Apr 05 2009

Alceu Valença: Ciranda Mourisca

Revisiting Possibly Neglected Moments of His Career



Ciranda Mourisca

Even with a career that spans 35 years, singer Alceu Valença still comes up with nice ideas. His idea for this album is to brush up some older songs that in his mind kind of escaped to the attention of his audience. Songs that deserve more attention than they got at that time… Alceu Valença gave them an extra beautiful rendition and that’s exactly what gives this cd its special quality. Strange enough I’m very familiar with the songs; they’ve been among my favourite Alceu Valença songs for ages. Maybe an advantage of living outside Brazil and not depending on what songs of an album are played on the local radio stations…

Born in 1946 in São Bento do Una, Pernambuco (Brazil’s northeast), teenager Alceu Paiva Valença moved to Recife where he graduated in law at the Recife Law Faculty (1970). But it was poetry and music that seduced Alceu to dedicate his life to, with a little side road in the world of acting. He caught up on traditional music from Brazil’s northeast in the nearby picturesque city of Olinda. He transformed the local rhythms in a more personal style, also influenced by the music of Orlando Silva, Luiz Gonzaga, Jackson do Pandeiro and Dalva de Oliveira, as well as Ray Charles and Little Richard, further combined with sounds he picked up during trips to the USA and Paris.

Alceu ValençaThe twelve songs on Ciranda Mourisca, chosen in corporation with Alceu’s wife Yanê, are given lovely acoustic arrangements with light influences from the Portuguese/Moorish music tradition. It gives the disc a special sentiment that’s very typical for the more quiet side of the musician Alceu Valença. Beside the voice and the acoustic guitar of Alceu, Paulo Rafael is the most prominent musician present on the disc. On various acoustic guitars he lays down a beautiful environment for the music to flourish. Together with percussionist Edwin de Olinda, they’re both members of Alceu’s regular band. The very multicultural guest musicians are guitarist Rissashi Honda (with Japanese links); Dito Inácio (with links to Moroccan music) on reeds and percussionist Jean Dumas (originally from Lyon, France). The latter two musicians share an interest in the music of Morocco and are partly responsible for the Moorish hint in the music on Ciranda Mourisca.

Three of the twelve songs on the disc are chosen from Alceu’s 1994 album Maracatus, Batuques e Ladeiras, Just like on that magnificent album, “Pétalas,” “Amor Que Vai” and “Maracajá” (inspired by a hippie girl from Holland who danced through the streets of Olinda in the 70’s; Ana de Amsterdam) are also on this release among the highlights. Actually, they stay close to their original (also acoustic) arrangements.

Also represented by three songs is Alceu Valença’s first solo album from 1974. Its title song “Molhado de Suor” recalls the earliest efforts of this illustrious singer. The composition still stands but the sound quality is what strikes most. Quite normal of course, but it reminds us how tremendously well the whole recording process has evolved. “Mensageira dos Anjos” and “Dente de Ocidente” also proudly survived the ravages of time. On the beautiful “Íris” (from Leque Moleque, 1987) guitarist Paulo Rafael creates an oriental atmosphere with his e-bow guitar. The pleasant album Andar, Andar (1990) is represented by “Loa de Lisboa.” We also get a few songs from Estação da Luz (1985), which sound like completely different compositions in the current setting.

With this concept in mind, I’m sure Alceu Valença can re-record dozens of more songs from his earlier albums. But let’s hope that he now remembers how to compose more gems like these twelve on Ciranda Mourisca.



Alceu Valença
Ciranda Mourisca
Biscoito Fino BF 889 (2009)
Time: 41’08”


All songs by Alceu Valença, except where noted.

  1. Pétalas (Alceu Valença – Herbert Azul)
  2. Chuva de Cajus
  3. Amor que Vai
  4. Maracajá
  5. Deusa da Noite (Dia Branco)
  6. Mensageira dos Anjos
  7. Íris
  8. Sino de Ouro
  9. Molhado de Suor
  10. Loa de Lisboa
  11. Dente de Ocidente
  12. Ciranda da Rosa Vermelha