).
A little aftertaste of Carnival: the Havaiana flipflops add currently on TV shows a lady criticizing a bunch of guys (including actor Marcos Palmeira) who are celebrating while the world is in crisis. Palmeira sighs and says tristeza (sadness), which reminds the group of a classical samba, by Haroldo Lobo and Nilton de Souza.
The photos I chose were produced by Riotur, the tourism agency of the city of Rio.
There are several ways of celebrating Carnival in Rio, if you are lucky enough to be there on February 13th, when the festival begins.
You can be in the audience of the huge parade of Escolas de Samba – at the Sambódromo (built specifically for the yearly event) -, you can attend some indoor ball, or you can participate in one of the hundred street manifestations that happen all around town. These blocos, as they are called, are semi-spontaneous, normally include a group of percussionists and may be thematic.
Their names can be really inspired:
“O Negócio tá feio e o teu nome tá no meio” (Things are getting ugly and your name was mentioned)
“Meu amor, vou logo ali” (My love, I am going next door – and I won’t come back before the party is over, it should add)
“Butano na Bureta” (Butane in the Burette, inspired by [sexual] chemistry)
“Xupa mas não baba” (Suck but don’t drool – no comments about this one)
“Lavou tá limpo” (If you wash, it will be clean again)
“Parei de beber, não de mentir” (I stopped drinking, not lying)
“Simpatia é quase Amor” (Liking is almost Love).
Check here for the complete list, in case you are in town to celebrate.
In the last day of 2009, a gift to rock your New Year Party: a list of cool podcasts of Brazilian music. Sure, the hosts do a lot of talking, but waiting for the songs definitely pays off.
Caipirinha Appreciation Society – Produced for the University of London’s Open Air Radio, it offers “wonderfully under-exposed Brazilian music of all styles, regions and time-periods”. One of their latest podcasts presents artists influenced by Afro-Brazilian cults, such as umbanda and candomblé.
Coquetel Molotov – The best of 2009 offered by Radio Universitária AM, of Recife (state of Pernambuco). Caetano Veloso, Erasmo Carlos, Banda Gentileza, Céu, Lulina and Zé Cafofinho, among many others.
Farofa Moderna – Jazz, samba, frevo – only the best of Brazilian instrumental music hosted by the MTV portal. The latest podcast includes Airto Moreira, Bocato, Hermeto Pascoal and Sivuca.