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


The Boeuf chronicles, Pt. 8

The lewd dance that shocked
a venerable senator.

Daniella Thompson

24 May 2002

Chiquinha Gonzaga in 1894

Darius Milhaud never uttered a word about Francisca Edwiges Neves Gonzaga (1847–1935), but I have no doubt he would have approved of her indomitable spirit. Independent and bohemian at a time when respectable women were confined to the paternal or marital hearth, Chiquinha Gonzaga was a pioneer in more ways than one (read a biography in English published by Brazil’s Biblioteca Nacional).

A prolific composer, she is said to have written music for 77 stage productions between 1885 and 1934, or close to 2,000 individual compositions, among them polkas, maxixes, tangos, fados, waltzes, quadrilles, gavotes, barcarolles, mazurkas, habaneras, choros, and serenatas. The total may be inflated, however, as the composer’s biographer, Edinha Diniz, lists 282 compositions, while the pianist and musicologist Marcelo Vieira Verzoni lists 275.

Numbering in the hundreds or in the thousands, this body of work includes the first dedicated Brazilian carnaval tune—the marcha-rancho “Ô Abre Alas,” composed in 1899 and known by all Brazilians to this day.

The poet and playwright Luiz Peixoto, who worked with Chiquinha Gonzaga in 1912, described the then 65-year old composer as:

[...] uma velhinha baixa vestida como homem. Uma reedição de George Sand, costume fechado até o pescoço, chapéu e bengala. Apesar de seus setenta anos, ao mesmo tempo em que cantarolava os tanguinhos brasileiros em moda, dançava com uma desenvoltura de fazer inveja. Era uma criatura risonha, pronta a ajudar quem a procurasse.

[...] a little old lady dressed like a man. A later version of George Sand, buttoned up to the neck, [with] hat and walking stick. Despite her 70 years, she danced with enviable agility while humming the fashionable tanguinhos brasileiros. She was a smiling creature, ready to help whomever approached her.

In 1917, while Darius Milhaud was living in Brazil, Chiquinha Gonzaga was one of those responsible for the establishment of the Sociedade Brasileira de Autores Teatrais (SBAT), the first organization formed to protect authors’ rights. Over the years, she saw many of her works plagiarized, and some claim that Le Boeuf sur le Toit is a case in point.

Tune No. 8: “Gaúcho” [Corta-Jaca] (1895)

A corta-jaca is a type of country dance, and “Gaúcho” was written as a stylized form of this dance, receiving in the original score published by Vieira Machado & Cia. the appellation ‘tango brasileiro,’ which was more palatable to polite society than ‘maxixe.’ It is one of the most enduring tunes in the choro repertoire and has probably received more recordings than any other tune quoted in Le Boeuf sur le Toit except “Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho.”

In the liner notes for the Revivendo 2-CD set A Maestrina, Abel Cardoso Junior informs:

This ‘tango brasileiro’ of 1895, also designated ‘cateretê’ or ‘maxixe,’ originally received the title “Gaúcho.” It had been created that year for the operetta Zizinha Maxixe that survived only three days on the stage. At the turn of the century, bearing the title “Corta-Jaca,” it would garner popularity in the beer-halls with the lyrics of Machado Careca, a noted Portuguese comedian settled in Brazil. These lyrics were sung by the duo Pepa Delgado and Mário Pinheiro in the original recording of 1902, which was soon followed by that of the Geraldos.

In 1904, the song was presented with other lyrics—this time by Bandeira de Gouvêa and Tito Martins—in the revue Cá e Lá. This version was restricted to the stage and left no doubt as to the meaning of ‘faca’ and ‘jaca’: Sou a jaca saborosa/que amorosa/ faca está a reclamar. The daring dance movements scandalized prudish audiences even more than the verses. Even when it was merely played on the guitar at the Palácio do Catete (residence of the president of the republic] in 1914, “Corta-Jaca” provoked the indignation of senator Ruy Barbosa [...]

Luiz Fernando Vallim Lopes’ essay on Chiquinha Gonzaga’s work in the International Dictionary of Black Composers explains:

The first part of “Gaúcho” is in D minor and alternates the original sung parts with a batuque, imitating the beating of Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments. Section B is explicitly labeled “Chorus and Dance,” and its melody in double thirds and sixths is in the key of F, the relative major. Overall, “Gaúcho” clearly exemplifies a typical characteristic of Gonzaga’s works, which is the constant repetition of syncopated rhythmic patterns of one or two measures over entire sections.

Chiquinha Gonzaga in 1925

In Louis de Froment’s recording of Le Boeuf sur le Toit, section A of “Gaúcho” may be heard at 3:41 minutes.

Fundação Joaquim Nabuco’s database lists too many recordings to reproduce here. The earliest among them are the following:

Autor: Chiquinha Gonzaga
Título: Corta-Jaca
Intérprete: Pepa Delgado e Mário Pinheiro
Gravadora: Odeon
Número: 40392

Autor: Chiquinha Gonzaga
Título: Corta-Jaca
Gênero: Dueto
Intérprete: Os Geraldos
Gravadora: Odeon
Número: 40454

Autor: Chiquinha Gonzaga
Título: Corta-Jaca
Gênero: Tango
Intérprete: Banda do Corpo de Bombeiros
Gravadora: Odeon
Número: 108058

Although both the first (of 1902) and the third (of 1904) recordings above are available on CD, I’m partial to Radamés Gnattali and his band’s exuberant interpretation, which fully captures the verve of the tune and from which we’ll hear an excerpt representing the passage quoted in Le Boeuf.

Another good reason to choose Radamés’ recording is the opportunity it provides to compare his arrangement and interpretation of “Gaúcho” with part 4 of his suite Retratos, which is dedicated to Chiquinha Gonzaga and paraphrases “Gaúcho” in an interesting way. Here’s an excerpt from the 1964 recording by Jacob do Bandolim, with Radamés Gnattali conducting a string orchestra, two guitars, and a cavaquinho.

Closing this chapter are the original lyrics by Machado Careca—tamer than the second version, but not all that tame after all:

(Chiquinha Gonzaga/Machado Careca)

Neste mundo de misérias
quem impera
é quem é mais folgazão
É quem sabe cortar a jaca
nos requebros
de suprema, perfeição, perfeição

Ai, ai, como é bom dançar, ai!
Corta-jaca assim, assim, assim
Mexe com o pé!
Ai, ai, tem feitiço tem, ai!
Corta meu benzinho assim, assim!

Esta dança é buliçosa
tão dengosa
que todos querem dançar
Não há ricas baronesas
nem marquesas
que não saibam requebrar, requebrar

Este passo tem feitiço
tal ouriço
Faz qualquer homem coió
Não há velho carrancudo
nem sisudo
que não caia em trololó, trololó

Quem me vê assim alegre
no Flamengo
por certo se há de render
Não resiste com certeza
este jeito de mexer


Score courtesy of Acervo Digital Chiquinha Gonzaga



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