Dorival Caymmi: The Alpha and Omega of Brazilian Music

Everybody who likes Brazilian music knows who Antonio Carlos Jobim is. Or Carmen Miranda. Bebel Gilberto. What about Dorival Caymmi?  Not as many know his work. In my own small way I hope to change that.

Dorival Caymmi (1914-2008) paved the way for Jobim, started Carmen Miranda’s career, and influenced an entire generation of musicians who came up in the 1950′s and 1960′s: Tom Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, and everybody else. Dorival wrote catchy melodies and songs about the sea, nature, the beauty of Brazil. His music not only celebrated Brazil:  it embodied the country’s very spirit.

And now his immortal songs are celebrated in a new album, The Essential Caymmi: Dorival Caymmi Centenary, released in 2014 but only arriving here very recently. The CD features musical luminaries like Chico BuarqueGilberto GilCaetano Veloso, and the Caymmikids:  DoriNana, and Danilo.  The 15 songs on the album are richly orchestrated by both Dori Caymmi and Mario Adnet. Dori, Nana, and Danilo grew up with the titans of Brazilian music (and some Hollywood types as well). Carmen Miranda, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Ary Barroso, Noel Rosa, Orlando Silva, Silvio Caldas, Pixinguinha, Baden Powell, and Elis Regina were part of the extended family. The artists on this new CD have been lifelong friends. It is a feast for the ears to say the least, and provides a gorgeous musical portrait of the history of Brazil and its music.

I’ve been a fan of Dori Caymmi since the 1980s. I used to eat at little restaurant on Ventura Blvd. called Le Cafe:  it had good food downstairs and a small, intimate club upstairs. Dori performed regularly there. I met my friend Bob Ramirez waiting in line there in 1988. He and I went to Borneo in 1989 and listened to Dori’s music as we explored the rainforest and rivers of Sarawak. It was the perfect soundtrack. A few years later, Ramirez designed and built my previous home. We are lifelong friends, and it started with our mutual love of Dori’s music.

It’s often said that many famous people stand on the shoulders of giants. Dorival was a giant of popular Brazilian music, and so is his son Dori. And, as the old saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Dori visited the station this week to present the new album. Here are the songs we featured:

1.  O Que é que a Baiana Tem (What is it about Bahian Women) (featuring Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, and Caetano Veloso). This song put a young, unknown Carmen Miranda on the world’s map.  A few years later she was a big star in Hollywood, reportedly the highest-paid woman in the world in 1945.

2.  Vatapá: an African word and Brazilian culinary delight.  Sung by Danilo Caymmi, Dori’s younger brother

3.  A Lenda do Abaeté (the legend of Abaeté): a song about a dark, mysterious, and ominous dark lagoon. Sung by Dori’s older sister Nana.

4.  Samba da Minha Terra (song of my homeland). Sung by Gilberto Gil.

5.  Marina. A love song sung by Chico Buarque.

This is a great new CD and easy to find. Although it’s an import, you can get it from Amazon and hopefully even from a good brick and mortar store like Amoeba.  The label is DRG.





Tom Schnabel