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


The Boeuf chronicles, Pt. 10

On caboclos, matutos, caipiras,
roceiros, sertanejos &
other clowns.

Daniella Thompson

3 June 2002

“Violeiro na Janela” by Almeida Júnior

Ambling through the first nine melodies quoted in Le Boeuf sur le Toit, we’ve encountered Marcelo Tupinambá (1889–1953) three times. As previously mentioned in Doutor Tanguinho, seven of his tunes can be found in Le Boeuf. Milhaud’s tenth quotation is also Tupinambá’s fourth composition in the rondo. “São Paulo Futuro,” “Viola Cantadeira,” and “O Matuto” were all northeastern, country-flavored songs with lyrics to match, and the tune we’re about to discuss is no exception.

In 1978, on the 25th anniversary of Tupinambá’s death, singer and music researcher Léa Vinocur Freitag wrote:

Fernando Lobo’s pseudonym synthesizes an acculturation that is quite Brazilian, a mixture of Italian opera and caboclo culture: Marcelo, from La Bohème, and Tupinambá, a sertanejo tribute.

Fifty-four years before Vinocur, Mário de Andrade wrote:

What exalts the dance music of Marcelo Tupinambá is the melodic line, very pure and varied. The composer encloses within it the heterogeneous indecision of our racial formation. At one moment it has the affectation of the almost-white city dweller, at another, the melancholy of our interior. At times it is of desperate fatalism, an immensely nostalgic longing that is heard, as in this extraordinary “MATUTO,” a song of Ceará that attains that pained sorrow of certain Russian melodies. [...] And it is in this genre of caboclo melody that Marcelo Tupinambá became admirable. In this genre that he calls tanguinho with lamentable disdain for other genres.

The Michaelis dictionary offers several definitions for ‘caboclo.’ The first three are:

ca.bo.clo adj (tupi kariuóka)
1. Copper-colored.
2. Mestiço of white with Indian.
3. Caipira, roceiro, sertanejo.

It is the third definition that concerns us here. Peasants of the sertão have always had reasons by the bushel for being sad, including regular droughts, grinding poverty, overbearing landlords, and rampaging discrimination. Yet despite the inherent sadness in many caboclo melodies, the caboclo, matuto, or roceiro in popular Brazilian culture typically is a figure of mirth, a country bumpkin to be poked fun at.

The laughable aspects of country folks were central themes of the theatrical revues in which Tupinambá’s early songs were launched: the revista de costumes São Paulo Futuro (1914), the opereta sertaneja Scenas da Roça (1917), and Flor do Sertão.

The image of the indolent and crafty rustic simpleton was bolstered by Monteiro Lobato, who was a plantation owner prior to becoming a celebrated author. In 1914, Lobato dispatched two letters to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, complaining about the uncivilized and rebellious caboclos of his region. The second letter carped:

A nossa montanha é vítima de um parasita, um piolho da terra, peculiar ao solo brasileiro... Este funesto parasita da terra é o cabloco, inadaptável à civilização...
Começa na morada. Sua casa de sapé e lama faz sorrir aos bichos que moram em toca...
Só ele não fala, não canta, não ri, não ama. Só ele, no meio de tanta vida, não vive...

It was in this second letter that Monteiro Lobato created the figure of the quintessential caboclo Jeca Tatu, since then immortalized in numerous films by the famed comic actor Amácio Mazzaropi.

Jeca Tatu, caboclo celebrated in song, on stage and screen

Tune No. 10: “Tristeza de Caboclo” (1919)

“Tristeza de Caboclo” is a tanguinho, the first tune Tupinambá composed under contract with Campassi & Camin, the São Paulo publishers. With Arlindo Leal’s lyrics, it became an instant hit, selling a phenomenal number of 120,000 piano scores in one year.

In Le Boeuf sur le Toit, sections A and B of “Tristeza de Caboclo” may be heard beginning at 4:58 min. into Louis de Froment’s recording.

A piano transcription of the same passage was published separately as Le Tango des Fratellini, Op. 58c and has since been recorded by classical and popular musicians such as Françoise Choveaux, Polly Ferman, Marcel Worms, Mari Kumamoto, Jeff Cohen, Alberto Neuman, I Salonisti, and the Tango Total trio (see the Le Boeuf sur le Toit discography).

The Fratellini brothers were the artistically innovative Cirque Médrano clowns so beloved by Milhaud, his Les Six cohorts, and their artist friends. When Jean Cocteau staged Le Boeuf sur le Toit in 1920 as the ballet-pantomime farce The Nothing Happens Bar (later retitled The Nothing Doing Bar), he hired Paul, François, and Albert Fratellini to play key roles in the production. François was cast as the Red-Headed Woman and Albert as the Woman in the Low-Cut Dress. During the course of the ballet, the two women dance a tango to the tune of “Tristeza de Caboclo.” Raoul Dufy’s drawing of the ballet characters, including the tango-dancing women, illustrates the cover of the Boeuf piano four-hands edition published by Dover.

Dufy’s scene from “The Nothing Doing Bar” (courtesy of Laurent Gloaguen)

In its original version, “Tristeza de Caboclo” was recorded by the singers O Francês (on a radio program) and Roberto Fioravante (1968) and pianists Mário de Azevedo (in the LP Marcello Tupynambá na Interpretação do Pianista Mario de Azevedo, Sinter SLP-1090; 1956), Marcelo Guelfi (1983), and Eudóxia de Barros (1999).

The earliest recording and the only one listed in Fundação Joaquim Nabuco’s database is the one by the vocal duo Os Geraldos:

Título: Tristeza de Caboclo
Gênero: Tango
Intérprete: Os Geraldos
Gravadora: Gaúcho
Número: 4043

The author isn’t named, but a piano score published by Sassetti & Cia. in Lisbon—equally anonymous but with the correct notation and lyrics—announces the song to be Repertório dos Geraldos.

Os Geraldos

We’ll hear an excerpt sung by Roberto Fioravante in his 1968 LP Mensagem de Saudade:

and the complete 1983 recording by pianist Marcelo Guelfi.

In the scores of the day, “Tristeza de Caboclo” was arranged for piano or for piano & sextet. A Brazilian piano score in my possession (registered P5383, whereas the Portuguese score was registered P5380) bears the headline Cine-Orchestra and lists on the cover piano, violin A, violin B, flute, clarinet, cello, and bass.

Both scores offer these lyrics:

Tristeza de Caboclo
Letra de Arlindo Leal
Musica de Marcello Tupynambá

Quando na roça anoitece
Fico sempre a meditá!..

      (Côro) Fica sempre a meditá!.. [bis]
Meu coração, que padece,
Não me deixa socegá!...
      (Côro) Não o deixa socegá!.. [bis]

Minh'arma, com fervô,
Quando ha luá
Chora o seu amô
E sem podê se aconsolá
Garra logo a suspirá!..
      (Côro) Quem ama, com fervô, etc.

Meu coração, com tristeza,
Quando surge o bom luá.

      (Côro) Quando surge o bom luá... [bis]
Sabe, com muita firmeza,
Seus queixumes disfarçá!..

      (Côro) Seus queixumes disfarçá!.. [bis]

Minh'arma, com fervô, etc.

Quem sabe amá, com ternura,
Nunca deixa de sonhá...

      (Côro) Nunca deixa de sonhá! [bis]
Não soffre a negra amargura
Que me anda a acabrunhá!

      (Côro) Que o anda a acabrunhá!.. [bis]

Minh'arma, com fervô, etc.

Quando eu pego na viola,
Com vontade de cantá,
      (Côro) Com vontade de cantá!... [bis]
Meu coração se aconsola,
Alliviando seus pená!...
      (Côro) Alliviando seus pená!... [bis]



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