Born on October 11th, 1908, Cartola is considered one of the most important artists of Brazilian samba

Note from BBT: Brazilian music is as much a part of my interest in Brazil as books, news articles, food, photos and personalities focusing on coisa dos Brasil”, ‘Brazilian stuff’. As such, memories of my first exposure to certain artists or songs will forever remain in my mind. I’ve already discussed this as well, as a number of my favorite of Brazil’s musical artists. Today, I’ll travel back to the year 2002.

Some time in September of that year, I was on my fourth trip to Brazil in a period of about two years. Again, visiting the state of Bahia, one of the most talked about films of that time was the movie Cidade de Deus, meaning City of God, which was released in August of that year. I remember watching the film with a young lady I knew from Ilhéus and a few members of her family in the town of Itabuna, a city which was emancipated from the former in 1910.

A film that would become an international hit and a success with critics, there were numerous memorable scenes from that movie. Perhaps one of the most dramatic and sad was watching the shooting and death of one of the characters, Cabeleira, or Shaggy as he was renamed in English subtitles. The character, played by actor Jonathan Haagensen, was part of a group of black teens from a poor Rio neighborhoodd that had staged a number of heists to earn some money.

Cabeleira and Berenice in a scene from the film ‘Cidade de Deus’

After being ratted out by a neighborhood snitch and pursued by police, Cabeleira ran to escape being shot. His girlfriend, Berenice, played by actress Roberta Rodrigues, had convinced him to leave town. The couple caught a taxi by hijacking a taxi cab driver. When the taxi stalled out, Cabeleira exited the car to give it a push start. Just as the cab started up, he caught a police bullet. The cab driver, not wanting to stall out again, or perhaps not wanting to be shot, kept going against the Berenice’s protests.

Wounded, Cabeleira couldn’t catch the cab and began to run to escape shots by the police. Seeing the violence and desperation of the scene of the young black man attempting to escape and taking various shots as his image was seen running behind various houses until his body was not seen again because of the last and fatal shot was made all the more haunting by the acoustic guitar chords and bassoon melody intro of Cartola’s 1976 classic hit “Preciso Me Encontrar” played in the background.

The song was written by another classic sambista, Candeia, and is a song that any fan of Brazilian samba will know. If you think about it, Candeia’s music signaled both the start and end of Cabeleira and Berenice’s relationship, as another of Cartola’s hits, the song Alvoradawas played during the couple’s first kiss, while “Preciso” played shortly after their last kiss and as cameras showed the young man’s violent, bloody demise. Adding another piece of destiny to their relationship is the fact that Coma Berenices, or the Cabeleira de Berenice, meaning the Hair of Berenice, is a actually a constellation of the northern celestial hemisphere.

Up until that point, having being digging into Brazilian music for a few years, I knew who Cartola was, but had never heard either of those songs until watching Cidade. Seeing the scene of Cabeleira’s death once again showed the power of music when set to the background of a film. In some ways, the melancholy sound of “Preciso” in some ways reminds me of Cartola’s career. The man who is considered legend in Brazilian samba only recorded his first album at the age of 66 and died only six years later, still poor, living in a house donated by Rio de Janeiro’s government.

Yesterday, if he were alive, Cartola, the man responsible for name and colors of one of Rio’s most important samba schools would be 113 years old. Below is a short write up about him, courtesy of the Afro.TV IG page.

Born on October 11th, 1908, Cartola is considered one of the most important artists of Brazilian samba

Courtesy of Afro.TV

Agenor de Oliveira, better known as Cartola, was born in Catete, Rio de Janeiro, on October 11, 1908. Considered by many to be the greatest samba composer in Brazilian music, Cartola was a Brazilian singer, composer, poet, and guitarist whose greatest hits include the songs ”As Rosas não Falam”, ”O Mundo É um Moinho”, and ”Alvorada”.

Cartola was born in the neighborhood of Catete, but grew up in Laranjeiras, in Rio de Janeiro. Due to financial difficulties, his family moved to the Mangueira community, where a favela was beginning to grow. From then on, at the age of 11, Cartola began to frequent the bohemian lifestyle and the samba circles, and already playing the guitar and the cavaquinho. At the age of 15, he became motherless, and had to learn how to earn a living.

To support himself, Cartola employed himself in a printing shop and then started working in construction. At the time, he wore a derby hat to protect himself from the cement that fell from above, and thus earned the nickname “Cartola”, meaning ‘top hat’. At Mangueira he met Carlos Cachaça, who would become his partner in compositions and bohemia. Thus, the carnival block “Bloco dos Arengueiros” was born.

Agenor de Oliveira, better known as Cartola

As time went by, the creators expanded the block and in 1928 the “Estação Primeira da Mangueira” was created, a reference to the first stop of the suburban trains that left the city. Cartola composed his first samba for the school: “Chega de Demanda”, which became the opening samba of the Estação Primeira.

After this, the new direction of the Estação Primeira de Mangueira became antipathetic to Cartola and the sambista saw his samba disqualified by jury in the 1947 carnival. The musician contracted meningitis and soon after saw Deolinda, his first wife, die of a heart attack. For about seven years he was missing and out of the music scene. Many thought he had died.

In the early 1960s, Cartola became a janitor for the Samba Schools Association. In addition, Cartola and Zica started combining music and food, promoting musical gatherings and soirees in their house, opening the restaurant Zicartola, which became a milestone in the history of Brazilian popular music. In 1978 he moved from Mangueira to a house in Jacarepaguá, where he lived until his death in 1980.

Cartola with wife Zica

There were two meetings that changed his course. Zica, with whom he lived the rest of his days, took him back to the Mangueira slum. And the journalist Sérgio Porto, known as Stanislaw Ponte Preta, who, in 1957, found Cartola working as a watchman and car washer in Ipanema and decided to help him by publicizing his rediscovery.

In front of his door, a square appropriately named As Rosas Não Falam was then inaugurated. Cartola died on November 30, 1980, at the age of 72, a victim of cancer. In 2007 the film “Cartola – Música para os Olhos” was released, and many other tributes have been made in his name, finally recognizing his importance to Brazilian music.

Source: AFRO.TV Instagram

About Marques Travae 3708 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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