Not many composers in Brazilian music are so intrinsically associated
with Samba and its history as is Angenor de Oliveira, or Cartola
(October 11, 1908 - November 30, 1980). Not only was he responsible
for creating one of Brazil's most famous Samba Schools, the Mangueira,
but he was also the composer of legendary hits such as "Acontece," "O
Mundo É Um
Moinho" and "As Rosas Não
Falam" among several others. Revered by popular
and erudite composers such as Nelson Cavaquinho, Paulinho da Viola
and Heitor Villa-Lobos, Cartola is undeniably one of Brazil's greatest
songwriters. He stands side by side with Tom Jobim, Vinícius
de Moraes, Ary Barroso, Pixinguinha, Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso
just to name a few. Cartola's music comes from the soul, and his
verses carry profound and universal themes.
From humble origins in the hills of Rio de Janeiro, Cartola got
his name because of the top hat he wore when he used to work as a
brick layer, a job he maintained for many years even after becoming
famous. In spite of his importance to Brazilian music, Cartola only
recorded his first album at age 66, in 1974. When he passed away
in 1980, he left a legacy of four albums and numerous songs. Various
recordings of his music have been made by some of Brazil's most well
known performers (Gal Costa, Arranco, Beth Carvalho, etc.). However,
to capture the sadness and hope in Cartola's music, there is no one
better than Cartola himself.
Music, through the hands and mind of Claus Schreiner, presents
us with a collection of Cartola's masterpieces. Divino Samba
is a 23-song compilation derived from Cartola's four albums. The
title of this essential CD is a homage to the nickname appropriately
given to Cartola himself, the Divine Cartola. With some of Cartola's
most famous sambas, Divino Samba includes several songs
Cartola wrote with his steady collaborators and friends, Carlos
Cachaça and Elton Medeiros. Framing the beauty of Cartola's
songs, several Brazilian superstar musicians accompany the poet
in all tracks: Dino 7 Cordas, Canhoto, Altamiro Carrilho, Abel
Ferreira, Copinha and special guests Nelson Cavaquinho, Elton
Medeiros and Guinga. The lyrics can sometimes present the sadness
of broken love affairs, as in "Acontece" and "Peito Vazio,"
or the hopes of better days, as in "Alvorada," "A Canção
Que Chegou" and "O Sol Nascerá."
Divino Samba is a rarity among CD releases. The quality of
this recording will impress you in every aspect, from the carefully
written liner notes to the sound quality in each track. Above it
all, Cartola's music will astound your senses.
Read more about Divino Samba and hear song samples here.
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, July