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The Afro Sambas

Vinícius de Moraes & Baden Powell

We Are Coming Soon

Year of recording: 1966
Production and artistic direction: Roberto Quartin and Wadi Gebara
Engraving technician: Ademar Rocha
Arrangements and Conducting: Maestro Guerra Peixe
Vocals: Vinicius de Moraes, Quartet in Cy and Mixed Choir
Tenor Sax: Pedro Luiz de Assis
Baritone Sax: Aurino Ferreira
Flute: Nicolino Copy
Guitar: Baden Powell
Double bass: Jorge Marinho
Drums: Reisinho
Atabaques: Alfredo Bessa and Nelson Luiz
Bongo: Alexandre S Martins
Tambourine: Gilson de Freitas
Agogô: Mineirinho
Afoxé: Adyr José Raimundo

Two sources of a musical symbiosis

By Flávio Roberto Nunes

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   One of the most successful links between classical and popular culture, the album Os Afro-sambas (Vinícius de Moraes and Baden Powell, 1966) resulted in a source of inspiration and various meanings for music artisans around the world. From the conjunction of the two talents, beauty would overflow, full of love and concern for our condition as beings allocated in this part of the world plagued by such brutal inequalities.  

  Recorded over just three days, in January 1966, and on two unique acoustic capture channels, the technical limitations of the studio near the port area would not overshadow the brilliance of the instruments' timbre, much less that of the voices. Atabaques, afoxés, agogôs, tambourines, berimbaus, gonzos, saxophones, flutes, double basses and an unmistakable guitar provide the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic basis for Vinícius' vocals, and not without the luxurious assistance (evocations of Gregorian chant, according to Baden) of the girls from the Cy Quartet. Canto de Xangô, Bocoché, Canto de Iemanjá are pearls enlivened  for the African spirit of candomblé, for the breath of samba de roda and umbanda urged in Bahia and for the carioca soul of a certain more modern samba, with echoes of Bossa Nova, see the track Tristeza e Solidão, but with the spirituality that the movement of the southern region of Rio de Janeiro did not yet have it.


Two classics of Brazilian music: classical and popular

  High culture alludes to Vinícius, one of the most famous Brazilian poets of the 20th century. Born in 1913, into a family of intellectuals in the neighborhood of Gávea, the future “poetinha” would graduate in Law at the age of twenty, the same year that he gave birth to his first book of poems, O Caminho para a Distance , an offshoot that will place him as a significant name of the second generation of modernists, more precisely of the group of Catholic poets that formed in the then capital of Brazil. The booklet inaugurates its transcendental phase, marked by religious concerns, by the desire to reach, through the path of mysticism, the sublimation of feelings of guilt and disconsolation in life. They were long poems, with equally long lines, forged in hermetic language, worthy of a Symbolist tormented by angels and demons. It was not until 1943, with Cinco Elegias, that there was an uprising towards an elaboration closer to the material world, of interest in everyday themes. Henceforth, the language will become simpler with a greater use of free verse and with a more earthly and dynamic communication. This phase coincides with his entry into a diplomatic career (which will take him to live for many years in Los Angeles, Paris and Montevideo, times in which he will exchange flowers and swords with artists from all over the world) and into journalism, writing chronicles and film critics, until he gave himself up once and for all, in the euphoria of the fifties, to the activity of singer-songwriter. In 1956, the landmark work of this turn was published, the play Orfeu da Conceição, which was taken to the stage of the Municipal Theater with great success in the same year, inaugurating the partnership with Tom Jobim. Whether literature lost a vate that possibly still had a lot to contribute to national lyrics is something that no one will ever know. What is certain is that Vinícius, like no other, was one of the artists closest to us, one of the most loved, the one who, without ever abandoning sweetness for a classical diction, returned to the sonnet, defended by the first phase modernists, his place in Brazilian literature; the one who was one of the founders of Bossa Nova; one that had, in addition to Baden, several other partners, including Caymmi, Antônio Maria, Carlos Lyra, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque and Toquinho; finally, the one that took to the streets, bars, theaters, radios and TVs, works that elevate us from the condition of breakable reeds, poor mortals, and make us stand against the everlasting ones.

   The culture with popular roots comes with Baden, born in 1937 in a small town in northwestern Rio de Janeiro with an unusual name, Varre-Sai, to which, although he left it at three months of life in the world to live in the suburbs of the metropolis, he never stopped loving . The father, Lilo de Aquino, a violinist shoemaker, was the first and great supporter. The old man taught him to miss his crib, as if his son had never abandoned him. And Mr. Lilo was also a Scouting enthusiast, for the boy's unusual name is a simple homage to British General Robert Stephen Smyth Baden-Powell, the movement's founder. It was your Lilo who the  he taught the first chords, and when the prodigy turned seven years old, the virtuoso genius was already evident in the eyes of his father, who put him to study with master Jayme Florence. The professor teaches him the classical guitar and encourages him to perform, at the age of ten, on Papel Carbono, a famous freshmen show on Rádio Nacional. Until the recording of Afro-Sambas, the mulatto from Varre-Sai will play with the main samba and choro musicians of the time, including Pixinguinha, and will have recorded his first album in Europe, Le Monde Musical de Baden-Powell.

The composer and poet Paulo César Pinheiro tells us that when he heard the Afro-Sambas for the first time, with the touch of the ogãs, those voices, that kind of darker, blacker samba, he had the feeling of being in front of a poignant lament, suffering, but happy at the same time. He also says that when he saw Baden live “while he was strumming, his eyes sparkled, they were as if wandering, lost, flying in another dimension. It was as if he actually entered another world”. 

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