Not Your Typical Regional Album
Brazilian music never ceases to amaze me. Whenever I am getting bored with repetitions that established artists insist on recording, I come face to face with new values and, better yet, new music. Case in point: Cris Aflalo’s Só Xerêm.
Xerêm was born Pedro de Alcântara Filho (1911, Ceará – 1982, Rio de Janeiro). His father, a maestro in the Brazilian Navy, encouraged the son to follow an artistic career. Performing in a variety of venues, from circuses to theatres, Xerêm soon found himself moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1937. In Rio, he formed a duo with his sister and recorded his first album that same year. A couple of years later, Xerêm formed another duo with Bentinho. Together they performed in several radio stations in Rio and achieved success, including having a song recorded by Aracy de Almeida in 1941. Xerêm’s music includes baião, choro, moda de viola, waltz, calango and several other regional styles.
Now, you must be asking yourself why new comer Cris Aflalo, a native of São Paulo, would choose to record Xerêm for her debut album. The answer is very simple: Xerêm was Aflalo’s grandfather. However, more than the obvious affinity, Aflalo chose Xerêm’s music because of the melodies and poetry created by this talented composer. Produced by Cris Aflalo and guitarist Luiz Waack (he also performs in the album), Só Xerêm is exactly that: only music written by a great songwriter full of wit, with a touch of parody and very true to life.
Só Xerêm is not your typical regional album. Here, instead of the traditional accordion accompaniment, you will experience a duel between Aflalo’s soft and sensual voice and Waack’s excellent guitar work. Together, they bring to life old hits as well as new compositions Aflalo discovered after six years of research through several tapes left by her grandfather. Other artists contributing to the beauty and simplicity of these melodies include Ricardo Garcia (zabumba, triangle), Simone Julian (flutes) and special appearances by Oswaldinho do Acordeon, Natan Marques, Swami Jr. and Hermeto Pascoal. Xerêm himself is featured in two tracks.
What is so captivating about the music of Xerêm is how he was able to take a snapshot of life in the countryside of Brazil with such ease. In the opening track, “Pisa no Pilão,” Xerêm gives us a recipe to make one of the most traditional dishes in the countryside of Ceará: “carne seca com farinha” (dried beef with cassava flour). In this never before released xote, Aflalo’s rendition is spicy and yet very tender. With simple verses describing the ingredients and how to add them, Xerêm still finds time to be playful in the end of the lyrics asking to be called to eat that delicious dish once it’s ready — because eating is all he knows how to do. Another “recipe” comes with “Cana Caiana,” with verses singing about sugar cane plantation. The melody is very upbeat with a lively chorus performed by Alzira Espíndola, Iara Rennó and Marcelo Pretto. The song that Aracy de Almeida made famous in the 1940s, “Mamãe Baiana,” receives a most touching rendition in Aflalo’s heartfelt voice. At times, it is as if she found the words deep in her heart. Contrasting with the sadness expressed in that song, we have “Lamento do Sabiá.” Hermeto Pascoal’s solos in this track are awesome. Another example of life in the Brazilian northeast is given in “Ainda Me Lembro” (co-written with Oswaldinho do Acordeon’s father). The track is only Aflalo’s voice and Waack’s guitar putting complete emphasis on the lyrics reminiscing about Xerêm’s life as a kid in his native Baturité. The album goes on providing unexpected surprises, such as the humorous “No Automóvel Não” and the gorgeous lament in “Só Farta Vancê Querê,” with Mauricio Pereira’s soprano sax adding an extra touch to the beautiful melody.
Só Xerêm is a great discovery for listeners searching for authentic Brazilian northeastern music. The arrangements, production and, above all, Cris Aflalo’s performances are top notch. She captures life in the music of Xerêm.
To learn more about the artist and CD, please visit Tratore.
Tratore 065.651 (2003)
All songs by Xerêm, except where noted.
- Pisa no Pilão
- Ainda Me Lembro (Xerêm – Pedro Sertanejo)
- Obalalá (Xerêm – Guará)
- Cana Caiana
- Mamãe Baiana (Xerêm – Joracy Camargo)
- Lamento do Sabiá
- No Ceará Tem (Xerêm – Cláudio Durante)
- No Automóvel Não (Xerêm – Zé Trindade)
- Só Farta Vancê Querê (Xerêm – Gilberto Andrade)
- Soca Passoca (Xerêm – Capitão Furtado)
- Alegria Comigo Mora (Xerêm – Mané Baião)
- Raymunda Patuá (Xerêm – J. Mendonça)