Music in quarantine: Moraes Moreira

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Henry Burnett*

Moraes Moreira's work has always been the opposite of sadness and brutality, with all its affirmative force

for Adriano Correia

On January 2 of this year, after driving 1.450 km, I crossed the tortuous road that connects Tanhaçu to Ituaçu, in Bahia, fulfilling a promise that had been dragging on for some years. The reason for tackling the dangerous Brazilian roads was to visit a friend born in that region at the gates of Chapada Diamantina, in the backlands of Bahia, and continue the adventure of showing the country and its sociocultural differences to my children, a task that I consider more urgent every day in my life. their training.

My friend was waiting for us smiling on the main street, seeming to finally believe that I had arrived. The first thing I asked was for him to show Gilberto Gil's house, whose front I knew faced onto the main street, as I had seen the scene in the documentary king time, by Andrucha Waddington and Lula Buarque de Hollanda, from 1996.

After some photos, he quickly showed another important house for the history of Ituaçu, the house where Moraes Moreira was born and where he returned frequently, since part of the family continued to live there. There were many times, during the stay of a few days, that I found myself thinking about the marvel of Gil and Moraes having lived their childhood just a few blocks away, with a small difference in age; Gil was born in 1942, Moraes in 1947.

Moraes Moreira left us a short time ago, and it is not easy to write about him at a time when sadness hangs over the world like a dense cloud that does not show clear signs of when it intends to dissipate. The pandemic we are facing is – apart from another imminent disaster in the self-destructive world that we will create – an unforgettable milestone for the various contemporary generations that live together on Earth today. There has never been a post-carnival like this. What place can there be for joy in this apocalyptic scenario?

Before talking about Moraes Moreira, it is worth remembering that Brazil was already infected with another virus before the arrival of Covid-19, that of institutional rudeness. There was very little to celebrate in the last year and the three that await us are just as daunting. The pandemic fell like a bomb on a country already completely disoriented. This all leaves the feeling that there is very little to celebrate.

However, Moraes Moreira's work has always been the opposite of sadness and brutality, with all its affirmative force. It is, therefore, a weapon against the policy of exception implemented through the vote in 2018. Moraes knew this, and stated 4 days before his death to Revista E, from SESC SP, that Novos Baianos “is a group that marked the Brazil and, whenever Brazil has difficulties, the Novos Baianos appear to raise the self-esteem of the Brazilian people”. He refers, I believe, to two basic moments: the 64 coup and Bolsonarism. It is unfortunate that we always wake up to the integrity of some works and some artists in these moments of loss, but there is always time for fundamental corrections of perception. Without further ado, listen to the work.

Moraes Moreira music

In a country where the 6-string nylon guitar has been the base instrument of musical creation since the end of the XNUMXth century, when the urban song begins to define itself stylistically, it is not easy to stand out on the instrument using the item originality. There are thousands of people playing the guitar with unclassifiable groove variations, both among amateurs and among professionals.

The basis of the swing of Novos Baianos was Moraes' guitar, with his unique way of playing samba, frevo and unique songs. This guitar – to which Pepeu Gomes' guitar, Dadi's bass, Jorge Gomes' drums, the voices of Baby Consuelo, Paulinho Boca de Cantor, plus Luiz Galvão's lyrics – almost always conducts everything that happens around. , and not just in the consecrated group. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that, musically, Moraes' guitar was the backbone of the consecrated sonority of the Novos Baianos.

The reader who wants to understand how all of this was constituted as a collective and sound experience has an essential document available, the episode d'The Sound of Vinyl “Acabou chorare”, presented by Charles Gavin for Canal Brasil, available on this link. Among historical testimonials, knowing that João Gilberto was the Daimon of the album and much of the artistic conception of Novos Baianos has a special flavor. João not only introduced Assis Valente (“Brasil pandeiro”) and many old sambas to the long-haired, in the famous late night meetings, he also taught them how to open voices, harmonize on the guitar and, with that, lead them to the definitive fusion of the references of the international pop world with the festive Brazilian spirit, which they possessed, but perhaps hadn't equated at that point. If Brazil was not new to Moraes, raised in the middle of the June and Aboios parties, João helped him to imprint a defined and definitive musical identity, which would make him enter the pantheon of the greatest musical creation in the country, and along with him the iconic group today.

At another point in the same episode, Moraes shows Gavin that “Preta pretinha” (Moraes e Galvão), a mandatory song for every teenager who starts playing the guitar, not only has two chords, D and G, but that even in this simple song he it already incorporated chords learned from João. He then plays the intro and reveals the secrets of harmony. The same happens with “Mistério do planeta” (Moraes e Galvão), where the guitar, in the original recording, is the only accompaniment in two full turns of the lyrics, before the band attack, with emphasis on Pepeu’s “Brazilian guitar”. , another legacy of João, as stated by the guitarist in a moment of the same interview.

Later recordings help us to enjoy these details with attention, as in the group's meeting with Marisa Monte, even before Baby do Brasil sang, in place of Assis Valente's verses, “I went to Penha, I went to ask the patron saint to help me ”, “I went to church I went to ask Jesus Christ to bless me”, in a neo-Pentecostal inversion that makes us think that vital groups like the Novos Baianos really need to dissolve before they decay. But you have to respect the faith of others.

There are several anthological moments in these videos with Marisa, I highlight here again the “mystery of the planet"and "The girl dances”. In both we can see all the dynamics of Moraes' groove and its centrality in the band's set; it all started with his guitar, and that was where everyone joined together. But the work of Moraes Moreira cannot be understood only from the perspective of the Novos Baianos.

At the age of 10 in 1982, when the most elegant squad of the Brazilian national team was playing in the World Cup in Spain, I might not have been so interested in football, but I never forgot frevo”Blood, swing and waist”, another giant aspect of the work of the Bahian artist. It was the time when wearing the yellow shirt was synonymous with passion for football and music. Joy, in fact, was the test of the nine (Oswald de Andrade): This is a samba school / And ball is the art of the people / God commands your joy / A new Garrincha is born. God was also another.

In another video (on this link), Moraes plays this frevo only on the guitar, and we can see that the original arrangement is all contained there, in the agile right hand and in the natural harmony masterfully used. After the football frevo, he picks up another delicious one, “Coisa Aceda”. There are many breathtaking Frevos that he left us, such as “Bloco do Pleasure”, here in Gal Costa's record.

I could stay here, taking advantage of social isolation to list so many other songs and performances by Moraes Moreira, his contagious joy – Gregorio Duvivier wrote this text on the topic that almost makes me give up on this one –, its strength against these difficult days we face, and so many possible connections, but it all sounds disenchanted. I apologize to all those who currently suffer social and racial exclusion in the flesh, who need to experience the threat to the health of their families without due support from the State, I feel the need to apologize to all. I'm the first to doubt the obligation of this ode to joy.

*Henry Burnett He is a professor at the Department of Philosophy at Unifesp.

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