Brazil: Lalá, to the Rescue of MPB

    “No Rancho Fundo,” a Brazilian immortal song, known by all and still recorded today, might not have emerged from obscurity had Lamartine Babo not stepped in to save it in its infancy.

    Lamartine Babo
    10 January 1904”“16 June 1963


    No Rancho Fundo
    (Ary Barroso/Lamartine Babo, 1930)

    No rancho fundo
    Bem pra lá do fim do mundo
    Onde a dor e a saudade
    Contam coisas da cidade…
    No rancho fundo
    De olhar triste e profundo
    Um moreno conta as “mágua”
    Tendo os olhos rasos d’água
    Pobre moreno
    Que de tarde no sereno
    Espera a lua no terreiro
    Tendo o cigarro por companheiro
    Sem um aceno
    Ele pega da viola
    E a lua por esmola
    Vem pro quintal desse moreno
    No rancho fundo
    Bem pra lá do fim do mundo
    Nunca mais houve alegria
    Nem de noite nem de dia
    Os arvoredos
    Já não contam mais segredos
    E a última palmeira
    Já na cordilheira
    Os passarinhos
    Internaram-se nos ninhos
    De tão triste esta tristeza
    Enche de trevas a natureza
    Tudo por que?
    Só por causa do moreno
    Que era grande, hoje é pequeno
    Para uma casa de sapê
    Se Deus soubesse
    Da tristeza lá serra
    Mandaria lá pra cima
    Todo o amor que há na terra
    Porque o moreno
    Vive louco de saudade
    Só por causa do veneno
    Das mulheres da cidade
    Ele que era
    O cantor da primavera
    Que até fez do rancho fundo
    O céu maior que tem no mundo
    O sol queimando
    Se uma flor lá desabrocha
    A montanha vai gelando
    Lembrando o aroma da cabrocha

    In 1930, Ary Barroso, fresh from his first Carnaval success with the marcha “Dá Nela,” was composing a great deal for the teatro de revista.

    One of the musical revues to which he contributed was the two-acter í‰ do Outro Mundo by J. Carlos and Margarida Max, which premiered at the Teatro Recreio in Rio de Janeiro on 13 June of that year.

    J. Carlos (José Carlos de Brito Cunha) was none other than the legendary caricaturist and illustrator whose work sometimes graces these pages.

    Among the songs Ary composed for the show was the samba-canção “Esse Mulato Vai Sê Meu,” with the following lyrics by J. Carlos:

    Na grota funda
    Na virada da montanha
    Só se conta uma façanha
    Do mulato da Raimunda
    Matou a nega
    Cum pedaço de canela
    E depois, sem mais aquela
    Foi juntá com uma galega
    Ela morreu
    Na virada da montanha
    Vai havê outra façanha
    Esse mulato vai sê meu
    Esse mulato
    Vai fazendo o que ele qué
    Já matou duas muié
    Porque bamba ele é de fato
    Se não morreu
    Vai mangá esse cachorro
    Na virada ali do morro
    Esse mulato vai sê meu

    The song was performed as a curtain number by the première dame of Brazilian musical theatre, Araci Cortes.

    Although the critics praised í‰ do Outro Mundo, commenting that the sketches and scenes were as good as those in American and French revues, the public didn’t take well to the show, which closed at the end of the same month.

    One of the few spectators to see the show was the young songwriter Lamartine Babo, then 26 years old.

    He fell in love with the melody of “Esse Mulato Vai Sê Meu” (better remembered by its alternate title “Na Grota Funda”) but detested J. Carlos’ lyrics, finding the first stanza ridiculous.

    Whether or not Lamartine consulted the song’s authors is debatable. His biographer Suetônio Soares Valença claims in the book Tra-La-Lá that Ary’s authorization was sought and obtained.

    On the other hand, Ary’s biographer Sérgio Cabral insists in No Tempo de Ari Barroso that neither of the authors was consulted.

    Be that as it may, Lalá wrote his own lyrics to Ary’s melody and presented the song under a new title in a Rádio Educadora program with Bando de Tangarás (Almirante, João de Barro, Noel Rosa, Henrique Brito, and ílvaro Miranda).

    The result was twofold. “No Rancho Fundo” became one of the great standards of Brazilian popular music. It was first recorded in 1931 by Elisinha Coelho, accompanied by Ary Barroso on piano and by two guitarists (possibly Rogério Guimarães and João Batista Nogueira). Many recordings followed.

    On the other hand, the birth of “No Rancho Fundo” created a never-to-be-repaired rift between J. Carlos and Ary Barroso.

    The former was convinced until the end of his days that Ary had conspired behind his back to change the song and rob him of author’s credit.

    Ary and Lamartine (whose songwriting partnership began in 1927 with the foxtrot “Oh!… Nina!…” and continued in 1928 with the marcha-charge “Cachorro-Quente”””both songs first recorded in the CD era), went on to create other standards during the 1930s.

    One of those, “Na Virada da Montanha” (recorded by Francisco Alves in 1935), again pokes gentle fun at the lyrics of “Na Grota Funda.” That couldn’t have pleased J. Carlos.

    Lamartine Babo would have reached the century January 2004 ””nine weeks and a day after his partner Ary Barroso. He was one of the three kings of the carnaval marchinha, along with João de Barro and Haroldo Lobo.

    In this commemorative website you can read Lamartine’s biography (in Portuguese), download lyrics and unusual audio files of his songs, and watch various videos.

    Lalá composed all the anthems of the major carioca football clubs, and the lyrics to these hinos can be found here as well.

    You can read more about Brazilian music and culture at
    Daniella Thompson on Brazil here:
    http://daniv.blogspot.com

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