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Musical Interlude 1: “Ponteio” and “O Ovo”


      In 1967 Quarteto Novo accompanied composer Edu Lobo at the Third International festival of Brazilian Popular Music, winning first prize with his song “Ponteio,” a spirited baião that has since become one of Lobo’s most famous compositions. Quarteto Novo’s performance was energetic and featured a unique birdcall–like phrase invented by Hermeto, a duet line between guitar and flute that was played under the second chorus (Fig. 3).

Hermeto Pascoal Ponteio

Figure 3: “Ponteio” (Edu Lobo/Capinam). Flute (top) and guitar (bottom) line.

Quarteto Novo recorded their only LP in 1967 for Odeon records, titled simply Quarteto Novo, which included Hermeto’s second recorded composition, “O Ovo” (The Egg). “O Ovo” is a baião utilizing a simple two–part melody that conjures up the spirit of the pife bands and forro trios that Hermeto participated in during his youth.[10]

Hermeto Pascoal O Ovo

Fig. 4: “O Ovo” melody

      The recording begins with an introduction paraphrasing the second half of the melody, after which Hermeto plays the melody on flute and Heraldo do Monte joins him on guitar on the second chorus. Caxixí (bamboo shaker) and triangle add to the folkloric effect. Zabumba is added under Hermeto’s flute solo, which lasts two choruses and employs double–tonguing and Hermeto’s signature technique of simultaneously singing and playing. Quarteto Novo’s single recording remains extremely influential and, with its synthesis of northeastern sounds and improvisation, is often cited as a watershed in Brazilian instrumental music that marked a departure from the bossa nova/samba–jazz and choro paradigms that had dominated previous Brazilian instrumental musics.

      Airto left the group in 1968, moving to New York to join singer Flora Purim, his future wife. His place in Quarteto Novo was taken by a young drummer from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Nenê (Realcino Lima Filho, b. 1947), who told me that playing with Quarteto Novo “was, for me at the time, a dream. . . I stayed with the group until it broke up. . . The group lasted for more than a year with me and we worked with people like Edu Lobo, Milton Nascimento, and Geraldo Vandré” (Nenê 2000). In 1968 the group toured France with Edu Lobo, which was Hermeto’s first trip outside of Brazil. Quarteto Novo eventually disbanded in 1969 as artistic life in Brazil suffered under the military government’s increasing repression after the introduction of the Institutional Act V.[11]

      Hermeto continued to work during this time, but only sporadically. He played with Brazilian Octopus, a legendary band led by the tropicália guitarist Lanny Gordin, a kind of all–star progressive rock band that also included pianist Cido Bianchi (of the Jongo Trio and Milton Banana’s trio), guitarist Olmir “Alemão” Stocker, and bassist Nilson da Matta. Formed in the early part of 1968 at the behest of Rhodia, a São Paulo textile manufacturer, Brazilian Octopus debuted at Momento 68, an ambitious festival that also happened to be produced by Rhodia (one of a number of events the company organized to promote their products).[12] Hermeto played alto saxophone and remembers that for the festival the band members dressed in animal costumes and played inside a giant cage. The group recorded with Japanese saxophonist Sadao Watanabe and released one self–titled LP (recently re-released on CD) which featured two of Hermeto’s compositions: “Rhodosando” and “Chayê” (Calado 2000).


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[10] Pife bands (or banda de pifano) are folkloric ensembles from the northeast usually consisting of two pifes (bamboo flutes) and three percussionists (zabumbatarol, cymbals).

[11] Institutional Act No. 5 gave the military absolute powers of censorship and the right to detain anyone thought to be engaged in crimes against ‘national security.’ The act signaled the triumph of the hard-liners within the military regime and initiated the harshest period of repression.

[12] For the festival, Tropicália veteran Rogério Duprat was the Musical director. The festival also included Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Eliana Pittman (daughter of the expatriate American saxophonist Booker Pittman), dancer Lennie Dale and texts written by the famous poet Millor Fernandes.