Ary Barroso and his orchestra. Note AB emblem on musicians’ pockets. (source: arybarroso.com.br)

 

A portrait of the artist as a young man

Ary Barroso in Poços de Caldas.

At the end of 1925, the 22-year old Ary—then a law student—fell in love with 13-year old Yvonne Arantes, whose mother ran a pension on Rua Silva Manoel in Rio de Janeiro. This pension was our protagonist’s address for a while.

Having already frittered away his considerable inheritance, Ary was eking out a living as a pianist in dance orchestras, a profession that didn’t meet with the girlfriend’s parents’ approval. In early 1926, with his finances at low ebb, Ary was forced to take a year off from law school and withdrew from Rio de Janeiro to his hometown of Ubá, in Minas Gerais. More
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The herbal bath

How the young Ary Barroso found fame and fortune.

At the end of 1929, the 26-year old Ary Barroso was a promising composer in the musical theatre but had only two successful songs to his name: “Vou à Penha” and “Vamos Deixar de Intimidade,” both sung on stage by Araci Cortes and recorded by Mario Reis.

That year, Eduardo Souto, artistic director of the leading record company Casa Edison, established a competition to select the best songs for the upcoming carnaval. Ary vacillated about entering the competition; if he didn’t win, his budding reputation might suffer. On the other hand, he was poor and engaged to Yvonne Arantes, nine years his junior. Yvonne’s father, Lindolf de Belfort Arantes (known to all as “Major”), was not at all keen to see his daughter married to a wastrel, and the first prize of five million réis was a real temptation. The young composer thought a great deal about the competition but decided not to enter. More
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No Rancho Fundo

Lamartine Babo to the rescue of MPB.

No rancho fundo
Bem pra lá do fim do mundo
Onde a dor e a saudade
Contam coisas da cidade...

This immortal song, known by all and still recorded today, might never have emerged from obscurity had Lamartine Babo not stepped in to save it in its infancy.

In 1930, Ary Barroso, fresh from his first carnaval success with the marcha “Dá Nela,” was composing a great deal for the teatro de revista. One of the musical revues to which he contributed was the two-acter É do Outro Mundo by J. Carlos and Margarida Max, which premiered at the Teatro Recreio in Rio de Janeiro on 13 June of that year. J. Carlos (José Carlos de Brito Cunha) was none other than the legendary caricaturist and illustrator. Among the songs Ary composed for the show was the samba-canção “Esse Mulato Vai Sê Meu,” with lyrics by J. Carlos that began thus: Na grota funda/Na virada da montanha/Só se conta uma façanha/Do mulato da Raimunda. More
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The political side of Ary Barroso

Chamberlain, Hitler, Carmen, and the mixed salad.

The political side of Ary Barroso is seldom discussed. At times it’s been suggested that he created “Aquarela do Brasil” to please the dictator Getúlio Vargas, a suggestion emphatically denied by the Barroso family. As it happens, the presence of a truly political song Ary wrote just a few months before “Aquarela” discredits the Vargas-connection theory.

On 29 September 1938, Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, and Benito Mussolini signed the Munich Pact, which allowed Nazi Germany to march into Czechoslovakia and annex the Sudetenland without a single shot being fired. This so-called act of appeasement on the part of Great Britain and France was meant to give Hitler “a chance of being a good boy,” as Chamberlain so quaintly put it. In retrospect, the Sudetenland merely served as the first course in Hitler’s banquet. More
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Launching Ary’s songs in the USA

Before Walt, there were Carmen, André, and Eddy.

Carmen Miranda arrived in the United States in May 1939. Her Broadway debut in the musical Streets of Paris was such a success that within a few months she was shooting her first Hollywood film, Down Argentine Way. On 26 December 1939, Carmen recorded six songs from the musical and the film in an entitled The South American Way (Decca 109).

But the American audience wouldn’t wait that long to hear Carmen, so her Decca career was launched with reissues of six Brazilian recordings, three of them composed by Ary Barroso. One of these was the samba-batuque “No Tabuleiro da Baiana” (or, as it was spelled then, “No Taboleiro da Bahiana”), a lively duet that Carmen had sung with Luiz Barbosa to the accompaniment of the conjunto regional of Pixinguinha and Luperce Miranda. More
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Ary Barroso’s unknown album

The composer’s first LP went unnoticed for 50 years.

In the spring and summer of 1953, Ary took an “orquestra-espetáculo” on tour to Venezuela and Mexico, intending to add Cuba and the U.S. to the itinerary. For his tour band, the composer borrowed musicians from Severino Araújo’s Orquestra Tabajara and Peruzzi’s Orquestra Marajoara, including in the roster Júlio “Julinho” Barbosa, José Luiz, and Geraldo Medeiros (trumpets); Paulo Moura, Darci Barbosa, Bijou, and Orfeu (saxophones); Maciel and Nelsinho (trombones); Alfredo “Mesquita” de Souza (drums); Malagutti (bass); Gauri (piano); and Caramujo (pandeiro). In addition, there were three unnamed percussionists, the comic Walter Machado, the dancer Vieirinha (Manuel Vieira Filho), and the singers Édson Lopes, Aracy Costa, and Dora Lopes. More
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Ary in Argentina

An unknown disc surfaces in Buenos Aires. Might there be more?

As Brazil’s foremost popular songwriter during the 1940s and ’50s, Ary Barroso was often invited to tour abroad. His 1953 tour in Mexico and Venezuela resulted in the composer’s first album—the Mexican LP Fantasia Carioca, which remained practically unknown until 2003.

It was for the purpose of touring that Ary formed his Orquestra de Ritmos Brasileiros in 1953. In January 1955, he embarked with this orchestra on a tour of Uruguay and Argentina. On board were 21 musicians and singers, the latter including Sara Rios, Vera Regina, and Ernani Filho. More
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