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Kizombas, Andancas e Festancas.

Martinho da Vila, one of the most accomplished Brazilian samba singers and composers, wrote a book without any literary pretensions. He does not seek immortality at the Brazilian Academy of Literature; his immortality lies in the Brazilian Academy of Samba. In his book, Martinho reveals himself through what he reveals about his friends, slowly, mentioning name after name and using imagination and fantasy to describe the trilogy of Brazilian passion: samba, carnival and soccer. Well flavored with cachaca and feijoada, Martinho's story focuses on the people of the hills, the people of the streets--people who radiate light with smiles that are full of joy. Kizombas (a word with African origins meaning encounter or brotherhood), marches and binges parade through a loose narrative, without pretensions, full of Vila Isabel, the traditional neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro where the Samba School of Vila Isabel was founded. This barrio was also the birthplace and breeding ground of Noel Rosa, the great mythical figure of Brazilian popular music.

Martinho tells of his journey to Angola, where he rediscovered his origins and his passion for Mother Africa which strengthens his social discourse. The book examines the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, an interview with Pele, and the recently approved Cao law, covering crimes resulting from racial prejudices in Brazil. As a reference source for a people who are thought to have a short memory, the book contains biographical accounts of Martin Luther King, Jr., Winnie Mandela and Malcolm X.

Martinho also recounts the history of the jogo do bicho, a lottery game with 25 numbers in which each number represents a different animal. This game, which originated in Rio de Janeiro, and specifically in Vila Isabel, was created by a baron, the Baron de Drummond, who was inspired by a Mexican game based on the names of flowers. Even though it is illegal, the jogo do bicho is very popular in Rio de Janeiro and throughout Brazil, and it is intimately related to the carnival and the samba school parades.

Through personal archives, Martinho recounts the history of the carnival since 1946, the year he founded his samba school, traveling through his neighborhood and life like a sonho sonhado (dreamt dream), the title of the samba that he composed based on a poem by Brazilian writer Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

Martinho da Vila's book is a faithful reflection of Martinho, of Vila Isabel, of Rio de Janeiro and of Brazil. Perhaps this is why he waited until the end of the book to describe the extraordinary success of "Kizomba, a celebration of race". In 1988, when all of Brazil commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the abolition of slavery, the Samba School of Vila Isabel created a new kind of carnival, a manifestation of peace between the races. The luxury, splendor and futile nudism of previous celebrations was replaced with the roots--the essence of past, present and future where history is never repeated. Martinho, who can compose a good samba, can also write a good book. He has this right, and "right is right." It is written in The Declaration: humanity is always right.
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Author:Silva, Aroldo Souza
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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