:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Two modest nordestinos

Capiba & Humberto Teixeira
get the star treatment.

Daniella Thompson

5 May 2003


The great nordestino popular songwriter Lourenço da Fonseca Barbosa, better known as Capiba (1904–1997), was to the Pernambuco carnaval what Haroldo Lobo was to the carioca one. They began at the same time, in the early 1930s, but Lobo died in 1965, while Capiba went on for another three decades, creating frevos for every carnaval. In August 1982, already an old man and looking back on a five-decade career in music, Capiba wrote:

I always composed all kinds of music. I also like frevo, and a lot, because it gives me constant artistic survival as composer. I’ve been presenting myself in the Pernambucano carnavals since 1934 in order to maintain the [creative] fire, lit since the ’20s; or rather, so as not to lose the knack. But my real weakness are the songs, waltzes, and serenades. [...]

In 1931 I launched my composer’s visiting card, “Valsa Verde,” with beautiful verse by Ferreyra dos Santos. With this waltz, the roads opened to the timid country boy from Surubim that I was.

A second nordestino country boy was as pivotal to another musical genre as Capiba was to the frevo. Humberto Teixeira (1915–1979) was born in Iguatu, Ceará, to a family he said was “gente simples, of very modest origins.” Like Capiba, he began composing songs at a young age. Capiba said “I prefer to be a simple Pernmbucano composer than a carioca composer born in Pernambuco” and spent his entire life in his home state. Teixeira, on the other hand, gave up Ceará for Rio de Janeiro while still in his teens. In the early 1930s, he studied law while continuing to create music. In 1945, he met Luiz Gonzaga, who was looking for a partner. Recalled Teixeira in a 1977 interview he gave to the music researcher and collector Nirez:

One fine day, I’m in my law office in Rio, when Luiz Gonzaga sought me out. On that first encounter, we were together from 4:30 in the afternoon until almost midnight. That day we reached two interesting conclusions. One was that the music or rhythm that was going to carry forward our campaign to launch northern music in the south would be the baião. We thought it had the easiest, most uniform characteristics. That very day we wrote the first verses, discussed the first ideas about “Asa Branca,” a song that would be recorded two years later. [...] Three days after the first encounter, we had completed the first baião to be recorded in the world: Eu vou mostrar pra vocês/ Como se dança o baião/ E quem quiser aprender/ É favor prestar atenção...

Many people think that I’m the lyricist of Gonzaga’s tunes. This isn’t so. Many of them are wholly mine. Verse, music, everything. [...] It was Luiz Gonzaga who called me Doutor do Baião for the first time, and it stuck. In a certain manner, it was due to my being a lawyer, the intellectual of the baião, as he said. But I’m not a doctor of anything.

Humberto Teixeira

Both modest nordestinos recently received tributes. In Brazil, the most obvious form of tribute is the star-studded songbook CD, and the homages to Capiba and Humberto Teixeira are no exception. Although not all discs of this kind are equally successful, these two happen to offer undiluted pleasure from beginning to end.

Mestre Capiba was the project that the great guitarist Raphael Rabello was working on before he died in 1995. Rabello called Capiba “the Caymmi of Pernambuco” and invited some of Brazil’s monstros sagrados to record with him the composer’s best lyrical songs, dating from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and even from the ’80s (“Sino, Claro Sino,” a posthumous duet sung by Rabello and Milton Nascimento). The singers Rabello accompanies on this disc—Chico Buarque, Paulinho da Viola, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia, Alceu Valença, João Bosco, and Ney Matogrosso—all turn in magisterial perfomances. Roberto Carlos was intended to sing “Maria Bethânia” (the valsa-rancho that inspired Caetano’s sister’s name) but Rabello died before it could be done. The project was finalized in 2002 with the addition of the voices of Milton Nascimento and Claudionor Germano—that latter to a medley of frevos in the final track. Capiba’s favorite singer and longtime interpreter, Germano is the most appropriate choice for closing this obligatory disc.

Raphael Rabello & Guests: Mestre Capiba por Raphael Rabello e Convidados
(Acari Records/BMG 7432197168-2; 2002) 55:56 min.

Arrangements: Francis Hime (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8); Raphael Rabello (3, 6, 10);
Raphael Rabello, João Bosco & Paulo Moura (9); Lincoln Olivetti (11)

01. Recife, Cidade Lendária (Capiba)—Chico Buarque
02. Valsa Verde (Capiba/Ferreira dos Santos)—Paulinho da Viola
03. Resto de Saudade (Capiba)—Gal Costa
04. Olinda, Cidade Eterna (Capiba)—Caetano Veloso
05. Cais do Porto (Capiba)—Maria Bethânia
06. Igarassú (Capiba)—Alceu Valença
07. Sino, Claro Sino (Capiba/Carlos Pena Filho)—Milton Nascimento & Raphael Rabello
08. Valsa Verde (Capiba/Ferreira dos Santos)—Raphael Rabello (instrumental)
09. A Mesma Rosa Amarela (Capiba/Carlos Pena Filho)—João Bosco & Paulo Moura
10. Serenata Suburbana (Capiba)—Ney Matogrosso
11. Potpourri de Frevos (Capiba)—Claudionor Germano, chorus & Raphael Rabello

The same cast of characters (with some modifications) appears again in Humberto Teixeira—O Doutor do Baião. This project was the brainchild of the composer’s daughter, the actress Denise Dummont, and Tom Jobim’s widow, Ana Lontra Jobim, who produced it as part of a documentary on Teixeira. They called in pianist Wagner Tiso to take charge of the musical direction and the arrangements. Tiso created a layer cake, with the frosting represented by the first four tracks, studio-recorded by the big guns—Bethânia, Caetano, Chico, and Gal Costa. The cake’s body consists of a live concert recorded in August 2002 and featuring Carmélia Alves (the queen of baião), Gilberto Gil, Sivuca, Lenine, Zeca Pagodinho, Fagner, Elba Ramalho, Rita Ribeiro, and the group Cordel do Fogo Encantado.

The Gonzaga/Teixeira partnership lasted only until 1950, when Teixeira entered parliamentary politics. In those five short years, the pair produced a very rich body of classics, thirteen of which are present in O Doutor do Baião, alongside two songs composed by Teixeira alone and two co-authored with other partners. It’s a legacy any songwriter would be proud of, and the performances do it full justice.

Various Performers: Humberto Teixeira—O Doutor do Baião
(Biscoito Fino BF-533; 2003) 63:09 min.

01. Asa Branca (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Maria Bethânia
02. Baião de Dois (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Caetano Veloso
03. Adeus Maria Fulô (Sivuca/Humberto Teixeira)—Gal Costa & Sivuca
04. Kalu (Humberto Teixeira)—Chico Buarque
05. Baião (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Carmélia Alves
06. Mangaratiba (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Cordel do Fogo Encantado
07. Sinfonia do Café (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Rita Ribeiro
08. No Meu Pé de Serra (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Gilberto Gil
09. Juazeiro (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Gilberto Gil
10. Respeita Januário (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Lenine
11. Qui nem Jiló (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Lenine
12. Deus me Perdoe (Lauro Maia/Humberto Teixeira)—Zeca Pagodinho
13. Dono dos Teus Olhos (Humberto Teixeira)—Fagner
14. Xanduzinha (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Fagner
15. Légua Tirana (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Fagner & Elba Ramalho
16. Paraíba (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Elba Ramalho
17. Assum Preto (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—Elba Ramalho
18. Asa Branca (Luiz Gonzaga/Humberto Teixeira)—All-star group*

* All-star group: Sivuca, Rita Ribeiro/Carmélia Alves, Elba Ramalho, Lenine, Fagner, Gilberto Gil.


Copyright © 2003–2014 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.