A Beautiful Tribute
It was on February 9, 1909, in a tiny little village called Várzea da Ovelha e Aliviada in the northern Portuguese district of Porto, that Carmen Miranda produced her first sounds. No one could have guessed the immense impact this baby girl would have on Brazilian culture. Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha was christened as Carmen, sublimating the love of her father for French opéra comique by Georges Bizet. A bit later, father decided to settle down as a barber in Rio de Janeiro; mother and their two daughters followed in December 1909.
It didn’t take long before Carmen revealed herself as someone with a desire for performing. She started to dance, sang in the school choir and found joy in reciting poems. Composer, singer and guitarist Josué de Barros (1888-1959) discovered the musical talents of Carmen in 1929. De Barros was among the first Brazilian musicians to tour through Europe, where he met contact persons in the budding recording business. So when the American Brunswick Records label was looking for talent in Brazil, Josué introduced Carmen Miranda to them. They recorded Carmen’s first album with a samba repertoire. The next ten years Carmen was the number one samba crooner in Brazil. Meanwhile she built up a career as actress as well. In 1939 Carmen left for New York. The city was taken by surprise, Carmen was a big success. But the anti-climax came when Carmen returned to Brazil later in 1940. The reception was bitter. She was blamed for being too popular with an image of South America that was more like a caricature in the eyes of the Brazilian audience. An upset Carmen went back to the USA. To shake off frustrations, she appeared in numerous films and musicals. With her charming appearance and artificial Latin American accent, Carmen easily conquered Hollywood. Carmen worked hard, too hard. Hooked up on barbiturates and amphetamines, she was advised to return to Brazil to recover from a nervous breakdown (1954). This time Carmen was cherished by a proud Brazilian public. She was now “nossa Carmen” (our Carmen) who made it in Hollywood. She recovered and returned to Los Angeles where she fell back into her busy life. During a TV show she seemed to lose control a bit during a dance. It appeared to be a minor stroke. After returning to her home, early in the morning of August 5, 1955, a fatal heart attack made an end to the life of a most remarkable person.
The music on this album comes from Carmen’s most interesting period as a vocalist: the recordings she made for Odeon with the label’s own studio musicians. The recordings date back to the second half of the 1930s, so especially the instrumentation sounded clotted. Henrique Cazes (cavaquinho and acoustic guitar) managed to re-record an instrumental accompaniment (guitars, reeds, percussion) and mixed it with the original ones. The result is surprising: we hear Carmen sing the way we never heard her. The band sounds authentic but crystal clear and does justice to the exceptional quality of Carmen’s vocals.
As usual, Biscoito Fino is sloppy with the credits. They forgot to mention that we also hear the legendary Luperce Miranda (mandolin) and singer Luiz Barbosa on “No Tabuleiro da Baiana”. It’s also unmentioned that Dorival Caymmi joins in on his own composition “O Que É Que a Baiana Tem.” There are composition by Assis Valente, who was a passionate admirer of Carmen’s. The work of Synval Silva is also represented. He was Carmen’s favorite composer. It’s all about samba here. Nostalgia in ótima forma. Hoje is a beautiful tribute to the singer who still has the magic to capture the hearts of a new audience.
Biscoito Fino BF961 (2010)
- Uva de Caminhão (Assis Valente)
- Gente Bamba (Synval Silva)
- E o Mundo Não Se Acabou (Assis Valente)
- Alô, Alô, Carnaval (Hervê Cordovil – Lamartine Babo)
- O Que É Que a Baiana Tem (Dorival Caymmi)
- Essa Cabrocha (Portello Juno – J. Portella)
- Eu Dei… (Ary Barroso)
- O Samba e o Tango (Amado Regis)
- No Tabuleiro da Baiana (Ary Barroso)
- Recenseamento (Assis Valente)
- Adeus Batucada (Synval Silva)
- Minha Terra Tem Palmeiras (João de Barro – Alberto Ribeiro)
Bonus tracks on computer only:
- Video: Querido Adão
- Interview with Ruy Castro & Henrique Cazes