Highlights of Musical

About the works

The Coming Decline of Frevo

Tambourine Playing in Brazil

The African Influence in Brazilian Music

Frevo Steps and Music

Art and Artists

In Terms of Music from São Paulo

A Mistaken Analysis of a Brazilian Rhythm

Scales in Brazilian Folk Music

The Indians of Petrópolis

Índios or Cabôcos of Petrópolis

Notes on Playing Marbles

Variations on the Boi

Variations on the Baião

Variations on the Maxixe






Diário de Pernambuco – Recife, 1953.

          São Paulo, May – On Imperador Street at the corner of Marques do Recife, a large group of professional used car salesmen gathers. Passersby often hear speech like none they’ve heard before, although the words themselves are quite common. It is a unique slang that, although very limited, is superbly musical. Here are a few notes from information collected from car salesman José Mojicas, whose nickname - acquired in his professional milieu - reveals his colleagues’ musical spirit...

          NA VALSA (at a waltz) – Payment made slowly in installments considered easy; the monthly amount is between 2,000 and 2,500 cruzeiros. As you know, the waltz is considered a slow dance, so the slang goes: <O pagamento é na valsa (Payment is at a waltz)>.

          NO TANGO (at a tango) – Payment settled quickly, in relatively high monthly installments of at least 6,000 cruzeiros. Payment made “at a tango” may also be one where the total is divided into two or three payments that would be too high for a middle-class buyer.

           The tango that the slang makers are referring to is not the Argentinean tango that has gotten so much Brazilian airtime; not the one found in Brazil’s upscale salons where professional used car salesmen don’t normally spend their leisure hours. The tango here is our tango, or tanguinho, a blend of polka, maxixe and choro – one still played by real folk musicians, by Zabumbas and the many bands in this immense country. Not the platinum tango, with twisted verses and music and steps that would be appropriate for the handicapped or for calming the hysterical. Rather it is the tango that is brisk, alive, clever; the delicious tango that drove artists like Ernesto Nazaré or Marcelo Tupinambá to fame. The slang only makes sense if this is the tango we’re talking about.

          AÍ É SAMBA; MARCHA É DO OUTRO LADO (that’s samba; march on the other side) – This is a curious phrase they shout at the top of their lungs in the middle of the street whenever an inept driver shifts into first gear when their car is rolling.

          When this happens, the violent friction causes the gears to make a loud characteristic sound that can be heard a long way off. That’s when someone on Imperador Street yells at the careless driver: - <Êi, aí é samba; marcha é do outro lado!...> (Hey! That’s samba; march on the other side!). Hearing this pun, less timid drivers lose it completely...

          Still on music, there’s an interesting story that took place between a car salesman and a man on the street. The salesman had sold a shirt to someone he knew. The latter bought it thinking it was real quality, and happily went to debut it dancing the coco - or samba, terms often used interchangeably for the coco. Well, the man danced the night away, and when he got home the next morning he saw his shirt was all discolored. A few days later he complained to the salesman:

          Man – What’s the deal? You sold me this shirt saying it was excellent quality. I spent the night dancing samba and it faded completely!...

          Salesman – Who said you could dance samba in it? This shirt is only for dancing the waltz; it’s calmer.