COMING DECLINE OF THE frevo
Diário da Noite – Recife, January 27, 1951.
The people of
Recife have been very pleased with the trip to Rio de Janeiro next
Carnival of one of its most celebrated frevo groups, VASSOURINHAS.
They are pleased because the people of Rio will see the real frevo,
with authentic music and choreography. It seems to me, however,
that the number of musicians going with the group is somewhat exaggerated.
But… the exaggeration is largely justifiable.
There is no doubt
the event will be the best form of advertising for the Carnival
here. However, I am familiar with Rio de Janeiro’s [urban] popular
music culture. I know that any successful new and original music
will be subject to a flood of tasteless imitations. This happens
with any successful foreign music. The frevo is not foreign,
but it is one of the rich forms of our popular music that Rio’s
cariocas don’t know about. Of course I am talking about the
authentic frevo, not the fake ones recorded by irresponsible
orchestras, with their jazz-like “variations” that have nothing
to do with the actual dance.
One detail that
has helped preserve the frevo’s rhythmic drive, imposing
orchestration and characteristic form is the fact that its composers
do not just “listen.” Rather, they are always musicians imagining
the bands playing then immediately writing their inspirations into
music. The result is that composing frevos makes the instrumentation
itself composition also. With very few exceptions, the frevo’s
composer orchestrates it too.
This is not the
case with the music made in Rio de Janeiro. With the exception of
José Maria de Abreu, carioca composers do not know music.
Some of them may be extremely talented, but all of them are completely
illiterate musically speaking and feed audiences the worst conceived
and counterfeited things imaginable, forcing on the people the monstrosities
we’ve become accustomed to hearing. When circumstances become the
trend, listeners end up accepting the aberrations offered them.
Now these composers
– concerned more about ensuring success than quality production
– want to earn money from places that guarantee copyrights. Looking
for the “easy” by way of the “known,” they prop their compositions
up on the horrendous and twisted boleros foreigners send us. Sometimes
they go even further, cynical copies of familiar melodies, Brazilian
Once the success
of the VASSOURINHAS occurs, the cariocas will try to compose
frevos... Since they will not really assimilate their form,
and “softening” its characteristics would help standardize it for
recording “factories’” interests, it will be polished, marketed
and turned into a debauched “model” of one of our most original
and vibrant folk music expressions. Just like the cariocas,
driven to mimicry, copy banalities from other countries – which
the public buys due to an economic process beyond the scope of this
article – the recifenses will be driven to imitate the corrupted
Rio versions of frevo, victims of unfair competition imposed
by that same economic game.
Recife has already
been seeing this: Recently, a number of “listener” composers, counterfeiters
from Rio, have been writing frevo’s that are caricatures
of simple southern marches...
the respectable frevo tradition is doomed to disappear when
cariocas begin to produce them and recifenses begin
listening to their banalities – like when last year a frevo
came to us from...São Paulo!!!
This is why I
am convinced beyond all doubt that the VASSOURINHAS’ success in
Rio de Janeiro will be the first big “step” toward the frevo’s
decline, both musical and choreographic. The greater the group’s
success, the greater the probability we’ll see this wonderful music