Música Caipira (Brazilian Country Music)

Brazilian countryside on viola strings

Rosa Nepomuceno
The catholic chants brought by Jesuits were mixed with Portuguese tunes and the dance and music of the Indians, original landlords of the newly discovered tropical country. Many styles emerged from that mixture, especially in the southeast, then in the south and center-western regions, integrating what would be known as "música caipira" (literally, country music). The viola, a Brazilian type of small, acoustic guitar, was carved from tree trunks. In the early days, the strings were made out of animals’ guts; later, they were switched to wire, and through the years, the viola has been testified as the basic instrument for the countryside style. Caipira is one among many words emerged from the incorporation of tupi and other indigenous idioms with Portuguese in colonial times. When broken down, we have caa (bushes), pir (something that cuts) and cururu, which is how the Indians attempted to say cruz (cross).

Missionaries moved
To prove their love
To the natives that feared
The foreign invader
But hearing the mellow sound
Of a weeping viola
The careful primitives
Leaned over to enjoy it.
(Assim Nasceu o Cururu, Cap. Furtado e Laureano)

The cururu presented religious chants marked by foot beats. In the 30s, the cururu was performed as a freestyle desafio (literally, challenge), in a "poetic combat" fashion that was initiated with greetings for the saints. This shape still exists in the countryside of São Paulo. Among famous cururueiros (followers of the cururu style) are the Vieira and Vieirinha brothers, big in the 50s.

The catira or cateretê appeared from an indigenous dance, the caateretê, also adopted in catholic cults in the early colonial times. Its realms were established in São Paulo and Minas Gerais. With viola solos and backup singing, accompanied by tap dancing and clapping, the songs’ climax is the "recortado" (clipped), when all elements perform together in high liveliness mode. Among the greatest catireiros (catira style followers) are Tonico and Tinoco, who recorded countless hits in the 40s and 50s. Neo-caipira Chico Lobo, from Minas Gerais, is one of the few to currently dominate this old art.

The viola tune stands out
Within different rhythms rooted in different types of music brought to Brazil by the European, the viola tune was turned into the best expression of the local country music. Its structure adds long viola phrases and solos mingled with choruses and very lengthy lyrics that tell the story of each community. The sub-genre became independent of the catira and has seduced fine composers such as Teddy Vieira and Lourival dos Santos, both from São Paulo and very active in the 50s and 60s. Today, Zé Mulato and Cassiano, from Minas Gerais, are good examples of the style’s supporters.

Brazil was growing in the beginning the 20th century, which fomented northeastern exodus toward the southeast in search for work. The immigrants brought along their cocos and emboladas, maxixes, guarânias, boleros, ballads, and several other styles and rhythms. The whole of these assorted sounds joined more formal country genres to form a marketable hallmark: sertaneja (countryside or country music). Other styles would also get into the melting pot, such as rock and BPM in the 60s and American country music in the 80s.

A choice of styles in one package
The peak of caipira music happened in the 50s, when numerous countryside duos like Cascatinha & Inhana and Pedro Bento & Zé da Estrada entered the radio and record company markets. In the 60s and 70s, other artists lent rock (Sérgio Reis), BPM (Renato Teixeira), samba and coco (Tião Carreiro) shades to the style.

New performers continued appearing through the 80s, when caipira music took a distinct country music turn by adopting electrified instruments. The first mega hit from that generation happened in 1982 with Chitãozinho & Chororó. Other duos followed, pursuing more romantic and pop moods, like Leandro & Leonardo and Zezé Di Camargo & Luciano.

Through the 90s, the pop-sertanejo (tailored for foreign markets) and the neo-caipiras (educated musicians interested in rescuing the original roots of the style) managed to live in harmony. The latter have developed their own independent labels and show circuits. The key artists for the movement are Renato Teixeira and viola expert Almir Sater. Currently, Roberto Corrêa, Ivan Vilela, Pereira da Viola and Chico Lobo (from Minas Gerais), and Miltinho Edilberto (from São Paulo) are some of the greatest caipira music performers/composers.



Luar do Sertão (Catulo da Paixão Cearense/ João Pernambuco) – Eduardo das Neves
Tristezas do Jeca (Angelino de Oliveira) – Patrício Teixeira
Cabocla Tereza (João Pacífico/ Raul Torres) – Torres e Florêncio
No Rancho Fundo (Ary Barroso/ Lamartine Babo) – Silvio Caldas
Sertaneja (René Bittencourt) – Orlando Silva
Viola Quebrada (Mário de Andrade) – Inezita Barroso
Pingo D'Água (Raul Torres /João Pacífico) – João Pacífico
Moda da Pinga (folclore adaptado por Laureano) – Inezita Barroso
Casinha Pequenina (domínio público) - Cascatinha e Inhana
Jorginho do Sertão (Cornélio Pires) – Passoca
Romance de uma Caveira (Alvarenga/ Ranchinho) – Alvarenga e Ranchinho
Guacyra (Heckel Tavares/ Joracy Camargo ) – João Gilberto
A Moda da Mula Preta (Raul Torres) – Luiz Gonzaga
Pé de Ipê (Tonico/ Tinoco) – Tonico e Tinoco
Chico Mineiro (Tonico/ Francisco R. Barbosa) – Tonico e Tinoco
Casa de Caboclo (Heckel Tavares/ Luís Peixoto) – Gastão Formenti
Flor do Cafezal (Luís Carlos Paraná) – Cascatinha e Inhana
Violeiro do Luar (Paraguassu) – Ely Camargo
Disparada (Théo de Barros/ Geraldo Vandré) – Jair Rodrigues
Menino da Porteira (Teddy Vieira/ Luizinho) – Sérgio Reis
Rio de Lágrimas (Tião Carreiro/ Piraci/ L. dos Santos) – Tião Carreiro e Pardinho
Casinha Branca (Elpídeo dos Santos ) – Renato Teixeira
Chalana (Mário Zan/ Arlindo Pinto) – Almir Sater
Romaria (Renato Teixeira) - Elis Regina
Chitãozinho e Xororó (Serrinha/ Athos Campos) – Chitãozinho e Xororó
Maringá (Joubert de Carvalho) – Pena Branca