Aldir Blanc

Image: Elyeser Szturm
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By Henry Burnett*

Comment on the uniqueness of the lyricist and on his different partnerships

The consumption of music in Brazil is complex enough to leave fans stunned by the volume of our production, but this does not only affect the so-called average listener. Especially today, it is challenging for those who deal with music and its criticism to try to cope or even find themselves among the thousands of artists swarming across our screens every day. It is actually an impossible task.

It is enough to see how the good music critics that still remain are, so to speak, sectored, that is, each one writes from a particular musical material, well known and separated and about which, for that very reason, they can discuss with propriety. . Criticism, as we know, closely follows the music it criticizes. That said, I consider Luiz Fernando Vianna the best critic of Aldir's work. It is his, not by chance, the biography Aldir Blanc: response to time (House of the Word).

Therefore, perhaps this text only resonates with those who already know who Aldir Blanc was. If that's the case, maybe it's raining in the wet to remember his work, although he considers it a mandatory task at the present time, not only because of the loss of his figure, but above all because of what he represents against the obscurantist wave in which we dive.

Speaking of Aldir's work as a lyricist – he dedicated himself to other genres with equal competence, such as the chronicle (Cf. “Aldir Blanc, cronista”, https://aterraeredonda.com.br/aldir-blanc-cronista/) – is talk about a singularity, a unique fact in the history of Brazilian urban songbook. The song of Brazil is formed by hundreds of isolated islands, easily recognizable musical identities (Benjor, Djavan, Chico, Jobim, João Bosco, Lenine and many others). Whenever a young talent tries to emulate one of these composers, the result is poor.

If this applies to composers and singers, it has an even more marked and complex dimension in the case of lyricists (Paulo César Pinheiro, Fernando Brant, Vitor Martins, Capinan, Torquato Neto and others), but, among all, I consider Aldir Blanc an example aside. I could mention, indelicately, attempts to copy the master singers, or one of these lyricists, but no one ever dared to duplicate Aldir, for a banal reason: it would look ridiculous. His place as a lyricist, and his lyrical identity is second to none.

It is said that they continue, in a way, the aesthetics of Noel Rosa. Maybe that's true, but only when we consider the environment in which both were created, the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, between Praça da Bandeira and Sanz Peña and beyond. They may be the same characters, and even with similar experiences, but they are described in a very different way. Anyone who has never wandered through those neighborhoods, their villas, pubs and squares, has no idea of ​​the “beyond the hill” atmosphere of their streets, that is, their radical disconnection with the soap opera Zona Sul. The lyrical and political chronicles in song form are perhaps closer to Nelson Rodrigues, with his bohemian, grouchy, curious, funny, tragic and sensual characters, who live in that spatial area as if he were the whole world.

“Siri stuffed and the baguette”, “Linha de passe”, “Two thousand and Indians”, “Shoot of mercy”, “Prêt-à-porter in taffeta”, “The master waiter of the seas”, “At the level of ”, “Linha de passe” and many others with João Bosco, are capable of fusing language, sex, politics, tragedy, humor and party with unparalleled mastery. To transcribe these lyrics would be to lose the connection with the music, and with that we would fall back on the old quarrel about lyrics and poems. When you want to praise a lyricist of this magnitude, critics say: Aldir Blanc's lyrics could be in any poetry collection in book form. Here we go. They could, in fact, be alongside some of the most important collections of the best songs of the XNUMXth century, but this exhausted theme never tires of renewing itself.

Details more important than these delimitations can be resumed about the work of the lyricist. First, as can be seen, and not by chance, the first reference we have is and will always be the result of the partnership with João Bosco – the further back the musical work, the more present in the listeners’ memory, the more recent it is, the more elaborate these songs are. they are material from segmented listeners. It's not a rule, but it's largely valid. This has nothing to do with the remarkable quality of partnerships.

In fact, not only for its volume, but again for the uniqueness of the result, it is an unbeatable identification of the Bosco/Blanc duo. But what stands out is that for each partner Aldir wrote in a different way. I take here the cycle recorded by Leila Pinheiro on the album pinwheel and sunflower, bringing together his partnerships with Guinga, a composer who, aesthetically, is on the same plane as a melodist and harmonizer like Tom Jobim or Edu Lobo. Perhaps he is the only partner to have “rivalled” in mastery with João Bosco's universe, but with very different results.

I consider this album the high point of the repertoire of the singer from Pará based in Rio de Janeiro, perhaps her emancipation from the unique image of a singer of bossa nova and samba-canção that consecrated her. A demonstration of boldness and independence. I consider it an almost perfect album, with one or two songs out of tune with the set, without causing any disparity. The superb title song belongs to a cycle that we can safeguard along with some others that reached the maximum in terms of form/content, and where we would include “Resposta ao tempo”, a partnership with another silent master, Cristóvão Bastos, immortalized by Nana Caymmi and, modestly, opinion, the most beautiful song that Aldir wrote, simply because it reaches the Absolute; talking about time without a deep understanding of its effects and its action on man and life is not for many.

Without being the most elaborate musically, perhaps due to the primacy of Nana's record, the song is unsurpassed. But Aldir was a partner of more than a dozen musicians, let's name a few: Sueli Costa, Maurício Tapajós, Gilson Peranzzetta, Raphael Rabello, Lourenço Baeta and several others. These differences in stylistic outcome are worth exploring with each partner in their vast oeuvre. A good start can be consulting the Cravo Albin Dictionary (http://dicionariompb.com.br/aldir-blanc).

For example, “Aquele um”, with Djavan, a syncopated samba that seems to have been written by the Alagoan, were it not for the verses “he said that “was that one” from the broken ones / the saint in bed of the unloved”. In the end, Aldir, if I'm not mistaken, gave Djavan a vocal improvisation on which the singer lays down and rolls: “Zarakiê, Zaraquiê, Zoroquiê, Zaraquiê, Zoroquiê, Zaraquê Zô”. Aldir enters Djavan's sound universe and leaves unharmed.

“Boca de sapo”, with João Bosco, is a mocking show about female revenge. The character catches up with her cheating husband using saint's work. Clementina de Jesus recorded the song with Bosco and transformed what was a comic song almost into a terreiro point. In the chorus, the woman makes fun of the “duck”: “Then he laughed like Exu Caveira/ an unfaithful husband will be tripped”. Blanc always had the gift of allowing himself to be crossed by the popular and converting it into cultured poetry. It was like a translation, whose mastery did not reside only in knowing the “source language” [that of the people], but in mastering the “target language” [that of literature].

With Moacyr Luz, the whole of Rio de Janeiro swarms in partnerships, without fear of the inevitable clichés, as in the beautiful samba “Saudades da Guanabara”. However, Carioca is one thing, “Carioca” is another thing, as Dorival Caymmi said about Aldir, speaking of his embittered city: “I passed by the beaches of Ilha do Governador / And I went up São Conrado to Redentor / There on the Encantado hill I asked pity/ I planted branches of orange trees was my oath/ In Flamengo, Catete, Lapa and Centro/ Well, it's for us to breathe. Brazil takes the arrows from the chest of my Patron Saint / That São Sebastião of Rio de Janeiro / Can still be saved”. What in the hands of any lyricist could result in a pamphlet, in Aldir's takes on the air of a new “Brazilian Watercolor”, that is, an iconic letter.

But “O drunk and equilibrist” cannot be left out of any text about Aldir Blanc, not only because it is his most famous and most emblematic song, but because Elis Regina made it an anthem for a generation. Note: Elis was the most fundamental interpreter of the Bosco/Blanc partnership (here I remember a high point, “Bala com bala”, the first recording she made of the work of the two, in a live version, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOrdNdmP1pY). Note 2: There is no “low point” in this case.

In an interview with Rádio Batuta for the same Luiz Fernando Vianna (https://radiobatuta.com.br/especiais/aldir-blanc-70-anos/), Aldir comments on an impression (false), but not rare, that his work would be pamphleteering (“90% of the songs are not political, 90% are lyrical”, he says). He defends his poetics as a subjective work, first and foremost, but always with a strange, raspy lyricism, often almost embarrassing, with a touch of eschatology and colloquialism that requires a precise interpretation. The song that Elis recorded may have been responsible for this rather mistaken idea of ​​a controversial author, especially when we compare the work as a whole. It is not difficult to dismantle this false gear.

Although it was composed in a moment of political openness after the military dictatorship, and it is still sung in popular mobilizations, samba circles, student parties, it is not a dated song. Just compare it with “Not to say I didn't talk about flowers”, by Geraldo Vandré. A single sentence can fix a song in the time of its writing, tie it to the past (like “are there armed soldiers / loved or not”) – for now, the military seems to be playing the democratic game, if it is possible to talk about it at all. democracy without seeming frivolous; Vandré's song, whenever it is played, still sounds anachronistic, although it hasn't lost its strength.

“The drunk and the tightrope walker”, on the contrary, begins as a chronicle (“The afternoon was falling like an overpass and a drunk in mourning”). In the everyday and tragic event, still unknown to many, including knowledgeable musicians, as Vianna recalls on Rádio Batuta – the collapse of Elevado Paulo de Frontin in 1971, in Rio –, there is a Chaplinian reference, inspired by the music of João Bosco. Aldir recalls Chaplin's death, which would have motivated his partner's melody.

The song exemplarily introduces the local and the universal in just two phrases. It is not a case of dissecting the lyrics verse by verse, but some images are still impressive today: “And clouds over there in the sky’s blotting paper / They sucked tortured stains / What a crazy suffocation / The drunk with the bowler hat / Made a thousand irreverences for the night from Brazil". Hope danced the torn steps of the classic vagabond, but it was aspired, desired, then shouted out by Elis at the top of her lungs. But this collective will was, first and foremost, a hope sustained by grace and beauty, therefore equilibrist and mambembe, in the beautiful images that Aldir lends him.

The verses follow this staggering construction, playing with optimism and pessimism after more than a decade of the oppressive regime (Elis recorded the song in 1975, on the album “Elis, this woman”, so it was 15 years since 1964). Even today, his verses may not be understood in their entirety, but they have become a song of evocation of revived hope by all the erratic people who dared to dream, even if at that moment they remembered those exiled by the militarism that dictated the rules, symbolized by the “brother do Henfil” and “with so many people who left”.

Today everything is different from that scenario, but in many ways it is more complicated, more oppressive, more frightening, because the support of a significant portion of the electorate lends unprecedented legitimacy to the totalitarian aspirations of the current president. We live in internal exile, intellectuals, professors, artists, citizens do not need to leave the country to feel the increasingly less silent force of oppression of a State that is at the same time clumsy and frightening.

However, when Aldir foresaw “that such a poignant pain / will not be useless” and that “hope dances on the tightrope with an umbrella” because “you can get hurt at every step of that line”, he ended up constructing a narrative that today can be be replaced in all its meaning. Aldir's own social exile, which certainly had several sources, also helps us to think about his place in the set of canonical composers in Brazil.

A good way to answer this question is to remember that “The drunk and the tightrope walker” occupies a fundamental place in the collective memory of hope, that social force that renews itself whenever brutality returns to our political life. Only one song occupies the same place in this libertarian memory of Brazilians, it is called “Apesar de você”, written by Chico Buarque.

*Henry Burnett is a musician, and professor of philosophy at Unifesp

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