The Immortality of Dorival Caymmi
How special can it get: an album that opens with the voices of Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Chico Buarque. Something serious must be going on… It must have been since 1995 when the three star vocalists were joined together. It was on stage during a memorable New Year’s Eve concert on the beach of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, when they paid tribute to Tom Jobim. Again it’s a tribute that brings the three together: the centennial of the birthday of Dorival Caymmi (1914-2008). Which is serious enough!
Dorival Caymmi was from Salvador de Bahia, the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. Although he tried to find his way in various jobs (he studied law, journalism, even worked as a street vendor), it was always music that caught his main attention. At age 22 he already won a songwriter contest at the Bahian carnival. After moving to Rio (1937), his composition “O Que é Que a Baiana Tem?” (What Is It That the Bahian Woman Has?) launched his musical career. It was the colorful singer/ actress Carmen Miranda who performed the song in the movie “Banana da Terra” in 1939. The music gained international success and highlighted the name of Dorival Caymmi as a songwriter. It marked the beginning of an important repertoire of music. On some occasions Dorival Caymmi reshaped and perfected his work for almost a decade before releasing the song. Or he just let it rest until he thought the inspiration was right to finish it. He composed a little over one hundred songs, which is considered less than standard for someone of his caliber. But, as Caetano Veloso once mentioned, all of them are perfect gems. His musical style was based on the Afro-Brazilian rhythms and folk music of his beloved Bahia, paying homage to its beaches, women and fishermen. He was intrigued by the sea and all its romance. Quite a few of his songs appeared in movies.
In 1940 he married singer Adelaide Tostes (known under her artistic name Stella Maris). The couple spent their lives together for almost 70 years, until Dorival passed away at age 94 in 2008. Adelaide Tostes passed away 11 days after her husband and they now rest side a side at the São João Batista cemetery in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro. Their three children continue the musical heritage of the father. One daughter, Nana Caymmi (1941) and two sons, Dori Caymmi (1943) and Danilo Caymmi (1948) and they each have their own successful career as musician. Nana has an imposing reputation as singer, Dori as singer, guitarist, songwriter, arranger, and producer while Danilo plays various wind instruments, mainly the flute, besides being a composer, arranger guitarist and singer. The three can be heard as singer on this album.
It’s two-time Grammy Award winner Dori Caymmi who chose the repertoire and the featured vocalists for this tribute album. Caetano Veloso (Santo Amaro da Purificação (Bahia), 1942) and Gilberto Gil (Salvador (Bahia), 1942) were chosen because they’re the most important composers from Dorival Caymmi’s Bahia. Chico Buarque was chosen because he appeared to be Dorival’s favorite composer. And Mario Adnet (Rio de Janeiro, 1957)? Well, he’s one of Brazil’s finest arrangers. With all these gifted musicians in the frontline and the best studio musicians in the accompaniment, the result can only be astonishingly beautiful. It was a choice of respect to open the album with Caymmi’s first big success. “O Que é Que a Baiana Tem?” was both for Dorival Caymmi and Carmen Miranda of a big importance for the start of both their careers. The united voices of Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil underline that importance. And how good it is to hear each of the three vocalists featured twice in some of Dorival’s breathtaking bossa novas and sambas? They sing so fragile and with so much dedication that you can almost touch their love for the composer. Gilberto Gil sings a great arrangement of “Samba da Minha Terra,” recalling the jazzy ballroom samba sound of the 1940s. Gilberto Gil also sings “Rosa Morena,” the song João Gilberto often cited as the song that helped him to “invent” the bossa nova (it’s on the groundbreaking bossa album Chega de Saudade, by João Gilberto; 1959).
Each of Dorival’s three kids are also featured twice. Their voices perfectly fit the more dramatically loaded compositions. No vocalist can put more soul into “Sargaço Mar” than Nana Caymmi. Even the dark orchestration is subordinate to the sentiment she puts in her voice. Dori Caymmi is featured on “João Valentão,” one of those songs that took Dorival Caymmi a decade to bring to perfection. Dori chose the song because according to him one of the verses describes his father’s attitude to life.
“…And that’s how this man falls asleep. Who never needs to sleep to dream.
Because there is no dream more beautiful than his land …”
(E assim adormece esse homem, Que nunca precisa dormir pra sonhar. Porque não há sonho mais lindo do que sua terra.)
Although living in Rio for the bigger part of his life, Dorival Caymmi always sublimated his love for Bahia. A feeling that often gets stronger when someone lives in another area. It’s almost a definition for that mysterious Brazilian expression “saudades.” The music and lyrics of Dorival Caymmi are dowsed with saudades and maybe therefore the songs directly speak to the hearts of his audience. It’s a recognizable sentiment. The two arrangers of this tribute, Dori Caymmi and Mario Adnet, attentively sensed that and translated it into the instrumentation and arrangements. Mario Adnet is also featured as vocalist in one track, “A Vizinha do Lado,” a samba from 1946. The album ends appropriately with the united voices of the three children of Dorival singing “Canção da Partida” as kind of a farewell. It’s the conclusion of a wonderful tribute to undoubtedly one of the most important composers in the history of Brazilian Music. He left his mark on bossa nova and influenced the development of the so called MPB, Música Popular Brasileira. The popular music where so many Brazilian singers found their home. It’s a good thing to remember the 100th birthday of such an artist. Especially when it’s done like this, with fifteen of his polished jewels in brilliant renditions.
Caymmi – Centenário
Biscoito Fino BF314-2 (2014)
Released in the USA as:
The Essential Dorival Caymmi – Centenary
DRG-Brazil DRG-CD 31639
Featured vocalist(s); all music by Dorival Caymmi, except where noted.
- O Que é Que a Baiana Tem? – Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil & Chico Buarque
- Sargaço Mar – Nana Caymmi
- Saudade da Bahia – Caetano Veloso
- Rosa Morena – Gilberto Gil
- Dora – Chico Buarque
- Vatapá – Danilo Caymmi
- João Valentão – Dori Caymmi
- A Vizinha do Lado – Mario Adnet
- A Lenda do Abaeté – Nana Caymmi
- Samba da Minha Terra – Gilberto Gil
- Sábado em Copacabana (Dorival Caymmi – Carlos Guinle) – Caetano Veloso
- Marina – Chico Buarque
- Nem Eu – Danilo Caymmi
- O Bem do Mar – Dori Caymmi
- Canção da Partida – Nana Caymmi, Damilo Caymmi & Dori Caymmi