The musical fertility of the carnival celebration

Joan Miró, Harlequin's Carnival, 1925.


In the carnival invention, ownerless rites and carnival groups parade their dramatizations under a rich and diverse sound

During the carnival period, I hear sounds in tune with masks, confetti, streamers, pierrots and colombinas. Diverse sounds: from frevo to carnival marches, the varied rhythms reflect the cultural diversity of Brazil. I select a plural repertoire, in a historical tour of a collector's discography. Releases with different dates to accompany the carnival festivities.

Sacred name – Beth Carvalho sings Nelson Cavaquinho (2001). It is the song of one of the “queens”. “The power of the women who wrote the history of samba”. “Music, feminine noun”, in the voice of Beth Carvalho. “A contemporary of the golden generation of MPB composers”, “a Madrinha” challenged the music industry and, mixing “politics, football and samba”, built “a trajectory that always rejected the obvious paths”.

From the white head of Nelson Cavaquinho, he fished “unreleased songs to fill his repertoire” (BRUNO, 2021). With 16 tracks, Sacred name it exalts the poetic vigor of a Mangueirense stronghold, a voice “from the hill”, a historical bamba “from the popular classes”. Nelson Cavaquinho and his “early glory” in the “renewal of samba” (SEVERIANO, 2017).

Nássara's illustration colors the CD booklet Lamartiníadas: the music of Lamartine Babo (2005). From the show to the studio recording, we heard 14 tracks sung by Pedro Miranda, Alfredo Del-Penho and Pedro Paulo Malta. From the “Brazilian carnival anthem” to “radio singers”, a sound journey through the “history of Brazil” told by one of its very personal composers. From “song for the English to see” to “this is there with Santo Antônio”, we enjoyed the compositions of a party artist. From June festivities to Carnival, Lamartine Babo composed alongside major names in Brazilian music: Assis Valente, Ary Pavão, Ary Barroso, Noel Rosa, João de Barro, João Rossi, Gonçalves de Oliveira, José M. Abreu and Alberto Ribeiro.

Among the instrumental musicians, strong figures and the unique touch of the “solos de pencil no dente” and “apito de vara”, produced by Beto Cazes. Sound of Brazilian breeds for the “cabrocha” and “nega” to swing in the “five seasons of the year”. In his carnivalesque provocation, a lamartiníada, with guarani, feijoada and guaraná: “Who invented Brazil? Was it your Cabral? Was it your Cabral? On April 21st, two months after Carnival.” In 1981, on the “illuminated stage” of the Rio samba catwalk, there was only Lamartine Babo and the “beautiful brunette”. GRES Imperatriz Leopoldinense won 1st place with the samba theme “Your hair doesn't deny (it only gives Lalá)”, by partners Gibi, Serjão and Zé Catimba.

Reliving songs, I listen to volume 28, CD 6, of the collection “Carnival, its history, its glory”. 25 songs by Nelson Ferreira, a “pioneer and renewer of frevo”, according to historian and composer Samuel Valente. Sonic frenchness and its tones of nostalgic evocations. Blocks played on the street, maracatu and Pernambuco marches in orchestrations, choirs and frevolent brass. Of the songs I liked, I highlight “cabelos brasileiras”, a block frevo released on an LP in 1961 and part of the film’s soundtrack ghost portraits (2023), by Kleber Mendonça Filho. Pernambuco nobility of someone who plays the piano.

In his orchestral frevos, Nelson Ferreira stands out as a Northeasterner “of enormous importance in the study of the musical-socio-cultural manifestations of the region”, in accordance with the text written by Renato Phaelante da Câmara. “Frevo starts with F for Ferreira”. In his pioneering spirit, he presents a cinematography given in his pianistic biography: “With the beginning of spoken cinema, Nelson Ferreira started giving piano lessons until joining the Radio Club, in 1931”. In the “frevoé” of Recife, he, alongside Capiba, are “the two greats of frevo” (TELES, 2012, p.62).

Sound hearings that refer to the “dictionary of the social history of samba”. From A, in “Abre-alas”, to Z in “Ziriguidum”, in batucada, we arrive at Zicartola, “legendary samba house”, “in the old center of Rio”, which “operated from September 1963 to May 1965” (LOPES & SIMAS, 2021, p.301). “No Olimpo de Cartola and Dona Zica”, politics and samba in the home of “vozes do terreiro”, “school samba”, “forgotten samba artists”, “resistance narratives”. In the “memory of a samba house”, in Rio de Janeiro in the North and South Zones, the menu, with homemade meals, featured “foods”: a “nationalist fish” and a “shrimp frittata”. “What do you drink?” “Whiskey with an accent”, “Brazilian” and “cartolinha (hi-fi)”. “In the turbulent political-cultural context of the 1960s”, “Zicartola” was a “very friendly” environment, with “good food for reasonable prices”. The “really samba” house, presented “many artistic varieties” and “appetizing typical Zica dishes”. How to get there? “Rua da Carioca, 53, 1st floor – tel. 22-3921” (CASTRO, 2023).

From the personal, political and cultural concerns of the bohemians of the samba house “Zicartola”, which brings together “an aesthetic-cultural movement”, accompanied by a “sausage dressed in cabbage farofa”, I will sip the three CDs in the box As long as I live. Marcus Pereira albums, in 1974, feature the performer Cartola. 12 tracks sung by “an instinctive man, endowed with extraordinary poetic-musical talent”, a name linked to the “renewal of samba”, in “a history of Brazilian popular music” (SEVERIANO, 2017). In 1976, another dozen poetic pearls, including the philosophical “the world is a mill”, a reflective song resulting from his smiles and existential dramas.

Not everything is roses in the lives of those who know how to cry. “Tempos idos” with a selection of sambas from Mangueira and the luxurious appearances of Clementina de Jesus and Elizeth Cardoso. A Mangueirense speaker, in a joyful musical dawn, accompanied by Odete Amaral, Nelson Cavaquinho and Carlos Cachaça. Capitalized name of the “musical genre that symbolically represents Brazil”, Cartola, “author of beautiful sambas-canção, one of the founders of the “bloco dos arengueiros”, voices from Morro Mangueirense, pillars of the “first samba school” (LOPES & SIMAS , 2021).

Plot samba is “the poem set to music that alludes, discusses or illustrates the allegorical theme chosen by the school” (SIMAS & MUSSA, 2023, p.24). Sound poems to be read and heard on recordings. I'm a CD booklet reader, a companion of the lyrics played on sound systems. Listen and feel the experience of an “epic genre”, “genuinely Brazilian”. Texts set to music, representative and original from “our poetic production”.

In music and poetry, the important artistic creations of samba artists, their masterpieces”, are targets of a “profession of faith”. “The Brazil of samba-enredo” and “great composers”: Mano Décio da Viola, Cartola, Carlos Cachaça, Jurandir da Mangueira, Candeia, Didi, Silas de Oliveira, Dona Ivone Lara, Djalma Sabiá, Martinho da Vila, Anescarzinho, Noel Rosa de Oliveira, Geraldo Babão, Hélio Turco, Toco, Aurinho da Ilha, Norival Reis, Marinho da Muda, Baianinho, Beto Sem-Braço, Zé Catimba, Carlinhos Sideral, Paulo Brazão, Edeor de Paula, Davi Corrêa, Aluízio Machado, Wilson Moreira, Nei Lopes (SIMAS & MUSSA, 2023).

Among so many men, the name of one of the “queens” in the history of samba emerges: Dona Ivone Lara. Blessed are you among them. The name of another queen came to my mind: Leci Brandão. In the conjugation of the verb sambar, I mention other majestic singers: Alcione, Clara Nunes and Elza Soares.

Yes, this is Carnival!. A three-volume collection with “the best samba of all time”. CD 1 opens with “Bum Bum Paticumbum Prugurundum” (Beto Sem Braço, Aluizio Machado). A classic with which GRE S Império Serrano won 1st place in 1982. On CD 2, GRE S União da Ilha do Governador defends a “Good, Bonito and Barato” parade (Edinho Capeta, Robertinho Devagar, Jorge Ferreira) . 2nd place, in 1980. On CD 3, GRE S Unidos de Vila Isabel presents “Sonho de um Sonho” (Martinho da Vila, Graúna, Rodolpho). 2nd place, in 1980. In 1984, the Noel and Martinho School reached 5th place, touching the ephemerality of the carnival empire: “For everything to end on Wednesday” (Martinho da Vila). “That’s Carnival!” collects 36 plot sambas, visitors to the history of Brazil and its social movements.

 In 2011, “Discos Copacabana” and “Discos Marcus Pereira” are partners in the release of four CDs: History of Samba Schools. Samba narratives told from four of them. One in each CD: Mangueira, Portela, Salgueiro and Império. Among the narrators from Salgueirense, Geraldo Babão and Noel Rosa de Oliveira write several of their phonographic tracks. It was up to Noel to sign, in partnership with Nescarzinho, “Chica da Silva”, in 1963. The “mulatto” “slave” “who overcame the color barrier”. “Black people are amazing.” Affirmatively, the researchers increase the volume, hit the right step and exalt the beauties of sonic blackness: “By far the thematic line that provided the most beautiful sambas, in the entire history of plot samba, was that of black, or Afro-Brazilian plots. ” (SIMAS & MUSSA, 2023, p.100).

And here are the musical touches from Brazil's carnival watercolor: We are Bahia! for English, hearing and seeing is believing. Universal music. 60 years of electric trio – 25 years of Axé music. A commemorative CD, released in 2010, featuring 20 tracks. Meeting of generations of the various trends of the Bahian carnival. The initial phonogram brings together Armandinho, Dodô & Osmar electric trio, Caetano Veloso and Moraes Moreira, in “Chame Gente” (Armandinho/Moraes Moreira), released in 1985.

Old and new Bahians, in different beats, color the celebratory phonographic work. Vivo, on the twentieth track, Caetano Veloso ends the sound celebration with “Atrás do trioelectric” (1969), from his many carnivals. The other phonograms follow festive times: from 1972, with “Pombo Correio” (Dodô/Osmar/Moraes) by Moraes Moreira, to “Fricote, ao vivo” (2005), by Luiz Caldas, in partnership with Paulinho Camafeu. There are decades of excitement, sound to take your foot off the ground. Brazilian jumping music. Raise dust from the ancestral land of all chants and saints. “Sacred and profane, Bahia is carnival”.

The “color swing” and its “war cries”. Let us not forget the Afoxés, the sons of Gandhi, Ilê Aiyê and Olodum. General release on “boil”. At the high temperatures of “boiling”, “mineral water” from Timbalada. Pulling the electricity from the motorized sound, the agitators: Daniela Mercury, Netinho, Chiclete com Banana, Banda Cheiro de Amor, Banda Reflexu's, É o Tchan, Terra Samba, Asa de Águia, Banda Beijo, Banda Cheiro de Love, Babado Novo, Margareth Menezes, Banda Eva and Ivete Sangalo.

With Capiba, “the poet of frevo” and the compilation of “the greatest sambas in history”, I set up my carnival club. And then there are the pirated compilations, sold on the streets of shopping centers: 100% carnival, Carnival was like that. In sonic nostalgia, they were sold as “music rarities”. Returning to Recife, Carnival also starts with C for Claudior (TELES, 2012). It’s “frevo and ciranda” in the voice of Claudionor Germano. In “Old Recife” from the “old childhood days”, Edgard Moraes evokes “Pierrot’s sorrows”. “Remembering youth” and the “values ​​of the past”, Edgard, in his playful poetry, states: “remembering is living” and “life is a carnival”. Messages for the revelers of the happy bands, rocked by the loving songs of the romantic, lyrical and divine carnivals. Recifenses in their “angel steps”, they slow down in “revelry time”. In the case of the “frevo microbe” contagion, “you’ll lose your shoe…”.

The musical journey is vast for those who are sassaricando. In the magical trails of the old carnivals, “Rio invented the marchinha” and we go samba in the streets and in the halls with the “marcha do Cordão do Bola Preta” (Vicente Paiva/Nelson Barbosa), sung by Carmen Costa, in 1961. Vastness of rhythms and beats consecrated by “Banda do Canecão”. In 1974, celebrating “100 years of carnival”, he recorded “141 songs” to the delight of Sassariqueiros revelers.

Lest people say that I forgot about Carnival in Ceará, I recommend going to the parades on Avenida Domingos Olímpio, in the central region of Fortaleza. Let us listen to the maracatu loas, “freedom songs”, in the voice of Calé Alencar and the “maracatus, afoxés, coronações, prayers and other batuques”, on the CDs recorded by Inês Mapurunga. Voices from Africa in the Alencarian land of Dragão do Mar. Invitations in tune with the exaltation and value given by Mário de Andrade to the drums, bass drums, black queens, black kings, crowned lions, gingas, masters and orixás of the “party in the slave quarters” in momina catwalk of “mother Africa”: “The semi-religious semi-carnival processions of the northeastern maracatus are nothing more than a suite” (ANDRADE, 2006, p. 53).

 “Carnival is here.” Me and my stereos, radios, CD's, DVD's, Spotify, in tune with “Brazilian popular music on Mário de Andrade's record player. The chronicler, in 1931, revealed an interest in the musical fertility of the carnival celebration. Carnival and its musical offspring: “our music, which has always had one of its fertile sources of evolution”. In his wisdom as an essayist on sounds, he highlights a political aspect of carnival opium: “it is known” that “the preparation and ultimately enjoyment of carnival is one of the causes of our conformity”. In addition to its conformist consequences, “carnival is a kind of ornithological rut in Brazil, the country unleashes non-stop singing on the world. New dances appear, naughty marchinhas, maracatuzado batuques” (ANDRADE, 2022, p.81).

 “What does Brazil do, Brazil?” What “are the paths that make Brazilian society different and unique”? Questions discussed by one of the interpreters focused “on a sociology of the Brazilian dilemma” (MATTA, 2017). In the company of trickery and heroism, notable among “Brazilian national characteristics”, “carnivals”, alongside “parades and processions”, occupy our times and spaces. Profane and sacred routines and rites. National mix of prayers and festivals. In the Fortaleza maracatu parade, in Ceará, the chants praise the Orixás. Dressed in costume, on carnival days, we feed the socio-anthropological poetry according to which carnival is a diabolical invention that gained divine blessings.

In homes and streets, carnival takes place “on multiple planes”. Blocks of dirty people, Corsicans and Zés Pereiras carnivalize, invert, criticize and protest. In the loosening of rules, in the “anything goes”, authorities and people fall prey to special spaces and multiple illuminated avenues. In the carnival invention, rites without owners and carnival groups parading their dramatizations.

Carnivals “of equality and hierarchy” in the spectacle and cabin society. Behind the electric trio, paying customers, dressed in abadás uniforms, remain separated from the popcorn staff. Social seating, its VIPs and rabble playing in the corridors of the festivities. For one day, the favela dweller is highlighted among the queens of the maracatu Vozes da África court. On Ash Wednesday, it is a penitential day for the removal of masks and costumes. Business hours start at 14pm.

*Francisco de Oliveira Barros Junior Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI).


ANDRADE, Mario de. Essay on Brazilian music. Belo Horizonte: Editora Itatiaia, 2006.

ANDRADE, Mario de. The strange strength of the song. São Paulo: Hedra, Wake Up!, 2022.

BRUNO, Leonardo. Queens Corner: the power of the women who wrote the history of samba. Rio de Janeiro: Act, 2021.

CASTRO, Maurício Barros de. Zicartola: politics and samba at Cartola and Dona Zica's house. Rio de Janeiro: Cobogó, 2023.

LOPES, Nei & SIMAS, Luiz Antonio. Dictionary of the Social History of Samba: Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2021.

MATTA, Roberto da. Carnivals, tricksters and heroes: towards a sociology of the Brazilian dilemma. Rio de Janeiro, Rocco, 1997.

MUSSA, Alberto & SIMAS, Luiz Antonio. Enredo samba: history and art. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2023.

SEVERIANO, Jairo. A history of Brazilian Popular Music: from origins to modernity. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2017.

TELES, José. From frevo to manguebeat. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2012.

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