LETTERS

By His most famous song is a Carnaval marchinha from 1966 called
"Máscara Negra." "Mascarada," "Malvadeza Durão", "Meu
Pecado", "Nega Dina", and "Diz Que Eu Fui por Aí" were some of
the other hits he composed.

He was born José Flores de Jesus, then became Zé Quietinho de Bento Ribeiro, and
finally Zé Kéti who recorded in 1946 "Tio Sam no Samba", his first single. He
was already considered first-rate by other celebrated musicians like Monarco, Ventura, and
Paulo da Portela, but it was with "A Voz do Morro," in 1955, that Zé Kéti
became famous. The classic goes like this:

Eu sou o samba
A voz do morro sou eu mesmo, sim senhor
Quero mostrar ao mundo que tenho valor
Eu sou o rei dos terreiros

I am the samba
The hill’s voice it’s myself, yes sir
I want to show the world I have value
I’m the king of the courtyards

"A Voz do Morro" became a hit thanks to movie director Nélson Pereira dos
Santos, who after being introduced to the composer at Rio’s Vermelhinho bar, decided to
use the song in his Rio 40 Graus (Rio 104° F) movie. The film would also become a
classic and the first example of the Cinema Novo wave.

In 1998, Zé Kéti received the Prêmio Shell, a life-achievement cultural prize. On
the occasion he referred to the award as the first ever in his career. His memory was
already betraying him. He received several prizes during his life, most of them during the
’60s, his golden decade. The composer was living in Rio’s Conjunto dos Músicos (Musicians
Condominium), a modest building that sheltered other musical geniuses in the past, like
Clementina de Jesus and Pixinguinha, when his heart stopped on November 14, 1999, at the
age of 78. He died from kidney and lung complications at the Hospital Ordem Terceira da
Penitência, in Tijuca, in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro.

His most famous song is a Carnaval marchinha from 1966 called "Máscara
Negra." Year after year it is one of the favorite songs when Carnaval rolls.

Tanto riso, oh, quanta alegria
mais de mil palhaços
no salão
Arlequim está chorando pelo amor
da Colombina
no meio da multidão.
Foi bom te ver outra vez
tá fazendo um ano
foi no Carnaval que passou
eu sou aquele Pierrô que te abraçou
que te beijou, meu amor…

So much laugh, oh, so much fun
more than one thousand clowns
in the ballroom
Arlequin is crying for the love
of Colombine
amid the crowd.
It was good to see you again
it’s been one year
it was in the last Carnaval
I am that Pierrot that hugged
that kissed you, my love…

"Mascarada," "Malvadeza Durão", "Meu Pecado", "Nega
Dina", and "Diz Que Eu Fui por Aí" were some of the other hits he
composed. In the ‘ ’60s, Zé Kéti together with João do Valle contributed to the success
of Opinião (Opinion), a legendary show directed by playwright Augusto Boal with
singers Nara Leão and Maria Bethânia. That was in 1964, soon after the military took
seized control of the country. From this show we get his well-known song
"Opinião", with such incisive verses:

Podem me bater,
podem me prender,
podem me deixar até sem comer,
mas eu não mudo de opinião"

They can beat me,
they can jail me,
they can live me without food,
but I will not change my mind

He was 13 years old when he started hanging around the Mangueira escola de samba
to listen to the samba club’s rehearsals. In the early ’40s, however, he became an officer
with the military police. His first Carnaval song, "Se o Feio Doesse(If the Ugly
Hurt)," appeared in 1943. His last CD came out in 1996. It was 75 Anos de Samba
(75 Years of Samba) a collection of his best-known songs.

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