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


The Boeuf chronicles, Pt. 4

The country bumpkin that was
king of the carnaval.

Daniella Thompson

1 May 2002

Carnaval in 1922 (Fon-Fon magazine)

During World War I, Darius Milhaud, frail of health and unfit for military service, spent close to two years in Brazil as secretary to poet and diplomat Paul Claudel, head of the French legation at the time.

About his arrival in February 1917, Milhaud wrote the following in his autobiography:

My first contact with Brazilian folklore was very sudden. I arrived in Rio right in the middle of the Carnaval, and immediately sensed the mood of the crazy gaiety that possessed the whole town. The Carnaval in Rio is an important event whose coming is most laboriously prepared in advance. Several months beforehand the newspapers carry announcements of the formation of ‘Carnaval clubs’, together with the name of their president, secretary and members. These little groups meet daily in preparation for the festivities, and often spend large sums, occasionally all their savings, on fancy dress adorned with elaborate decorations of ostrich feathers. Six weeks before the Carnaval is due to begin, groups of cordoes perambulate the streets on Saturday and Sunday evenings, select a little square and dance to the music of violao (a kind of guitar) and a few percussion instruments like the choucalha (a kind of round copper container filled with iron filings and terminating in a rod to which a rotatory motion is given, thus producing a continuous rhythmical sound). One of the dancers’ favourite amusements is to improvise words to a tune which is repeated over and over again. The singer has to keep on finding new words, and as soon as his imagination begins to flag, someone else takes his place. The monotony of this never-ending chorus and its insistent rhythm end by producing a sort of hypnosis to which the dancers fall victim. I remember seeing a negro completely carried away by the music, dancing frenziedly all on his own, holding in his hand a huge ice-cream which he would lick with his pink tongue in time with the music...

The crowds in the ballrooms were much more elegant. The Carnaval organizers decree one single shade for the ladies’ dresses; they must wear a different one every night. They go to the ball in all their finery, leaning on their husbands’ arms. As most of the negro dancers are servants, they borrow their masters’ clothes and even sometimes their names and titles. One evening I heard “The President of the Senate” and “The British Ambassador” announced, and saw two negro couples, dressed up to the nines, proudly come forward. For six weeks, the whole populace is passionately given over to dancing and singing; there is always one song which wins more favour than the others, and thereby becomes the “Carnaval song”. Thus, in 1917, ground out by little orchestras in front of the cinemas in the Avenida, played by military bands and municipal orpheons, churned out by pianolas and gramophones, hummed, whistled, and sung well or poorly in every house—“Pelo Telefono” [sic], the Carnaval song of 1917, exploded in every corner and haunted us during the entire winter.

Milhaud was still in Brazil during the following carnaval, and it’s no surprise that those carnaval tunes that haunted his winters ended up resurfacing in Le Boeuf sur le Toit.

Score cover of “O Matuto”

Tune No. 4: “O Matuto” (1918)

Matuto is a country bumpkin, and the cateretê “O Matuto” was a hit of the 1918 carnaval. Yet another countrified tune by Marcelo Tupinambá, with lyrics by Cândido Costa, the song was such a success that it gave rise to the burlesque O Matuto do Ceará by Domingos Roque and the Quintiliano brothers, which premiered on 16 March of the same year at Teatro São José, where “São Paulo Futuro” had made its debut in 1914.

Milhaud quotes “O Matuto” twice in Le Boeuf sur le Toit. Section B appears at 2:19 min. of the Froment recording, where it’s played by the strings in counterpoint with the first part of “O Boi no Telhado” (The Ox on the Roof), played by the brass instruments. “O Boi no Telhado” was another 1918 carnaval song, for which Milhaud named his rondo.

Section A of “O Matuto” doesn’t make an appearance until 10:19 min., where it’s offered in counterpoint with “Caboca di Caxangá.” This time it’s played by the wind instruments.

The first recording of “O Matuto” was made in 1918 by the singer Mário Pinheiro (1880–1923) at Casa Edison. Like Bahiano and Eduardo das Neves, Pinheiro was one of the few big stars of the Brazilian record industry before the introduction of the electric microphone in the late 1920s.

Side B of the same disc carries the tanguinho “Pierrô” by the same author.

Autor: Marcelo Tupinambá - Claudino Costa
Título: O Matuto
Gênero: Cateretê
Intérprete: Mário Pinheiro
Gravadora: Odeon
Número: 121354

Autor: Marcelo Tupinambá - Biografo
Título: Pierrô
Gênero: Tanguinho
Intérprete: Mário Pinheiro
Gravadora: Odeon
Número: 121355

Mário Pinheiro

Another recording made that year was that of the musically inept Naval Battalion Band.

Autor: Marcelo Tupinambá
Título: O Matuto
Gênero: Cateretê
Intérprete: Banda do Batalhão Naval
Gravadora: Odeon
Número: 121381

Later recordings were made by organist Charles Wilson (year unknown), singer Roberto Fioravante in the LP Mensagem de Saudade (1968), and pianist Eudóxia de Barros in the CD Lua Branca (1999).

This audio sample includes Sections A and B, excerpted from the original recording by Mário Pinheiro.

The piano score, published by Casa Mozart in Rio under license from the São Paulo publisher A. Di Franco, categorized “O Matuto” as a ‘canção cearense’ and offered these lyrics:

O Matuto
Canção Cearense
Versos de Cândido Costa
Musica de Marcelo Tupinambá

Quando foi da meia-noite para o dia,
que eu deixei com cortezia
minha terra, o Ceará
as foias véias já cahia pela estrada,
vim marchando na picada
só na sêcca a matutá:

P'r'o sertão do Ceará
Tomára eu já vortá...
Tomara eu já vortá...

No cemiterio os mortos se alevantaram
uns aos outros perguntaram
que qu'eu havéra de querê?
nas catacumba os defunto té gemia
no céo as coruja ria
Eu mesmo não sei porquê...

P'r'o sertão do Ceará, etc.

As santas, fême, na igreja já chorava
os santos macho só me oiava
com cada ôio assim!
Até os gallo e as gallinha não sabia
de corrê p'ra onde havia
tudo com medo de mim!

P'r'o sertão do Ceará, etc.

Quando eu cheguei dessa viagem cá no Rio
foi qu'antão logo se viu
qu'é qu'eu vinha cá fazê:
eu fui chamado só p'ra sê o presidente
desta terra, desta gente
sê o rei de vosmucê…

P'r'o sertão do Ceará, etc.

Logo o povo, muito amave, foi dizendo
o dote qu'eu ia tendo:
o Pará, França, o Japão,
um iscalé com doze remo e vinte peça
mas abanei co'a cabeça
dizendo "Não quero, não!"

P'r'o sertão do Ceará, etc.

Agora vorto p'r'o meu ceará querido
sinão fico home perdido
é mió eu î p'ra lá!
Quero î m'imbora e hei de î até a nado
sinão fico avaccaiado
como todo mundo está!

P'r'o sertão do Ceará, etc.

An alternate version:

Quanto foi da meia-noite
Para o dia
Que eu deixei com cortesia
Minha terra, o Ceará
As fôia véia já caía pela estrada
Vim marchando na picada
Só na seca a matuta ah!

P'r'o sertão do Ceará
Tomara eu já vortá
Tomara eu vortá [bis]

No cemitério os mortos
Se alevantaram
Uns aos outros perguntaram
Que eu havera de querer?
Nas catacumbas os defunto
Inté gemia
No céu as coruja ria
Eu mesmo não sei porque ah!

As santa fêmea na igreja
Já chorava
Os santos macho me olhava
Com cada olho assim
Até os galo e as galinh
Não sabia
De corre pra onde havia
Tudo com medo de mim ah!

Fred Figner Collection, courtesy of Rachel Esther Figner Sisson

= = =

The Mário Pinheiro recording was furnished by Roberto Lapiccirella.



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