Category Archive: Art and culture

Mar 21

Curry Clube and Favela Brass



A couple of years ago I was introduced to a friend of a friend of a friend in a bar in Rio. When I told her I lived in Santa Teresa and had a food blog, her face changed and she went “Ah! You must be the guy that does the Curry Club thing, right?”. Well, that was confusing! After further chat we established that there was another English guy called Tom who lived in Santa Teresa and he ran something called Curry Clube, a regular get together that involved curry and music.

Well, after I’d got over the fact that I was not the only English bloke called Tom in Santa Teresa, my mind turned to food. In fact it turned to curry! I know many foreigners living in Rio who pine for a decent curry – it really is one of those dishes so packed with flavour that when you get a hankering, nothing else will do. I decided I would have to meet this Tom fellow and go along to his Curry Clube. And do you know what? Approximately 2 years later, I finally made it!

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 14

Bezerra da Silva – Samba and the Malandro


Every man in his area, Every monkey on his branch, Every cockerel in his yard, Every king in his deck


I only became aware of the subject of today’s post recently, when I passed that piece of street art (above) during carnival. It’s a nice piece of work and the guy has a nice looking face – then I saw the lyrics and decided it was time to find out more (starting with what a baralho is – a deck of playing cards).

Born in 1927 in Recife, José Bezerra da Silva grew up singing a North/Northeastern style of music called Coco. In 1942 he moved to Rio and in the 1950s found work as a session musician. His first record was released in 1969 and he went on to record 30 albums over the following 4 decades. He became particularly renowned for a style of samba known as partido alto.


Malandros and Malandragem

It seems impossible to say much about Bezerra without mentioning the term malandro. A malandro is someone who lives by malandragem, a lifestyle of hustling, petty crime and idleness. It wasn’t long after I got to Rio that I first came across this word malandro. Fittingly enough, a colleague was warning me about wandering down the wrong street in Lapa – “Watch out for malandros” she said. I say ‘fitting’ because, in Rio there is a strong association between malandros and Lapa.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 28

Carnival Songs: Marcha do Remador!



The time has come. Rio Carnival 2014 is finally upon us and I have just enough time to squeeze in one more essential carnival marchinha to my growing list. Today’s classic comes from way back in 1964 (incidentally, I got my haircut yesterday and the women in the hairdressers were lamenting that no one makes new marchinhas anymore – why is that?).

I have to admit to a rather childish enjoyment of today’s song because of a naughty piece of crowd participation. But first, let’s hear an unadulterated rendition from the woman who made it famous, Emilinha Borba (remember she was the one that had a fight with another carnival singer over the affections of Orson Welles):

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 21




Recife, 1929. Three engineers, Amadeu Oliveira Coimbra, Ernest August Boeckmann and Antônio de Góis, are on their way to the patent office to protect their new innovation – a ‘hollow structural element’. Somewhere between a brick and a tile, these ‘structural elements’ would go on to become one of the iconic elements of Brazilian Modernist architecture.

The only problem was the name – what were they going to call these things? They all wanted some credit for the innovation, but somehow the Coimbra-Boeckmann-Góis Brick didn’t sound like it was going to catch on. Instead they took the first 2 letters of each of their surnames and christened their hollow bricks Cobogó.

A few years later, Cobogó was used to cover the entire façade of the huge Caixa D’água building in Olinda.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 14

Carnival Songs: Mulata iê iê iê



It feels like the perfect storm: carnival is nearly upon us, my best friend from England arrives in Rio tonight and to top things off, it’s Friday! It’s enough to make you want sing isn’t it? Well don’t hold back – today I’m adding another classic marchinha to my list of favourite carnival tunes (see under the “Carnival” menu item above).

Being the ignorant gringo that I am, I had some trouble finding this song because I knew it only as ‘that passarela song’. It is often listed as “Mulata Bossa Nova”, but officially it is called Mulata iê iê iê (‘iê’ sounds like ‘yeah’).

The song was written by our old friend João Roberto Kelly (remember Cabaleira do Zezé?) and made famous in 1965 by Emilinha Borba (pictured above). Emilinha sounds like she must have been quite a character, having well publicised feuds with rival divas of the time, including an actual physical fight with Linda Batista over the affections of a visiting Orson Welles! Anyway, let’s hear her sing the song shall we?

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 07

Gringo Funk



If you spend any amount of time in Rio, you’ll find Baile Funk (AKA Funk Carioca) hard to avoid – you might hear it being played at the beach, on the bus or pumping out of clubs and favelas on the weekends.

I’ve spent a fair amount of listening-time trying to get into this style of music but with a few exceptions I’ve found most of it sits somewhere between ‘underwhelming’ and ‘downright annoying‘. To me, Baile Funk sounds about as unfunky as you can get.

I’ve watched a couple of documentaries about DJs coming over from Europe and the US and championing Baile Funk (Favela On Blast) and I always wonder if the estrangeiros really understand what the lyrics are all about (common criticisms levelled at funk music is that the lyrics are misogynistic and encourage the sexualisation of young girls).

Well, help is at hand for the confused gringo wannabe funkeiro. A group calling themselves “Medley In Brazil” have been performing translated versions of popular Funk tracks and the results are pretty hilarious. First have a listen to the original as Avassaladores (Overwhelmers?) sing this self-effacing song of modesty and meekness, Sou Foda:

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 10

Carnival Songs: Mamãe Eu Quero

Well it’s that time of year again – carnival lovers start planning their fantasias while carnival haters start looking for a quiet country pousada where they can escape the mayhem.

This will be my fourth carnival and I’m really looking forward to it. Contrary to what you might expect, I have enjoyed each carnival more than the one before. This has been due to knowing what to expect, better planning, and getting to know the marchinhas (traditional carnival songs).

That last point might sound strange, but imagine yourself surrounded by thousands of people who are having the time of their lives, all singing their hearts out to what sounds like a really catchy song. Only problem is you don’t even know the tune, let alone the words. Sure there are worse things that can happen to you, but still, it’s more fun when you know the songs.

With that in mind, I’m adding another classic marchinha to my list of classic Carnival Songs that everyone should know. Mamãe Eu Quero, written by Vicente Paiva in 1936, is one of the most popular marchinhas of all time. Paiva was born in 1908 in São Paulo and sadly I could only find one picture of him.


Vicente Paiva may not have left a lot of photos, but his music is still going strong.

As well as being a composer, Paiva was also a pianist, singer and arranger. Mamãe Eu Quero is probably the song he is best known for, though he was no one-hit wonder – he also wrote O Cordão da Bola Preta and Voltei Pro Morro

But let’s get to his greatest success. Mamãe Eu Quero (Mummy I want it) was recorded in December 1936 by friends and collaborators, Jararaca and Almirante. Released in early 1937, the song was a huge hit in that year’s carnival. Here is that original version:

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 05

A stroll in Saúde with Rolé Carioca

Last Sunday, a friend and I got up super early (well, 8am, but this was a Sunday remember) and headed to central Rio. Centro is a weird place on the weekend – most of the huge, wide streets, so busy and chaotic on weekdays, are almost completely deserted.

It’s a shame because Centro has some beautiful buildings and excellent bars and restaurants but almost everything shuts down on weekend – you half expect to see tumbleweeds rolling down Avenida Rio Branco. There are some oases, such as the Saturday samba on Rua do Ouvidor, but the vast majority of the city centre is completely fechado.

There are some reasons to be hopeful – I’m hoping that regeneration schemes such as Porto Maravilha will help improve the situation. While we wait for that though, there is another option but it means giving up your Sunday morning lie-in.


The people at Rolé Carioca organise walks through the more interesting, historical areas of the city.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 01

Photo Post: Yep, that’s where I’d park too…

You’ve got the entire car-park to yourself, in front of this monster-sized piece by Toz (the largest mural in Rio). Where are you going to park?

 [click it for larger view]

Nice placement

Nice placement…




Oct 17

Vinícius de Moraes

When I get to the end of my life, I hope I’ll be able to look back and say that I lived a little. I guess things are going pretty well so far – I’ve travelled more than most (and had scrapes and adventures along the way), I’ve had some interesting jobs and I’ve met a good number of weird and wonderful people.

But no matter how interesting my life turns out to be, I doubt I’ll come close to the subject of today’s post. This Brazilian was born in 1913 and died in 1980 and during his 66 years he worked as a diplomat, musician, composer, poet and playwright. He married 8 times, had 4 kids, wrote a play that was adapted into an Oscar winning film and was central to the development of a new and hugely successful style of music. Oh yeah, and he co-wrote the second most recorded pop song of all time.

In case you haven’t guess yet, I’m talking about this guy:


Vinícius de Moraes – a man of many talents.

Read the rest of this entry »

Older posts «