:: This article was translated from the Portuguese
:: and published here with the author’s permission.


Emperor of samba

A secret called Marcos Sacramento.

Ruy Castro

20 October 2004

If the majority of people who buy discs did so for the sake of the music, then the carioca singer Marcos Sacramento would have long since been enchanting many more folks than the privileged few who admire him. The way things are though, he continues to be one of the best-guarded secrets of Brazilian popular music—a secret maintained by record companies, television, radio, and show venues, more occupied with the lesser talents or the fabricated ones that abound in these parts. Being among the happy few, I can only utter a tsk, tsk for those who still haven’t had the pleasure of knowing him.

In the past, when Sacramento recorded for independent or alternative labels, there was still an excuse for being ignorant of his work. But his latest and best CD (I mean, even better than the previous ones) was released several months ago by Biscoito Fino, the prestigious label of Olívia Hime and Kati Almeida Braga, yet it still hasn’t registered an appreciable signal on the seismograph. The marketplace is habitually slow to absorb any shock—unless it’s one of those provoked by itself—when it’s not totally deaf to real worth. And the explanation for the silence about this disc may be in its title: Memorável Samba.

Yes, it’s a disc of samba—the rhythm that had already been the mainstream (even commercially) of music produced in Brazil in all the great phases, remember? But, in the eyes of today, samba has become a thing of the ghetto, of songwriters of the morros of Rio or, at most, something to be heard half-heartedly at Carnaval, and even then only on TV. We forget that samba is also a rhythm of the pavements and that it was the musical decantation of the sounds and words generated by urbanization. It was samba that sang, since the first years of the last decade, the transformation of our suburbs and vilas into great cities. And not by chance did it have in whites like Noel Rosa, Hervé Cordovil, Herivelto Martins, Vadico, Mario Reis, and Carmen Miranda representantives as legitimate as the negros or mulattos Assis Valente, Wilson Batista, Moreira da Silva, Nelson Cavaquinho, Ataulfo Alves, and Geraldo Pereira. All these names are present, either through their repertoire or their mode of singing, in this stupendous disc of Marcos Sacramento.

It’s a modern disc, because Sacramento is a modern singer, capable of incorporating all the conquests of those who preceded him and adding his own bossas. What’s eternal is the repertoire, captured in the lit-up gafieira halls, in the half-light of 1930s and ’40s cabarets, and brought to us with brilliance that turns it instantly contemporary. Marcos plays around with “Deixa Falar,” the samba of the nearly forgotten Nelson Petersen, with its contagious refrain (Este samba tem Flamengo/ Tem São Paulo e São Cristóvão/ Tem pimenta e vatapá/ Fluminense e Botafogo/ Já têm seu lugar) and with “Imperador do Samba,” of the completely forgotten Waldemar Henrique (Silêncio! Façam alas/ Ordem, respeito/ E nem um grito de bamba/ Quero os tamborins de grande gala/ Que vai passar o Imperador do Samba). Both were Carmen Miranda hits in their time.

There are four songs co-authored by Noel, including one that lends itself to all interpretations: “Mulato Bamba,” about the bamba for whom the morenas keep pining because he doesn’t want se apaixonar por mulher. Add to this “Fez Bobagem” by Assis Valente (Meu moreno fez bobagem/ Maltratou meu pobre coração/ Aproveitou a minha ausência/ E botou mulher sambando no meu barracão) to see how samba could have a gay substrate; all that was missing was someone to reveal it. “Mulato Bamba” was born with Mario Reis and “Fez Bobagem” with Aracy de Almeida, but Marcos’ versions owe them nothing. And there are two recreations of the unrivaled Orlando Silva, “Meu Romance” and “Errei, Erramos,” which Sacramento happily sings in his own manner, engendering definitive interpretations of his own.

There is nothing that he can’t sing. His command is absolute when he unleashes his voice and, if he wants, sings ahead or behind the beat, does a recitative or a breque, changes the tone in the middle of a word, and lands perfectly on the last syllable, all this with the greatest of swing. He is not only a perfect sambista but a complete singer. When he wants to be romantic or “serious,” the same thing. There aren’t many people around capable of these feats.

My exaggeration? No, because I’m not the only one to think so—with me are many fine folks, like the American researcher of Brazilian music Daniella Thompson, the critics Paulo Roberto Pires and Roberto Moura, the biographer Jonas Vieira, the writer Heloisa Seixas. But it’s still too little. The best popular music of the these times is being made beyond the earshot of even those who clamor for it. Great discs come out almost in secret, like another fabulous CD, released in 2002 and ignored by the media: Bossa Nova by Arthur Verocai, revealing the sensational singer Sanny Alves. Verocai’s disc, being ultra-independent, can be found only at Modern Sound in Rio or at Marché in São Paulo. But Memorável Samba by Marcos Sacramento is in all the stores—or should be, if they sell discs for the sake of the music.

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Translated by Daniella Thompson.
This article was originally published in the Brazilian magazine Foco: Economia e Negócios. Leia o artigo em português.


Copyright © 2004–2018 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.