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8.557969 - IBERIAN AND AFRICAN-BRAZILIAN MUSIC OF THE 17TH CENTURY
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Iberian and African-Brazilian Music of the 17th Century

 

But I am persuaded that it is the Devil who teaches them most of these songs [modas], because he is a great poet, a musician skilled in counterpoint, and guitar player who knows how to invent profane songs to teach those who do not fear God  - Nuno Marques Pereira (1652-1728)

No doubt moralist writer Nuno Marques Pereira imagined that most of the evils that plagued the Portuguese colony in South America were due to the proliferation of profane songs by the guitar players of the time. Judging by the tone of much of his poetry, Gregório de Mattos e Guerra (1636-1696) incarnated the worst of Pereira's fears. In fact, his profanities and obscenities still scandalize many readers today.

Portraying people from all walks of life, Mattos's poetry is a good source of information on the music heard in the streets, homes, convents, and brothels of 17th-century Brazil. Besides writing comments and critiques on theatrical and musical performances, naming instrumentalists and singers, citing forms of secular and liturgical music, and describing choreographies of African-Brazilian dances, Mattos also did paraphrases and parodies on Iberian romances and tonos. He had a predilection for profane modas or, in his own words 'vulgar songs that coarse people sang'. Pereira credited the composition of such songs to the Devil - an excellent guitar player.

The 'Hell's Mouth' - as Mattos became known - was a guitar player too. Because he was musically trained, one can ascribe credibility to his comments when he describes, for instance, some monks singing out of tune or his impressions of a musical performance by the Dominican nuns in Portugal. His descriptions and opinions deal with the music of both the elite and the lower classes, including slaves and free Blacks - the music that one would hear in African-Brazilian religious ceremonies such as the calundus and the synchretic feasts of the Catholic Church of Bahia.

Some dances, bailes and songs of Mattos's time

Cumbé, Paracumbé: Defined by the dictionaries of Bluteau and Morais Silva as African or African-Brazilian bailes. In colonial Brazil, some sources mention the quicumbis and cucumbis (or cucumbes) related to the feasts of Rei Congo.

Fantasia, Pavana, Sarabanda, Gagliarda, Saltarello, Tarantella: Instrumental piece and European courtly dances. These pieces were part of the standard repertory of guitar players in both Portugal and Brazil during Mattos's time. In his poetry, Mattos mentions the pavana, the sarabanda and the saltarello. The gagliarda recorded here originates from the Coimbra codex. It is a Spanish version in binary rhythm, very different from the more usual ternary found in Italian and English galliards.

Rojão, Vacas: Defined in dictionaries as preludes or instrumental interludes, the Portuguese rojões of Mattos's time were mostly passacalles - variations on a descending tetrachord ground. The piece called vacas is also built upon a ground with origins in the 16th-century song 'Guardame las vacas'. Its harmonic bass, well known throughout Europe by the name Romanesca, was used as a basis for improvisation and variations for at least three centuries.

Arromba: Mentioned in Minas Gerais as a song in the early 17th century, the arromba was formerly a baile. It used to be danced by Mattos's brother with 'feet and hands, but with the 'arsehole' always in one place', which he found curious, since in Bahia that part of the body was 'always dancing'.

Gandum: In 17th and 18th century sources, this word is always related to Blacks, though rarely as a musical piece. Scholars P. Fryer and J. R. Tinhorão suggest that it was a forerunner of the well-known African-Brazilian baile called lundum, or landum.

Sarambeque: Mattos uses this word as an erotic pun, but its first meaning refers to a baile so common that it was still danced in Brazil in the early 20th century. This performance superimposes the melody of one of the sarambeques of the Coimbra codex on some rhythmicmelodic patterns of western Africa balafon music.

Cãozinho ('little dog'): Mattos's description of this baile includes one important African-Brazilian feature, the umbigada, or belly blow. Some Portuguese sources call it cãozinho from Sofala, referring to the mining region in Mozambique.

Cubanco: There is very little information about the cubanco, which Mattos lists among Iberian guitar pieces such as the canário, espanholeta, and vilão. A report by Frei Lucas de Santa Catarina mentions the cubanco as being played by a lower-class boy so vigorously as to smash his small guitar.

Vilão, Canário: Since the 17th century, the vilão, or villano, carries the popular refrain 'Al villano se le dán / la cebolla con el pan' (the villain gets onions and bread). In southern Brazil, the vilão has been one of the dances and bailes of the so-called fandangos, all-night gatherings that include various types of dances. The canário was one of the several tap-danced choreographies that flourished in the Iberian Peninsula, some of which are still found in several parts of Latin America.

Marinícolas: Parody of Marizapalos, a well-known Castillian song that survives in several Iberian and Latin- American sources. Mattos satirizes here the sexual preferences of a high functionary of the Royal Mint because of his unpopular handling of the Portuguese currency. In Mattos's parody, the amorous encounters of Nicolau and his servant Marcos replace the escapades of Marizapalos and Pedro Martin.

Marinícolas todos os dias
O vejo na sege passar por aqui
Cavalheiro de tão lindas partes
Como verbi gratia, Londres e Paris.

Ay verdades que en amor, Fuese Bras de la cabaña (Foi-se Brás de sua aldeia), Ay de ti pobre cuidado: Iberian tonos humanos quoted or used as mote or basis for the composition of new poems by Mattos.

Instruments

Most of the repertory recorded here originates from Portuguese sources in tablature for the five course guitar. Known in Brazil and Portugal as viola, this instrument is the ancestor of the Spanish guitar and the Brazilian viola, or viola caipira. The Ensemble Banza plays arrangements of these pieces - originally for solo guitar - that highlight sonorities one would expect to find in late-17th century Brazil, more specifically Bahia, Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro. The iconography and literature related to these places include European bowed instruments and wind instruments, plucked instruments such as the guitar, theorbo, bandurra and machinho (a type of small guitar), as well as instruments of African origin, such as the balafon, berimbau, and several types of drums.

Sources

Part of the repertory mentioned by Mattos and played by Brazilian guitarists in the 17th and 18th centuries survives in Portuguese manuscripts. Iberian cancioneros of Mattos's time feature musical settings of several songs he paraphrased.

Biblioteca Pública e Arquivo Distrital de Braga, codex Ms 964. Late-17th or early-18th century organ book.

Secção de Música da Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra, codex M.M. 97: Cifras de viola por varios autores. Recolhidas pelo Ldo Joseph Carneyro Tavares Lamacense. Early-18th century codex with music in tablature for guitar, bandurra and violin.

Biblioteca Xeral de la Universidade de Santiago de Compostela. 'Manuscrito Guerra', containing tonos humanos of several authors, c1680.

Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Serviço de Música, no catalogue number. Early-18th century codex with music in tablature for guitar, bandurra and harpsichord.

Biblioteca pública de Olot, Gerona: I-VIII. 'Cancionero de Olot', several authors.

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich: Ms. E200 1620-25. 'Cancionero de la Sablonara', several authors, c1620-1625.

Rogério Budasz
Universidade Federal do Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil


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