Aprendar a Nadar

Jards Macalé – Aprender a Nadar (Phillips, 1974)

Macalé is an interesting character in the Brazilian music scene of the late ’60s and ’70s. He was involved in the developing Tropicalia movement by writing music for such musicians as Gal Costa, but due to strict censorship by the military dictatorship at the time he was exiled before recording his first album. He returned to Brazil in ’72 and immediately became a big player of the art community in Rio, hanging out and collaborating with artists, poets and other musicians. Macalé was never really a part of the Tropicalia movement and as his music never was poppy or commercial enough, he always stayed under the radar of the fame.

Interdisciplinary cooperation was a major point of Macalé’s artistic philosophy and Aprendar a Nadar is his first major example of collaboration. The album is a concept album based on the “morbeza romantica,” which translates to the romantic morbid-beauty, a phrase developed by Macalé and poet Waly Salomão. The term meant to represent a sentiment of “ill health and beauty,” a state which represented the Rio artists of the ’70s as they struggled to be creative under the dictatorship. Unlike other artists, the Rio group refused to flee to Europe as ex-patriots, instead choosing to produce art that would get Salomão arrested and tortured and lead poet/journalist Torquato Neto to suicide.

The album itself is a piece of collaborative art in every sense, as the lyrics are put together by Macalé, Salomão, Neto as well as a few other poets and the music is a combination is a mixture of bossa nova, tropicalia, mambo, folk and jazz. The theme of “morbeza romantica” is fully present throughout the album as it is moody, sexy, dark, but just slightly off and uncomfortable. Macalé’s vocals are scotch-smooth, tinged with a bit of fire and irony, but trust me this cat can sing! Gotta love this record, it’s a bit haunting. If it doesn’t grab you on the first lesson, give it a second shot and listen to the way Macalé sings, the way the piano echos and how ironic the strings sound, maybe read some Baudelaire or Marquis de Sade or some Neto.

The following poem by Neto fully illustrates what Macalé and his group were attempting to achieve, it was used in 1982 as a song off Macalé’s album Os Últimos Dias de Paupéria:

Let’s Play That

when I was born
a crazy, very crazy angel
came to read my palm
it wasn’t a baroque angel
it was a crazy, crooked angel
with wings like a plane
and behold, this angel told me,
pressing my hand
with a clenched smile:
go on, pal, sing off key
in the happy people’s choir
go on, pal, sing off key
in the happy people’s choir
let’s play that

1. Jards Anet A Vida
2. Corações/No Meio do Mato/O Faquir da Dor/Rua Real Grandeza/Pam Pam Pam
3. Imagenes
4. Anjo Exterminado
5. Dona de Castelano
6. Mambo da Cantareira
7. E Dai…
8. Orora Analfabeta
9. Senhor Dos Sabados
10. Boneca Semiotica

For more information about Jards Macalé and his involvement in Rio counter-culture read this article by Marcelo Ballve that appeared in Waxpoetics over the summer. If anyone has links to Tropicalia poetry online, please let me know!

Link in comments

– Eric Cornejo

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2 Responses to Aprendar a Nadar

  1. jaguarpress says:

    Now syndicating Eric Cornejo’s music column from abeardofstars.blogger.com. Check his other fine musical selections out and stay tuned for more music from imprisoned artists from around the world!

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