Ismael Silva

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About Ismael Silva

Ismael Silva was a bamba (prominent samba composer) of renowned school Estácio de Sá, cradle of samba. Successor of the immortal Sinhô (José Barbosa da Silva), the King of Samba. His partner Noel Rosa called him "the soul of samba". He was also the founder of the first school of samba. In spite of being regarded as Estácio's hill own treasure, Ismael Silva was born at the beach of Jurujuba, in Niterói RJ. At three years of age, he, his four brothers, his mother, a washerwoman, and his father, a working man, moved to Estácio. He would live in other neighborhoods of Rio's. His father, Benjamin da Silva, would die soon after they moved, leaving the family in poverty. His mother, Emília Correia Chaves, having to work hard, couldn't raise all the children all by herself, so she distributed them between her relatives. Little Ismael went to São Carlos hill, where he would live with aunt Carola until he was six or seven, when he would join mom again, at Rio Comprido, near Estácio. As Ismael told in interviews, he had to make such a fuss to go to school. His illiterate mother couldn't understand the importance of studying, and, having so many problems and work to do, school had to wait day after day. Until he, tired of waiting, entered the neighborhood school and sat at an empty chair, without asking permission to anybody. When the teacher amazed at him, he said he wanted to learn to read. The teacher's astonishment was even bigger the next day when she met him in class, already matriculated, book at hand. Soon he would be a distinguished student, taking care of the less proficient ones and assisting the teacher. Meanwhile, little Ismael followed the fate imposed by mom's poverty, having to move constantly; at eight, to Santa Teresa, then several addresses in Catumbi, and, at seventeen, to 29 Estácio de Sá Street. His first, unrecorded samba, "Já Desisti," was composed at 15. When he went back to Estácio he began to frequent the Bar e Café Apolo, along with other points where the sambistas like Bide, his brother Rubem Barcelos, Avelino, Noberto, Baiaco, Mano Edgar, Nilton Bastos and Brancura met. People enjoyed his compositions so much that he would be recorded early in 1925 by pianist Cebola (Orlando Tomás Coelho), in a Casa Edison record: "Me faz carinho." It had simple lyrics (not present in the instrumental rendition), but already predicted the master's talent for rich melodic inflections. The rodas de samba were already a tradition in Estácio, when Ismael got there. The vibrant partido alto sessions became deeply engraved in his soul: a chorus accompanied by handclapping around which each one in his turn improvise verses. Close enough there was the important center for preservation of black culture, the Tia Ciata's home, where the first recorded samba, "Pelo Telefone, was born. The magic was around, and melted in his blood forever. Interned at the Hospital da Gamboa, was visited by Bide, who brought a proposal by the "idol of the multitudes" Francisco Alves, the first Brazilian professional musician, extremely popular singer and clever discoverer of new talents. Chico Alves, as he was known, used to buy songs from young popular composers for pocket money, and this wasn't different in Ismael's case: he happily sold to Chico, for 20 or 100 mil-réis (he never recalled exactly) "Me faz carinho," quickly signing in the contract already brought by Bide, "before Chico regretted". "Me faz carinho" would be recorded in 1927 by Chico Alves for Odeon, seal 10 100. With the agile accompaniment of the Orquestra Pan Americana, from Cassino Copacabana, the song became a hit. Ismael became a steady supplier of Chico's, and the authorship of that song, as was printed in the record, was credited only to Chico Alves. Soon after, Ismael sold to Chico, again for 100 mil-réis, "Amor de malandro." One night, Ismael was at the Bar Apolo with his friends, when Chico Alves, coming by car to Estácio looking for him, got into the bar, took Ismael to a street corner and asked him to sing his repertoire while he, Chico, accompanied him on the violão. Many hours later, satisfied, he put the sambista into his car, and made his proposal: from then on, he'd record anything Ismael would compose, in exclusivity, upon the condition that he, Chico, was mentioned as co-author. Ismael contra-proposed that he'd agree, if his friend and partner Nilton Bastos was included in the business. Chico accepted verbally the contra-proposal and honored it while the association lasted. So, after this arrangement, everything Ismael and Niltoncomposed was recorded by Chico, and the recording labels became accustomed to anticipate the high sales of the inseparable trio of friends known as Os Bambas do Estácio. Several gems such as "Não há," "Nem é bom falar," and the big hit issued in the voices of the duo Francisco Alves and Mário Reis, "Se você jurar"(recently recorded by João Bosco), became known due to this fortunate association. Chico Alves was quite a stingy, by his contemporaries' accounts. Ismael didn't deny this fact, recalling that any pocket money he needed for his cigarettes was discounted from his part at the end of each month. But he recalled, too, that when he needed, in an occasion, 250 mil-réis, Chico pawned an estimated ring to get the money. 1928 was the year when Ismael gathered the folks of the blocos de sujos of the neighborhood and founded the first samba school of Rio, Deixa Falar (Let Them Talk). He accounts as his creation the expression "Escola de Samba", taken by analogy of the school of Estácio, from where came the "professors" of samba. Founded at Aug. 12, 1928, they had their first parade next year. The transition from maxixe, an ancient style precursor of samba and choro, to the samba, more appropriate to the parade, being rhythmically marked by the strong percussive impetus and instruments, was credited by Ismael to this creation of the first samba school. Until 1931, when Nilton Bastosdied of tuberculosis, Ismael and Nilton would compose many songs turned into great successes by the cherished voice of Chico Alves'. It is impossible to determine the exact authorship of all songs, as the two would work together in some occasions (as Ismael deposed once, never), but in others, only one worked and credited the other with the co-authorship. Having this sad year marked Ismael's life again with the death, in a gambling dispute, of Mano Edgar', Ismael left Estácio and came to Downtown Rio. Then he began to compose with Noel Rosa, and in this very year they composed "Para me livrar do mal," recorded next year. Other big hits of the couple would be "Adeus"(with Chico Alves figuring as co-author), dedicated to Nilton Bastos and issued in 1932 by the duo Jonjoca-Castro Barbosa; "Uma jura que eu fiz"(again with Chico Alves ), issued by Mário Reis in 1932; "Ando cismado," by Francisco Alves in 1933; and "A razão dá-se a quem tem" (with Chico Alves ), big hit by the duo Chico Alves -Mário Reis in 1933. Ismael's first appearance as interpreter came in 1932, in duo with Noel Rosa. The song was the samba "Escola de malandro," by Orlando Luís Machado), through Odeon. Next year, the duo issued two of Noel's sambas, "Quem não dança"and "Seu Jacinto." Several major interpreters began to record his compositions, such as Carmen Miranda, Sílvio Caldas and João Petra de Barros. With the death of his partner Noel Rosa in 1937, Ismael felt in ostracism for the whole decade of 1940, returning in 1950 when the singer Alcides Gerardi remembered in a sad rendition his samba "Antonico," later recorded by several younger interpreters, such as Gal Costa and Gato Barbieri. In 1954, the singer and man of radio Almirante promoted in São Paulo the Primeiro Festival da Velha Guarda (~ First Festival of the Old Guard), highlighting illustrious names of old composers, Ismael 's between them. This marked a period of rebirth for the old names of popular music, and he would act in 1955 in the show "O samba nasce no coração," at the boîte Casablanca, together with major names of the preceding decades. The first two Lp's recorded as interpreter of his own compositions would only come in 1956, at 51 years old: O Samba na voz do sambista (Sinter); and Ismael canta Ismael (Mocambo). Follows another gap and a resurgence in 1964, at the popular Zicartola, with huge acclamation. Acted with Aracy de Almeida at the Teatro Opinião, next year, in the musical O samba pede passagem, with a Philips record by the same name. He then was paid homage at the Bienal do Samba, in São Paulo SP, in TV and radio shows, and returned to the stage in 1973 to work in the show Se você jurar, by Ricardo Cravo Albin, at the Teatro Paiol, Curitiba PR. He'd record in that same year the Lp Se você jurar, with some hits of the old days and new sambas: "Contrastes," "Alegria," "Aliás," "Receio," "Entrada Franca"and "Afina a viola." His work is not confined to his artistry in music: he left influences that helped to mold the imagery of the urban carioca samba, turned concrete in the works the likes of Vinicius de Moraes, Hermínio Belo de Carvalho and Lúcio Rangel. ~ Alvaro Neder

September 14, 1905

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