:: The articles in this series were originally published
:: in the online magazine Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


The last king of carnaval is gone

Braguinha is dead at 99.

Daniella Thompson

24 December 2006

Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga (29 Mar. 1907–24 Dec. 2006), aka João de Barro and universally nicknamed Braguinha, passed away this morning in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1928, the young Braguinha co-founded the musical group Flor do Tempo, which a year later became the legendary Bando de Tangarás. Two of the group’s members were Noel Rosa and Almirante. The latter would marry Braguinha’s sister, Ilka. (Watch a rare film of the group; Brauinha plays pandeiro.)

In keeping with the bird motif of the group’s name, Braguinha adopted the artistic name João de Barro.

In 1930, Bando de Tangarás had a huge carnaval hit with the samba “Na Pavuna,” which is said to have been the first studio recording to employ traditional samba percussion instruments.

Braguinha soon turned into one of the most prolific and succcessful carnaval songwriters, with 91 sambas and 166 marchinhas recorded on 78-rpm discs. His complete body of work includes more than 400 titles.

Among his many enduring carnaval hits are the marcha-rancho “Pastorinhas” (co-authored with Noel Rosa) and the marchinhas “Yes, Nós Temos Bananas” and “Touradas em Madrid” (co-authored with longtime partner Alberto Ribeiro). Amazingly, all three were enormous successes in the 1938 carnaval. In 1950, “Touradas em Madrid” would be the song chanted by a crowd of 150,000 soccer fans (some say 200,000) at the newly inaugurated Maracanã stadium upon Brazil’s 6:1 victory over Spain in the World Cup quarter-finals.

In 1937, Braguinha wrote the lyrics to Pixinguinha’s almost forgotten 1917 choro “Carinhoso.” It was recorded by Orlando Silva and instantly became one of Brazil’s immortal standards. There is no Brazilian who can’t sing “Carinhoso” at a moment’s notice. (Watch perfromances by Pixinguinha, João Gilberto, Paulinho da Viola & Marisa Monte, and Maria Rita & Marcelo Camelo of Los Hermanos with audience participation.)

In 1944, Braguinha and Alberto Ribeiro wrote to order the classic samba-canção “Copacabana,” which Dick Farney recorded memorably two years later.

Existem praias tão lindas
Cheias de luz
Nenhuma tem o encanto
Que tu possuis
Tuas areias
Teu céu tão lindo
Tuas sereias
Sempre sorrindo
Sempre sorrindo

Copacabana, princesinha do mar
Pelas manhãs tu és a vida a cantar
E à tardinha ao sol poente
Deixas sempre uma saudade na gente
Copacabana, o mar eterno cantor
Ao te beijar ficou perdido de amor
E hoje vive a murmurar:
Só a ti, Copacabana
Eu hei de amar

In addition to his songwriting activities, Braguinha was a screenwriter and producer. In the 1930s, he was the creative machine behind Wallace Downey’s Cinédia musicals. Downey, who headed Columbia in Brazil, invited Braguinha to join the record label in 1937. Eventually he became the label’s artistic director. When Columbia exited Brazil and the label was renamed Continental, it was he who ran it. In 1945 Braguinha co-founded the music publishing house (later the recording company) Todamérica.

And it was Braguinha who wrote the Portuguese lyrics for the Brazilian editions of Walt Disney’s films and produced their recordings. He also adapted countless children’s tales and wrote many children’s songs, released on the Disquinho label he had founded.

In 1984, GRESEP Mangueira made Braguinha the theme of its carnaval parade, “Yes, Nós Temos Braguinha.” Three years ago, a statue with his likeness, sculpted by by Otto Dumovich, was installed on Avenida Princesa Isabel at the entrance to Copacabana.

His name will be forever linked with carnaval, bananas, futebol, and the princesinha do mar.

Copyright © 2007–2013 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.