Invitation to Brazilian Dance

    The old dance hall isn’t dead. Anyone who has watched the Mexican film Danzón can attest to the spellbinding attraction of those old-fashioned spaces where entwined sweaty couples sway sinuously for hours.

    Brazil’s dance hall, the gafieira, is closely allied to choro. The country’s greatest choro musicians, from Pixinguinha to Luiz Americano, regularly played in these venues, for couples to dance.

    The great clarinetist (and at other times saxophonist) Paulo Moura continues this tradition in his latest disc, Estação Leopoldina. The CD’s title (much like Guinga’s Suí­te Leopoldina) alludes to the Rio working-class suburbs, cradle of choro and pagode.

    Paulo Moura’s gafieira romp.

    Moura, who in the 1980s grew dissatisfied with his jazz-oriented repertoire, moved from the southern bairro of Botafogo to the northern suburb of Ramos.

    His new house was just in front of the quadra of the samba school Imperatriz Leopoldinense, and the famous carnaval bloco Cacique de Ramos was nearby.

    Beth Carvalho, with whom Moura worked at that time, introduced him to roots samba, as well as to the new pagode movement then being born in Ramos.

    From Ramos, Moura borrowed the typical pagode percussion instruments, such as the tantan and the repique-de-mão. But pagode is a sung medium, and a wholly instrumental album needed a companion voice for the clarinet.

    Moura settled on the accordion, remembering the accordion-clarinet duets that Orlando Silveira and Luiz Americano used to played on the radio of his youth.

    Enter accordionist Chico Chagas, who adds rhythmic texture to most of the tracks and contributes his own composition on track nine.

    Opening the disc with a flourish is Moura’s “Estação Leopoldina,” a traditional gafieira tune that urges any listener to jump up and dance (even if s/he doesn’t know how). “Fibra” introduces a measure of contemporary chutzpah to the proceedings.

    The choro classics are represented by three Jacob do Bandolim tunes and one by Radamés Gnattali. Baden Powell’s “Deve Ser Amor” is turned into a sensual Latin dance-hall number, while João Donato’s “Bananeira” receives an adventurous opening that blends Yiddish-like guitar trills with remote cuí­ca howls.

    Among the more recent compositions, Rodrigo Lessa’s “Rala Coxa” carries a strong klezmer flavor, while Rodrigo Campello’s “Oritimbó” (buttocks) is evocative of Brazil’s Northeast.

    Among these and other colorfully rhythmic tunes, Moura’s waltz “Linda” offers a lovely change of pace. And traditional samba isn’t left out: a medley of golden classics allows the dancers to take a break and sing along.

    Also worth a listen:
    Gafieira Dance Brasil with Paulo Moura and pianist Cliff Korman.

    Paulo Moura: Estação Leopoldina
    (Rádio MEC RM015/Rob Digital; 2003) 66:19 min.

    01. Estação Leopoldina (Paulo Moura/Almazor Cavalcante)
    02. Fibra (Eloir Moraes/Paulo Moura)
    03. Simplicidade (Jacob Pick Bittencourt)
    04. Nosso Romance (Jacob Pick Bittencourt)
    05. Deve Ser Amor (Baden Powell/Vinicius de Moraes)
    06. Bananeira (João Donato/Gilberto Gil)
    07. Rala Coxa (Rodrigo Lessa)
    08. Oritimbó (Rodrigo Campello)
    09. Pro Paulo (Chico Chagas)
    10. Maré Cheia (Paulo Moura/Jorge Degas)
    11. Linda (Paulo Moura)
    12. Remexendo (Radamés Gnattali)
    13. Pot-Pourri:
          Ai, que Saudade da Amélia (Ataulfo Alves/Mário Lago)
          Trem das Onze (Adoniran Barbosa)
          Prêmio de Consolação (Jayme “Meira” Florence/Augusto Mesquita)
          Leva Meu Samba (Ataulfo Alves)
    14. Receita de Samba (Jacob Pick Bittencourt)

    Chalana de Prata Navigates the Pantanal.

    Chalana de Prata

    Situated in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul on the borders of Bolivia and Paraguay, and connected to Argentina by way of the Prata Basin, the Pantanal shares various social and cultural customs, figures and accents of speech, and musical rhythms with its neighboring Spanish-speaking countries.

    The Chamamé, for example, is an Argentine dance that has found a home in Brazil. The guarânia crossed the border from Paraguay, while the polka is a European import popularized throughout the Prata Basin.

    They all coexist happily with typical local rhythms such as the cururu, the siriri, and the rasqueado, and with country rhythms such as the xote (also of European origins), which can be found all over Brazil.

    Chalana de Prata is a musical group dedicated to spreading the Pantanal traditions. Composed of four well-known solo artists, the group includes the famous accordionist Dino Rocha, “King of the Chamamé”; guitarist and singer Guilherme Rondon; lead singer and bassist Celito Espí­ndola; and Paulo Simões, who plays 10-string viola and sings.

    Chalana is a boat of the type that sails on the rivers of the Prata Basin. It’s also the title of a famous song by Arlindo Pinto and Mário Zan that the group performs on this disc, along with the bandmembers’ own compositions.

    What unites all the tracks is a danceable joie de vivre that is an authentic regional expression. Among the delightful songs found here is the opening tune, “Prazer de Fazendeiro,” a manifesto for cowboy indolence in the same way that Wilson Batista’s “Lenço no Pescoço” was one for the malandro way of life:

    O maior prazer na vida
    Já estou acostumado
    Abraçar moça bonita
    E dançar um rasquado

    Carregar dinheiro aos maços
    E viver sempre folgado
    Lenço branco no pescoço
    Trinta e oito niquelado

    Equally enticing is the penultimate track, “Chamamé Comanda,” which observes that even if you can’t dance the chamamé, it wouldn’t be hard to become addicted:

    Quem não souber dançar
    Pode se acomodar na varandá
    Saiba que nesse baile
    O chamamé comanda

    Mas se você tentar
    Pode se acostumar a mudança
    E até se viciar
    Com essa nossa dança

    Listen to audio samples of all the tracks.

    Chalana de Prata: Chalana de Prata
    (Independent; 1998) 43:23 min.

    Produced by André Magalhães

    01. Prazer de Fazendeiro (Delio/Delinha)
    02. Quero Quero (Celito Espí­ndola/Dino Rocha/Paulo Simões)
    03. A Chalana (Mário Zan/Arlindo Pinto)
    04. Morena que Vale a Pena (Celito Espí­ndola/Paulo Simões)
    05. Invernada (Almir Sater/Guilherme Rondon/Paulo Simões)
    06. Fazendeiro Rico (adaptação: Tavinho Moura)
    07. Curupi (Dino Rocha)
    08. Trem do Pantanal (Geraldo Roca/Paulo Simões)
    09. íšltima Boiada (Guilherme Rondon/Paulo Simões)
    10. As Mocinhas da Cidade (Nhô Belarmino)
    11. Chamamé Comanda (Guilherme Rondon/Paulo Simões)
    12. Baile Pantaneiro (Dino Rocha)

    You can read more about Brazilian music and culture at
    Daniella Thompson on Brazil here:


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