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A National Guard

A
      National
      Guard

New official statistics show that the subterranean economy in Brazil
employs one in every four Brazilians. Some experts think that the situation is so
desperate that only a federal program modeled after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal
created to combat the Great Depression would work right now. The 12.87 million people
employed by the informal economy equal the total number of workers in the public and
industry sectors combined. Furthermore, this crisis has increased the amount of working
children. In Rio alone, there are 1.5 million youngsters between the ages of 10 and 17 who
work.
By Brazzil Magazine

For listeners in the United States, samba brings instantaneous images.
Samba is the rhythm of Brazil, the soul of Brazil, the foremost symbol of Brazilian
culture. And although its themes change constantly, as do the regional variations from
São Paulo to Bahia, samba remains the primary agent of national unity, even for
Brazilians abroad. When you consider that traditional samba is not played much on
Brazilian radio anymore and that rock, country, and dance music from Bahia as well as the
United States is what predominates, this idea of samba succeeding outside Brazil becomes
an interesting phenomenon and one that was substantiated by Sérgio Santos when he opened
for Carlinhos Brown last month at the Hollywood Bowl.

Santos is a forty-three year old composer and guitar player from
Varginha, Minas Gerais, who started his musical career as a singer with Milton
Nascimento’s show Missa dos Quilombos. In 1982 he participated in the live
recording at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora Mãe dos Homens (Church of Our Lady Mother of
Men) in Caraça, Minas Gerais. Shortly after working with Milton, Santos abandoned his
architectural studies at the Faculdade de Arquitetura da UFMG (Federal University in Minas
Gerais) and devoted himself to music despite the fact that he was self-taught and had a
limited musical background.

Perfecting his musical craft as a composer and player in a series of
shows, first in Minas and afterward throughout Brazil, Santos captured critics’ attention
with his refined harmonies, penetrating vocal timbre, and elegant guitar playing. His name
became well known as he started winning important music festivals: Avaré (São Paulo),
Juiz de Fora (Minas Gerais), Festival Carrefour de MPB (Rio de Janeiro), and in 1987, the
Festival O Som Das Águas, organized by Manchete television network. Working in
partnership with some of Brazil’s most important lyricists—Cacaso, Fernando Brant,
and Aldir Blanc—gave even greater impetus to his work. Santos, however, found his
ideal partner in poet and lyricist Paulo César Pinheiro, the extraordinary poet who
collaborated for many years with both Baden Powell and Eduardo Gudin and whose pieces,
including "Vou Deitar e Rolar" (Quaquaraquaquá), were recorded by Elis Regina.

When Paulo and Sérgio first presented their work in concerts in Rio
and São Paulo, it received unanimous applause from the critics and praise from the great
names of MPB like Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, Francis Hime, and Dori Caymmi. Even Sérgio’s
detractors had to acknowledge the density and good taste of his melodic solutions and
harmonies. And these initial performances echoed in Japan, where Brazilian musicians
started recording their compositions. Sérgio admits, "There were great changes in my
life after Paulo César became my partner." Together they have written close to 200
songs since joining forces in 1991. Many of their early compositions, written during
endless, late-night, long distance telephone conversations, appear on the 1995 CD, Aboio.

Aboio’s title comes from a cattle call familiar to ranchers in
Minas, and it is the first indication that the recording’s thirteen-tune
repertoire—comprised of toadas, choros, and sambas—is inspired by
the rhythms and themes of Minas Gerais. The project, featuring the sanfona of
Sivuca and the guitar virtuosity of the late Raphael Rabello, received wide critical
acclaim as one of the year’s best. Moreover, Aboio was nominated for a Prêmio
Sharp award and was also released in Europe on the French label Buda Musique.

A mural in sound, Aboio was given tangible form by artist David
Lainez. In his exhibit Aboio II Lainez translated the musical language of poet and
composer into painting and sculpture for an intriguing show at the Palacio Aramburu in
Tolosa, Spain. The exhibit was divided into two groups and arranged in six spaces that
corresponded to six of the thirteen themes on the recording. Part one was the text, the
figurative point of reference; part two, which was the abstract language of feelings and
sensations, was the music itself. Lainez commented that he had listened to Aboio an
infinite number of times. "So many, in fact, that I know the music as well as
Sérgio."

Working first with the figurative elements and then moving to the
abstract, Lainez found in the poetry and music a point of union with his own work and was
able to begin the process of interrelating and development, of crossing over into the
plastic dimension, and to ultimately achieving an exhibit striking in its intensity.
"Translating musical language into plastic is always difficult, but conceptually this
venture was easier because it was what I had been looking for and had many connections
with my work." Lainez, who has worked as scenographer for numerous dance companies in
the realization of their projects, stated that upon initially hearing the music on Aboio,
he felt an immediate connection with it, as if it were his own. "Although there is an
ocean between our cultures and perceptions of life, there are many aspects of this music
that are in tune with my own work."

At his home in Belo Horizonte, Sérgio Santos works intensely as a
composer, arranger, and producer. His compositions have attracted interpreters like
Fátima Guedes, Cláudio Nucci, Milton Nascimento, and the duos Sá & Guarabira and
Pena Branca & Xavantinho. As a guitar player and singer he has performed with the
finest artists in Brazil including Gal Costa, Banda Mantiqueira, and Guinga. Samba has
always been an integral part of his repertoire, and on Mulato, Sérgio’s second
solo recording, samba is the dominant thread that ties the entire work together. The title
itself is an acknowledgment of Brazilian identity and of samba as the great metaphor for
cultural and racial mixing. Of Mulato’s twelve tracks, eleven were written in
partnership with Paulo César Pinheiro; one is instrumental. When asked about the album’s
concept, Sérgio said simply, "I chose samba to celebrate Pixinguinha’s birthday, to
commemorate the recording of "Pelo Telefone," and because I had good
material."

Mulato was recorded at studios in Belo Horizonte (Via Sonora),
São Paulo (Club Estúdio), and Oslo, Norway (Rainbow Studio). Mixing and mastering took
place at Rainbow—the studio that Egberto Gismonti prefers. Bass player Rodolfo
Stroeter produced the project and put together the band, an elite ensemble that includes
Stroeter (bass), Marcos Suzano (percussion), Silvio D’Amico (guitar), and three of the
amazing players from Banda Mantiqueira—a group that competed for the Grammy in the
"Best Performance—Latin Jazz" category with their first release, Aldeia.
The pianist on the date was Bugge Wesseltoft, a fluent and inspired Norwegian player with
a thorough grasp of Brazilian music. Referring to the recording process Sérgio observed,
"We couldn’t find a studio in Brazil with the perfection we were looking for, so most
of the recording process was done in Norway. The funny part was that I never saw the
pianist."

The CD opens with the almost-classic "Artigo de Luxo"
(Article of Luxury), the most well-known of Sérgio’s tunes and one that was also recorded
by Fátima Guedes with a somewhat different interpretation. For this surefooted version,
the woodwinds from Banda Mantiqueira accent and provoke the tune’s insistent pulse and
create a feeling that you’re either dancing or that the ground is shifting beneath your
feet. "Samba e Futebol" pays homage to soccer and examines the relationship
between the agility of a great sambista and a crack soccer player.

"Samba pra Mangueira," a tune that has also been recorded by
Ana de Hollanda, is a tribute to the samba school most respected by the advocates of
"authenticity." It is a medium tempo samba in which Marcos Suzano’s hypnotic,
rhythmic phrasing creates a trancelike state by simulating the patterns of Mangueira’s bateria—bass,
pulse, and accent. As always, Suzano, more than simply brilliant, is urgent and
impassioned.

Sérgio’s high, dreamy voice invokes an air of anticipation on
"Rancho das Quatro Luas" (Ranch of the Four Moons), a marcha-rancho with
achingly delicate lyrics that features the unambiguous accordion of Bugge Wesseltoft.
"Aos Meus Amigos do Trio" (To My Friends in The Trio), the only instrumental
track on the disc, is dedicated to a group of choro musicians from Rio de Janeiro
and spotlights the lightning technique of two masters on the date: Silvio D’Amico on
guitar and Nailor "Proveta" Azevedo on clarinet.

The colorful dialogue and virtuosity displayed by the two equally
represented solo instruments exhibits these players’ rare and varied inventive power. But
above and beyond the piquant melodic lines and rhythmic zest of the tune, what grabs you
is the sense that performers and composer have balanced the architecture, the essence, and
the instinct of choro without relying on formulaic clichés.

"Mulato" is a tender samba with sensuous vocal harmony that
turns on the optimistic idea that Brazil is a mixture of race and culture. The tune talks
about the color of Brazilian skin, praises miscegenation, and reminds us that nothing
(except maybe soccer) has made Brazilians prouder of their country than samba,
symbolizing, as it does, the illusion—the convenient myth—that Brazil has
transcended race prejudice.

The velvety "Cofre de Vidro" (Glass Safe), a samba-bossa
with some of the finest lyrics on the recording, brings to mind compositions by Djavan as
does the tune "Nega do Balaio" (Girl With the Basket/Hips), a sexy samba that
also makes references to miscegenation and, by a play on the word balaio (a large,
wide basket), to a woman’s hips. The song typifies the way that, for Paulo César
Pinheiro, socially conscious themes intersect with the romance of everyday life.

Mixing congadas (African dances) in a 3/4 meter, "Dança de
São Gonçalo" is the most Minas-like expression of the samba on the CD. Its forceful
rhythmic base reminds us of the African roots in Minas Gerais. Those who might miss tunes
of a more romantic nature can count on the "Nenhum Adeus" (No Good-bye), a
samba-canção, which quotes Jobim’s "Wave" at its onset, and weaves an
intriguing melody atop a thick cushion of harmony.

Of all the tunes on the disc "Obá de Xangô" stands alone in
that it does not have a direct relationship to the samba, aside from the fact that samba
is the reference point of the composer homaged, Dorival Caymmi. Ocean imagery and darker
sonorities that exploit the melodic tensions inherent in a minor mode contribute to this
passionate tribute. The tune asserts Sérgio’s sense of musical propriety, a simple but
ineffable rightness that never abandons him.

"Embaixada do Samba" (Embassy of Samba), the CD’s best track,
relates samba to politics and reveals how Santos and Pinheiro, whether they’re writing
about politics or love, create common bonds with their listeners. Pinheiro’s lyrics
declare, "If I were ambassador, I would ask the government for just one favor, and
that is to give more value to the samba." Again woodwinds lace a wildly-syncopated
groove, and the band performs with conviction and unremitting drive as the
tune—strongly reminiscent of João Bosco—snowballs in intensity.

Often my first response when reviewing a new CD is to look for its
shortcomings. This is probably my way of guarding against writing nothing but
"fluff-pieces." But I could find nothing on Mulato that was less than perfect,
not a mistimed moment, a flawed judgment, or a lapse in spirit. Even the graphic layout
and photography by Marcílio Godói and Fernando Fiuza, which suggests the Baroque
architecture typical of Minas Gerais, is irreproachable. Further, Mulato confirms
something the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl was quick to discover: Sérgio Santos is the
musical exponent of an intoxicating catalyst that expresses itself in terms men and women
can understand and that may never be replaced as Brazil’s national rhythm—samba.

Bruce Gilman, music editor for Brazzil, received his Masters degree in
music from California Institute of the Arts. He leads the Brazilian jazz ensemble Axé and
plays cuíca for escola de samba MILA. You can reach him through his e-mail:
cuica@interworld.net 

THE LYRICS


Artigo de Luxo

Samba agora é artigo de luxo,
é luxo só
Quem faz samba tem sempre
um cartucho
Na manga do paletó
Ela agüenta o repuxo, bambeia
Cai no chão, sacode o pó
Mesmo fora da média da mídia
Da moda da multi
Na manha na moita ele sai do mocó
Chega e já vai dando um nó

Todo moreno quando passa
pode estar sambando
Toda morena caminhando
mexe com o quadril
É que o samba tá no sangue desse povo
Tá coração de onde ele nunca saiu
Dois por quatro é a cadência e
O compasso do chão do Brasil

Luxury Article

Samba now is a luxury article,
real "chi-chi"
Sambistas always have
an ace
up the sleeve
They take it, hesitate
Fall down and rebound
Even outside this media hype
And the international fashion
He stealthily steps out
He comes and confounds everyone

Every brown man may be
dancing samba
Every brown woman
moves her hips when walking
For samba is in these peoples’ blood
It’s never left their hearts
Brazil moves in 2/4 time

 

Cofre de Vidro

Pra conseguir
Um grande amor
Não tem regra, se a rosa se abrir
Você se alegra e rega a flor
E faz depois
Com jeito e sem rumor
Um cofre no peito dos dois
Pra se trancar a dor

Mas pra durar
O grande amor
Não se deixa uma queixa no ar
Pra queixa não virar rancor
Um bem querer
Não sofre dissabor
Que o cofre não pode romper
Pra não cortar a flor

Pra mim amor assim
Fica sem fim
Não morre mais
É um bem que quem não tem
Nem sabe bem o bem que faz
Me causa dó
Os que não dão valor
Nem pensam na bênção
De um grande amor

Glass Safe

To obtain
A great love
There are no rules, if the rose opens
You are happy and wet the flower
And after you do
With finesse and without chatter
There is a glass safe in the hearts of both
To shut out the pain

But to endure
A great love
A complaint is never left in the air
To turn to rage
A great love
Does not bear dissonance
That can break the glass safe
And cut the flower

For me, love is thus
Without end
Love does not die
This feeling that those without
Don’t know the good it does
Causes me pain
Those who do not value love
And don’t understand the blessing
Of a great love

 

Mulato

Sempre fui malemolente
Dizem que isso é
de ambiente
Clima talvez ou mal da cor
É preconceituoso quem diz isso
Tenho orgulho em ser mestiço
Num país é só calor

Quando passa esse mulato
Dizem lá: que desacato
É o meu andar provocador
Porém no Carnaval o teu desejo
Era de ter esse molejo
Pra sambar seja onde for

Mas quem pensa que é
mais do que alguém
Não levo a sério
Com dinheiro e poder
faz um império
E acha que tudo
pode ser seu
Mas no samba tem que
ter ciência
Dengo, malícia e cadência
E nessa malemolência
O imperador sou eu

Mulatto

I have always been a rascal
They say that this is due to
the environment
Climate maybe, or from skin color
He is prejudicial who says so
I am proud of being mestizo
In a country that is only heat

When this mulatto passes by
They say: what disrespect
It is my saunter that provokes
But in the Carnaval your wish
Was to be with this guy
To dance samba wherever it leads

But those who think they are
better than someone else
I don’t take seriously
With money and power
make an empire
And believe that everything
can be theirs
But in the samba you have to
have the science
Sexy, malicious, and rhythmic
And this rascal
I am the emperor

 

Nega do Balaio

Quando uma nega bonita
cai no samba
No rebolado da nega nego chega
Chega dizendo que vem
pra ver o samba
Mas vem pra ver é o
balaiodessa nega
Diz que esse samba é bom
Diz que é um balanço só
Só que o balaio da nega
Nego diz que é bem melhor

Quando um mulato sestroso toca
um samba
Deixa o balaio da nega sem sossego
Não tem ninguém que balance
mais o samba
Do que a cadência bonita
desse nego
Só que ele diz que é dom
Dom que ele diz que é só
Só que o balaio da nega
Nego diz que é bem melhor

Brasil, Brasil
É nesse samba que eu caio
Também quero balançar
Brasil, Brasil
Tô nesse samba e não saio
Nem precisa me chamar
Quando um nega bonita cai
no samba

Girl With the Basket/Hips

When a beautiful girl
goes to the samba
Her swaying hips attract the boy
Who says he only came
to see the samba
But he came to watch
that girl’s hips
He says that samba is good
He says that it’s only shaking
Only the hips of the girl
The boy says that it’s very good

When a shrewd boy plays
a samba
She wiggles her hips unconcerned
Nobody can shake
better
Than she can to that boy’s
delightful rhythm
He says only that it is talent
A talent that is unique
The boy says only
The girl’s hips are very good

Brazil, Brazil
I succumb to the samba
I also want to shake
Brazil, Brazil
I am in the samba and I cannot leave
Don’t bother calling
When a beautiful girl surrenders
to the samba

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