CHIQUINHA GONZAGA: MEANING BEHIND THE SONG TITLES
1. Atraente (Attractive): Polka, debut composition, 1877. The song was born when a group of choro players (chorões, or weepers) gathered at the composer Henrique Alves de Mesquita’s place, and received the name Atraente because it used to charm the instruments attending the meeting into playing a typical choro improvisation. It became a smashing hit (15 editions in nine months!) and Chiquinha Gonzaga’s name rose to fame, which at first was something not entirely pleasant. The sudden popularity achieved by the author
was viewed as a provocation by her family, who started to destroy the scores that were sold in the streets by slave boys. The song still remains one of her most recorded compositions, second only to the popular Corta-Jaca.
2. Ó Abre Alas (Please Make Way): First Brazilian carnival march (marchinha) and first carnival song ever composed, it was written in 1899 for the carnival group of revelers called Rosa de Ouro (Golden Rose), from the Rio de Janeiro district of Andaraí. Chiquinha Gonzaga was already a renowned conductor when she drew inspiration from the carnival group, of which she was a neighbor, and composed Ó Abre Alas. It is still a classic among Brazilian songs, a work that has been so deeply incorporated into the Brazilian culture that it is sometimes mistaken for folklore. It is undoubtedly the most popular work produced by Chiquinha Gonzaga, although not ranked among the most recorded ones.
3. Gaúcho “Corta-Jaca:” This Brazilian tango, published with the title Gaúcho (a cowboy of the South American grassland plains - pampas), was more popularly known as Corta-Jaca (a step of a Brazilian dance in which the dancer twists and moves the foot as if cutting jackfruit). It was part of the burlesque operetta of manners called Zizinha Maxixe, which was staged at the Eden Lavradio Theater in August 1895. Along its history it was interpreted in the most varied types of places and included in several repertoires: singing cafés, draught-beer places, theaters, groups of choro players... But it was at the Catete Presidential Office (Palácio do Catete) that it won its glory. There it was performed on the guitar by the first lady Nair de Teffé, caused a political scandal and eventually nicknamed president Hermes da Fonseca’s administration. It is Chiquinha Gonzaga’s most recorded song, and has endured through time as a classic of the choro repertoire.
4. Sultana: Polka printed in 1878.
5. Cubanita (Little Cuban Tune): Habanera composed around 1898.
6. Passos no Choro (Mr. Passos Playing Choro): Brazilian polka, which printing date is not certain. The name refers to Mr. Antônio Maria Passos, a flutist of Chiquinha Gonzaga Group.
7. Plangente (Plaintive): A sentimental waltz printed in 1877 and published in the composer’s debut year that has always stood out among her best concerto waltzes.
8. Catita (Elegant): Polka printed around 1898.
9. Não insistas, rapariga! (Don’t you insist, young lady): Polka composed in 1877.
10. Lua Branca (White Moon): Variety of traditional urban Brazilian song (Modinha). Composed for the burlesque comedy of Rio de Janeiro manners called Forrobodó, the Modinha de Siá Zeferina became a hit, just like the play, and represents a milestone in the Brazilian popular theater (staged at the São José Theater in 1912). Originally it had comical verses, but years later it was “arranged” in a record with the title Lua de Fulgores (Dazzling Moon), and received serenade verses. In 1929 it was printed as Lua Branca, a version that reached our days harmonized by J. Otaviano with romantic verses. Chiquinha Gonzaga had to claim the authorship of the song and file a formal complaint against plagiarism. She eventually won the case through the Brazilian Society of Theater Authors - SBAT, an entity that she had helped to organize. The author of the lyrics remains unknown. Lua Branca became a classic among Brazilian songs.
11. Biónne (Adeus – Good-bye): Tango, 1895, printed in France during the first decades of this century, when South-American tango (from Argentina and Brazil) went international.