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Recife’s Repercussion Unit

Recife's
      Repercussion
      Unit

The first cases of AIDS in Brazil were diagnosed in São Paulo and
Rio de Janeiro in 1983. Today the country has one of the highest numbers of AIDS cases in
the world and more than twice as many AIDS cases than any other South American country.
Today there is an increasing number of women, adolescents, and people with a low income,
low level of education becoming infected with HIV. One way of reaching out is through
community-based HIV prevention programs and the distribution of condoms.
By Brazzil Magazine

Music is always changing. It changes because of the times and the technology available.
"World Music," a term broadly used, evolved as a result of this technology, but
has always designated what is musically exotic to North American and English ears. And
typically, these ears have associated Brazilian music with samba, bossa nova, and
more recently the Afro-Bahian forms. Northeastern Brazilian music, once considered low
class by cosmopolitan Brazilians, and either unknown or just ignored everywhere else, is
today renovating what was called "MPB" (Música Popular
Brasileira—Brazilian Popular Music) and tingling auditory nerves worldwide.

The rediscovery and conversion of Northeastern music to a commanding pop posture is one
of the most refreshing waves to wash up on the Brazilian music scene since Recife’s
Armorial movement in the 1970’s. A public that once conceived of Nordeste music as a
simple-minded folk genre is now finding it as contemporary and as inviting as hip-hop and
drum `n’ bass. Nightclubs in Rio and São Paulo accustomed to rhythms more
"refined" are packed with the trendiest big city people. Kids from middle class
families, professionals, and intellectuals are all squeezing together, surrendering, and
shaking to these "rude" Northeastern rhythms. If this crowd were comprised
solely of people from the Northeast who migrated to these urban areas and who were longing
for their homeland, it would be understandable. But these venues are jam packed with the
segment of the population that forms and controls public opinion, and they are dancing to forró
all night!

According to legend, the term forró developed in the early 1900’s when the
English railroad company Great Western promoted a dance (some say weekend parties) to
commemorate the opening of their first railroad in the interior of Pernambuco. Supposedly,
at the door to the dance a placard gave notice that the celebration was "For
All," a phrase which Brazilian railroad workers pronounced "forró."
In reality, the term had more to do with the African word from the Bantu language "forrobodó"
(big party) that was brought by slaves to Brazil and which appeared in a dictionary as far
back as the eighteenth century. In either case, forró was the springboard for an
eclectic sound from Brazil that has captured World Music’s attention—the
Mangue Beat.

Originally launched as "mangue bit"—a phrase figuratively
used to contrast the bit of a computer with the poverty of the region—the
movement became known as "Mangue Beat" through mistakes made in the Brazilian
press. The movement was spearheaded in Recife by Chico Science of Chico Science &
Nação Zumbi and Fred Zero Quatro of Mundo Livre S/A (Sociedade Anônima—incorporated)
in the early 1990’s. The Mangue Beat, however, is not a specific beat or rhythmic pattern,
and the creators of this style all have compositions that are rather different in their
approach to rhythm. The movement’s main characteristic is its diversity of ideas and
rhythms.

Before the emergence of "mangue" there had been few resources or
opportunities for bands or for Pernambuco’s traditional music in general. By the
musicians’ reaching out to the world’s pop music while at the same time rediscovering the
region’s own folk roots, the entire city witnessed an increase in self-esteem and an
opening up of new perspectives. The movement showed that it was possible, even in Recife,
far from the biggest cultural industries of the country, for bands to record CD’s, to
produce video clips, and to arrange tours outside the country. Hence the symbol of the
movement—a parabolic antenna stuck firmly in the mud of Recife while picking
up signals from around the globe.

One of the most impressive ensembles to emerge from this environment, and certainly the
one currently riding the crest of this latest Brazilian surge, is Mestre Ambrósio, a band
that figures prominently both in the mangue movement and in the forró
scenario. Mestre Ambrósio came out of Recife in October 1992 with the concept of bringing
Northeastern dances, rhythms, and instruments—especially Pernambucan—up
to date. By performing a repertoire of cocos, emboladas, maracatus
(1), reisados, cirandas (2), and baiões on instruments indicative of
these styles: sanfona, rabeca (a type of rustic violin), triangle, and zabumba
as well as electric guitar and bass; Mestre Ambrósio embraced a broad spectrum of musical
styles, while retaining a foundation firmly fixed in forró. Where Chico Science’s
sound was a blend of external influences, which were developed with incremental touches of
regional music; Mestre Ambrósio started with these "incremental touches" and
evolved with external influences. Their music is tinged with traditional forms though not
bound by them.

This is a group of "musicians’ musicians" that has continually experimented
with new sounds and new ways of expressing traditional forms, a band that has searched for
original music that is deeply rooted in their heritage. Mestre Ambrósio’s endless
reservoir of energy and determination has made them an important influence and stimulus
for new groups while their timbric coloring and original harmonic treatments has drawn
established artists to go out of their way to hear and to record with them. Ambrósio’s
singular purpose—playing today’s Pernambucan music—has sparked a
tremendous increase of interest in traditional rhythms throughout Brazil and catapulted
the band into the international spotlight. Among experts, Mestre Ambrósio is considered
"the band."

Each member of Mestre Ambrósio has a long list of performing, teaching, and recording
credits that spans from traditional street theater and Carnaval to composing and recording
sound tracks for feature films. All have played with ensembles of the most diverse genres
from jazz to Afro-Brazilian to samba-reggae to rock. A blow by blow (or note for note)
rundown of each player’s career would be too exhaustive as all have been stalwarts on the
scene for years. I have included only abbreviated biographical sketches at the end of this
article. Suffice it to say that these musicians are among the elite talent in Brazil.
Mestre Ambrósio is: Maurício Alves, percussion; Sérgio Cassiano, percussion and voice;
Mazinho Lima, bass, triangle, and voice; "O" Rocha, percussion; Siba, rabeca,
electric guitar, folk acoustic guitar, and voice; and Hélder Vasconcelos, fole de oito
baixos (3), percussion, and voice.

The conceptual seed for Mestre Ambrósio was planted at the end of the 1980’s when Siba
and "O" Rocha, playing together in a Recife rock band, awakened to the need of
immersing themselves in the music of Pernambuco. Hélder Vasconcelos was playing
samba-reggae, but through Siba came into contact with the traditions of the Zona da Mata
Norte (the forested region between Recife, capital of Pernambuco, and João Pessoa,
capital of Paraíba). After a few performances together, the three went into the studio
where the ensemble idea took root. Siba suggested the name Mestre Ambrósio, a character
of Cavalo Marinho (4) who symbolizes variety.

This trio built a repertoire based on the traditional forró Pé-de-Serra (Foot
of the Mountain), a style that is driven by the remarkable sonority of the rabeca.
They supplemented this with cocos, baiões from Cavalo Marinho,
interpretations of compositions by Luiz Gonzaga, Jackson do Pandeiro, and the Banda de
Pífanos of Caruaru as well as Mestre Ambrósio’s first original compositions. It was a
period of conceptual development, and they experimented with both acoustic and electric
instruments: rabeca, keyboard, guitar, and percussion. When a tour was arranged
through Caruaru—the capital of forró—the trio invited Mazinho
Lima. Lima’s singing brought out the repertoire’s hidden potential, and trio became
quartet.

Individual tastes ran the gamut from rock `n’ roll to jazz, from pop to African music
and from Caribbean to Arabic. They were like four artists all painting an articulate work
on the same canvas but with different brushes. As forró Pé-de-Serra filtered
through these perspectives, the group established a kind of forró called
"Pé-de-Calçada"— urban music with a rural feeling. This name was
actually given to the band by the late Mestre Tavares da Gaita (5), who upon hearing the
band executing forró with such intensity and in the traditional style exclaimed,
"This forró is no longer Pé-de-Serra. No, it’s Pé-de-Calçada (Foot of the
Sidewalk)!"

Every Wednesday from June until November 1993, Mestre Ambrósio performed at the
Soparia bar in Pina beach near Boa Viagem in Recife, Pernambuco. It was in this setting,
playing forró in the Pé-de-Calçada style, that the group crafted the formal
outline of their show and developed the base of their popular support. It was also in this
setting that they recognized the powerful affinity between the music scene in Pernambuco
and what was happening in African pop. In order to further explore these similarities and
sonorities, percussionist Maurício Alves came into the fold, and quartet became quintet.

Their original compositions started taking on powerful dimensions. At the same time,
however, there continued to be a significant demand for forró. Ambrósio’s
solution was to play two repertoires and start using two names: Mestre Ambrósio Elétrico
and Mestre Ambrósio Acústico. This dual repertoire allowed the band to play the entire
circuit of shows in the city, from parties, bars, and nightclubs to official festivals and
rock concerts in theaters and at universities. In several shows, like the Abril Pro Rock,
Ambrósio started with the electric repertoire and finished with the acoustic.

As the movement in Recife became more and more promising, especially with the
repercussions of the beginning of the Mangue Beat movement, the band grew in prestige and
became recognized as one of the most representative of the city. Percussionist Sérgio
Cassiano, a musician who had been active in the city for several years and was a part of
this circuit, joined the group in November 1994, completing the lineup. From that point,
Ambrósio went to many stages, some of them shared with names like Lenine & Suzano,
Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, Naná Vasconcelos, Antônio Carlos da Nóbrega, and
Mundo Livre S.A.. When the decision was made to record the first CD, the band reached a
milestone. As this would define the musical profile of Mestre Ambrósio, there was no
longer room for two repertoires.

Their self-titled CD was recorded between September and December 1995 at the
Conservatório Pernambucano de Música, Recife; produced by Lenine, Suzano, and Denilson
(the same trio that made Olho de Peixe, one of the ten best Brazilian CD’s of
1994); and released in January 1996. The graphic layout of the project has as its
aesthetic principal the illustrative woodcuts associated with Literatura de Cordel
(Northeastern folk literature). Dolores & Morales, the same duo that developed the
graphic layout for the first CD by Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, created the wood
carvings for Ambrósio’s project and directed the MTV video clips that brought the band a
torrent of critical acclaim.

Possessing an overabundance of first-rate material and demonstrating a unified creative
force throughout—writing, playing, and production; Mestre Ambrósio’s debut CD
is a Northeastern pièce de résistance. Cavalo Marinho, Maracatu de Baque Solto,
Baque Virado, baiões, cocos, the music of Candomblé and the Terreiros de
Umbanda, and their own compositions (most of them from Siba), as well as free adaptations
of Brazilian folk manifestations, forge the base of the CD. Acoustic instrumentation
prevails with rabeca and percussion being especially prominent. Keyboard parts are
played by fole de oito baixos, but bass and electric guitar occur on some pieces.
The seventeen tracks not only offer the band’s dazzling creativity and musicianship but
also narrate Northeastern culture in vignettes particularly Pernambucan.

"José" launches the proceedings and tells the story of a careless guy who
doesn’t seem to realize that he is wandering through no-man’s-land. But in truth, José
knows very well where to step in order to find what he seeks. "O" Rocha’s zabumba
and Siba’s rabecas are inspiring and propulsive elements on this tune, which has
elements of Cavalo Marinho, coco, baião, samba, and samba de mestre (traditional
beat of Umbanda). "José" was included on the compilation Strictly Worldwide released
by the German label Piranha Records.

In "Se Zé Limeira Sambasse Maracatu" (If Zé Limeira Would Dance Maracatu),
the poet of the absurd comes out in the real world of the rural maracatu. After
witnessing an apparition, Zé Limeira’s perspective changes. The flora and fauna as well
as the political and social realities have changed and will never be the same again.
Lúcio Maia of Nação Zumbi supplies this maracatu rural with soaring electric
guitar lines setting up a howling melodic drone. "Se Zé Limeira Sambasse
Maracatu" was included on the CD MTV Video Music Brasil 96 in the Banda/Artista
Revelação category.

"Pé-de-Calçada" (Foot of the Sidewalk), a tune inspired by the old
Pé-de-Serra forró dances, is ignited by the sonority of Siba’s profuse and
virtuosic rabeca playing, which has the subtlety of a flame thrower. "Forró
de Primeira" (Outstanding Forró), written by Hélder and Heleno dos Oito Baixos is
hypnotically pulsing with Maurício delivering a spectrum of contrasting rhythmic
dissonances on cuíca. Suzano’s pandeiro here is an inspiring propulsive
element that makes it evident why his reputation continues to grow so rapidly. The melody
and rhythm "Jatobá" (A Woodland) is inherited directly from the ternos de
pífanos (fife trio) of Caruaru. Carlos Malta playing Northeastern fifes generates an
enormous amount of excitement as he pushes the entire tonal and rhythmic palette with
urgency, awesome "chops," and expansive melodic creativity. You had better
super-glue your feet to the floor, for these three raucous tunes will rouse.

"Três Vendas" (Three Cheap Bars) is a story told of the tracks of land near
the creeks in the city of Aliança (a city in the interior of Pernambuco) where all the
macho guys (the caboclos) in the cheap bars are drinking sugar cane alcohol and
eating live snakes as appetizers when a stranger comes along unprepared for the local
fare. The rhythm is baião with touches of traditional Umbanda: samba de mestre,
samba de Angola, and quebra-louça. "O" Rocha reveals the deep
well of creative ideas he has to draw upon as he propels then suspends the rhythm on zabumba
and bombo. "Baile Catingoso" (Foul Smelling Ball), a tune from the sound
track for the Pernambucan full-length feature film Baile Perfumado, tells the story
of how the members of Lampião’s outlaw band entertained themselves eating, drinking,
dancing, and taking baths in perfume, while musicians under the threat of death were
coerced to animate the outlaws’ dancing and fooling around.

"Mensagem Pra Zé Calixto" (Message for Zé Calixto) is a posthumous homage
to the great master of the fole de oito baixos. Mestre Ambrósio’s connection to
Zé Calixto began with an unexpected development at a celebration of São João. When the
band took a break, Hélder put on a tape of Mestre Ambrósio performing a version of a
song Siba had learned from some old rabequeiros. Guests at the party informed
Hélder that the composer was Zé Calixto. This triggered the band’s search for recordings
by Zé Calixto—there were more than thirty. When they first started listening
to the recordings, they understood that Zé Calixto had already died. The tune
"Mensagem Pra Zé Calixto" is addressed to the "beyond." Later they
discovered that Zé Calixto was alive and well and was living in Rio de Janeiro. Another
search ensued and Zé was found. Mestre Ambrósio invited him to answer their message in
person by recording "Mensagem Pra Zé Calixto" with them. Due to the particular
tuning of Zé Calixto’s instrument the hoped-for recording didn’t come to fruition. He is
heard, however, on "A Feira de Caruaru" (The Market of Caruaru).

"Pipoca Moderna" (Modern Popcorn) is an atmospheric sound-blend of one of the
Northeast’s most characteristic melodies and a tune that begs re-listening. Mestre
Ambrósio’s version is performed as a samba with rabeca and the instrumentation of terno
de pífanos. "A Roseira/Onde a Moça Mijou" (The Rosebush / Where the Girl
Peed) is a good-humored fantasy with elements of the eternal Northeastern imagination:
violence, drought, magical realism, rain, and jealousy. "Benjaab" is inspired
both rhythmically and vocally by a song from Mauritânia. It is a composition in which the
rabeca’s origin becomes obvious: the instrument, a consequence of the Arabic
presence in the Iberian Peninsula, arrived in the Northeast of Brazil during the
Portuguese colonization. "Benjaab" features Lenine on vocals.

Mestre Ambrósio became the fourth group on the Pernambucan scene to release a CD.
Their show has grown and started to incorporate powerful visual and dance nuances under
the scenic direction of Patrícia Sene, dancer and graduate researcher from the
Universidade Estadual de Campinas (State University of Campinas). In July 1996, the band
made its first tour of Europe, performing in eleven cities in five countries: Germany,
Portugal, Spain, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Following the European tour, the band made a
tour of fourteen cities in the interior of Pernambuco and Recife and participated in shows
with Chico César. They played a number of performance seasons in São Paulo including Tom
Brasil and the Palace (Heineken Concert) and made excursions to several Brazilian cities
performing at important sites like the Teatro Nacional de Brasília and in major festivals
like the Festival de Inverno de Ouro Preto. In June of 1997, the group traveled to the
United States to perform at New York’s Summer Stage in Central Park; they also played at
the historic Café Wha in the Village.

With a seasoned show, overwhelming international acceptance, and impressive sales of
the first self-titled CD, Mestre Ambrósio closed a deal with Sony Music on November 4,
1997, and is now awaiting the release of their second CD. The project, recorded in São
Paulo and mixed at Looking Glass Studio in New York, is set for release early this year.
Produced by Siba and Antoine Midani, the new disc will feature Sérgio Cassiano sharing
lead vocals with Siba as well as tunes written by a wide circle of composers in
partnership with Mestre Ambrósio. A second tour of Europe and the United States and their
first tour to Japan is also anticipated for 1999.

It is almost impossible to praise their debut too highly. Mestre Ambrósio is a
frighteningly talented contingent of gifted, young musicians who communicate Northeastern
music with great intensity, sensitivity, and respect. They are a band whose unity of
purpose impresses the listener and whose degree of musical sophistication and consistency
supersedes previous standards of excellence. They are a band that has passed through the
gateway of their native streets into international acclaim.

BIOGRAPHICAL
SKETCHES

Siba (rabeca, electric guitar, folk acoustic guitar, and voice), a
graduate in music from the Federal University of Pernambuco was the rabequeiro (rabeca
musician) in the Cavalo Marinho group of the great Mestre Batista from 1992-1993 and also
played with Mestre Salustiano in the Maracatu Rural "Piaba de Ouro." Siba plays
the role of the Caboclo de Lança in the Maracatu "Estrela de Ouro" and has
developed the role through his consummate improvisations. At the University his research
on "The Rabeca in the Zona da Mata Norte of Pernambuco" was honored by the
Congresso de Iniciação Científica (Congress of Scientific Initiation) in 1994. Siba
played on "Todos Estão Surdos" (Everybody’s Deaf) recorded by Chico Science
& Nação Zumbi on the CD Rei, and together with Chico Science and Fred 04
composed the sound track for the full length feature film O Baile Perfumado (The
Perfumed Ball). Siba can also be heard playing rabeca on the sound track to the
film Central Station.

Hélder Vasconcelos (fole de oito baixos, percussion, and voice) is an
actor and dancer who graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the University of
Pernambuco. He has been performing as the Caboclo de Pena in the Maracatu Rural
"Piaba de Ouro" of Mestre Salustiano since 1992. His principal teacher (and
great friend) Heleno dos Oito Baixos, one of Brazil’s living musical treasures, can be
heard on the CD’s Pé de Serra/Forró Band, Brazil (Welt Musik SM 1509-2) and also
on Brazil: Forró/Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers (Rounder CD 5044).

Mazinho Lima (bass, triangle, and voice) is a self-taught musician who has
played professionally since he was fifteen years old.

Sérgio Cassiano (percussion and voice) graduated in music from the Federal
University of Pernambuco. He has preformed with several theater groups as a musician and
actor including "Havia Brasil" (There was a Brazil) and "Cor-de-Chuva"
(Color of Rain). He played on the soundtracks for the plays Quixotinadas, Um
Deus Dormiu Lá em Casa (A God Slept There at Home), and Salubaf, and created
the sound effects for the piece O Pastoril do Véio Cangote. Additionally, he has
performed with Naná Vasconcelos, Ivan Lins, and has recorded with numerous artists
including Sérgio Mendes.

"O" Rocha, (percussion) a student of Naná Vasconcelos and Robertinho
Silva, graduated from the Erudite Percussion program of the Centro Profissionalizante de
Criatividade Musical do Recife (Professional Center of Musical Creativity in Recife).
Besides his ten years as drummer of the rock group Arame Farpado (Barbed Wire) and various
other pop and rock ensembles, he was a member of Recife’s Symphonic Band, the Orquestra de
Duda, and the Symphonic Orchestras of Recife, Olinda, and Rio Grande do Norte. He has
performed in the Maracatu de Baque Solto "Águia de Ouro" (Golden Eagle) and
today is a member of the Maracatu de Baque Virado "Estrela Brilhante" (Dazzling
Star). "O" Rocha formed and directed the percussion group Angaatãnàmú that
performed on the CD Amazônica (Sony Classical SK 62882).

Although dancer and percussionist Maurício Alves also studied with Naná
Vasconcelos, Robertinho Silva, and at the Centro Profissionalizante de Criatividade
Musical do Recife, his primary development came from his childhood involvement in his
community’s centers of Afro-Brazilian culture. He has participated in the Escola de Samba
Caboclinho and countless frevo and capoeira groups; for instance, Tradição
e Raça Negra, Banda Afro Agbá, and Afoxé Odolu Pandá. He participated in the sound
track for the theater works Os Orixás by the Ballet Brincantes of Pernambuco and O
Alto da Compadecida written by Ariano Suassuna. He was also a member of the percussion
group Angaatãnàmú.

(1) Maracatu, a popular manifestation of Carnaval, is a processional of the court of a
king and queen with their retinue: flag, singer, musicians, caboclos, and Baianas
among other figures. Maracatu de Baque Solto (loose beat) also called Maracatu Rural, and
Maracatu de Baque Virado (turned around beat) also called Maracatu Nação are two
existing types of maracatu. Besides the names and their appearance in Carnaval,
there are very few similarities between the two maracatus.

Maracatu de Baque Solto / Maracatu Rural as the name implies is performed in rural
areas, more precisely in the Zona da Mata, the region of sugar cane cultivation. The
rhythm is extremely fast, thus the name solto or loose. One of the principal
figures is the Caboclo de Pena. An important characteristic that occurs in the Maracatu
Rural is the improvised poetry. In the rehearsals that occur some months before Carnaval,
two masters have an improvisational contest for an entire night, each with his own trio of
musicians (terno). The terno is comprised of a small drum (bombo),
shallow two-headed drum (tarol), gonguê (cowbell), ganzá (tubular
metal shaker also called a mineiro), and a cuíca (called poica).
Maracatu Rural also utilizes some brass instruments: trumpet, sax, or trombone, without a
fixed number.

Maracatu de Baque Virado / Maracatu Nação is one of the oldest manifestations of
Brazil. It has an intimate relationship with Afro-Brazilian culture and Candomblé. The baque
is the rhythm. In Maracatu Nação, the rhythm feels like it is dragging or a little
behind the beat. The instruments used are alfaia (a wooden drum with an animal skin
tied with cords), caixas (wicker baskets filled with seeds and used as a shaker) gonguê,
and ganzá. This manifestation migrated to the state of Ceará where it developed
other nuances in the form of its presentation and in the rhythm, resulting in a rhythm
even more "held back."

(2) Ciranda is basically a song played by an ensemble comprised of a small bombo,
caixa, a mineiro, a brass instrument (usually a trumpet), and a mestre
who sings. It is danced in a round without limit or restrictions as to the number of
participants. Originally, only lower class people participated, but after some time the ciranda
became popular with the middle class; it is now enjoyed by all levels of society
throughout Brazil.

(3) Fole de Oito Baixos or Sanfona Oito Baixos (Diatonic Accordion) is an instrument
that takes its name from the eight bass buttons arranged in two rows for the player’s left
hand. It was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese colonizers and became part of
Northeastern tradition. Forró is intimately connected to this instrument and
vice-versa. The father of forró, Luiz Gonzaga played oito baixos. The
instrument has a particular appeal that goes beyond its characteristic tone, which is
quite different from the modern accordion. The fole de oito baixos has become a
cultural symbol in a society that is revalidating its musical legacy, and since
professional players of the instrument are few, a patina has been added to the symbol.

(4) Cavalo Marinho (Sea Horse) is a form of street theater in the Zona da Mata Norte de
Pernambuco that unites music, dance, and poetry with the appearance of various characters.
It is a variation of the popular folklore of Pernambuco called "Bumba-Meu-Boi,"
which occurs in almost every section of Brazil, each region having its own particular
characteristics. The basic scenario of Cavalo Marinho is a dance in which the
"Capitão Marinho" makes an offering to the "Santos Reis do Oriente"
(the three wise men). The group of musicians for Cavalo Marinho is called banco as
they play seated on a bench. The instrumentation is rabeca (or rebeca), a pandeiro,
one or two bajes (a reco-reco made of wood), and a mineiro. Cavalo
Marinho is performed between the months of June and February, generally on Saturday
nights, but most often during Christmas and The Day of the Wise Men (January 6th—the
day the three wise men approached the manger).

(5) Mestre Tavares da Gaita was a master Northeastern musician and inventor of musical
instruments who could cajole music from any object. His instruments are used by Naná
Vasconcelos who dedicated his last CD to the mestre. Tavares da Gaita can be heard
on the CD Pé de Serra/Forró Band, Brazil (Welt Musik SM 1509-2).

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 

Pé-de-Calçada

(Siba)

Mas eu fui num forró no pé duma serra
Nunca nessa terra vi uma coisa igual
Mas eu fui num forró no pé duma serra
Cumê quente, baiano sensacional

Rebeca véia do pinho de arvoredo
Espalhava baiano no salão
O pandeiro tremia a maquinada
Eu vi a poeira subir do chão

Hoje eu faço forró em pé de calçada
No meio da zuada pela contra-mão
Eu fui lá na mata e voltei prá cidade
De cabôco eu sei minha situação

Rebeca véia não me abandona
Zabumba treme-terra, come o chão
Na hora que o tempo desaparece
Transforma em pé de serra o calçadão

Foot of the Sidewalk

 

Well, I went to a forró at the foot of the mountain
Never in this world have I seen anything like this
Well, I went to a forró at the foot of the mountain
Hot, sensational Baiano food

Old rabeca from the pine tree
Spread people throughout the room
The pandeiro shook the machines
I saw dust raising from the floor

Today I play forró at the foot of the sidewalk
Amidst the hum of traffic
I went to the woods and came back to the city
A guy like me understands his situation

Old rabeca doesn’t abandon me
Zabumba shakes the earth, eats the floor
Then time disappears
Transforming foot of the mountain into sidewalk


Três Vendas

(Siba)

Bebeu cana nas três vendas
Engoliu cobra coral

Não vá lá mano
Que os cabra pega você
E a cana já tá cortada
Não tem pr’ onde se esconder

Vadeia mano
Escuta o que eu digo a tu
Melhor tá no teu terreiro
Sambando maracatu

Bebeu cana nas três vendas
Engoliu cobra coral

Pra ir lá mano
Escuta o que eu digo a você
Beber com a cabocaria
Muito macho tem de ser
Pra pegar na cobra viva
Matar com o dente e comer

Vou chamar minhas cobrinha
Do tronco do juremá
Surucucu, cascavé
Salamanta, jiricoá

Bebeu cana nas três vendas
Engoliu cobra coral

Three Cheap Bars

 

He drank in three cheap bars
And swallowed a coral snake

Don’t go there, brother
The thugs will catch you
And the whiskey is already cut
You don’t have a place to hide

Go another way, brother
Listen to what I tell you
It’s better to be in your yard
Dancing maracatu

He drank in three cheap bars
And swallowed a coral snake

To go there, brother
Listen to what I tell you
To drink with those guys
You have to be very rough
To catch a live snake
To kill with your teeth and eat

I’m going to call my little snake
From the trunk of the juremá tree
Surucucu, cascavé
Salamanta, jiricoá*

He drank in three cheap bars
And swallowed a coral snake

* This is a line from a spiritual practice
traditional in the Northeast of Brazil.
Surucucu, cascavé, salamanta, and jiricoá
are different kinds of cobra snakes.

 

A Roseira / Onde a
Moça Mijou

(Waldemar Oliveira and
Luiz Oliveira
)

O mundo estava em guerra
Ninguém mais se entendia
Canhões de artilharia
Davam tiros sobre a terra
Foi aí que lá na serra
Tudo se modificou
Quando alguém anunciou
Disparado na carreira
Nasceu um pé de roseira
Onde a moça mijou!

Onde antes só havia
Desolação e tristeza
Pouco a pouco a natureza
Alegremente sorria
A vegetação crescia
E um riacho se formou
A água tanto aumentou
Que fez uma cachoeira
Nasceu um pé de roseira
Onde a moça mijou!

Acabou-se a tristeza
Ninguém mais ali chorava
Por ali só se falava
Na rosa e sua beleza
Como é linda a natureza
Depois que a rosa brotou
Foi ela quem nos deixou
Essa linda cachoeira
Nasceu um pé de roseira
Onde a moça mijou!

Foi tão grande a emoção
Era tanta alegria
Que todo mundo corria
No meio da multidão
Demonstrando gratidão
Todo mundo se abraçou
É alegremente cantou
Repetindo a noite inteira
Nasceu um pé de roseira
Onde a moça mijou!

Foi aí que a velhinha
Que não dava mais no couro
Achou que era desaforo
O mistério da mocinha
Pegou sua bengalinha
E para a serra rumou
Quando ele se acocorou
Foi aquela cachoeira
Matou o pé de roseira
Onde a moça mijou . . .

The Rosebush / Where the
Young Girl Peed

 

The world was at war
No one understood
Cannons of artillery
Were firing shots above the land
And it was there in the mountains
That everything changed
When someone announced
Racing down the trail
A rosebush was born
Where the young girl peed!

In the place where there was only
Desolation and sadness
Little by little Nature
Joyously was smiling
Vegetation was growing
And a creek was formed
The great water increased
And created a waterfall
A rosebush was born
Where the young girl peed!

Sadness was over
No one there cried
For there, people were only speaking of
The rose and its beauty
And how beautiful Nature is
After the rose bloomed
It was she who left us
This beautiful waterfall
A rosebush was born
Where the young girl peed!

The emotion was so great
There was so much happiness
That everybody was running
Among the crowd
Showing gratitude
Everyone hugged each other
And sang joyously
Repeating throughout the night
A rosebush was born
Where the young girl peed!

It was at that moment the old woman
Who could do nothing else
Found the mystery of the young girl
Was an insult
She picked up her little cane
And walked to the mountain
When she squatted
It was her waterfall
That killed the rosebush
Where the young girl peed . . .

 

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