The Bicharada paraded singing songs
that ‘Sir’ Lobo had made

Jota Efegê

O Jornal, 22 August 1965

Haroldo Lobo in a caricature by Claudio Sendin
(Veja, 21 June 1995)

The death of Haroldo Lobo in the fullness of his musical career—still capable of contributing to the livening up of carnaval festivities with imaginative and populist productions—was an undeniably great loss. Hence, as would be expected, it provoked not only the lament of the entire press—which had been recording the consecutive successes of the victorious composer—but also, as a consequence, the counting of his voluminous baggage. This is how a fistful of sambas and marchinhas that the city sang and recalls to this day in words and music is justifiably remembered.

Yet the late musician’s biographers of the moment let pass unnoticed—although some of them referred to it in an accidental citation—the Bloco da Bicharada, a zoological carnaval procession created by Haroldo Lobo. An established tradition in the bairro of Gávea, along whose principal streets it has been parading for more than twenty years during the “lean week” (as the carnavalescos call the week preceding the reign of Momo), it is faithful to a narrative that recalls its origin and continuity. On top of that, the connection of the departed composer’s songs with this bloco will become evident, for so many of the latter’s parades launched those songs to test their public appeal.

A suggestion of the old carnaval

In the old carnavals of the “time of the crown,” whose molds were still evident in the first years of the Republic, the ranchos, ternos, and cordões of that time, as well as other similar groups, were always preceded by an animal. Made of papier-mâché and in large size, they offered, besides the totemic significance observed by folklorists (Arthur Ramos, Edison Carneiro), a simple allegory. Later, as the carnaval festivities evolved, a little donkey [tosca “burrinha”] became the representative of this tradition. In today’s carnaval, with ostentatious escolas de samba, everything is different and new. Animals are included in the parades only when they are implicit in the theme.

Whether or not he was inspired by what he had seen in the carnavals of his childhood, right there in Gávea where he was born or in other locations in the city, Haroldo Lobo resolved to create the Bloco da Bicharada. One night at the Carioca Esporte Clube—where he always went to shoot the breeze with other members of the association to which he dedicated himself with great affection, and on account of which he was accorded the title of grand benefactor—he unveiled his idea. Humberto Matera, Floravante Garibaldi, Vadinho Lino, Bononi, Cabreira da Costa, and several others found it splendid and gave their approval on the spot with the unanimous exclamation “Oba! Vai ser um abafa!” In the prevaling enthusiasm, they also decided to begin manufacturing the “animaizinhos,” which were to be large and attractive.

The elegant house at Rua Jardim Botânico 750, in whose basement the Bloco da Bicharada built and stored its animals. The house is currently leased to TV Globo. (photo courtesy of Carlos Monte)

A zoo of papier-mâché parades in Gávea

In 1939, early in January, inside an improvised atelier (the carnavalescos call it “barracão”), Lino and others who made themselves ready to help him began the “paste” work. Manipulating the mortar of glue and old newspapers, they sculpted with their fingers the fauna that was to parade on Rua Jardim Botânico, illuminated by multicolored fireworks. In accordance with the instructions of Haroldo Lobo, who didn’t only direct but also participated in the making of the creatures, there emerged first a life-size elephant and then an enormous shining peacock with spread-out tail. In several nights of intense fabrication, the unpretentious artists had created a zoo ready for the dazzling parade on the Sunday before carnaval: a bear, a monkey, a giraffe, a tiger, etc. They even managed to make a dragon of almost 25 meters.

With the whole city already agitated in its preparations for the folia, the Bloco da Bicharada, anticipating the three days of mayhem, initiated the carnaval in Gávea. Carried by strong men, the beasts came out every year for their triumphal promenade in a cortège whose red, green, and blue fireworks made their intentionally brilliant paintwork even brighter. Accomanying them, the gang from the Carioca [Esporte Clube] and local residents marched singing some of Haroldo Lobo’s songs, still unknown to the great public, who would become acquainted with them only the following year, after they had been recorded and disseminated on the radio. At this preview run, the composer could verify a song’s appeal, since in addition to the applause conferred on the bloco, he observed the liveliness with which everybody sang. It was always a self-confirming test, which is what happened with “Alá-lá-ô,” “Índio Quer Apito,” “Passarinho do Relógio,” “Eu Quero É Rosetá” [sic], “Pistoleira,” and so many others of equal success.

Carlos Monte (l) and Antonio Canalini in the latter’s residence, 23 Jan. 2010. Mr. Canalini was a member of Bloco da Bicharada and was in charge of obtaining the parade permits from the police. His grandfather built the house in which the Bloco’s animals were fabricated and stored. (photo courtesy of Carlos Monte)

The beasts will return to the streets

Conceived by Harold Lobo and having in him its principal booster, the Bloco da Bicharada, when it emerged from the “barracão” to show itself in the streets of Gávea, represented the work of a group of carnavalescos. In addition to those who made the animals, there were those entrusted with carrying them, parading hidden inside the beasts, each one contributing to the success of the zoological procession. Some were members of the Carioca, others were not, but all were companions of the victorious composer who was always among the winners in the carnaval-song competition. This enthusiastic bunch—Aníbal de Barros, Cristóvão Capitoni, Abílio de Barros, Geraldo Costa, Salustiano Batista, Ventania, and those already cited above—lament though they do the absence of the bloco’s creator, believe that the tradition should be continued.

The allegorical menagery that has been parading through Gávea since 1939 in anticipation of the bairro’s carnaval will obviously feel the absence of the one who commanded it and gave it the cheerful rhythm for its festive march. The members of the procession will again accompany the enormous beasts and will continue to sing. They will vocalize the well-known songs of the late composer not only as a simple and affectionate tribute but as proof, easily supported, that yesterday’s hits will continue to appeal to the people.

Translated by Daniella Thompson from “A Bicharada Passeava Cantando Músicas Que ‘Seu’ Lobo Fazia,” collected in the book Figuras e Coisas do Carnaval Carioca (MEC-Funarte, 1982).

See also:
Emperor of the Ephemeral

Copyright © 2010 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.