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


 

The Boeuf chronicles, Pt. 9

The amazing avocado flower.

Daniella Thompson

28 May 2002


Avocado flower

While looking for a suitable photo to grace this article, my botanic curiosity took over, and I learned that commercial avocado cultivation became viable only after Dr. Arlow Burdette Stout (1899–1956), the pioneer of seedless grapes, discovered in 1927 that the avocado flower’s behavior is unique in the plant kingdom. The flower has both female and male organs, but they don’t function at the same time. Each flower is female when it first opens, its stigma receiving pollen from other avocado flowers, but it remains open for only two or three hours. The following day it opens again as a male flower, shedding pollen. After being open several hours the second day, the flower closes again, this time for good.

It is doubtful that the founders of the rancho carnavalesco Flor do Abacate knew of the sexual proclivities of their chosen flower, having organized their club decades before Dr. Stout made his discovery. Exactly when ranchos carnavalescos first appeared in Rio is under dispute. Ricardo Cravo Albin’s Dicionário da MPB sets the date at 1872, while Gilberto Freyre and Mário Souto Maior put it down between 1906 and 1911.

In their article Carnaval: De Onde Veio? Como Era? Como Evoluiu?, Freyre and Souto Maior wrote:

Os ranchos são quase uma decorrência do pastoril com os traços totêmicos introduzidos no Brasil pelos negros sudaneses, assegura Nina Rodrigues. Os nomes dos ranchos são vegetais, evocando sua ascendência totêmica: Flor do Abacate, Recreio das Flores, Flor da Lira, Lírio Clube, Rosa de Ouro, Ameno Resedá, Rosa Branca, Papoulas, Flor de Romã. Os primeiros ranchos apareceram entre 1906 e 1911, e foram o Dois de Ouro, da Tia Dadá e João Câncio; o Jardineira, de Hilário; o Botão de Rosa, de Dudu e o Rei de Ouros, de Tia Asseata.

Nina Rodrigues claims that the ranchos are almost a derivative of the pastoril, with totemic traces introduced to Brazil by Sudanese [Yoruba] negroes. Rancho names are floral, evoking their totemic rank: Flor do Abacate, Recreio das Flores, Flor da Lira, Lírio Clube, Rosa de Ouro, Ameno Resedá, Rosa Branca, Papoulas, Flor de Romã. The first ranchos appeared between 1906 and 1911, and were Dois de Ouro of Tia Dadá and João Câncio; the Jardineira of Hilário; the Botão de Rosa of Dudu; and the Rei de Ouros of Tia Asseata [Ciata, of Praça Onze fame].

Rancho members usually came from humble backgrounds. The inspiration for and major themes of these festive associations had traveled from Portugal by way of Bahia, where folkloric religious processions (Pastoril or Folia de Reis) were a habit between Christmas Eve and the Dia de Reis (6 January).

The ranchos utilized pastoral themes (the female choruses of the escolas de sambas are still called pastoras, a vestige of the ranchos), and many bore flower names. The most famous among them had the beguiling appellation Ameno Resedá (The Delicate Crepe Myrtle). Chiquinha Gonzaga composed her famous marcha-rancho “Ô Abre Alas” for the rancho Rosa de Ouro. Flor do Abacate in its turn was the dedicatee of a celebrated polka.


Rancho Flor do Abacate (Careta, Carnaval 1921)

Tune No. 9: “Flor do Abacate” (1915)

The polka “Flor do Abacate” was composed by Álvaro Sandim (1862–1919), a trombonist and director of harmony at the Sociedade Dançante Carnavalesca Ninho do Amor who in 1913 left that club and joined the rancho Flor do Abacate. This rancho had its seat on the Largo do Machado square in Catete, the same borough that housed its rival, the great Ameno Resedá. Sandim became musical director of the rancho and paraded in front of its orchestra at carnaval. This orchestra was packed with top musicians of the day, including the young saxophonist (later band leader) Romeu Silva (1893–1958), who had followed Sandim from Ninho do Amor. Dona Ivone Lara’s mother was a pastora (D. Ivone says “crooner”) in the rancho.

In 1915 Sandim composed the polka that immortalized the rancho’s name and Sandim’s own in the annals of choro (there’s even a choro group called Flor de Abacate).

Section A of “Flor do Abacate” appears at 4:05 min. into Louis de Froment’s recording of Le Boeuf sur le Toit.

In Fundação Joaquim Nabuco’s database, the earliest listed recordings of the polka are the following:

Autor: Álvaro Sandim “Santini”
Título: Flôr do Abacate
Gênero: Polca
Intérprete: Solo de Trombone pelos Chorosos do Abacate
Gravadora: Phoenix
Número: 70711

Autor: Álvaro Sandim
Título: Flôr do Abacate
Gênero: Polca
Intérprete: Grupo Faceiro
Gravadora: Phoenix
Número: 001
Matriz: 2001

This recording is probably the most famous, perhaps overshadowed only by Jacob do Bandolim’s own 1960 rendition:

Autor: Álvaro Sandim
Título: Flor do Abacate
Gênero: Choro
Intérprete: Jacó (bandolim)
Gravadora: RCA Victor
Número: 80.0623-A
Matriz: S-078883
Data gravação: 12.05.1949
Data lançamento: Out/1949

Numerous other recordings were made, including ones by choro greats Waldir Azevedo, Ademilde Fonseca, Altamiro Carrilho, Baden Powell, and with a recent contribution by Zé da Velha and Silvério Pontes.

The original piano score by Casa Beethoven did not include lyrics, but somewhere along the way Felipe Tedesco wrote them (and the circumflex accent over the o in ‘Flôr’ was dropped). These are the lyrics sung by Hebe Camargo in 1958, Solon Sales in 1959, and Ademilde Fonseca in 1960.


Hebe Camargo

Autor: Álvaro Sandim - Felipe Tedesco
Título: Flor de Abacate
Gênero: Maxixe
Intérprete: Hebe Camargo
Gravadora: R G E
Número: 10130-B
Matriz: RGO-812
Data lançamento: Nov/1958

On Almirante’s popular radio program O Pessoal da Velha Guarda, presented during the late 1940s and early ’50s, the tune was one of the most frequently requested by listeners. In one of the programs, the announcer introduced a live presentation of “Flor do Abacate” thus:

Now that we’ve adopted here at O Pessoal da Velha Guarda the system of attending to any requests of our listeners’, we can perfectly attest to the decided preference that exists for certain tunes. One of the most requested is the more-than-famous “Flor do Abacate” by Álvaro Sandim. Álvaro Sandim was a trombonist of merit, and for this reason, as a tribute to the author, Pixinguinha assigned key parts of his arrangement to the trombones of the Velha Guarda.

The audio sample presented here is Section A from Hebe Camargo’s coy and delicious recording on side B of a 78-rpm disc.

Dijalma M. Candido, who sent me the recording, also provided the lyrics.

Flor do Abacate
(Álvaro Sandim/Felipe Tedesco)

Você veio comigo falar (porquê?)
Pra comigo você namorar (sentei)
E num lindo jardim todo em flor, depois
Nós trocamos juras de amor

Um abraço você quis me dar (não dei)
Um beijinho você quis roubar (neguei)
De mãos dadas ficamos a contemplar
A Lua, que insistia em nos provocar

Mas como a noite estava linda
E o luar, também
Nós dois sentados entre as flores
Sozinhos, e mais ninguém
Num momento em que a lua se escondeu
Meu bem, o meu coração lhe pertenceu

 

 

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