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Brazzil - Music - July 2003

Brazil's Fundo de Quintal: Scene and Variation

Fundo de Quintal brought a new public to the samba and inspired
a generation of sambistas. Their sound has emanated beyond
Rio to the U.S. and Europe. They earned numerous gold and
platinum records along with ten Sharp awards as the best
samba band in Brazil.
Soon they will be here in the U.S.

Bruce Gilman


The term "pagode," meaning festive gathering, existed long before friends from the Carnaval parade group Cacique de Ramos (Indian Chiefs of Ramos) started meeting to sing, play, drink, and dance in samba jam sessions. It was the late seventies, and Carnaval had grown increasingly more commercial, leaving pagodes as the sole outlet for aspiring samba composers and musicians. Without a "name" leader and without "name" players, but with a collective spirit and the potent ability to play well together, this group met regularly at the pagode in the Ramos neighborhood, in Rio de Janeiro.

Impressed with what she heard after visiting the Ramos pagode, singer Beth Carvalho, a headliner with impeccable samba credentials, invited the "unknowns" to record as supporting musicians on her 1978 album De Pé no Chão. The album released a pagode tidal wave, and what had been an exclusively suburban ritual became fashionable, spreading throughout Rio. From recreational gatherings in an underprivileged area, a movement grew within samba itself, enticing all social and economic classes as the group's special blend of samba became one of the most commercially successful in Brazilian music.1

So much has been said and written about Fundo de Quintal that it is difficult to summarize their career without restating clichés that have already been digested by thousands of fans. Nevertheless, adopting a definitive name, Grupo Fundo de Quintal recorded the first of many albums two years after Carvalho's discovery, and their atmospheric sound broadcasted beyond Rio and throughout Brazil. The group's harmonic and instrumental innovations radiated so widely that just the name triggered familiar and welcome associations in the minds and ears of samba lovers.2 Thus, a new group was born without a prestigious name to hang its hopes on, but with an identifying phrase that has since become a byword in the world of samba.

Fundo de Quintal brought a new public to the samba, inspired a generation of sambistas, and had an uncommonly large influence on fledgling groups, albeit many without Fundo de Quintal's traditional roots. Over the past two decades, their sound has emanated beyond Rio to the periphery of Brazil, and from there to the United States, Europe, Africa, extending even as far as Japan and earning en route numerous gold and platinum records along with ten Sharp awards (Brazil's former equivalent of the Grammy), seven of them received consecutively as—and it's not difficult to understand why—the best samba band in Brazil.

Possessed of an unassailable esprit de corps and a personal as well as empirical style, Fundo de Quintal seems unable to play without inspiration; performances are guaranteed to raise the spirits. Theirs is music designed to be played in a social context, not listened to in hushed reverence. On July 26, 2003, Brazilian Nites Productions—having just completed a decade of providing Southern California with the finest in Brazilian music—brings to Hollywood's John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, the rootsy euphoria of the group whose name is synonymous with pagode, Rio de Janeiro's backyard samba band—Grupo Fundo de Quintal.

The group's interaction and enthusiasm is unmistakable on their latest CD, Ao Vivo no Cacique de Ramos, which finds Fundo de Quintal back on their home turf, the rehearsal area of Cacique de Ramos. Aside from serving as a musical/historical reference point, this exuberant music is a celebration of the culture from which it derives. Nothing could be further from the earnest incompetence of the many that passed as players of "pagode" than this ceaseless ensemble's poise, balance, and irresistible swing—mightily impressive. They almost breathe as one man; their sense of timing is all but clairvoyant. Just a look at the sidemen—it's teeming with samba and choro luminaries—may be all you need to ascertain that this disc, full of good taste and thoughtful musicality, must be heard.

Founding member Sombrinha, a composer with credits for literally hundreds of songs in his résumé, is their first special guest on "Vem pra Mim" / "Oitava Cor," a medley in which Rildo Hora's harmonica evokes an immediately infectious atmosphere. Delivering a second dose, Sombrinha returns on the vibrantly arranged medley "Papo de Samba" / "Nascente da Paz," this time with the exotically shimmering colors of Zé da Velha on trombone and Silvério Pontes on flügelhorn. This is a duo that is utterly in control of what they are executing. Their lines, however simple, however oblique, are lucid and perfectly weighted.

Showing reverence for one of samba's masters, Zeca Pagodinho creates a sensual and exciting mix with three gems from the canon of Candeia: "Samba da Antiga," "Olha o Samba, Sinhá," and "A Flor e o Samba." Whatever the lyrics, Pagodinho lets listeners know he's having a good time. Pagodinho has an impressive empathy with the chosen material, molding it at will into the mode of expression he requires and invariably sounding like he's smiling.

Fundo de Quintal's godmother, Beth Carvalho, takes the medley "Bate na Viola" / "Cacique de Ramos" to expressive heights. With both instinct and technique, she is one of samba's most sensitive, intuitive, and tasteful interpreters, always outgoing and ebullient. Interestingly, the first tune of this medley appeared on an album that Carvalho, revealing her considerable foresight, had enthusiastically recommended—Fundo de Quintal's first. But as ever, the material doesn't matter since everything is transformed by the Carvalho touch. The group's interplay is a marvel, but the spotlight stays, as it should, with Carvalho.

The rightful King of Pagode, one of the founders of Grupo Fundo de Quintal, and the man responsible for the popularization of the banjo in samba, Almir Guineto, lends an air of grace to "Gamação Danada" from the group's (already cited) first album and "Boca Sem Dente," a hit he co-wrote that appeared on Fundo de Quintal's third album, Nos Padodes da Vida. Superbly crafted and scintillatingly executed by a group of musicians exhibiting real camaraderie, these tunes illustrate how Guineto helped to give the group a personal identity, ultimately making them the standard-bearers of pagode.

The poet of samba, Jorge Aragão, left Fundo de Quintal to pursue a solo career after their first album, but returns here to accent the melodic character "Minhas Andanças," a tune he wrote in partnership with Cléber Augusto that appeared on Fundo de Quintal's fourth album. Eduardo Neves, a player of consummate instrumental ability, inherent rhythmic dash, and full emotional commitment furnishes woodwind support while Rildo Hora's harmonica adds inventiveness and sophistication.

The title track from that same album, "Seja Sambista Também," is coupled with "Canto de Rainha," an inspired tribute to Dona Ivone Lara, which cites her "Sonho Meu," "Alvorecer," and "Preá Comeu." Again, the dynamic duo of Silvério Pontes (trumpet) and Zé da Velha (trombone), whose instantly apparent rapport achieves telepathic elegance, proves they can drive, invigorate, and expand the scope of any samba. Theirs is a devoutly ensemble approach.

When Jorge Aragão followed an individual path, Arlindo Cruz was called to take his place on banjo. Cruz sings the afoxé medley "Força, Fé e Raiz" / "Banho de Fé," as the alto flute of Eduardo Neves (in devastating form throughout) decorates a track drenched with a Bahian ambiance that seems to float on a steady but delicate current, showing Fundo de Quintal's appreciation for distinctive Brazilian genres without ever losing their samba roots. Selflessness typifies Cruz's interpretive style—insightful, reverent, and ultimately revealing—on "Quantos Morros Já Subi" from the 1991 album É Aí que Quebra a Rocha.

"Cambono de Artista" features the clarinet of Grammy-winning Paulo Moura, whose warm-toned playing goes from strength to strength in all contexts. Dudu Nobre, an admirer and celebrated representative of pagode's new generation, sings "Fases do Amor" also from Nos Pagodes da Vida. Sounding especially surprising is "Segura Peão," its rural accent and the easy fluidity of Henrique Cazes's acoustic guitar delivering a rhythmic, melodic, and dynamic contrast often absent in pagode. With their characteristically relaxed intensity, these samba all-stars clarify on the penultimate track, "Batuque no Quintal," why they have been the bedrock on which so many outstanding groups have been founded.

Winner of the Prêmio Caras, Ao Vivo no Cacique de Ramos is a delightful aural experience with so many layers and textures created that one is tempted to luxuriate in its richness. I asked the group's imaginative vocalist and cavaquinho player, Mário Sérgio, about the recording, their audience, and, of course, the term "pagode." His sensitivity, perceptiveness, and, above all, his recall are remarkable and afford illuminating insights into the world of pagode as well as his own innovative way of playing.

Brazzil—The term pagode meant one thing in the eighties and something different in the nineties. Can you talk a little about its original meaning, how it changed, and what it means today?

Mário Sérgio—Actually, the meaning hasn't changed. In the eighties, Fundo de Quintal was playing what came to be called pagode. After a lot of media exposure, many groups started to imitate us. The difference was in the way they played, but nothing changed. Pagode was, and still is, the same thing.

Brazzil—How did Fundo de Quintal stay afloat in the marketplace when record companies promoted groups playing the diluted style of pagode?

Mário Sérgio—In the nineties, you could count a hundred samba groups that played electric guitars and keyboards, and, at the same time, attributed their inspiration to Fundo de Quintal. Many also played sertaneja, but the media had found a new buzzword and was calling almost anything, pagode. If you looked closely, you would have seen that there were few true pagode groups. Ninety percent of those groups, even the most commercially successful, have disappeared. But the roots, the essence—Fundo de Quintal, Zeca Pagodinho, Beth Carvalho, Jorge Agagão, Almir Guineto—are still very much alive and happening. Fundo de Quintal has continued on the scene and in the media's eye because of our traditional and authentic way of writing, performing, and playing.

Brazzil—Did the others disappear because they were mimics?

Mário Sérgio—To be marketable, many of them built their shows and repertoire to target a particular audience. They used unnecessary effects that were calculated to please crowds, but had little to do with real pagode. Some of those groups sold 500,000 units their first year, but almost nothing the second, and by the third had disappeared altogether. Their audience had outgrown them and looked for something deeper. It's difficult for a sophisticated urban person to play real pagode. It's like an Italian opera diva singing the blues. The emotion that is lived, the heart, the soul, the love, and the pain, the essence of pagode lies in the individual treatment given the material by the performer. Experience, in its purest, densest, and most poignant form brings a composite, which can't be imitated or substituted. This is the perfect way that God has of giving to those who are really deserving. God knows; the record industry doesn't.

Brazzil—The music industry and marketplace have changed radically over that past 23 years, and I'm wondering if Fundo de Quintal is finding any new obstacles to overcome.

Mário Sérgio—Thank God we're not governed by marketplace pressure. Our fans guarantee our livelihood, so it doesn't matter what others are doing with the latest technology. We are primarily a percussion group whose originality and authenticity has remained a warranty for our fans. We're lucky because our record company understands this and doesn't interfere with our repertoire. After so many years, albums, and tours, we've become a tradition. We have discussed this with the company's board of directors, who always say, "Let them do what they're doing. It's selling." That kind of back-up is a privilege with which few groups can identify.

Brazzil—Young people are burning, rather than buying CD's. Has this pirating trend affected your record sales?

Mário Sérgio—This kind of thing is also happening in Brazil. Before Jorge Aragão released his CD, burned copies were available on every street corner. But I can't blame the people who are doing the selling, only whoever made the information available in the first place. This gets very political. Pirates are everywhere. I really like jazz and was looking for the new CD by American guitarist Norman Brown, but I couldn't find it in the stores, so I bought a pirated copy on the street. Sometimes, it's easier. Fortunately, Fundo de Quintal doesn't have this preoccupation with sales. We have maintained a sales average for each album, a certain number of units that sell without promotion and without pressure, whether or not the tunes make the hit parades. So we're comfortable.

Brazzil—Are you doing anything to attract the younger Brazilian audience that is listening to drum `n' bass, rap, and hip-hop?

Mário Sérgio—Our audience spans three or four generations. Fans from ten to ninety sing our music, and we believe that maintaining our sound is most important. It reaches the young people. We don't want to invent or fix or change anything. Our fans are happy with our honesty. We don't have to use foul language to sell records, and we're selective with the imagery that we do use. That's tradition. Seeing very young and very old people at our shows singing and dancing and crying is an emotional experience.

Brazzil—Bira is said to have created a new "swing" in the way the pandeiro is played. In the U.S. the word "swing" usually refers to the thirties style of big band music. What does it mean to you?

Mário Sérgio—Swing is that mysterious ingredient in pagode. It's the way the pandeiro player controls the complicated rhythmic patterns generated by the entire group, connecting what the repique and tan-tan are playing while at the same time expressing himself. It's the rhythmic and coloristic dexterity he uses to complement the information being fed to him by the cavaquinho and banjo, an adding of feeling to build a quality groove.

Brazzil—Would you say that over the past 23 years Fundo de Quintal's songs have expressed one particular theme more than others?

Mário Sérgio—We have four composers in Fundo de Quintal who appreciate our philosophy and write what we need, but we don't specifically write to a theme, like favela life, love, drugs, or samba. Although it happens occasionally. Our music can talk about the soap operas, what happens when the cavaco string breaks, football, samba, everything that happens in life. We do keep romantic songs in our repertoire, however, because many of the married couples in our audience met at one of our concerts.

Brazzil—The tune "Nascente da Paz" says that samba is a philosophy. Does the group have a philosophy?

Mário Sérgio—We do. Respect the great composers, the masters, from whose fountains you drink, and never change your essence. Fundo de Quintal may have revolutionized samba with a new instrumentation and by singing the phrase metrically and clearly, yet we observe the lessons we learned from the masters: Nelson Cavaquinho, Cartola, Monarco, Candeia, Heitor dos Prazeres, the Velha Guarda.

Brazzil—If you were going to a desert island and could take only three Fundo de Quintal recordings, which would you choose?

Mário Sérgio—Could I take three women instead? That would be an easier decision. If I could bring three women and three CD's…I would bring Chega pra Sambar, Samba é no Fundo de Quintal—Vol. 2, O Show Tem Que Continuar, and the three women, of course.

Brazzil—Fundo de Quintal won the Prêmio Caras as the Best Samba Group for Cacique de Ramos. How complicated was the final mixing process?

Mário Sérgio—When we record live, microphones pick up those "real atmosphere" sounds that need to be cleaned up, like talking or equipment being moved or positioned. But the cleaning up job, a kind of repair work, takes less than two weeks. We plan ahead so everything is set, and we only use sound engineers who are familiar with our sound.

Brazzil—Since most of your fans already have these tunes, I'm wondering if the disc was released just to fulfill a contractual agreement with BMG?

Mário Sérgio—In a certain way is was a commercial necessity, but it was also to let young people know the Fundo de Quintal story. Our challenge was how to tell the whole story with one CD. Because we have so many songs, our idea was to combine tunes (twenty-three tunes in fourteen tracks) that highlight, like newspaper headlines, our full Cacique de Ramos history, and we invited specific guests because of their part in our history. Once we had decided which tunes to record, Rildo Hora decided the order they would appear on the CD. So although it was BMG's idea, Cacique de Ramos has the same integrity as all of our albums.

Brazzil—"Segura Peão" has an unconventional accent. Could you comment on that tune?

Mário Sérgio—We have a few composers who contribute songs to our repertoire, and "Segura Peão" is a tune that was written by one of them. We recorded this one because we perform many shows at rodeos and wanted a song connected with that kind of ambiance.

Brazzil—"Quantos Morros Já Subi" talks about the good things in favela life, and I'm wondering if sambistas are removed from favela violence?

Mário Sérgio—What is happening in the favelas today, is no different from what has been happening for a long time. Only now, it's on a much greater scale. But this is the same violence we find on inner-city streets in the United States. We wanted a song about the good things that take place in those same surroundings. When someone has a feijoada and there's a party and everyone brings instruments and plays samba, those are the good things that happen. Aside from all the violence, you do have good things happening there, fortunately.

Brazzil—Has the recent violence in Rio had any impact on your performance schedule?

Mário Sérgio—We're not working too often in Rio, however, the general samba calendar has been severely damaged. The traditional Wednesday pagode in Cacique de Ramos is growing weak because the quadra is between two favelas that are fighting; this warring damages live music, whether or not it's business.

Brazzil—Artists are always asked to play certain tunes because fans request them. Which ones have to be included in the U.S. tour?

Mário Sérgio—We'll perform songs from each album, hits our fans love to sing, like "Menina da Colina" (Simplicidade), "Parabéns pra Você" (Fundo de Quintal e Convidados), "O Show Tem Que Continuar" (O ShowTtem Que Continuar), "Chega pra Sambar," and "Nosso Grito" (Chega pra Sambar). And Bira, who, as you know, is an unbelievable dancer, will come on stage early, maybe with his brother, Ubirany, who also loves to dance, and samba—don't say anything.

Brazzil—What about the future?

Mário Sérgio—The future for Fundo de Quintal is the present. Everything is wonderful; soon we'll be celebrating our boda de prata (silver anniversary). We are writing what we really feel, singing in a simple and direct way, doing what we love the most. Our plan for the future is to continue doing exactly that. New ideas continue to come, but our way of singing and playing will stay the same. What we want now is 10 percent of the Chinese market (laughs).

Brazzil—Any message for your fans in the United States?

Mário Sérgio—I want to thank all the Brazilian people who live in the United States for bringing the Fundo de Quintal sound to others. With this new tour, we'll have an opportunity to visit many cities in the United States, and for this, we're thankful. You know, I have a sneaky suspicion that Fundo de Quintal will rouse the U.S. to samba.

1. Today the term pagode is used almost derogatorily, as a more diluted, romantic, pop-rock version with electronic instrumentation and overblown arrangements appeared in the early nineties, which was created assembly line-fashion by professional "hit makers."

2. In addition to their elaborate vocal harmonies, the group's harmonic and instrumental innovations include introducing into samba the banjo (an instrument that combines the guitar and drum, is of proven African origin, and was a mainstay of American plantation music-making), the light and versatile repique de mão (a tiny tambourine-like instrument without rattles that is played with a plastic stick), and the conical tan-tan as a replacement for the unwieldy surdo.

* Many thanks to Sonia Santos of Yellow Green Productions for her invaluable technical support.

Bruce Gilman, music editor for Brazzil magazine, received his Masters degree in music from California Institute of the Arts. He is the recipient of three government grants that have allowed him to research traditional music in China, India, and Brazil. His articles on Brazilian music have been translated and published in Dutch, German, Portuguese, Serbian, and Spanish. You can reach him through his e-mail: cuica@interworld.net

Lyrics - in Portuguese and Translated

Quantos Morros Já Subi

(Arlindo Cruz/ Mário Sérgio/Pedrinho da Flor)

Quantos morros já subi
Desci sem ver
O que falam por aí, me faz tremer
Essa gente vive assim, sem reclamar
Lá ninguém é tão ruim, lá também se sabe amar

Tudo mundo é irmão, todo mundo é companheiro
Lá no morro da Formiga, do Borel e do Salgueiro
Lá tem samba pé no chão, poesia verdadeira
Lá no morro de Serrinha, lá no morro de Mangueira

Desci sem ver . . .

Eu já vi muita alegria, muita gente a sorrir
No morro do Juramento, Pavãozinho, Tuiuti
Eu já vi felicidade, muita gente ser feliz
No alto do Andaraí e no morro da Matriz

Desci sem ver . . .

Essa gente vive em paz, essa gente faz o bem
Seja no Pau da Bandeira, seja na Vila Vintém
Esse povo que a cidade, chama de fora-da-lei
Vive com dignidade, sem levar vida de rei

No morro que a sociedade não quer enxergar
Como eu enxerguei
Vive com dignidade, sem levar vida de rei
Chacrinha, Turano, Rocinha e outros lugares
Que eu não cantei

Vive com dignidade, sem levar vida de rei
Vive com dignidade, sem levar vida de rei
Vive com dignidade, sem levar vida de rei

I've Climbed so Many Hills

I've climbed so many hills
And came down without seeing
What they say happens up there, things that make me shake
That's their way of life, they don't complain
Nobody's that bad there, they also know how to love

They're all brothers, they're all friends
Up on the hills of Formiga, Borel, and Salgueiro
There's samba and true poetry there
Up on the hill of Serrinha, up on the hill of Mangueira

I came down without seeing . . .

I've seen so much joy, so many smiling people
Up on the hills of Juramento, Pavãozinho, and Tuiuti
I've seen happiness, lots of happy people
Up on the hills of Andaraí and Matriz

I came down without seeing . . .

These people live in peace, doing good
In Pau da Bandeira, in Vila Vintém
These people the city calls outlaws
They don't have the life of a king, but they live with dignity

The hill that society doesn't want to see
The way I see
They don't have the life of a king, but they live with dignity
Chacrinha, Turano, Rocinha, and other places
That I didn't sing in my song

They don't have the life of a king, but they live with dignity
They don't have the life of a king, but they live with dignity
They don't have the life of a king, but they live with dignity

Segura Peão
(Luizinho S.P.)

Solta o touro no rodeio
Segura peão, segura peão

Fé na padroeira, pede proteção
Já é tradição brasileira por todo esse interiorzão
Num grande cowboy de primeira
Corpo, alma e coração

Solta o touro no rodeio
Segura peão, segura peão

Oh, sobe poeira, não pode beijar o chão
Vai equilibrando na sela, segura com uma só mão
E vai no grito da galera: "Esse é o nosso campeão"
Solta o touro no rodeio
Segura peão, segura peão

Hold Tight, Cowboy

Release the bull, it's rodeo time
Hold tight cowboy, hold tight

Have faith in your patron saint, ask for protection
It's already become a tradition in the interior of Brazil
All great cowboys do it
Body, soul, and heart

Release the bull, it's rodeo time
Hold tight cowboy, hold tight

Oh, the dust is up, he can't fall down
Balanced on the saddle, holding tight with one hand
And the crowd shouts: "He's our champion!"
Release the bull, it's rodeo time
Hold tight cowboy, hold tight

Vem pra Mim
(Acyr Marques)

Pode ser um falso amor
Pode ser que só me traga dor
Pode até meu peito machucar
Que mesmo assim eu vou te amar
Eu vou te amar, viu

Te querer me faz sonhar
Te olhei e quis me entregar
E me entreguei
Sem medo de me arrepender
Pra mim só existe o carinho que vem de você
E me entreguei
Sem medo de me arrepender
Pra mim só existe o carinho que vem de você

Vem pra mim
Que eu quero ser feliz
Te fazer viver em paz
Eu quero ser teu protetor
Te dar calor e muito mais
Só quero poder te dar calor
Te fazer amor como ninguém faz
Beijar teus cabelos, teus lábios de mel
E nos meus carinhos te entregar o céu

Ilalá, laiá, lá
Ilalá, laiá, laiá
Ilalá, laiá, laiá

Come to Me

It may be a false love
That'll only bring me pain
That'll break my heart
But I'll love you anyway
I'll love you.

My desire for you makes me dream
When I saw you, I wanted to give myself to you
And I did
Without fearing regret
To me there's only one love: the one that comes from you
And I gave myself to you
Without fearing regret
To me there's only one love: the one that comes from you

Come to me
I want to be happy
To help you live in peace
I want to be your protector
To give you warmth and much more

I only want to give you warmth
Make love to you like nobody does
Kiss your hair, your honey lips
And give you heaven with my caresses

Ilalá, laiá, lá
Ilalá, laiá, laiá
Ilalá, laiá, laiá

Selected Discography:
Title  Label  Date
Ao Vivo no Cacique de Ramos  BMG  2002
Papo de Samba  BMG  2001
Simplicidade—Fundo de Quintal Ao Vivo  BMG  2000
Nosso Grito (compilation)  Som Livre  2000
Chega pra Sambar  RGE  1999
Fundo de Quintal e Convidados  RGE  1998
Livre pra Sonhar  RGE  1997
Nas Ondas do Partido  RGE  1996
Palco Iluminado  RGE  1995
Carta Musicada  RGE  1994
A Batucada dos Nossos Tantãs  RGE  1993
É Aí que Quebra a Rocha  RGE  1991
Fundo de Quintal Ao Vivo  RGE  1990
Samba Brazil (compilation)  One Globe  1990
Ciranda do Povo  RGE  1989
O Show Tem Que Continuar  RGE  1988
Do Fundo do Nosso Quintal  RGE  1987
O Mapa da Mina  RGE  1986
Divina Luz  RGE  1985
Seja Sambista Também  RGE  1984
Nos Pagodes da Vida  RGE  1983
Samba É no Fundo de Quintal—Vol. 2  RGE  1981
Samba É no Fundo de Quintal  RGE  1980






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