One of the most colorful and controversial characters in the samba world, Bezerra Da Silva took the criminal "malandro" (bad guy) image of 1940s singers such as Moreira Da Silva, and turned it into a veritable industry. Born in 1927, Bezerra began performing professionally in the 1950s, but didn't record under his own name until 1969, with his first full-length album appearing six years later, in 1975. Slowly he created his cartoonishly criminal persona, singing malandro lyrics over perky, acoustic pagode samba arrangements, in a style he called sambandido. Da Silva sang pop hits extolling the lifestyle of the criminals that ran the underground economy of Brazil's favela slums -- songs about murder, kidnaping, the bicho lottery, the war with the police and the endless feuds of the drug trade. He also sang about political corruption and social hypocrisies, positing himself as an anti-establishment figure. Indeed, many of Da Silva's songs were written by samba artists who used psuedonyms to protect their real identities, in order to avoid problems with the law. In some respects, Bezerra Da Silva's records are gimmicky and repetitive, yet the musical quality is always very high... So it may take a while before you realize that those perky melodies hide such outlandish lyrics... Anyway, here's a quick look at some of his records...
Bezerra Da Silva "O Rei Do Coco" (Tapecar, 1975)
Bezerra Da Silva "O Rei Do Coco, v.2" (Tapecar, 1976)
Bezerra Da Silva & Genaro "Partido Alto Nota 10" (CID, 1977)
Bezerra Da Silva "Partido Alto Nota 10, v.2: Bezerra Da Silva E Seus Convidados" (CID, 1979)
Bezerra Da Silva & Rey Jordao "Partido Alto Nota 10, v.3" (CID, 1980) *
Bezerra Da Silva "Partido Muito Alto" (RCA Victor, 1980)
Bezerra Da Silva "Samba Partido E Outras Comidas" (RCA Victor, 1981)
Bezerra Da Silva "...E Um Punhado De Bambas" (RCA Victor, 1982)
Bezerra Da Silva "Produto Do Morro" (RCA Victor, 1983)
Bezerra Da Silva "E Esse Ai Que E O Homen" (RCA Victor, 1984)
Poor Bezerra! Everybody's always pickin' on him... here, on the cover we see some snitch fingering him to the cops (and on the back, we see him getting led away in 'cuffs...) Despite the gangster image, he sure does make some pretty-sounding music. This is another deceptively lovely samba album; possibly a little mellower and more graceful than some of his other records, certainly very, very listenable and sweetly melodic. Recommended!
Bezerra Da Silva "Malandro Rife" (RCA Victor, 1985)
Bezerra Da Silva "Alo Malandrgem, Maloca O Flagrante" (RCA Victor, 1986)
Another fine, pretty-sounding Bezerra gangsta-samba treasure... Okay, sure, the first track ends with a comedic overlay of gunfire, but other than that, this is packed with mellow-sounding melodies and maliciously funny themes... Wondering why your four years of college Portuguese isn't quite cutting it on this one? Look in the back: there's even a glossary of 1980s-era malandro slang, just in case you want to follow along. Another nice one from this morro-based bad boy.
Bezerra Da Silva "Justica Social" (RCA, 1987)
(Produced by Aramis Barros)
A solid, completely enjoyable set of classic-sounding acoustic sambas, with a lively blend of jangly cavaquinho and bright vocal choruses, with Da Silva's nimble vocals riding atop it all. Solid, old-school pagode-style pop... It's a mighty fine album... Recommended!
Bezerra Da Silva "Violencia Gera Violencia" (Ariola, 1988)
Bezerra Da Silva "Se Nao Fosse O Samba" (Ariola, 1989) (LP)
Bezerra Da Silva "Eu Nao Suo Santo" (Ariola, 1990)
Bezerra Da Silva "Partideiro De Pesada" (Ariola, 1991) (LP)
Bezerra Da Silva "Presidente Cao Cao" (RCA-BMG, 1994)
Although he's flipping the whole world off on the album cover, Bezerra gives the favelas something pretty to dance to... More sweet, loping rhythms, gentle guitar-and-cavaquinho strumming, the trademark languid samba chorus... And lyrics about drugs, poverty and crime that are occasionally punctuated by police sirens and gun shots. The theatrics could be seen as corny if they didn't actually reflect life in the Brazilian slums... Includes songs by Noca Da Portela, Pinga, and a host of lesser-known composers in Da Silva's bad-boy circle. What's most amazing, though, is how pretty-sounding the music is; the whistful sense of saudade that permeates these records make urban decay sound so romantic and relaxing... Just keep your hand on your wallet, and you'll be fine.
Bezerra Da Silva "Cocada Boa" (RCA-BMG, 1994)
The title track is, I believe, a cocaine-related pun: the album art shows Bezerra selling cocadas, a white-frosted coconut pastry, to several young folks and a grey-uniformed cop; on the back cover, the young-uns are really happy, and the cop is scratching his head, staring at the little slice of happy-cake. On the album, Bezerra's ever-present chorus chants cheerily, "Coca da boa!" making the pun a little more plain (as if the song's title, "Overdose do Cocada,"wasn't clear enough...) It's business as usual in Da Silva's morro shantytown... the music is propulsive and infectious, and while listening to this whole album from end to end might get a little wearying, each song on it is catchy as hell. Fun stuff with socially questionable lyrics and killer music and vocals... Recommended.
Bezerra Da Silva "Contra O Verdadeiro Canalha" (RGE, 1994)
Bezerra Da Silva/Dicro/Moreira Da Silva "Os Tres Malandros In Concert" (CID, 1995)
The gag here is that Bezerra and his bad boy buddies are parodying the multi-platinum Pavarotti opera super-group, the Three Tenors. Yep, there they are, posing in front of a Brazilian opera house, decked out in bright shiny tuxes, hamming it up for the camera. Nudge, nudge, wink wink. The trouble is, they also take the parody into the recording studio... which might be funny on one track, maybe two... but not several. And when these old wheezy geezers start doing the dozens on Luciano... well, really -- who cares? Of course, there's plenty of great acoustic samba action on here as well... but when you can get the same wonderful, swayingly melodic music on one of Da Silva's "straight" albums, without all the mugging around, why settle for a cheap joke? Good, but not crucial.
Bezerra Da Silva "Meu Samba E Duro Na Queda" (RGE, 1996)
More awesome acoustic sambas with Da Silva's trademark bad-boy "malandro" edge. Da Silva's politics are pretty blunt -- if even I can understand the lyrics, they're pretty blunt -- and also pretty stagey. Who cares? The music is awesome. Catchy, driving, melodically seductive music with those fab, keening choruses that make the acoustic sambas so groovy. Highly recommended!
Bezerra Da Silva "Provando E Comprovando Sua Versatilidade" (Universal, 1998)
Bezerra Da Silva "Eu To De Pe" (Universal, 1998)
Bezerra Da Silva "Ao Vivo" (CID, 1999)
About what you'd expect... Bezerra has fun gliding through bouncy, no-nonsense live versions of some favorite songs during a show in the Gremio Recreativo Academicos da Rocinha, in Rio... The production is very solid, indeed, there's so little improvising that it sounds a lot like his studio albums, while the presence of the live audience isn't strongly felt. Still, it's nice stuff: more pretty music with scandalous lyrics. (And there's even a lyric sheet provided, which might make the songs more fun...)
Bezerra Da Silva "Malandro E Malandro E Mane A Mane" (Atracao, 2000)
Bezerra Da Silva "A Giria E Cultura Do Povo" (Atracao, 2002)
Bezerra Da Silva "Pega Eu" (Som Livre, 2003) (*)
Bezerra Da Silva "Meu Bom Juiz" (CID, 2003) (*)
Bezerra Da Silva "Focus: O Essencial De Bezerra Da Silva" (BMG, 1999)
Samba singer Bezerra Da Silva is known as a master of the malandro (bad guy) genre, samba's decades-old equivalent of American gangsta rap. I can't vouch for the lyrics, but the musical content on this best-of disc is all top-notch. It's great stuff, full of slinky cavaquinho mandolins, cheery-sounding vocal choruses, and gorgeous, sleek melodic production. I love the way this music sounds & would definitely recommend this record.
Bezerra Da Silva "Perolas" (Som Livre, 2000)
Bezerra Da Silva "Grandes Sucessos De Bezerra Da Silva" (CID) (*)
Bezerra Da Silva "E So Sucesso Malandro" (Atracao, 2002)
Bezerra Da Silva "O Partido Alto Do Samba" (BMG, 2004) (*)
Bezerra Da Silva "Maxximum" (Sony-BMG, 2005)
Marcelo D2 "...Canta Bezerra Da Silva" (EMI, 2010)
Brazilian hip-hopper Marcelo D2 pays homage to bad-boy samba star, Bezerra Da Silva, who took Brazil's "malandro" (gangsta) tradition and brought it into the modern era of drug kingpins and automatic weapons. Interestingly enough, Marcelo steps out of his usual rap/soul mode and goes mostly old-school samba on this one, keeping close to Bezerra's rootsy sound.
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