:: This article was originally published in
:: Brazzil magazine.


Song of the South

How a city with no indigenous cultural roots
is creating a musical legacy.

Daniella Thompson

December 2000


A place with no past and an uncertain future.

For the past thirty years, this modern capital of the southern state of Paraná has been an ecological pioneer and a model for urban planners around the globe, emphasizing open space and public transport. Among its notable innovations, Curitiba counts the first pedestrian-only street in Brazil and a center for environmental education. But the city seems to have lost its vision and transformed itself into the Detroit of South America. Not only are five automobile-manufacturing plants located there, but an increasingly affluent population is turning its back on the vaunted transit system and clogging the roads with vehicles.

On the cultural front, the city never had much to say for itself. Populated chiefly by European immigrants, many of them Poles, Curitiba hasn’t enjoyed the benefit of the native and African founts that enriched popular culture in other regions. Its most famous poet, Paulo Leminski (1944–1989), blamed Curitiba’s cultural poverty and repression of leisure and creativity on the immigrants’ puritanical work ethic and excessive civic penny-pinching. “From a Freudian point of view, Curitiba is anal retention. Our sin is avarice. To create is to waste. One creates only by excess. By exuberance,” wrote Leminski. While the city’s economic health permitted cultural consumerism (“Access to the industrial goods of civilization, the great existential adventure of the middle class.”), there was no creative counterpart to the consumption, a fact that the poet ascribed to prosperity (“Perhaps culture is produced only in response to great privation.”) and the absence of that “popular humus”—folklore.

In 1996, ten years after Leminski published his observations in a book of essays, they were re-examined by Marcelo Sandmann in the article “Algumas Canções em Curitiba,” published in the literary review Letras. Sandmann, a professor of literature at the Universidade Federal do Paraná and a poet in his own right, concluded that Curitiba’s musical output still hadn’t changed sufficiently to prove Leminski wrong. Nevertheless, claimed Sandmann, the city has been manifesting a desire to change. In the absence of a fertile social soil into which it could sink roots, Curitiba is sending its roots into the air—as antennas—absorbing creative influences from the rest of the country and the world at large.

Not surprisingly, much of the music being created in Curitiba was and still is rock and pop. Sandmann, however, focused his attention on three MPB songs with a uniquely Curitiban flavor. “Não Dê Pipoca ao Turista” (Don’t Give the Tourists Popcorn), written by Carlos Careqa, Adriano Sátiro, and Oswaldo Rio and recorded by Careqa in the album Os Homens São Todos Iguais, is a simple jingle-like tune that makes specific references to city locales that are not tourist spots but typical venues for the city’s marginalized population of blue-collar workers, transvestites, and prostitutes. “Passantes” (Passers-By), composed by Luiz Antonio Fidalgo and recorded by the group Fato in its eponymous first disc, is a love duet enacted in characteristic public spaces—Rua XV, Galeria Schaffer—that are synonymous with the center of the city. “Filhos de Gdanski,” authored by carioca Antonio Saraiva and recorded by the Curitiban group Beijo AA Força in the CD Sem Suingue, is a satirical inquiry into the city’s cultural profile. The title incorporates the name of a Polish city into that of the famous Bahian bloco-afoxé Filhos de Gandhy (spelled with a y for some reason), and the tongue-in-cheek musical style is the Afro-Brazilian ijexá, albeit performed by white singers in suit and tie.

The quest for a clear voice continues, both within Curitiba and without, for at least two of the city’s most talented artists have chosen to settle elsewhere.

Chico Mello 

Chico Mello’s Do Lado da Voz

Born in Curitiba, Chico Mello studied composition with José Penalva and Hans Joachim Koellreuter, the classical composer who also taught Tom Jobim. Mello retraced Curitiba’s immigration route back to Europe and since 1987 has been living in Berlin, where he finds greater freedom for esthetic expression. In Germany he continued his composition studies with German experimentalist Dieter Schnebel and learned Indian Dhrupad singing with Amélia Cuni. He is equally active in Brazil and in Europe, and his work integrates Brazilian tradition with various international avant-garde trends. He has composed for chamber ensembles as well as for orchestras such as the Berlin Symphony, the Cologne Radio Orchestra, and the Bavarian Symphony, and has worked with such diverse collaborators as Schnebel, Brazilian improvising composer/guitarist Silvia Ocougne, songwriter Carlos Careqa, and minimalist rocker Arnold Dreyblatt.

Mello’s remarkable new disc, Do Lado da Voz, is his first all-song album. The recent interest in song stems from his studies of Dhrupad and his work with Silvia Ocougne on the CD Música Brasileira De(s)composta (Wandelweiser Records, Germany). Since the early ’90s, he’s elaborated unusual versions (or de-compositions, as he calls them) of well-known Brazilian songs of various eras. His novel and sometimes startling arrangements alter the songs’ tempi, break their rhythm with pauses and repetitions, add samples of old recordings, and juxtapose instrumental dissonance against lyrical vocals, taking the songs out of their original contexts and transforming them into essentially new (re)creations. The earliest recording in this cycle of salvage is “Eu Te Amo” (Tom Jobim/Chico Buarque; 1980), recorded on the CD 7 Artistas do Brasil (GGM Records, Germany) and also included in the new disc. It’s scored for voice, piano, clarinets, electric bass, and percussion. The latter is used for punctuation rather than for rhythmic purposes.

In “Pensando em Ti” (Herivelto Martins/David Nasser; 1957), strings and clarinets play discrete repetitive phrases, while the vocals are an unpredictable dialogue between Mello’s gentle voice and sampled fragments of Nelson Gonçalves’ chesty one in the original recording. Noel Rosa’s samba “Mentir” (1933) maintains the original rhythm and is given a period feel with acoustic guitar, Mello’s intimate singing, and a voice-generated fake trumpet. In another Noel Rosa samba, “Já Cansei de Pedir” (1935), the period-style vocals and saxophone are countered by fragments of Mello’s orchestral piece “Amarelinha,” performed by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. “Carolina” (Chico Buarque; 1967) is given a quiet vocal interpretation with drone-like guitar and a violin that recalls the sawing of a didgeridoo or a Jew’s harp. The waltz “Rosa” (Pixinguinha; 1917) is transformed by slower singing and accelerated polyrhythms, the latter executed by guitars and the Middle-Eastern drum darabuka.

The other side of Do Lado da Voz consists of five compositions by Mello, to which he applies the same de-composition techniques. “Achado” and “Chorando em 2001” (see lyrics), both with lyrics by Carlos Careqa, utilize multiplication of acoustic instruments to create an almost electronic ambience. The violins in “Achado” recall Steve Reich’s “Different Trains,” while the title plays with the name of the Brazilian writer Machado de Assis. “Cara da Barriga” and “Valsa Dourada” are triumphs of simplicity, employing silence as an integral element of the composition. The singing here succeeds in being simultaneously straightforward and moving, and is accompanied by guitar and percussion in the former and by piano, violin, and bandoneon in the latter. The disc ends on the alliterative “Paramá” (lyrics by Walnei Costa), where an electronic program of bass, drums, and synthesizer progressively alters the tempo.

Mello’s voice is an extremely attractive tenor that he keeps mostly in high registers and low decibels, like a muted horn. It’s as unique and intriguing as his musical voice.

Chico Mello: Do Lado da Voz
(Thanx God Records TG1008) 2000

01. Achado (Chico Mello/Carlos Careqa)
02. Cara da Barriga (Chico Mello)
03. Pensando em Ti (Herivelto Martins/David Nasser)
04. Mentir (Noel Rosa)
05. Chorando em 2001 (Chico Mello)
06. Já Cansei de Pedir (Noel Rosa)
07. Carolina (Chico Buarque)
08. Eu Te Amo (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Chico Buarque)
09. Valsa Dourada (Chico Mello/Carlos Careqa)
10. Rosa (Pixinguinha)
11. Paramá (Chico Mello/Walnei Costa)

Contursi, Sandmann, Brandão & Rodriguez

Marcelo Corrêa Sandmann & Benito Rodriguez’ Cantos da Palavra

More than any other country, Brazil is home to that unusual hybrid, the academic popular musician. Perhaps the foremost example of this breed is world-renowned herpetologist Paulo Vanzolini, whose place is secure both in the Brazilian Academy of Science and in the annals of samba. Luiz Tatit, founder of the 1980s São Paulo band Rumo, a singer/guitarist as well as an excellent songwriter, is a university professor. The authors of Cantos da Palavra are both professors of literature at the Universidade Federal do Paraná. Thus Marcelo Corrêa Sandmann and Benito Rodriguez know their way around words. Sandmann has been writing poetry for over ten years and just published a book of poems entitled Lírico Renitente (Rio de Janeiro, 7 Letras). Rodriguez is a scholar of popular Brazilian song. His doctoral thesis traced the parallel trajectories of two great lyricists—Catulo da Paixão Cearense and Orestes Barbosa—whose work encompassed both literature and popular song.

Sandmann studied classical piano for five years in his teens and played with some groups in Curitiba, but abandoned music for letters. He believes that much of the good new music in Brazil is being created by non-professionals or by professionals in parallel projects. “Few among the new [music makers] live off their own esthetic projects,” he says. His partner Rodriguez has no musical education. “He has a guitar at home, but I’ve never seen him play!” says Sandmann. The two began to compose at the end of 1995, alternating roles in writing music and letters, either alone or together. Their joint disc demonstrates a surprisingly broad musical range, encompassing MPB, pop, rap, samba, funk, jazz, chanson, frevo, and rock.

The opening song, “Cisco” (Particle), a paean to birth and life, shows off the strong integration between music and lyrics. It begins with the rhythm of a child’s heartbeat (supplied by Sandmann’s son Francisco). The child’s parents, Sandmann and his singer/actress wife Silvia Contursi, break in with hypnotically alliterative and onomatopoeic vocals, strongly punctuated by pulsating bass, keyboards, and percussion:

Pulso por dentro do pulso
Ritmo íntimo em mim
Mundo no fundo do fundo
Vida na vida sem fim...

Pulse inside a pulse
Intimate rhythm in me
World at the depth of the depth
Life in a life without end...

“Rebuliço” (Confusion) is a funky argument sung by Silvia Contursi, with electric guitars, bass, with sampled drumming by Sly Dunbar and a sampling of Jason Miles’ Psychic Horns. “Samba Danado” (Tricky Samba) is not really a samba, but tricky enough nevertheless. The title and the lyrics are a reference to Dorival Caymmi’s classic (and highly melodic) “Samba da Minha Terra”—a standard recorded over the decades by vocal groups as disparate as Bando da Lua, Os Cariocas, and Novos Baianos and made famous worldwide by João Gilberto. Sandmann’s song is an homage turned upside down, for his “Tricky Samba” is a hip-hop that de-emphasizes melody, with an arrangement that weds acoustic Brazilian percussion (caixa, tamborim, and xequerê) to electric guitars, keyboards, and programmed drumming. Caymmi’s lyrics, which suggest that whoever doesn’t like samba is wrong in the head or sore in the foot, here take on slightly altered but altogether new meaning, for Sandmann claims that whoever doesn’t like this samba must be healthy of head and firm of foot.

“Louco” (Crazy), sung by Sandmann, is a man’s gentle confession of madness to the woman he’s about to leave, while “Sutileza” (Subtlety), beautifully sung by Contursi, pays tribute to French culture and the chanson in both melody and lyrics. “Céu & Blues” (Sky & Blues) explores the jazz idiom in its lyrics, Contursi’s vocals, and the arrangement for acoustic guitar, keyboards, bass, and pandeiro. Sandmann is the singer and guitarist in “Juros de Amor” (The Cost of Love), accompanied by Antonio Saraiva’s soprano saxophone and Edu Szajnbrun’s array of unusual percussion instruments. “www.infolia.com.pc” (see lyrics) is a Carnaval frevo that begins with a computer-generated prayer-like intonation and then tips the hat to the historic Carnaval samba “Pelo Telefone” (Donga/Mauro de Almeida; 1917) in its opening lyrics. It’s followed by another seemingly requisite end-of-the-century song, “O Fim da História,” this one a rock about apocalyptic cults.

“Samba na Feira” (Samba at the Fair) is about the beauty of musical miscegenation, appropriately accompanied by frenetic street-style batucada from Sidon Silva, one of the more talented members of the carioca band Pedro Luís e a Parede. In a drastic change of tempo, “Valsa da Madrugada” is a lyrical song in the tradition of Tom Jobim and Edu Lobo, arranged for voice (Contursi) and piano (Grace Torres) by Torres, a member of the Curitiban group Fato. In “Deixa pra Lá” we’re shunted to a funk mode, only to return to another samba, “Cantos da Palavra.” The arrangement is contemporary, while the lyrics pay tribute to a long line of seminal musical figures stretching from the beginning of the 20th century until today. “Grão” (Grain) closes the album on a hopeful note with the same theme that opened it—the cycle of life—only this time in a slow ballad for voice and piano which is followed after an interval by a excerpt from “Louco” in which the wanderer returns home. All’s well that ends well.

Cantos da Palavra
(independent release) 1999

Songs by Marcelo Sandmann & Benito Rodriguez
Guest vocalist: Silvia Contursi
Musical producer: Paulo Brandão

01. Cisco (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
02. Rebuliço (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
03. Samba Danado (Marcelo Sandmann)
04. Louco (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
05. Sutileza (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
06. Céu & Blues (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
07. Juros de Amor (Marcelo Sandmann/Ricardo Carvalho/Benito Rodriguez)
08. www.infolia.com.pc (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
09. O Fim da História (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
10. Samba na Feira (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
11. Valsa da Madrugada (Marcelo Sandmann)
12. Deixa pra Lá (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
13. Cantos da Palavra (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)
14. Grão (Marcelo Sandmann/Benito Rodriguez)


Fato’s Oquelatá Quelateje

In Curitiban terms, Fato is an old-timer. This septet has been around since 1994 and released three CDs in the past five years. From the very beginning, the idea behind the group has been to unite the disparate musical influences of its members.

Bassist Ulisses Galetto’s father was a child trombonist and later worked in dance bands that played Brazilian and international hits of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, in addition to being a choro lover who played for fun with his friends. Keyboardist Grace Torres grew up hearing indiscriminately Henry Mancini, Ray Conniff, Jovem Guarda, and Tropicália. At the age of six she began a course of classical piano, which took her all the way to university studies of Art Education. While there, she became engrossed in folklore and the works of Bela Bartok, which prompted her to listen to 20th-century vernacular and classical music, as well as to innovators like Egberto Gismonti, Hermeto Pascoal, and Frank Zappa. Drummer Zé Loureiro played Carnaval frevos, marchinhas, and sambas on Trios Elétricos, in addition to playing MPB and Brazilian rock in nightclubs. (One of the founding members who’s since left is Silvia Contursi, whose voice may be heard on the group’s first two albums.)

Gilson Fukushima, who joined the group in 1996, learned classical guitar, all the while playing electric pop guitar with his friends. Fato’s youngest member, for the past three years he’s been studying composition and conducting, winning awards for contemporary composition, and listening to classical music from Bach to Stockhausen by way of Frank Zappa. Singer Alexandre Nero (who can also be heard on Cantos da Palavra) joined Fato in 1997. His musical education is completely popular, autodidactic, and intuitive. He loves street music, Carnaval, Brazilian percussion, and dance, and he’s also an actor.

Babi Farah is another largely intuitive singer, although she took singing and vocal technique lessons for several years. Before joining Fato in 1998, she used to sing blues and MPB and was a radio announcer. Her favorite genres are pop, jazz, blues, and MPB. Percussionist Priscila Graciano studied piano and ballet, as well as Art Education. She comes from a family of musicians dedicated mostly to regional music. She’s the drummer of two other bands, one playing techno-pop and the other MPB.

What do Fato’s members have in common? A shared taste for certain artists and, above all, the desire to seek a unique sound. Borrowing inspiration from all corners of Brazil, the band blends traditional elements of maracatu, fandango, baião, capoeira, flamenco, samba, reggae, and choro into their electric rock/pop, which is enhanced by intelligent lyrics and interesting arrangements. The group’s first two CDs, Fato (1995) and Fogo Mordido (1997), were produced by carioca musicians Antonio Saraiva and Paulo Brandão, respectively. For Oquelatá Quelateje, the group looked closer to home, to paulista bassist Rodolfo Stroeter, although Brandão stayed on board for the mixing.

Oquelatá Quelateje puts a spotlight on fandango, a traditional rhythm of Paraná which is a mixture of the old Spanish fandango and the circle dances of the Carijó natives. Fandango dancers wear tamancos (wooden clogs), which they stomp for percussion, while the melody is carried by the rabeca (violin). Localized in the island of Valadares, the fandango might have passed into extinction were it not for the work of researchers Inami Custódio Pinto and José Eduardo Gramani. The rhythm of the clogs, accompanied by the traditional hand-clapping and violins, made its first Fato appearance on Fogo Mordido, in the song “A Noite” (Sandrão Fernandes/Ulisses Galetto/Grace Torres). In the same album, “Tamanco” (Ulisses Galetto) talked of the musical miscegenation being created in Curitiba:

Lá vai fandango com tamanco meu sinhô
Choro num xaxado, um afoxé
Baião de dois, eu e você
Maracatu desceu pro sul pra remexer
Samba no pé e a cuca no maculelê
Core y lundu
Paraná ê
Brancura negra...

There goes fandango with tamanco, my lord
Choro in the xaxado, an afoxé
Baião for two,* I and you
Maracatu came down south to mix
Samba swing with thought in the maculelê
Core and lundu
Paraná is
Black whiteness...

* Baião de dois: a northeastern dish of rice and beans cooked together.

In the new CD, the clogs appear again as percussion instruments. The opening track, “Valadares,” is yet another statement of miscegenation, whose lyrics pair tamancos with the Afro-Brazilian agogô and Gramani’s rabeca with the northeastern pífanos of Caruaru. Yet this song is a thoroughly modern creation, where Gramani’s sampled country violin, sounding mournfully Jewish, is quickly followed by electric guitar and an eclectic host of percussion instruments producing a strongly danceable and decidedly urban street ambience. “Encharque,” a rock with a bit of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” thrown in, restates the main theme:

...Percussão de tamanco é dança
Terreiro de candomblé é dança
Sopapo de capoeira é dança
Dança de mulata
Tiro de polaca
Grito que saiu pela culatra...

...Percussion of tamanco is dance
Candomblé temple is dance
Capoeira’s blow is dance
Dance of mulatto woman
Shot of Polish woman
Scream that backfired...

“Vozes” is all about, yes, voices. The lyrics talk about voices, and the singing, which begins with a male solo and proceeds to an equally beguiling masculine duet, stops abruptly to make way for a Balinese Kecak (monkey chant) laid over a feminine solo and Fato’s chorus intoning the word vozes. “Beira do Samba” is an unusual love song with a beautiful melody and sage lyrics:

Quanto mais a gente entende
Mais a gente se surpreende
Mais a gente está no ar...

The more we understand
The more we are surprised,
The more we’re in the air...

“Kismet” leads us back to the dance floor, to the accompaniment of tamborins and vocal imitations of a football commentator and the media personalities Chacrinha and Sílvio Santos. Energetic and jolly-sounding, its message is rather grim:

Cada um na sua, todo mundo por ninguém...

Each to his own, everybody for nobody...

“Cachimba” offers alliterative lyrics and a sitar-like viola caipira. “Rito,” a poetic rumination on macro- and microcosmos, showcases Alexandre Nero’s fine singing, while “Morrer de Bem” examines the positive aspects of death. Water, life, and natural elements make repeat appearances on the album, whose cover shows sperm penetrating an ovum—an apt metaphor for the cross fertilization going on here.

Fato: Oquelatá Quelateje
(Fato 109346) 2000

01. Valadares (Ulisses Galetto)
02. Encharque (Alexandre Nero)
03. Odisséia (Ulisses Galetto/Antonio Saraiva)
04. Vozes (Alexandre Nero/Grace Torres/Ulisses Galetto)
05. Beira do Samba (Rodrigo Campello/Antonio Saraiva)
06. Kismet (Ulisses Galetto)
07. Cachimba (Babi Farah/Gilson Fukushima)
08. Rito (Ulisses Galetto/Marcelo Sandmann)
09. Morrer de Bem (Rodrigo Campello/Suely Mesquita)
10. Foz (Grace Torres/Marcelo Sandmann)
11. Istmo (Gilson Fukushima/Ulisses Galetto)
12. A Língua por Ela Mesma (Jana Mundana/Fábio Tavares)
13. Na Praia-X (Arnaldo Machado)
14. Baía-Rio (Antonio Saraiva/Pedro Ribeiro)

Musical producer: Rodolfo Stroeter
Grace Torres: keyboards, vocals, percussion
Babi Farah: vocals, percussion
Alexandre Nero: vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Gilson Fukushima: electric & acoustic guitar, vocals
Ulisses Galetto: bass, acoustic guitar, vocals
Zé Loureiro Neto: drums, percussion, vocals
Priscila Graciano: percussion, vocals


Maxixe Machine

Maxixe Machine’s BarBabel

What’s more fun? Punk rock or old tunes from the1930s? Maxixe Machine’s unabashed vote is for the latter. This irreverent band whose name speaks volumes (maxixe is the oldest purely Brazilian dance and a precursor to samba, while machine is self-explanatory) emerged in 1994 as a parallel project of the rock/pop group Beijo AA Força, which had been around since 1983. Eventually, the newer entity took over completely. The older band released the album Sem Suingue (Without Swing), and Maxixe Machine continues to wave the same banner, a tongue-in-cheek commentary on their hometown that hails from the same crucible where Polish jokes are made. By now you get the idea that Maxixe Machine doesn’t look on the world with a straight face. Swing or no, they manage to produce a bewildering quantity of music, both old tunes (sambas, marchinhas, valsas, guaranias, polkas) that sound new and new tunes of their own that sound old.

The band recently recorded its second CD, a live disc of marchinhas, those peppy and frivolous marches that used to be such Carnaval favorites in days gone by. Their first recording, BarBabel, was an ambitious project comprising a CD, a magazine, and a 30-minute film featuring the legendary figures of samba (circa 1930) in a bar setting. The disc comes with a 66-page color insert chock-a-block with photos, scenes from the film, interviews, song lyrics, and technical information.

BarBabel is a rollicking party, spreading before us a smorgasbord of kooky styles. Some of the fun consists in hearing Noel Rosa, Assis Valente, Lamartine Babo, and Ary Barroso in pop clothing. Even more interesting are some of the group’s original compositions that sound uncannily like authentic traditional sambas but are in fact carefully constructed pastiches. Perhaps the perfect example is “Deixa c’o Breque,” which sounds like a Batatinha recording, complete with old-geezer voice, coughing, and lyrics that don’t betray their facetious nonsense unless you’re listening very carefully:

Samba que é samba
Quando vem a inspiração
Aumenta no meu peito a percussão...

Samba that is samba,
When inspiration comes,
Increases the percussion in my chest...

Como cai bem o samba do Ataulfo
O Nelson sai cantando cavaquinho na vitrola
Não tiro o cartola da cabeça
Nem o Paulinho da viola...

How well does Ataulfo’s samba sound
Nelson comes out singing cavaquinho in the victrola
I don’t remove the top hat* from my head
Nor Paulinho from the viola...

* Cartola

Maxixe Machine: BarBabel
(independent release) 1999

01. Maria Boa (Assis Valente)
02. Perdendo Tempo (P. Leminski/Thadeu/Roberto Prado/Walmor Douglas Góes)
03. Mulher Indigesta (Noel Rosa)
04. Com Mulher Não Quero Mais Nada (Noel Rosa/Sílvio Pinto)
05. Memória Rã (Marcos Prado/Beto Trindade/Luiz Ferreira/Rodrigo Barros)
06. Cuco Maluco (Haroldo Lobo/Milton de Oliveira)
07. Gatos Malucos (Os Trigêmeos Vocalistas)
08. Sabiá (Antonio Thadeu Wojciechowski/Edilson Del Grossi/Beto Trindade/Walmor Góes)
09. Alô-Alô (André Filho)
10. Isso É Lá com Santo Antônio (Lamartine Babo)
11. Deixa c’o Breque (Thadeu/Walmor/Trindade)
12. Curitiba (Marcos Prado/Thadeu/Walmor)
13. Como "Vaes" Você? (Ary Barroso)
14. Bolero-Lero (Rodrigo Barros/Luiz Ferreira/Sérgio Viralobos/Thadeu/Walmor)
15. Valsa de Yorick (Luiz Ferreira/Rodrigo Barros/score from the play Estou Te Escrevendo de um País Distante)
16. Valsa Danada (Renato Quege/José Buffo )
17. Pedra que Rolou (Pedro Caetano)
18. Casamento do Barriga (Luiz Ferreira/Rodrigo Barros/Beto Trindade/Ricardo "Ô Rosinha"/Therciano Albuquerque)
19. Bacalhau (Rodrigo/Thadeu/Roberto Prado/Walmor)
20. Hino do Chupa-Cabras (Trindade/Ubiratan Gonçalves de Oliveira/Edson de Vulcanis/Walmor)
21. Restaurante Espacial (Roberto Prado/Beto Trindade)
22. A Tribo dos Cara-Pálidas (Marcos Prado/Thadeu/Walmor)
23. Sede Titânica (Thadeu/Walmor/Edilson Del Grossi)
24. Sede Titânica (remix of Edu-K)
25. Curitiba (karaoke version)
26. Memória Rã (karaoke version)
27. Bolero-Lero (karaoke version)

Luiz Ferreira: vocals, cavaquinho, guitar, samples
Ricardo "Ô Rosinha": vocals, zabumba, surdo, pandeiro, cajjon, Portuguese adufe, tabla, drums, samples
Rodrigo Barros Homem del Rei: lead vocals, guitar, samples
Therciano Albuquerque: vocals, piano
Walmor Douglas Góes: vocals, solo guitar

Iso Fischer 

Iso Fischer’s Camera Pop

Iso Fischer is a composer with 30 years’ experience and over 200 songs to his name. He’s one of the founders of the Associação dos Compositores and the Clube dos Compositores in Curitiba, as well a practitioner of homeopathic medicine.

Camera Pop is Iso’s first disc–a complex, multihued, and mature album from a composer whose musical influences include Tom Jobim, the Beatles, os Mutantes, Juca Chaves, Taiguara, and Tropicália. The disc’s title alludes to its stylistic range, extending from art song through MPB and jazz to rock and pop, with numerous shades in between, all tastefully done. Camera Pop opens in a chamber-music vein with "Mais uma Canção," sung by Liane Guariente with oboe, piano, and cello accompaniment–an arrangement which returns in several other songs. Liane is joined by Iso Fischer in the mantra “Origami,” with lyrics by poet Etel Frota:


            SÓ FI



The repetitive melody puts on new instrumental and vocal layers as it progresses from a quiet faux-oriental chant to a vigorously percussive pop song before ending where it began. “Dramácula,” again sung by Iso, is the amusing rock statement of a man who’s satisfied with himself just as he is and doesn’t want to conform to anybody else’s standards. The lyrical mood returns in “Isso e Aquilo,” as Lydio Roberto sings of lost love. “Horizontes” praises the quiet beauty of the Pantanal in a vocal duo between Guilherme Rondon and Iso Fischer.

In “Paraná Blues” Iso communes with his city and state to the accompaniment of electric guitar and brass-programmed keyboards. One of the most beautifully melodious songs in this album is “Tão Natural,” in which Maurício Detoni and Iso sing of the naturalness of the physical love between men. “Ismália” is a a strange fairy tale about the relationship between craziness, godliness, and music. Camera Pop provides a good opportunity to hear several Curitiban groups, as a  number of local artists have turned out to lend a hand in the recording, among them O Tao do Trio, which sings the poetic “Luz Negra,” and accompanies Alexandre Nero in the lovely bossa nova "Cantada." Grupo Fato gives us the rollicking “No Forró da Brasileira,” and everybody turns out for the grand finale.

All the tracks of Camera Pop are available for listening on the Web. However, listeners who fall in love with the music may consider the advantage of obtaining the physical CD, which comes in an elaborately designed hard-cover book including lyrics, full technical information, and photos of all the participants, besides numerous color reproductions of master paintings from several centuries.

Iso Fischer: Camera Pop
(ISO 2000) 1999

01. Mais uma Canção (Iso Fischer/Zecca Wachelke)
     vocals: Liane Guariente
02. Origami (Iso Fischer/Etel Frota)
     vocals: Liane Guariente & Iso Fischer
03. Dramácula (Iso Fischer/Zecca Wachelke)
     vocals: Iso Fischer
04. Isso e Aquilo (Guilherme Rondom/Iso Fischer)
     vocals: Lydio Roberto
05. Horizontes (Guilherme Rondom/Iso Fischer)
     vocals: Guilherme Rondon & Iso Fischer
06. Paraná Blues (Iso Fischer)
     vocals: Iso Fischer
07. Tão Natural (Iso Fischer)
     vocals: Maurício Detoni & Iso Fischer
08. Ismália (Iso Fischer/Alphonsus de Guimaraens)
     vocals: Tato Ficher
09. Luz Negra (Iso Fischer/Adalberto Lamerata)
     vocals: O Tao do Trio
10. Enquanto a Chuva Chora (Iso Fischer/Eduardo Oliveira)
     vocals: Iso Fischer
11. Cantada (Iso Fischer)
     vocals: Alexandre Nero & O Tao do Trio
12. No Forró da Brasileira (Iso Fischer)
     vocals: Babi Farah & Grupo Fato
13. Que Festa É Essa, Malandro? (Iso Fischer)
     vocals: everyone in turn


O Tao do Trio’s Uns Caetanos

Good feminine vocal trios aren’t as common as we’d like. In MPB, the only notable trio until now has been Trio Esperança. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to discover a group that works on the same high level. Unlike the Corrêa sisters of Trio Esperança, the members of O Tao do Trio are not related to each other; but that doesn’t keep Cristina Lemos, Helena Bel, and Suzie Franco from singing in such close harmony as if they were identical triplets.

In this fine album, imaginatively arranged by Vicente Ribeiro, the Trio takes on Caetano Veloso with a song selection that avoids the obvious. The historically inclined can count the number of cases in  which Caetano quotes other composers’ older songs (e.g., “Dom de Iludir” quotes Noel Rosa’s “Pra que Mentir?”; “Linha do Equador” quotes Dorival Caymmi’s “É Doce Morrer no Mar”; “Genipapo Absoluto” quotes Ataulfo Alves’ “Infidelidade”; “Cinema Novo” quotes Zé Ketti’s “A Voz do Morro”; and so on).

The songs are treated with an impressive variety of arrangements, utilizing mostly acoustic instruments in tasteful and tasty settings for the heavenly voices.

Don’t let the modest cover design stand in your way of acquiring this wonderful disc. The recording production values more than make up for it; and the liner notes, while not easy on the eye, provide song lyrics and technical information. Another thing to appreciate about this production is how it contrived to give us a generous 58 minutes of music within the 14-track Brazilian CD convention.

O Tao do Trio: Uns Caetanos
(CID CD 00527/2) 2001

All songs by Caetano Veloso

01. a) O Quereres
       b) Uns
02. Dom de Iludir
03. a) Pipoca Moderna
      b) Trilhos Urbanos
04. Baby
05. a) Gema
      b) Jeito de Corpo
06. Lindeza
07. Linha do Equador
08. Você É Linda
09. Gênesis
10. a) Eu Te Amo
      b) Sete Mil Vezes
11. Louco por Você
12. Mãe
13. Genipapo Absoluto
14. Cinema Novo

Carlos Careqa 

Carlos Careqa’s Música para Final de Século

Carlos Careqa is the best-known musician to come out of Curitiba, and it took getting out of Curitiba to become better known. He’s been living in São Paulo since the early ’90s, where he recorded his two CDs, Os Homens São Todos Iguais and Música Para Final de Século (Thanx God Records). The highlight of the first disc was the song “Não Dê Pipoca ao Turista,” which begins with the defiant line “Eu gosto de Curitiba” (I like Curitiba, where the syllable Cu is extended to suggest something altogether different). The love song "Acho" (I think), from the same disc, was included in David Byrne’s compilation Beleza Tropical 2. Now Careqa’s songs are being recorded by pop stars like Rita Ribeiro and Vânia Abreu.

With Arrigo Barnabé as artistic director, the first CD was consciously without a central concept but infused with humor. Música Para Final de Século, which made David Byrne’s Top 10 list for the year, is more homogenous and more serious. The composer tells that many of his friends have died of AIDS, which made him think a great deal about life. He says that José Miguel Wisnik asked him: “Look, if you have the petulance to make humorous songs, why don’t you have the courage to speak of love?” The result is a rich disc with a variety of music and of instruments, utilizing more percussion, sanfona, acoustic guitar, and trombone.

My personal favorite in this album is “Chorando em 2001” (see lyrics) also recorded by Chico Mello. It’s interesting to compare the two authors’ recordings. Mello’s arrangement includes acoustic and electric guitars, piano, violins, and contrabass. Careqa’s, arranged by accordionist Toninho Ferragutti has pandeiro and sanfona. Mello sings in the upper registers, whereas Careqa sings in the middle ones. Mello’s version is modern music, while Careqa’s is Brazilian song.

The disc takes its title from the song "Música Para Final de Século," a semi-rap that suggests that the world isn’t coming to an end at the turn of the century, that in fact it’s an opportunity for a new beginning. One of Careqa’s themes is urban space: “Manhattan Tan Tan” is a percussive mantra for a large metropolis, while “A Cor de Nova York” (The Color of New York) is a wistful rock love ballad traipsing around cities of the world. Another recurring motif is nature: “Eclipse em Meia-Lua” (Half-Moon Eclipse) is a lovely ballad arranged for string quartet, guitar, and percussion, while “São Solidão” (Saint Solitude) could fool you into believing that it’s música nordestina, as would “Temporal” (Storm). And there are some surprises. “Vou Sair [as Comprinhas]” (I’m Going Shopping) is a peppy samba with humorous lyrics and a vocal delivery that recalls João Bosco in his heyday.

I asked Carlos Careqa a few questions about Curitiba and its impact on his work, especially in his first album, Os Homens São Todos Iguais.

Daniella Thompson—“Não Dê Pipoca ao Turista” is a kind of hymn for Curitiba, is it not? Would you describe some of the scenes you mention in the song? Are there ever any turistas in Curitiba?

Careqa—My first CD was released (still in vinyl) in 1993, when I was already living in São Paulo. I made this song, a metaphoric kind of protest, in 1989 with Oswaldo Rios and Adriano Sátiro. We talk in the song about obscure points in Curitiba, a tour of the hidden side of the city. Streets of prostitution, like Riachuelo, Praça do Homem Pelado (Square of the Naked Man), the Passeio Público mini zoo that for a long time attracted beggars and people of easy living. There are many Curitibas in Curitiba, and this is one of them. The underworld of Curitiba hangs around the Boîte Metro (there’s no subway in Curitiba) where people pay to have sex in the hole of the Metro. I’m happy that people are still seeking this disc after all this time. I’m a compulsive curitibano, I love and hate, hate and love. Tourists began to discover Curitiba in the ’90s, as a result of not very accurate advertising about the reality of the city. Yet Curitiba has many places to visit. But the best is to get to know the identity of Curitiba through Paulo Leminski, Alice Ruiz, Dalton Trevisan, Hélio Leites, etc.

DT—The cover photo of Os Homens São Todos Iguais put me in mind of Antonio Saraiva’s “Filhos de Gdanski.” Would you say this is a recurring theme in music connected with Curitiba?

Careqa—The cover of Os Homens was made by the great plastic artist from São Paulo, Guto Lacaz. He thought of this idea of the mirror. At the time I still didn’t know the work of Antonio Saraiva, of whom I’m a confessed fan. But I think there’s a good relationship between the two.

DTl—Has there been any change in your career since “Acho” was included in Beleza Tropical 2?

Careqa—Not much, but here in São Paulo, some people know and value this. I’m the only one in that collection without a large record label behind him; the song is there simply because it was selected. I was always a fan of David Byrne, for a long time I sang “Psycho Killer” in bars and shows. I admire his work and think that he does more for Brazilian music than many Brazilians here. As I always say, David Byrne is a Brazilian who was born in Scotland.

DT—“A Última Quimera de Sebastião Antonio Pereira” is a grandiose, operatic duet. Who is Sebastião Antonio Pereira, and who’s the polaca? Any mentions of Poles automatically makes me think of Curitiba.

Careqa—I made this song in 1983, at a party with my partners. We wanted to deal with the most common situation in Curitiba, class difference, whites and blacks separated by a system at times hypocritical. The Polish woman in question is a code name for a prostitute, part of an old history since the European immigration (not only Polish women, but German, Russian, etc.). It was good to make music at that time; we did it without thinking of a market. Sebastião is a fictitious name invented on the spot, a night watchman.

DT—“Couto Anual” is the kind of song that Maxixe Machine is likely to sing. Any comments?

Careqa—I’m a great admirer of Beijo AA Força, and Rodrigão is an excellent singer. When I was recording my disc, we shared the same studio in Curitiba in 1991, and I called Rodrigo to sing with me on this track. I also love Maxixe Machine, they’re great.

DT—The play Alles Plastik that gives its name to your song was performed in Curitiba by the German theatre group Grips in 1985. Did you participate in that production?

Careqa—I was the musical director of the show Alles Plastik in 1985, in partnership with the Goethe Institute. Paulo Leminski did the adaptation and the Portuguese versions of the lyrics, and Geraldo Henrique and I set the songs to music.

DT—“Cidade” includes a chant recorded in a Curitiba church. Is the song about Curitiba?

Careqa—This is a lyric that I received from Milton Karam. I believe that it talks about Curitiba, but principally of small towns that are being transformed into big cities. The interaction with Curitiba is clear, because the chant recorded is traditional to Curitiba, dedicated to a venerated saint. This song was also composed in 1984. The arrangement was strongly influenced by Rogério Duprat.

DT—“O Outro Lado” is again the kind of humorous and extremely brief song that Maxixe Machine would engage in these days.

Careqa—At that time there was still no Maxixe Machine, but I think there’s always been this synchronism between us.

DT—Leaving Curitiba behind, we’re now at the second CD, which gave me a very rich musical experience.

Careqa—In São Paulo I began to have contact with a Brazil that I didn’t know in Curitiba, although I always like Brazilian music. I had the opportunity to do shows and compose with Brazilians of the northeast, where practically all the inspiration for this disc comes from. Chico César, Toninho Ferragutti, were very important at this stage. In 1995 I went to Berlin to study German and I began to think about this work together with Chico Mello, who’s been living there for ten years. I recorded part of it there, utilizing musicians who live outside Brazil. In São Paulo I added the marvelous sanfona of Toninho, and Bocatto came with his trombone to complement the ideas.

DT—The lyrics of “Manhattan Tan Tan” could work as well for São Paulo as for NYC.

Careqa—They were made for São Paulo—a graffito on the walls that said: “São Paulo, Manhattan of the third world.” I like to make songs for places where I live and where I’ve passed, making a subversive commentary for the city. Praises I leave for the mayors.

Carlos Careqa: Música Para Final de Século
(Thanx God Records TG 1001) 1999

Production: Carlos Careqa
Musical direction: Chico Mello

01. Ser Igual É Legal (Carlos Careqa/Adriano Sátiro)
02. Chorando em 2001 (Chico Mello/Carlos Careqa)
03. No Caminho Para Santiago (Carlos Careqa)
04. Música Para Final de Século (Carlos Careqa/Adriano Sátiro)
05. Manhattan Tan Tan (Carlos Careqa)
06. Eclipse em Meia-Lua (Carlos Careqa/Arrigo Barnabé/Adriano Sátiro)
07. Cortei o Dedo (Carlos Careqa/Raul Cruz)
08. São Solidão (Carlos Careqa)
09. Temporal (Carlos Careqa)
10. Não Minta pra Mim (Carlos Careqa/Hélio Leites)
11. Feliz Amor (Carlos Careqa)
12. A Cor de Nova York (Carlos Careqa)
13. Não Pise nos Meus Carlos (Carlos Careqa/Adriano Sátiro)
14. Vou Sair [as Comprinhas] (Carlos Careqa)


Copyright © 2000–2014 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.