As 2001 approached its conclusion, Brazilian music faced another untimely loss: On December 29, Cássia Eller, a
deep-voiced, no-nonsense singer passed away in Rio de Janeiro of undisclosed causes. She was 39. Ms. Eller was one of the
most versatile voices to appear in the Brazilian pop scene after the eighties rock boom.
Her first big hit was “Por Enquanto” (“Meanwhile”), a Renato Russo-penned song originally recorded by his band,
the now-defunct Legião Urbana. Her version, which hit the airwaves in the summer of 1990, featured Eller’s unique vocal
talents simply accompanied by her own acoustic guitar with a snippet of The Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling”.
That first song made us notice how different Cássia Eller sounded. Instead of the bland, poppish female voices that
dominated the previous decade, music fans were introduced to a tough, no-frills contralto that came with a promise. Her first record,
simply titled Cássia Eller, had several jewels, such as a remake of Jimi Hendrix’s “If Six Was Nine” and a reggae-spiced remake
of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”
Her second album, “O Marginal”, went quite unnoticed, but her rendition of
Hendrix’s “I Keep My Train A-Coming”
was something out of the ordinary. The third one, however, would ultimately turn Cássia Eller into a household name. Simply
titled Cássia Eller, the record was an indisputable success. Its biggest song, “Malandragem” (“Loafing”), penned by Cazuza
and Frejat, was an immediate hit, and Eller’s versatility was finally noticed nationwide.
The album contained classic samba songs, remakes of rock hits (including Otis Redding’s “Try a Little
Tenderness”), and some original material penned by composers such as Marisa Monte, Carlinhos Brown and Nando Reis. That album
was an unstoppable hit, which led to a sold-out national unplugged tour, in which she basically went through the songs on
her own guitar, accompanied by two other musicians. A CD of that tour was released in 1996.
Eller was considered by many the musical heiress of the late Cazuza (who died of AIDS eleven years ago) not only
by her musicality but also by her brashness: like that singer, she was openly gay (she lived in a stable same-sex relationship
for over ten years) and did not shun from controversy when onstage.
During shows, she would often grope herself or expose her breasts to the audience. Of course, Cazuza never did
anything like that, but he got a lot of flak from the press by appearing visibly drained from the effects of AIDS, to the point of
being on the verge of collapsing during shows as he ended what would turn out to be his final tour.
In 1997, she released Veneno
Antimonotonia (Anti-Boredom Poison), which was dedicated to the works of Cazuza.
Earlier that year, she had guested in a number of shows by the late composer’s former band, Barão
I saw one of those presentations when the band appeared at Biruta, a famous stage in Fortaleza, Brazil. Halfway
through the band’s set, she entered the stage and brilliantly performed “Malandragem” and other songs. She ended her
participation by sharing the lead with Roberto Frejat (the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist) “Só as Mães São Felizes” (Only Mothers
Are Happy), a bluesy Cazuza/Frejat tune that had been included in the band’s most recent album then.
Her last studio album was 1999’s Com Você… Meu Mundo Estaria Completo
(With You, My World Would Be Complete), in which Eller sang more softly than in her previous works. At the time, she credited her newfound vocal softness to a
request by her infant son, who complained that his mother “screamed too much”.
Cássia Eller went through a long-term treatment to kick her cocaine habit. “I did it by my own will”, she told the press
a few months ago. She had recently released a new live album,
MTV Unplugged, which has been her biggest-selling
record. She was getting ready for a national tour and for a New Year’s musical bash in Rio de Janeiro.
On the morning of Dec 29, she entered the Santa Maria Clinic in Rio de Janeiro with stress-related symptoms. That
afternoon, she was admitted to intensive care and died early in the evening after three cardiac arrests. The Brazilian
press immediately assumed that Cássia Eller had had a drug overdose, but her family firmly denied that.
The results of her autopsy, as of this writing, have not yet been released. She is survived by her only son,
Francisco, better known as Chicão, who is currently eight years old. The most lasting memory I have of Cássia Eller was when I
attended her show at Pirata, a famous Club in Fortaleza, during her first national tour in 1991, in which I was, for the first time,
exposed to her music and irreverence.
After the gig, I ventured to chat (those were the days…) with the musicians of her band (especially her bass player,
the late Otavio Fialho, who would later father Eller’s only child). I stuck around at the club with a couple of acquaintances ,
and one of them (let’s call him “Bruce”) was with a date. As Eller walked towards the bus, she shook hands with us and then,
as the girl approached her, Eller held her hand, looked at her and simply led her away to the band’s bus, which would take
to a nearby hotel.
At that time, Eller had not yet “come out” publicly, so we sort of looked at each other and at “Bruce”, who, like us,
could not understand what was going on. Whatever happened after that I never found out, for “Bruce” never told me.
O amor me pegou
Caetano Veloso composed this song
|Extraordinary PussycatsLove caught me
And I won’t rest before I
I get out at night searching
My heart’s strong beat in the dark
If I catch, ahh, I surrender, it’s over
Will she want, can she possibly
Will my dream have any influence?
Could my plan be good?
Is it in tune?
Will it get to an end?
And the extraordinary pussycats who
Walk in the ways she flows
Will she evolve?
Can she possibly evolve?
And if she evolves, will that maybe
I have to catch, I have to catch
I have to catch this creature
I have to catch, I have to catch
I have to catch
For more on Cássia Eller, log on to http://www.cassiaeller.com.brErnest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has been
weekly contributing to the Greenwich Village Gazette
since September 1999. His work has also been published by
The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island
Register, The SI Muse, The
Villager, Brazzil magazine, GLSSite
and other publications. He lives on Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at
Behavior Till Divorce Do Us Apart
New legislation and a different outlook on life have contributed in recent years to a sharp rise in divorces in Brazil as
well as a decline in marriages. Just-released data from the IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística—Brazilian
Institute of Geography and Statistics) show that between 1991 and 1998 there was a 32.5 percent increase in the number of
judicial separations and divorces (which in Brazil may occur one year after legal separation or two years after a “de
The average increase in divorces for the whole country was 29.7 percent in the period studied. This hike, however,
was much bigger in the Midwest (52.6 percent) and the North (99 percent). Commenting on this phenomenon, Antônio
Tadeu Ribeiro de Oliveira
(email@example.com), manager of Vital Projects from IBGE’s DPIS (Departamento de População e
Indicadores Sociais—Department of Population and Social Indicators) told reporters: “I believe that the implementation of the
1988 Constitution, which established clear rules for divorces, stimulated the increase of divorce petitions in the country.”
In 1991, for each 100 marriages there were 21.2 break ups. Seven years later this number had increased to 28.2
separations for every 100 marriages. In ’94, 763,000 couples married. In 1998 the number of new unions had fallen to 699,000.
The IBGE’s study also dispels the myth that May, the traditional “fiancée’s month” is the period in which most
couples marry. While May continues to be the favorite month for weddings, December is the month in which most marriages
occur due to the fact that workers in Brazil receive their salaries in double at the end of the year. This mandatory year-end
bonus is called décimo terceiro salário
According to Oliveira, there has been a change of attitude brought in by new perceptions in society. Says he, “Our
study shows that we are having a change of habits in Brazil. In the old days, that couple that decided to live together without
marrying or that woman who tried to divorce were frowned upon.”
Economy Sound Bites
Sony Brazil wrapped in secrecy the recent release of
Roberto Carlos – Acústico MTV. Year after year, since 1959,
veteran singer Roberto Carlos has been one of the top-selling recording artists in Brazil. Typically, he prepares an album a year,
which is released at year’s end to coincide with the gift-giving Christmas season. For his latest production, Sony did not even
send preview copies of the new CD for the media to prevent the album from falling in the hands of the CD pirates that infest
Brazil. All this effort, however, was useless.
One day before the CD was put for sale following a massive ad campaign and article in the media, the Roberto
Carlos’s Christmas’s album was all over the country being sold by street vendors in counterfeited copies. They were charging 10
reais ($4) for four CDs. In the stores the price for one CD was 28 reais ($12).
At least half of all CDs sold in Brazil are pirated copies. Sony’s action was a wake-up call, showing that piracy in
Brazil is more pervasive than previously thought and hinting that insiders from the recording company itself must be involved
in the scheme.
For a long time Brazil ranked sixth in the world in CD sales. In 1997 it fell though to
7th place. But the real shocker came in 2000 when the country tumbled to
12th place, behind Australia, Italy and Spain. The country that sells most CDs today
is the US followed by Japan and the United Kingdom.
In Brazil the recording companies are losing their war against CD pirates. They have already conceded defeat to them
in the cassette tape field. Today music tape cassettes are the almost exclusive domain of the counterfeiting Mafia.
In 1996, the ABPD (Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Disco—Brazilian Association of Record Producers)
created the APDIF (Associação Protetora dos Direitos Intelectuais e Fonográficos—Association to Protect Intellectual and
Recording Rights). Since then the recording companies have already spent more than $15 million in anti-piracy campaigns.
Even though there are daily seizures of pirated material (in average, 20,000 CDs are seized every day) the amount of
pirated CDs available to the public has been growing steadily. For Márcio Gonçalves, ABPD’s general director, his association has done what it could to prevent and stop piracy.
“We’ve been fighting piracy since 1995,” he says. “The problem is that our effort to stop this practice is isolated.”
All the major recording companies in Brazil press their CDs in Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, because
that city offers special incentives and tax reductions up to 40 percent to several industries. It’s believed that some CDs are
stolen during the transportation of the product to São Paulo, Rio and other big cities.
Between 1996 and 1998 the piracy industry acquired their products ready from Southeast Asia. The advancement
of technology and the reduced price of CD-duplicating equipment, though, have spawned a whole industry of home-based
CD factories. Computers equipped with up to 8 copying drives can produce around 500 records in one hour.
Street vendors in order to prevent their goods from being seized by the police hide most of the CDs in warehouses,
showing for sale just a few copies of each title. Using cell phones they set a network through which they warn one another about
The Producers’ Association has another problem to deal with: what to do with the pirated CDs they caught since
1996. They accumulated 5.5 million CDs and audio cassettes. The material can only be destroyed with a judicial order though.
order has been requested, but the Brazilian justice is in no hurry and in the meantime the ABPD is looking for a second
warehouse to continue stocking the undesired goods.
Indians One for the Tribe
With a toré (ritual dance) around the tomb of Galdino Jesus dos Santos in Pau Brasil, southern Bahia, the Pataxó
Hã-Hã-Hãe celebrated their victory in one of Brazil’s most controversial trials in recent years. All sessions were packed with
people during the four days of the trial. Outside the courtroom of the Jury Tribunal of Brasília, dozens of people waited for an
opportunity to watch the trial that condemned Max Rogério Alves, Antônio Novély Cardoso de Vilanova, Tomás Oliveira de
Almeida, and Eron Chaves Oliveira to 14 years in prison.
Inside the courtroom, most people watching the trial were law students who sympathized with the defendants. Of the
274 seats available in the courtroom, indigenous people occupied only 32. This majority could be clearly perceived in the
boos that were heard when the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe rose to applaud the jurors for their decision. It was the last humiliation they
experienced during the trial.
The Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe did not question the rules. They simply accepted the instructions to take the seats reserved
for them at the back of the auditorium and moved to the first rows when they were informed that, according to the rules of
the court, they had this right. They were anxious to see, face to face, those who were responsible for the crime. Minervina
de Jesus, Galdino’s mother, cried when she saw the defendants and had a hard time dealing with reporters.
The Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe, like the Xukuru, Truká, Tupinambá, Tumbalalá, Macuxi and Tembé who were with them to
express their solidarity, went through painful moments during the trial. They cried when they heard insults against the memory
of Galdino and when they saw the pictures of the forensic report showing his situation after being burned alive. Galdino’s
sister, Marilene de Jesus, and the Pataxó Anaiá became very nervous after these episodes. As a precaution, Mrs. Minervina
and other elderly indigenous women were taken out of the courtroom before the pictures were shown.
They held their emotions even when they were informed about the result of the trial by one of the prosecutors. They
calmly agreed to wait until the sentence was read aloud. After all, they waited for four years and seven months and had to face
many judicial battles before the jury trial was held.
In the state of Bahia, a lot of people were eager to know the result of the trial and kept making lots of phone calls.
Those who stayed there ensured the resistance in reoccupied farms. Since October 22, the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe reoccupied 66
farms that encroach upon the Caramuru-Catarina-Paraguassu indigenous area. They were expelled at gunpoint from two of
them. The conflict led Funai to resume the survey of the area for the purpose of compensating the occupants of the land for
improvements made therein in good faith.
The end of the trial of the murderers of Galdino Jesus dos Santos brought relief to Mrs. Minervina de Jesus, who has
lost two of her older sons in the battle for the land. It was also a relief to the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe, who have seen 13 of their
leaders die in 20 years of struggle. However, while the murderers have indeed been convicted, the occupation of the indigenous
land and the end of the conflicts in southern Bahia are still goals that depend on judicial decisions.
They are waiting for the justice of the Supreme Federal Court (STF), Nelson Jobim, to issue a decision on an Action
to Nullify Title Deeds to farms that encroach upon their lands. A signed petition with over 18,000 signatures collected as
part of an international campaign for the demarcation of the indigenous land has been delivered to the justice during the trial.
It may be the end of a 19-year struggle and the beginning of their dream to live in peace in their traditional land.
This material was originally published by News from Brazil, supplied by SEJUP (Serviço Brasileiro de Justiça e
Paz—Brazilian Service of Justice and Peace. Visit their home page at