By José Hamilton Ribeiro
– Inezita has one flaw.
Words said by Dino Franco, at his house in Rancharia (SP). He is the greater reference of the second generation of “caipiras”. The first one included the “patriachs”, the creators of the genre, the group of Raul Torres, Tonico & Tinoco, Carreirinho, Mário Zan, Alvarenga & Ranchinho, plus other eight or nine, who were the pioneers in bringing to the city the music born in the countryside.
Dino Franco is one of the youngest, but as great as the others in talent and in creating “modas” of quality. Among his recordings are state of the art songs such as “Cheiro de Relva”, “Ingrata” and “Caboclo na Cidade”, this last one with a funny lyric, telling the drama of a family that looses the roots of the countryside, but is not yet able to fit into the urban way of life. Dino Franco is in love with Inezita, but insists: “She has a flaw. And it’s serious!”.
I had this in mind the last time I’ve been to Inezita’s home, at Rua Gabriel dos Santos, near Avenida Angélica, in São Paulo. we had a multiple chat, with pauses into three subjects: 1. “Moda da Pinga”; 2. Inezita as a movie star; 3. The relationship between her mockingbird and a tuned up guitar.
- “Moda da Pinga”
There is an unforgettable video of Inezita singing “Moda de Pinga” at TV Cultura. Mastering the stage with her glorious charm, she acts as if she is really drinking something while singing the verses. Without her elegance, it could figure as being exaggerated, of bad taste or a caricature of a drunk person.
Inezita liked to talk about the song “Moda da Pinga” and about several other aspects of its reconding in Rio de Janeiro (in the 1950s, singers from São Paulo used to go to Rio to work). The first one concerns the fact that it was her first record, one with 78 rpm (with “Ronda”, from Paulo Vanzolini, on the other side, both songs in exclusive release). Second: the song didn’t fit the record – it was sang among “violeiros” in the farms and lasted all night long, going on for hours, always improvising. To fit in a 78 rpm – three to four-minute track –, the song had to be shortened, reducing it to a few verses. Until today, although the new media stands for longer songs, most part of it, including the “caipira”, lasts the same three and a half minutes. Third: “Moda da Pinga” should not have an authorship. It was created by “violeiros” from small ranches and farms, anonymous as time went by, always gaining one verse and another according to the moment.
Tinoco, from Tonico & Tinoco duo, used to say that their compositions were not invented by them, but were “scenes of life” they’ve gone through, or even songs that already existed and were told by an older relative or by someone from another farm. When they went to visit another ranch, they managed to learn the music from there. Classics such as “Chico Mineiro”, “Rio Pequeno” and “Moreninha Linda” were born that way. In the countryside, a song was like a bird: belonged to the person who caught it. It would belong to someone once in the city, in the radio, in a record, with register and copy rights.
What happened to “Moda da Pinga” was the rule. This guaranteed a varied and rich repertoire of songs to this first generation of caipiras, who could use the wide range of issues, dramas and contents, besides the melody, that existed for many years, maybe centuries, in the oral communication of the older ones. Today, this is a Brazilian cultural treasure: it represents the chronicle of Brazilian countryside men (called “caipira”), of a time Brazil was mainly an “agricultural country”, with more than 80% of the population in rural areas.
It’s possible that no countryman could describe its piece of land so detailed as the caipira music is able to do, providing information to research, through melody and lyrics. They carry the description of working habits, leisure times, beliefs and feelings, how people chose marriage partners, how they faced death. All written by great poets, the best ones, from the “real Brazil” of that time.
- Inezita at the movies
Folklorist and lover of regional culture (northeastern above all), Assis Ângelo, who lives in São Paulo for more than 30 years, wrote a poetic book about Inezita’s childhood. Two books are still missing: one about her as a singer, a master on caipira music, cultural enthusiast and national celebrity thanks to Viola, Minha Viola; the other about her time in the movie business.
The second book is guaranteed, since TV Cultura has the archives. Out of the blue, someone will do it. The third is more difficult, because the movies wouldn’t be enough and Inezita would be essential to talk about the time she was a young famous woman. What a woman! Discrete and reserved, she never encouraged talking about this subject.
- The mockingbird and the stubborn guitar
During our last interview, Inezita grabed the guitar to sing “Penas do Tiê”, but the strings were new and out of tune. She tried to figure out the chords needed, but couldn’t. Tried once more, got a better sound, but still was less than expected.
- You know what? I know how to fix it.
She entered the house. In the kitchen, there was a yellow brest rufous-bellied thrush, which was silent during the whole interview. Either she touched the cage, or said something, or gave it food, I don’t know – the fact is that the bird started to sing. When she came back to the living room, smiling, holding a small glass and happy for hearing the bird, grabbed the guitar and finally was able to tune it. Tested the throat, it was in good shape. The beauty of “Penas do Tiê” came together with Inezita’s brand: artistic excellence, authenticity and emotion. Before the beginning and laughing out louder, she explained:
– Did you see? I turned the mockingbird on!
– So what, Dino Franco, Inezita Barroso really has a flaw?
– Which is?
– She’s only one! In Brazil, as it is today, we’d need at least three of her…
(Dino Franco died in April, 2014, at the age of 77. He had 200 new lyrics to put music, what he used to do every week, taking care to make of each one the most beautiful composition ever.)
José Hamilton Ribeiro is a journalist at Globo Rural, author of Música Caipira – as 270 Maiores Modas, among other books, which has a selection of the best compositions of the genre until today, with stories and analysis.