Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fundo de Quintal in L.A.

Fundo de Quintal, the founding fathers of the rootsy style of samba called pagode, will make a rare Southern California appearance on Sunday, October 9th at the Samba Brazilian Steak House in Redondo Beach, a beach town in the greater Los Angeles area. The musicianship of these veteran sambistas is formidable and the samba they play is not to be confused with the contemporary romantic pop samba also called pagode. For more information, call Brazilian Nites Productions at (818) 566-1111 or see the links at the bottom of this blog.

Here is an excerpt about the group from The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil, which I co-authored with Ricardo Pessanha:

It all started in the mid-1970s, when a group of musicians associated with the Carnaval bloco Cacique de Ramos started getting together for a pagode, a party where people played samba. Every Wednesday night, Bira, Ubirany, Sereno, Almir Guineto, Neoci, Jorge Aragão, and various other talented musicians united for beer, appetizers, and samba in the bloco’s rehearsal space. The atmosphere was informal, the mood collective. The music, often based in the old partido alto style, featured improvising by the singer and the singing of the refrain by everyone else. It was more like being back at Tia Ciata’s house, a musical gathering of friends. There was no distinction between players and audience.

In addition, the samba being made in Ramos added some new instrumental twists. Sereno introduced the tan-tan, a type of atabaque, which replaced the larger and heavier surdo. This was more practical for spontaneous samba get-togethers, as the tan-tan could be carried more easily on buses, the mode of transportation for Rio’s working class. Almir Guineto added a banjo, which was louder than a cavaquinho and better for open-air gatherings. Ubirany started playing a hand-held repique, called a repique de mão, and dispensed with the customary use of drum sticks. And Bira played the pandeiro in unusual ways. The sound was intimate and earthy, with new percussive textures. Their lyrics were unpretentious, focusing on situations from their daily life.

They changed the sonority of samba, they brought back the ‘batuque,’ the instrument played with the hands,” said Beth Carvalho. Brazil’s top samba record producer Rildo Hora told us, “Beth invited me to go to Cacique to listen to the songs and the different percussion that they were playing there. I liked what I saw and heard so much that I talked to Beth and we decided to do something that changed the way people sang and played samba in Rio: we invited those Cacique percussionists to play on Beth’s next album.”

The albums De Pé no Chão (Feet on the Ground, 1978) and Beth Carvalho no Pagode (1979) brought the compositions and playing of the Ramos musicians to the Brazilian public for the first time. Several of those musicians formed the Grupo Fundo de Quintal (Backyard Group), which—with Carvalho’s help—secured a recording contract with RGE and released their debut album Samba é no Fundo de Quintal in 1980. 

The Ramos composers helped to revitalize the partido alto style of samba. Hora told us that in the pagode get-togethers, “everyone sings a lot of partido alto because it’s a samba that has a repeated refrain. In between the refrains, there is musical play, improvised verses. It’s inviting.” The style, also employed by Martinho da Vila, became closely identified with the pagodeiros, although they explored other types of samba as well.

Many big names started recording songs by Fundo de Quintal composers, whose sambas had catchy melodies and strong rhythms, and the record companies and press started calling their music pagode. Carvalho popularized their compositions on her albums, and the Grupo Fundo de Quintal’s sales increased with each new release. Early on, Almir Guineto and Jorge Aragão left the group to pursue solo careers; they were replaced by Walter Sete Cordas and Arlindo Cruz. Arlindo played with them until 1993, and became a notable musician (on cavaquinho, banjo, and the hybrid “banjo-cavaco”) and a prolific songwriter in his own right. 

Fundo de Quintal's lineup of musicians has changed, but the group has continued to release bestselling albums of quality music and to win Brazilian music-industry awards for their work. Their album Só Felicidade was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Samba/Pagode Album in 2015.

--most of the above is excerpted from The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil (Temple University Press) © Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha, 1991-2014. 

Read about Brazilian Music

The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova
and the Popular Music of Brazil

by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha (Temple University Press)
(the leading guide to Brazilian music in English;
available on Amazon worldwide)

by Chris McGowan
(interviews with iconic figures from Jobim
and Airto to Djavan and Gal Costa)