1674912202 The rebirth of Beth Carvalho the Rio samba revolutionary who

The rebirth of Beth Carvalho, the Rio samba revolutionary who chronicled her career in Super-8

Beth Carvalho (Rio de Janeiro, 1946-2019) was a good girl. Growing up in a wealthy family, he ran around Ipanema when meetings of musicians whispered next to a guitar took place in the apartments of this neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. But while Doña Beth was intrigued by João Gilberto’s invention, bossa nova wasn’t really her thing. “The elitism of these meetings irritated me a little, musically it was good, but the behavior was elitist,” he said. What she particularly enjoyed were the carnivals and lively samba rodas in the favelas and suburbs, where audiences surround and cheer on the musicians who play and sing while seated around a table usually well stocked with ice-cold beers . Her popular vocation and a keen sense of talent led her to work with some of the country’s finest composers, almost anonymous people she met on the corners of bohemian life. He discovered forgotten poets and launched young promises of fame. With his 1978 album De pé no chão (with his feet on the ground), he revolutionized samba by incorporating new instruments and an innovative way of playing. Now, a documentary and book about that form-breaking album confirms the importance of his legacy.

“Beth always knew that their encounters were historical, but she recorded everything,” explains Leonardo Bruno, the screenwriter of the documentary film Andança, in a cafeteria in Rio, who practically tells the life of the singer herself. Far ahead of her time, Mrs. Carvalho was already an influencer in the 1970s. He walked around Rio with a Super 8 camera, in which he recorded all his magical encounters with those unknown artists with whom he later worked. This footage (800 tapes, more than 1,600 hours spanning four decades) is the “pure gold” that Bruno and the documentary’s director, Pedro Bronz, have been working on for months. The result of this difficult editing task is called Andança, the ballad that became his first hit and opens in Brazil on February 2nd.

Beth Carvalho with the musicians of Cacique de Ramos in the photos of the album 'De pé no chão'Beth Carvalho with the musicians of Cacique de Ramos in the photos of the album “De pé no chão” IVAN KLINGEN

Among the dozens of unprecedented moments are Carvalho’s awkward conversations with his lover Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho, the composers of the Mangueira samba school. They present him as someone who doesn’t want the thing, the lyrics of As Rosas não falam and Folhas secas, two compositions that would become hymns in his voice. Reverence for these and other favela poets was a constant. “She was never alone, in every song she quoted the composers, she gave them a voice, she sang with them so that you could see her face,” remembers Bruno. In the documentary, she even complains in the recording studio that record companies pay her less than singers like her. His political struggle went hand in hand with his artistic career. He has always positioned himself openly on the left and did not hide his admiration for Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez or Lula. These sympathies had some professional cost, but no one was able to “cancel” one of Brazil’s most popular artists.

Carvalho was a woman in a male-dominated environment, a white among blacks and an upper-class daughter among people from the periphery. But all of that never seemed to matter. She disguised herself to appear like one of the others, but always with respect and admiration for those who welcomed her with open arms. When she defended in an interview that “Brazilian” needed rehabilitation and the journalist asked her what exactly that meant, the singer unhesitatingly replied: “Blackness,” an anti-racist defense rare among big celebrities in the 1980s.

She always maintained a cautious attitude, guarding against any hint of cultural appropriation. With that balance of humility and confidence, he arrived at the headquarters of the Cacique de Ramos, a bloco, or carnival comparsa, in northern Rio. There, the musicians gathered outdoors in the shade of the famous “Sacred Tamarind” and played samba in a different way. They used instruments that had rarely been seen in the rodas until then: the tam-tam, the hand fan and the banjo. Instead of drumsticks, they used their hands, something unusual that brought the sound closer to that of the Candomblé terreiros. It was a more Africanized samba. Carvalho had a crush. “I went every Wednesday, but on a level of connection, of love. It was an affective, musical thing without pretending it was going to be a nursery. It did, but it wasn’t my intention,” he says in the documentary.

Beth Carvalho with Nelson Cavaquinho on guitar.Beth Carvalho with Nelson Cavaquinho on guitar.IVAN BLADES

What began as a happy discovery soon turned into an encounter that revolutionized Brazilian music. From Cacique de Ramos, blessed by Carvalho, who immediately earned the nickname Madrinha do Samba, grew names like Zeca Pagodinho, Arlindo Cruz, Fundo de Quintal, Almir Guineto, Jovelina Pérola Negra, Luiz Carlos da Vila or Jorge Aragão. Carvalho was not only a visionary, but the link between past, present and future. “She does not let the past die because she defends the works and people of the past, and builds the future because she has always looked for new people,” emphasizes Bruno.

The singer also convinced her record company to record an album with the new sound that appeared in Ramos. Staying true to the spontaneous street atmosphere of these musical gatherings, Carvalho filled the studio with food, beer and friends. This is how the album De pé no chão came about, which for Bruno marked the birth of Pagode, a subgenre of samba that is still very popular today. “This record is the Chega de Saudade of samba. João Gilberto’s classic album founded the bossa nova and De pé no chão founded the pagoda movement, which introduces a new way of playing samba. Bossa nova lasted 15 years and died, but the pagoda lives on to this day, it lasted 40 years because it outlasted generations,” says Bruno, who just released O Livro do Disco. Beth Carvalho. De pé no chão’ (Cobogó, in Portuguese), in which he dissects the genre’s opening album.

Carvalho died in 2019 after years of severe mobility problems and severe spinal pain. She offered her last concert lying on a sofa. He didn’t leave the stage until the last minute and his songs can still be heard in the lively samba rodas of Rio de Janeiro’s bars and squares. It’s likely that many of the tourists who arrive in town with Garota de Ipanema on their heads and are frustrated because there’s no sign of bossa nova end up with beers in hand next to a crowd clapping and humming unknowingly Hit by Dona Beth.

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