Pure Samba

Pure Samba

In movies, plays, music, art, and literature, the Brazilian
culture continues more alive than ever. Brazilians have never bought as
many books as in recent years and there are a number of movies being made
and released right now which deal with Brazilian historical facts and cultural
values. New playwrights have been able to fill up theaters all over the
country and new poets are finding out their own voice and a public to listen
to them.
By Brazzil Magazine

Just when the richness and variety of samba seemed to be disappearing
and its rhythm compromised by a thing called "swing," pure samba
has returned. On the eve of Carnaval, Martinho da Vila, Arlindo Cruz &
Sombrinha, Zeca Pagodinho, and Paulinho da Viola have released carefully
produced recordings that serve as a public declaration for the integrity
of a form that began 80 years ago with the official release of "Pelo
Telefone" (On the Phone).

Unique among this group of composers is Paulinho da Viola, an ambassador
of samba, who has broken a silence in Brazil of almost eight years with
the release of Bebadosamba (Drunk with Samba) on BMG. One of his
most insightful projects, Bebadosamba is a manifesto for the veracity
of samba and of Paulinho da Viola. Taking advantage of this momentous occasion,
his former record company, EMI, decided to release Paulinho’s complete
EMI discography including some titles recorded during the original sessions
that did not appear on the LP configurations. The eleven (out of print
unavailable) LPs, recorded between 1968 and 1979, were digitally remastered
in CD format at Abbey Road Studios in England and provide the listener
an opportunity to re-evaluate the composer’s role in the world of MPB (Brazilian
Popular Music).

Paulo César Batista de Faria (Paulinho da Viola) is the son of
César Faria, the legendary choro guitar player who worked
with Pixinguinha and Jacó do Bandolim during the period that came
to be known as Época de Ouro (Golden Era). Paulinho was musically
educated in his father’s circuit of traditional MPB before it became contaminated
by importations of North American rock, blues, and jazz. In the early 1960s
Paulinho accompanied Rio’s leading samba composers at Zicartola. The restaurant
(operated by Cartola, the venerable composer and co-founder of the escola
de samba Mangueira) was the center of the choro and samba scene.

Before the end of that decade Viola had participated in three of the
Roda de Samba recording sessions alongside eminent sambistas like
Zé Keti and Nélson Sargento. Paulinho’s first recording as
a featured artist, Na Madrugada (In the Dawn), was shared with his good
friend from the old Aprendizes de Lucas samba school, Elton Medeiros. Indecisive
on his solo debut in 1968, Paulinho used the conventional heavy strings
and brass orchestrations so typical of the time and that nearly suffocate
tunes like "Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega" (Things of the World,
My Honey), "Doce Veneno" (Sweet Venom), and "Não
te Dói a Consciência?" (Isn’t Your Conscience Troubling
You?) by composer Nélson Cavaquinho. Paulinho recorded "Coisas
do Mundo, Minha Nega" for the second time on Memórias Cantando
from 1976 in a more intimate setting.

His third recording as a featured artist (second for EMI) in 1970 brought
Portela’s unofficial anthem, the emblematic "Foi um Rio que Passou
em Minha Vida" (There Was a River That Passed Through My Life) and
other classics like "Nada de Novo" (Nothing New), "Tudo
Se Transformou" (Everything Has Changed), and "Para Não
Contrariar Você" (In Order Not to Contradict You).

The recording is propelled by intense pandeiro, tamborim,
cuíca, and ganzá rhythms, yet grounded by the infallible
bass playing of Dininho (son of Dino Sete Cordas). With Foi um Rio Que
Passou em Minha Vida, Paulinho established his intimate, clear, almost
minimalistic ensemble sonority and solidified his partnership with pianist
Cristóvão Bastos. During the military dictatorship (1964-85)
Paulinho transferred the heart of samba into new formats and experimented
with diverse combinations in order to protest the political situation of
the country. Through humor and acute social sensibility, he described the
mores of the country and created titles that became standards of the repertoire.
Paulinho spoke of a marginal life with skill and sensitivity:

Se o homem nasceu bom

E bom não se conservou

A culpa é da sociedade

Que o transformou

If the man was born good

And turns bad

The blame is on the society

That changed him

Accepting his role as a chronologist, Paulinho wrote lyrics that the
public understood but whose metaphors eluded the censors. Subordinating
the vocabulary of the heart while respecting the origins of samba and choro,
he tickled the dictatorship between the lines of "Meu Novo Sapato"
(My New Shoe) and "Reclamação" (Complaint). He
embraced the concept of ecology in the explicit samba enredo "Amor
à Natureza." And with the vision of a historian, he recovered
lost pearls by building a virtual anthology of the masters of MPB from
Noel Rosa to Cartola:


"Acontece" (It Happens)

"Amor Proibido" (Forbidden Love)

"Vai Amigo" (Go My Friend)

"Não Quero Mais Amar a Ninguém" (I Don’t Want
to Love Anybody Else)

Nélson Cavaquinho:

"Depois da Vida" (After Life)

"Não te Dói a Consciência?" (Isn’t Your
Conscience Troubling You?)

"Duas Horas da Manhã" (Two O’clock in the Morning)

Noel Rosa:

"Pra Que Mentir" (Why Should You Lie)


"Filosofia do Samba" (Philosophy of the Samba)

"Batuqueiro" (Drummer)

Nelson Sargento:

"Minha Vez de Sorrir" (My Time to Smile)


"Mudei de Opinião" (I Changed My Opinion)

Zé Keti:

"O Meu Pecado" (My Sin)


"Cinco Companheiros" (Five Friends)

"Cuidado Colega" (Careful My Friend)

Pixinguinha and Benedito Lacerda:

"Segura Ele" (Hold Him)

Ary Barroso:

"Chorando" (Crying)

Concerned with the orthodoxy of the samba, with Carnaval becoming a
commercialized enterprise, and with the escolas selecting their
Carnaval themes by the pressure from drug lords; Paulinho left Portela
around 1974 to create the escola Quilombo. (Quilombo is now extinct;
Paulinho returned to Portela in 1996.) At that time he wrote "Argumento":

Tá legal

Eu aceito o argumento

Mas não me altere

O samba tanto assim

It’s okay

I accept the argument

But don’t alter my

Samba so much

Nonetheless, Paulinho’s respect for tradition should not be confused
with nostalgia for past times. His creativity and musical concept make
him, above all else, a rejuvenator of traditional Brazilian music. Who
isn’t familiar with "Sinal Fechado" (Red Light)? Written in 1969
when military repression was at its height, it became the symbol of an
era and winner of TV Record’s music festival. "Roendo as Unhas"
(Nail Biting), a samba where harmonies are resolved in unusual, unexpected
ways, was also written when Brazil was under military rule and mirrored
a time when no one trusted his neighbor, when everyone was left alone with
his worries in a society where warm and personal communication has always
been an integral part of daily life.

These tunes, full of musical daring and radical innovations, were recorded
again in 1993 when Paulinho returned to the studios after a 4 year voluntary
absence to record some of his biggest hits on Samba e Choro Negro.
The CD was released by the World Network label in Europe, Japan, and the
United States, but not in Brazil.

Technicians in the Impressão Digital Studios were desperate when
they discovered how Paulinho wanted to record this CD. Rather than laying
one track on top of another, Paulinho decided to do what he hadn’t done
since those early sessions at EMI when he had free use of the studio and
could bring ideas and musicians together informally; he opted to record
like a live performance. At the request of BMG, Paulinho did not record
new material.

Samba e Choro Negro took 4 days to record and is a sort of "live
greatest hits." Paulinho’s usual ensemble was on board for the date:
Celsinho Silva, pandeiro ganzá; César Faria (his father),
guitar; Dininho, bass; Cristóvão Bastos, piano; Cabelinho,
reco-reco, tamborim, surdo, ganzá; Mestre
Marçal, cuíca; Hércules, drums; Amélia
Rabello, vocals. These are players who have worked with him for years and
know every nuance of his compositions. Fortunately, the singular nature
of the project made his concept possible as both the performance and recording
quality is exemplary.

Recently Paulinho clarified that his absence from the studio had been
a productive time and had nothing to do with an artistic crisis. After
recording Eu Canto Samba in 1989, he gave many performances. In
São Paulo he shared the stage with Cristóvão Bastos
and Joel Nascimento in a spectacular show that was awarded a prize for
the best performance of 1995 by the São Paulo Association of Art
Critics. He also wrote new works with his old partner Élton Medeiros.
But he was plagued by a string of personal disasters: a large tree falling
on his home, an armed assault on his wife and children, the flood in January
1996, and the fiasco surrounding the 1995 New Year’s Eve show, an instance
where both samba and Paulinho were seen as victims.

The New Year’s Eve homage to Tom Jobim was a performance for which Caetano
Veloso, Chico Buarque, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, and Milton Nascimento each
received $100,000; Paulinho received $35,000. On January 1, 1996, newspapers
and magazines across Brazil focused on the incident, creating misunderstandings
and severing friendships. When reports came out that Paulinho had received
"a little less" than the other artists, he did not demand equal
payment, nor did he discuss the issue with the parties responsible. His
only wish was to establish the truth.

The Imposto de Renda (Income Tax) people wanted to know exactly how
much he had received, and Paulinho made it clear publicly that he did not
receive "a little less." Accounts of a trial to discover exactly
what had happened started turning up in press reports and interviews with
the different sides and created a tremendous amount of confusion with Paulinho
at the center. The other artists became uneasy about the amounts they had
received and about how it appeared to their fans. Some of them blamed Paulinho
for their anxiety.

Nevertheless, Paulinho’s return to the studio was met with unanimous
applause by the music world. After all, Paulinho da Viola is a watershed,
a musician who can sense a mood more accurately than most, capture it,
divine its very essence, and return it to the public in musical form with
uncanny emotional expression. The sambista is a unique personality
in Brazilian music who has never worried about releasing CD’s every two
years to keep up the momentum of his career like many of his colleagues.
He doesn’t promote his recordings with national tours, nor does he encourage
inflated ad campaigns prior to a new release. Paulinho da Viola only records
when he finds that he has something interesting to say in the form of samba.
And this is the reason each of his recordings has become a "classic."
Fortunately his record company acquiesces because Bebadosamba stands
out from the others as a tribute to the illustrious sambistas of
the past.

Sprinkled with new ideas and a variety of recurring themes, Bebadosamba
presents a history of pure samba to a new generation just when the richness
and variety of the genre seemed to be disappearing. Radical in an era when
the market has been dominated by groups that sing ballads in samba rhythm,
albeit with less syncopation and with keyboards supplying the harmony,
Paulinho holds to the traditional instruments of samba: cavaquinho,
violão, cuíca, ganzá, agogô,
pandeiro, and tamborim and crafts the kind of samba that
was mainstream before the appearance of pagode in the early 1980’s,
a subtle samba with intricate harmony.

Few can remember the sambistas from the past that continue to
inspire Paulinho da Viola. But the title track, "Bebadosamba,"
offers an evocation, a rhythmic intoning of reverence for some of the immortal
ones: Cartola, Candeia (co-founder with Paulinho da Viola of the escola
Quilombo), Nélson Cavaquinho, Pixinguinha, and Donga, among
others who helped define Brazilian music and Paulinho’s peerless sound.
It begins with a poetic dialogue between Paulinho and Boca. The lyrics
spoken like a lament, almost whispered and without melody give you shivers:

E eu, Boca, como sempre perdido,

Bêbado de samba e outros sonhos

Choro a lágrima comum,

Que todos choram

And I, Boca, as usual lost,

Drunk with samba and other dreams

Cry a common tear

That everyone cries

The opening track, "Quando o Samba Chama" (When the Samba
Calls), explains Paulinho’s decision to be silent for so long and reveals
how he can turn bad luck into fodder for poetry:

Se algum pensamento que vem não seduz

O poeta declina

Daquilo que ele não sente

E o silêncio é o peso que ele conduz.

If some thought that comes doesn’t seduce

The poet declines

From that which he does not feel

And the silence is the weight that he bears.

The beautiful "Dama de Espadas" (Queen of Spades), introduced
by a piano part reminiscent of French composer Erik Satie, validates Paulinho
as one of the rare composers of samba who can innovate without loosing
the essential characteristics of the form. To demonstrate the difference
between today’s samba enredo and the old exaltations to the escolas
de samba, Paulinho recorded "O Ideal É Competir" (The
Ideal Is to Compete), with the "Old Guard" of the Portela escola
furnishing a warmth unusual for a studio session. The ensemble’s exemplary
performance of "É Difícil Viver Assim" (It’s Hard
to Live This Way) in the old style of backyard samba etches the tune’s
refrain and tamborim rhythm into your memory and demands one more

There are also some surprises in the repertoire, like the ethereal "Alento"
with the reflective lyrics and music of Paulo César Pinheiro and
the partnership of Paulinho and Ferreira Gullar on "Solução
de Vida" (Solution in Life), an ideological review of life, full of
syncopation and featuring the flawless flute work of Aquarela Carioca’s
Mário Sève. And the duo of Paulinho and Élton Medeiros,
which began more than 30 years ago, is back with "Ame" (Love),
a tune offering some good advice and punctuated by a crack horn section
guaranteed to have you on your feet.

Recalling a year when the composer was jolted by setbacks, from the
episode at the New Year’s Eve show to the floods in Rio, there is an excess
of tunes having disillusioned and aquatic metaphors like "Mar Grande"
(Great Sea) written by Paulinho and Sérgio Natureza; "Timoneiro"
(Helmsman) with lyrics by Hermínio Bello de Carvalho; and "Novos
Rumos" (New Routes), an old hit by Orlando Porto and Rochinha originally
recorded in the 1950’s by Sílvio Caldas:

Todos os anos vividos

São portos perdidos

Que eu deixo pra trás

All the years lived

Are lost harbors

That I leave behind

The lyrics and melody of "Mar Grande" confirm how natural
it is for Paulinho da Viola to create a timeless sound that is influenced
more by his esthetic convictions than by waves that agitate the recording
industry. "Mar Grande" is a slow, floating composition co-arranged
by Cristóvão Bastos:

Não quero mar de marola

Das praias da moda

Na rebentação

I don’t want a calm sea

Folding up on the sand

Of the fashionable beaches

Although it seems the public couldn’t care less that the language of
samba has become distorted and jeopardized by a growing number of popular
artists, it is hard to ignore the return of a musician who for over three
decades has eloquently captured the political and social conditions of
his time and expanded the limits of samba without disfiguring its essence.
Paulinho da Viola has come back to enchant and to demonstrate it is impossible
to talk about samba as a form frozen in time.



Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros


Seja como for

Sem medo de sofrer

Pintou desilusão

Não tenha medo não

O tempo poderá lhe dizer

Que tudo

Traz alguma dor

E o bem de revelar

Que tal felicidade

Sempre tão fugaz

A gente tem que conquistar

Por que se negar

Com tanto querer

Por que não se dar

Por quê?

Por que recusar

A luz em você

Deixar pra depois

Chorar . . . pra quê?



Whatever it is

Without fear of suffering

If disillusion appears

Don’t be afraid

Time will tell you

That everything

Brings pain

And is kind to reveal

That happiness

Is always fleeting

We have to conquer that.

Why do you deny yourself

With so much desire

Why don’t you give yourself


Why do you refuse

The light in you

And leave for tomorrow

Cry . . . What for?

O Ideal É Competir

Candeia and Casquinha

Quando a Portela chegou

A platéia vibrou de emoção

Suas pastoras vaidosas

Defendiam orgulhosas

O seu pavilhão


A luta é teu ideal

O que se passou, passou

Não te podem deter

Teu destino é lutar e vencer

Oh! minha Portela

Por ti darei minha vida

Oh! Portela querida

És tu quem levas a alegria

Para milhares de fãs

És considerada, sem vaidade,

Na cidade

Como super campeã das campeãs

Eu quisera ter agora

A juventude de outrora

Idade de encantos mil

Pra trilhar contigo passo a passo

No sucesso ou no fracasso

Pela glória do samba do Brasil

The Ideal Is to Compete

When Portela comes

The crowd vibrates with emotion

Your majestic dancers

Proudly defend

Your flag


Fighting is you ideal

What happens, happens

They cannot detain you

Your destiny is to fight and win

Oh! my Portela

For you I’d give my life

Oh! Portela my dear

You are the one who brings happiness

To millions of fans

You are considerate, without vanity,

In the city

Like a super champion among champions

I would like to have now

The youth of other times

Age of a thousand enchantments

To march with you step by step

In your success or your failure

For the glory of samba of Brazil

Novos Rumos

Rochinha and Orlando Porto

Vou imprimir novos rumos

Ao barco agitado

Que foi minha vida

Fiz minhas velas ao mar

Disse adeus sem chorar

E estou de partida

Todo os anos vividos

São portos perdidos

Que eu deixo pra trás

Quero viver diferente

Que a sorte da gente

É a gente que faz

Quando a vida nos cansa

E se perde a esperança

O melhor é partir

Ir procurar outros mares

Onde outros olhares

Nos façam sorrir

Levo no meu coração

Uma grande lição

Que contigo aprendi

Tu me ensinaste em verdade

Que a felicidade

Está longe de ti

New Routes

I’m going to chart new routes

For the rocking ship

That was my life

I raised my sails on the sea

I said good by without crying

And I am leaving

All the years lived

Are lost harbors

That I leave behind

I want to live differently

Our destiny

Is what we do

When we are tired of living

We loose hope

It is better to leave

And look for new seas

Where other sights

Make us smile

I take into my heart

A great lesson

That I learned with you

You taught me the truth

That happiness

Is far from you


Paulo César Pinheiro

Violão esquecido num canto é silêncio

Coração encolhido no peito é desprezo

Solidão hospedada no leito é ausência

A paixão refletida num pranto, ai, é tristeza

Um olhar espiando o vazio é lembrança

Um desejo trazido no vento é saudade

Um desvio na curva do tempo é distância

E um poeta que acaba vadio, ai, é destino

A vida da gente é mistério

A estrada do tempo é segredo

O sonho perdido é espelho

O alento de tudo é canção

O fio do enredo é mentira

A história do mundo é brinquedo

O verso do samba é conselho

E tudo o que eu disse é ilusão


A guitar forgotten in a corner is silence

A shrunken heart in my chest is disdain

Solitude housed in a bed is absence

Passion reflected in a single tear, ah, this is sadness

Staring at the emptiness is remembering

A wish brought on the wind is longing

A detour in the curve of time is distance

And a poet that is lazy, ah, is destiny

Our life is a mystery

The road of time is a secrete

The dream lost is a mirror

The comfort of everything is song

The thread of the plot is a lie

The history of the world is a toy

The verse of a samba is advice

And everything that I said is an illusion


1996 Bebadosamba BMG

1996 Geração Samba WEA (a compilation)

1993 Samba E Choro Negro World Network

1989 Eu Canto Samba RCA

1983 Prisma Luminoso WEA

1982 A Toda Hora Rola uma Estória WEA

1981 Paulinho da Viola WEA

1979 Zumbido EMI

1978 Paulinho da Viola EMI

1976 Memórias Chorando EMI

1976 Memórias Cantando EMI

1975 Amor à Natureza EMI

1973 Nervos de Aço EMI

1972 Dança da Solidão EMI

1971 Paulinho da Viola EMI

1971 Paulinho da Viola EMI

(same year and title but different tracks)

1970 Foi um Rio que Passou em Minha Vida EMI

1968 Paulinho da Viola EMI

1968 Samba na Madrugada RGE

1967 Roda de Samba vol.3 RCA

1966 Roda de Samba vol.2 Musidisc

1965 Roda de Samba Musidisc

Bruce Gilman plays cuíca for Mocidade Independente
Los Angeles, received his MA from California Institute of the Arts, and
teaches English and ESL in Long Beach, California. You can reach him through
his E-mail: cuica@interworld.net

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