macaroni samba

Image: Kartick Chandra Pyne


Considerations about the comic musical genre.



the great author of alvaro shooting, Adoniran Barbosa, composed with his inimitable grace the best known of the macaroni sambas, the moth, making use of an extended metaphor in the first stanza:

Moths when the cold comes

Keeps turning to the lamp to warm up

They wheel, wheel, wheel, then sit down

On the plate of the lamp

To rest”

Then, with the greatest impudence, decipher the metaphor and reveal himself as its subject:

“I am the lamp

And the muié are the moths…”

Another in the same vein is the march-rancho”The mimoso hummingbirds”, by Hervê Cordovil and Osvaldo Moles:

“At the matinee hour when the mimoso hummingbirds

Volatilize, volatilize

I see the washerwomen on the farms putting ani

In the shirts, in the shirts

The song continues, bringing other information:

“It’s the stock jerseys

spring color

It's the brocchio shirt

Dos Mimoso Colibri”

Beautiful, friendly and cheerful like these, but forcing the hand much more in the caricature, is the samba “Oslávio Bisláquio”, whose attribution of authorship is discussed:

If we had a golden crest

Of silver blue wings

We put it on the stand

How did the poet

Napoleon Bonapalte

Oslávio Bisláquio

invented aviation

Flapped wings, soared to the sky

Around the Eiffel Tower

And he continues, amusing himself with erroneous attributions, but sometimes driven by rhyme, sometimes by homonymy or pun:

“Guilhelmo Malconi

invented the telephone

And Paganini was the greatest of trombone

Caxia was a great battery

But in aviation

Oslávio Bisláquio was the good one”

The macaroni samba, of which we have few examples, did not prosper much. Much more widespread was the written text of Italian bastardia, which makes many good people even today think that what is “Italian” is only macaroni. Big mistake – just look in the dictionary. Everything that deforms language with a playful, grotesque, or burlesque, or parody, or simply comic purpose is macaronitic.

The shock of Italian immigration was strongly felt when it was more recent, but it was attenuated as it became acculturated, or integrated into the population as a whole, with the fruitful contribution it brought to all sectors. And, if Braz was its bastion neighborhood, it ceased to be a long time ago.

This was the phase of the popularity of the character Juò Bananere, the creation of someone who had nothing to do with Italian, Alexandre Marcondes Machado. Caricatured by Voltolino, he commented on the news and made very amusing parodies of classic poems, which everyone knew by heart because he learned them at school. Today he is the subject of more than one doctoral thesis, which has contributed not only to drawing attention to his relevance as a perceptive historical witness, but also to collecting scattered and unpublished pieces that might otherwise have been lost. Many of these texts had already been collected in the book The divine increnca, mix of satire with social and political criticism.

Within Modernism, the tales of Braz, Bexiga and Barra Funda, from another Alcântara Machado, this one by the first name Antonio, stands out as a literary experiment, which was a successful one. It registers something that could be improperly called the “Italo-Paulista dialect”, now dead, which prevailed in these neighborhoods, whose concentration of natives since then it has spread to other quarters.



If we understand “macarronic” in the broadest sense, we can include two compositions that are not just in language, but above all in the plot: history of Brazil e Crazy creole samba. Both carry out a process of carnivalization that focuses more on the meaning, unlike Adoniran Barbosa's compositions, which are macaronic in the signifier, when they use corrupted language. Anyone who wants to delve deeper into this subject can rely on the excellent thesis by Rachel Valença, Words of glitter: linguistic study of samba-enredo. There, the researcher at Casa de Rui Barbosa and member of the Velha Guarda do Império Serrano shows the compatibility between the stilted lyrics of the samba-enredo and the twinkling of the parade's vestments.

Those we are examining today are delusional, hallucinatory, anarchic, even surreal. They court the incongruity defined by Lautréamont and appropriated by surrealist poets: “Beautiful as the fortuitous encounter, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella”.

One of them, by the way not a samba but a marchinha, bears the daring title of History of Brazil. Its author, Lamartine Babo, is one of the most extraordinary composers of popular music that has ever existed among us, with an unusual fecundity, which featured successful marches in every carnival. He himself was a fanatical reveler, always dressed as a “Widow”: black silks, face under veils, lacy gloves. And he didn't just compose marchinhas, he also composed classical music, songs for revues and an anthem for every soccer club in Rio de Janeiro. A great bohemian but a great worker, he had ten jobs at the same time, acting on the radio, in the newspaper, in the theater, in popular competitions, reaching the beginnings of television. His fundamental trait is irreverence. But let's go to History of Brazil.

It starts with the question: “Who invented Brazil?”, when at school we all learned that Brazil was not invented but discovered. And then replies:

“It was Seu Cabral! It was your Cabral!”

And on what date?

“On the 21st of April

Two months after Carnival”

It is remarkable: the date of foundation of the nation is Carnival, and not the discovery…

Afterwards, he continues bringing up the icons of the homeland:

“Then Ceci kissed Peri

Peri kissed Ceci

To the sound, to the sound of Guarani.

Do Guarani to guarana

came the feijoada

And then Paraty”

These icons are: the protagonists of Carlos Gomes' Indianist opera; the typical soda from Brazil; feijoada; and cachaça, or parati, as it was called then. Today we would say that only football was missing, because samba is subsumed in Carnival. And it doesn't end there.

Three decades later (1934-1968) another one would appear, the crazy creole samba, by Sérgio Porto, under the pseudonym Stanislaw Ponte Preta. More meticulous in its demanding parody of a samba-enredo, it deliberately goes to carnivalize the icons of the country. The basic premise is the well-known obligation that the samba-plot for the Carnival parade must deal with themes from the History of Brazil. Whence the greatest absurdities.

A very complicated plot will stage Juscelino Kubitschek, Diamantina, Princess Leopoldina, Chica da Silva, Tiradentes, Anchieta, D. Pedro II, and so on. From absurd to absurd, samba ends up celebrating the Proclamation of Slavery, duly attributed to its authors, previously mentioned, Tiradentes and Pedro II, the latter being the title with which Anchieta “was elected”:

“By their union the question was resolved.

And slavery was proclaimed!”

In addition to being good compositions, both the marchinha and the samba are extremely fun, intelligent and irresistible. They operate a sagacious commentary on the solemnity of the samba-enredo and deepen the meanings of carnivalization.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue).


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