Although written by Zagaia it works as autobiography and a bit of braggadocio (Eu sou o samba em pessoa) . Other songs here take the same approach, with concise declarative lines placing the singer inside the universe of samba: "Já cantei muito samba / Já foi batuqueiro / E na roda de samba / Foi diretor de pandeiro" (in Recordação de Batuqeiro). There are so many great verses scattered around the album that evoke a lifetime seduced by samba, its physicality while lived out daily at every opportunity: "Se o pagode é partido/ Ela conta comigo/ Eu vou lá/ Eu vou em casa buscar
meu pandeiro/ Eu sou partideiro/ Não posso faltar." And later, "Senhora dona da casa / me dê licença pra entrar / Fui em casa buscar meu pandeiro
/ Sou partideiro / não posso faltar." Remembering hanging out with Donga and João da Baiana. Or going out for a night of samba with a girl on your arm and a desire to "show these guys what I'm made of"Sem meu tamborim não fico
Sem minha cabrocha não vou
Quero mostrar a esses caras
Quero mostrar quem eu sou(
from Cheguei no samba)
This is the convivência
of samba that Xangô da Mangueira so capably communicates; the sort of false-cognate in English "conviviality" doesn't really get to it, because its not just about a festive atmosphere but about the intimacy of social relations and familiarity of people, many of whom earn their livelihood at jobs they don't care much to talk about, because what they really for is this,
the nightlife of music and poetry and friendship that characterized these scenes. Xangô was a retired security guard by this point; Candeia had been a policeman, a job which left him in a wheelchair for life; Nelson Cavaquinho had been in the Policia Militar, apparently not a very good policeman either, prone to losing himself in local bars during his shifts and losing track of the battalion's horses. When you hear sambistas recount their lives, they may tell stories about the different jobs they've held but you rarely get the sense that they identified with them much - their identity was constituted in the botequim
and the roda-de-samba, in the hours of leisure when their creative energy was allowed free play.
Probably the biggest 'hit' here is "Quando Vim de Minas," which became immortalized by Clara Nunes. Xangô was a native carioca but Clara was, of course, from Minas Gerais so the song is almost an anthem for her. An unforgettable melody and refrain, and lyrics that invoke images of the slaves put to work in diamond and gold mines who smuggled out gold dust under their fingernails or in religious statues. It's the kind of ambiguity that give samba and other kinds of popular music an edge of critique and subversion.
Xangô da Mangueira returned to performing and recording for a while before he passed away a few years ago at the age of 85. He recorded a CD that was sold through a website set up by someone in his circle, maybe his family. And we are lucky enough to have a 'depoimento' in the form of an interview-performance (ala MPB Especial format) that was filmed at the Múseo do Estado in the neighborhood of Catete, Rio. This is a cool place, by the way, if you ever have the chance to visit it; It also has a movie theater showing Brazilian and international independent films. (One of the things I really like about Rio is the number of independent movie theatres, all of them located conveniently close to Metro stations. Something a lot of cities in Brazil sorely lack -- Recife, hello?) I've linked to the hour-long film HERE
. It's not exactly riveting stuff but worth a look if you are enjoying this record. Xangô's voice is considerably more rouca or hoarse, and he has to teach his backing musicians a few numbers on the spot. He tells some good stories, about how he gained his nickname, dispelling the appearance of him being some formidable pai-de-santo
by relating how he received the name while working in a textile factory and there was a day when a guy was just giving out nicknames to anyone who didn't have them. He talks about his first tentative experiences singing samba on the last train leaving the downtown area, where all the sambistas typically met up to commute back to their homes in the periphery or in the morros
, when each person would take turns singing. He talks about sambas roots in improvisation, and in marginality; of working and socializing around Rua de Santana and Praça Onze. And of advice he got when he first assumed an official position in a samba school: "There are two things about samba: education and humility," a value placed on knowing your art form, of a kind of sophisticated worldliness, coupled with the respect for the different roles in a samba school and the people who fill them, the pastores
and the musicians, without which carnival would be impossible. Well it seems Mr. Ferreira had plenty of these things. He also recalls that when he went to meet the directorate of Mangueira the
first time, they gave him a "test" in improvising, to show if he was up
to their standards. He then assumed the job of Diretor de Harmonia and
later on became one of their "intérpretes" or lead singers.
I hope you enjoy this addictive record. I think I listened to it at least four times just while writing this blog post.