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Co-option, Cultural Resistance, and Afro-Brazilian Identity: A History of the "Pagode" Samba Movement in Rio

Co-option, Cultural Resistance, and Afro-Brazilian Identity: A History of the "Pagode" Samba Movement in Rio de Janeiro Author(s): Philip Galinsky

Source: Latin American Music Review / Revista de Música Latinoamericana, Vol. 17, No. 2

(Autumn - Winter, 1996), pp. 120-149

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Philip Galinsky



Resistance, and Afro-Brazilian Identity:

A History of the Pagode Samba Movement in

Rio deJaneiro

Lauded by popular composer and scholar Nei Lopes as "the most important musical phenomenon of the 1980s in

Brazil" (1993, 7), the pagode trend represents a major turning point for the contemporary urban samba, Brazil'smost famous musical genre. Although

largely by the black and

samba is an Afro-Brazilian expression nourished

mulatto working-classes in Rio deJaneiro (McGowan and Pessanha 1991, 28), the genre's constituent communities in that city (and throughout Bra- zil) have long experienced a co-option of their music by Brazil'sdominant classes.This situationhas facilitatedthe abandonmentof some of the samba's

most traditional elements in the name of commercial success or other

motivations. In particular, the Brazilian intelligentsia's tendency to regard

traditionalblack Brazilian expression as

more pressing concerns of modernity (and thus of internationalization),

has deeply affected the samba and other Brazilian art forms

6-7). Yet, ever since the genre's inception in Rio around the turn of the century,many sambamusicianshave countered co-option and its economic, social, ideological, and musical ramificationswith a strong show of cultural

resistance; the pagode current of the 1970s and 80s is exemplary of this legacy of resistance. Based on the informal, communal gathering of musicians (pagode), the movement was generated spontaneously in Rio's working-class suburbsin the mid-1970s partially as a response to the commercialization and corrup-

tion of the city's escolasde samba, or samba schools (large-scale,organized

carnival parade groups). The resultant

of the samba that had been somewhat neglected up to that point with a modified instrumentation and a modern, innovative sound. As such, the pagodephenomenon captivated a diverse Brazilianaudience which included members of the nation's largely white middle class. At the same time, it

a relic of the past, irrelevantto the

(Lopes 1993,


blended traditional elements

LatinAmericanMusicReview,Volume 17, Number 2, Fall/Winter1996

?1996 by the University of Texas Press, P.O.Box

7819,Austin, TX 78713-7819

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Pagode SambaMovement: 121

asserted a traditional Afro-Brazilian identity that countered the pervasive internationalizing trend in Brazilian popular music-which has impacted


In the mid- to late-1980s, the "rootsy"pagodestyle of samba and its ac-

music industry particularly since the 1970s (Lopes 1986, 93).

companying event (the informal samba gathering) were popular through- out Brazil. But by the early 1990s, a new, more commercialized samba

wave-also called pagode-hadreplaced the older style in the media. Today, the traditional pagode is confined mainly to black and mixed-race working-

class neighborhoods where, despite its marginalization in the media, it still enjoys a vigorous appeal alongside the new pagode and imported black musics. This article attempts to show how the two idioms known as pagode form divergent sonic and ideological perspectives: one of a national, tradition- bound Afro-Braziliancultural lineage (the older pagode), and the other, of an internationalized black Brazilian aesthetic (the new pagode). I examine both movements, with an emphasis on the earlier one, in light of co-op-


upon questions of race, class, and authenticity.' I contend that the history of the pagode reveals the struggles Afro-Braziliansface in asserting the samba traditionin the mass media and wider society, while also exemplifying the tenacity and renovative character of that tradition.

cultural resistance, and Afro-Brazilian identity, while also touching

A History of Pagode

Origins andA Historyof the Original Movement

Curiously derived from "pagoda" (an Asian temple), the

nounced "pa-GOH-gee") literally means "fun," "joke," or "merrymaking"

n.d., 51). However, in the parlance of the carioca (na-

tive of Rio

also long meant an informal, communal gathering of sambistas (sambaprac- titioners) as well as the samba music played at such an event (ibid., 56). Some well-known musicians even claim that during the slave era the term was used to mean a party on the slave plantations, although I have not encountered written historical evidence to back this assertion.2 Pagode-like events-whether referred to as pagodes or not-date back at least to the urban samba's beginnings in Rio in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. In this era, at the houses of the Afro-Bahian commu-

nity in the city's center, large-scale festive parties with food, drink, and


in Portuguese (Lopes

term pagode(pro-

deJaneiro), and of urban Brazilians in general, the word has

samba were

abundant.3 These parties not only united Rio's


instrumental in

black and mulatto communities (some whites did participate,

but also-especially at Tia (Aunt) Ciata's house-they were

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122 : Philip Galinsky

the genre's early development. Indeed, the very first song to be registered and recorded as a "samba,"and a carnival hit of the 1917season, "Pelo

Telefone," was created out of spontaneous improvisations at Ciata'shome.4 The pagode event spread to the Afro-Braziliancommunities of Rio's sub- urbs and favelas(slums) as well, following samba's journey from the center

to the fringes of the city. This geographical move reflected in part the flee-

ing of samba musicians from the authorities, who

and persecuted its practitioners in the early years of this century (Mukuna 1979,78; Raphael 1990, 74). Residential parties, street gatherings, and events associated with the city's carnival "sambaschool" associations (which had

begun in 1928) were all sources of the pagodeevent, as was the annual fair

in the Rio suburb of Penha (Festa da Penha), which spawned corded by the music industry (Lopes 1986, 106).

The pagode,however, seems to have taken its current form as a "back-

yard"phenomenon (fundo de quinta) at the end of the 1960s at the

Sr.Alcides in the Rio neighborhood of Botafogo (Lopes n.d., 58). Accord-

ing to Lopes, "There, around a large table,

composers gathered together in the utmost informality. And Sr. Alcides

secured some money selling

pagode was later echoed by a resourceful group of musicians and

ers in Rio's North Zone suburbof Ramos who, associated with the carnival


the music

sambas re-

home of

instrumentalists, singers and

beer" (ibid.). The format of this now-defunct


bloco (bloc) Cacique de


Ramos, gave birth to the pagode movement in the

rise of the pagode movement in Rio can be seen as a creative re-

sponse by samba's innovators to a co-option of their music and of the

samba schools-particularly to a marginalization

ers-all of which reached a pinnacle in the late 1970s.

class Brazilianshad embraced the samba schools as bastions of authentic national popular culture, and members of Rio's bourgeoisie began to infil- trate the organizations (Raphael 1990, 81). While some only paraded, oth- ers took on leadership roles, earning large sums as choreographers and designers (1990,81). Meanwhile, the schools' neighborhood members ironi- cally found it increasingly difficult just to affordtheir own costumes (1990,

81), even in spite of generous supportprovided by outside sponsors. Nota-

bly, such sponsors have included

exceptions, now control the workings of the schools either as elected offi-

cials or through puppet leaders (Guillermoprieto 1990, 79). By the 1970s,

some neighborhood school members were being denied the right to

rade since the group could incur penalties in the competition if it was too

big (Raphael 1990, 80). And the samba


samba year round, found that in the 1970sthe schools

the annual theme samba (samba-enredo) in the interest of a profit.


of the schools' compos-

By the 1960s, middle

gangsters called bicheiros who, with few


school composers who once could

place to perform

and enjoy non-carnival

were fostering only

the school headquarters as a

Indeed, it was principally Rio's dominant classes who had come to

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Pagode SambaMovement: 123

benefit economically from the samba, while the "majority of sambistascon- tinued to be poor and anonymous" (Lopes 1993, 6). Although traditional samba did flourishboth artistically and commercially in the 1970s through the work of several importantfigures (Martinho da Vila, Paulinho da Viola, Beth Carvalho, Clara Nunes, Alcione, and others), a more formulaic ten- dency known as samba-j6ia (gem samba) also won favor at this time (McGowan and Pessanha 1991, 50). But by the latter part of the decade,

the samba had lost status in the official culture. Not only did it cede both media and recording industry attention to international trends, but also the samba schools ceased to be considered the epitome of Rio's popular culture (Lopes 1993, 7). As Lopes indicates, "Itwas then that the genuine sambistas profoundly renovated the thematic and melodic conception of

the samba's dynamic rhythm, a renovation which led to

the pagod'e

(ibid.). The Bloco Carnavalesco Cacique de Ramos (The Indian Chief of Ramos Carnival Bloc) was founded by the brothers Bira and Ubirany (president

to gather

being a spectacular

carnival group, the blocoserved as a recreational club that offered parties, soccer games, and pagodes to its constituency as an alternativeto the stifling environment of the samba schools (Pereira 1993, 99; McGowan and Pessanha 1991,50). The pagodeactivity startedaround 1974. Every Wednes- day evening aftera free-formsoccer game, blocomembers and their friends would gather to eat, drink, and play samba. Ubirany explained to me how the Cacique de Ramos drew the cream of Rio's samba musicians and com- posers in the 1970s:

escolasdesambawere becoming much more

and vice-president of the club, respectively) in 1961 "forfun

people to have fun at carnival."5 Yet, in addition to

In this

epoch [the 1970s] the

closed.So yougathered ata sambaschool

the sambaof the escolaand

that beautifulrehearsalas it was in the


middleof the

beforethe samba-de-enredo [theme sambafor carnival]-that samba-de-terreiro

rehearsal,[and]you simply heard

sambaof otherescolas being sung. So it wasn't

past, I mean, before that epoch.


of an escola] dancing the sambain the

usedto listento-

quadra[rehearsalhall]. Youusedto see, you

[samba of the sambaschool



Butit was closed.The escolasdesambacameto

headquarters], the composer thereto sing


samba. [In a

makealmostwhatwas practically a battle, it wasn'tlikethe

ball-[in a quietervoice]

So the composers[did not have] a place

to sing theirsamba.Andthe Cacique de Ramoswas open

cameto see the mostdiverse composers of the

Cacique onthat Wednesday. Itwasa goodpleasure thatI can singmy

Anditbecame traditional, this

masters]really,bigcomposers ofthe escolas, all gathered at Cacique there sing-



understand?Bambas [samba

of carnival

itwasn'tthesambaschoolrehearsalasitusedto be.



couldshowtheir work, forthis.Thenwe

big [samba] schools going



[orthe?]stronghold of the samba,you know? 6

samba.Soit cameto be a

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124 : Philip Galinsky

From Cacique'sweekly informal meetings eventually emerged the semi- nal pagodeensemble, Grupo Fundo de Quintal (The BackyardGroup). Ini- tially consisting of Bira, Ubirany, Sereno, Jorge Aragao, Neoci, Almir Guineto, and Sombrinha (the lattertwo joined Cacique in 1979), the group had no intentions of becoming professional or of launching a movement. As Ubirany told me, "Itwasn't a researched thing, a movement where it was intended to arrive at something, no."7 Nevertheless, a whole network of sambistasthat included Arlindo Cruz (who later joined Fundo de Quin- tal), Zeca Pagodinho,Jovelina Perola Negra, Beto Sem Braco, and Pedrinho da F16r convened at Cacique, all gaining recognition along with Fundo de Quintal in the 1980s. The members of Fundo de Quintal furnished a new instrumentationfor the samba. Almir Guineto supplied a small, four-stringbanjo that substi- tuted for (or complemented) the typical cavaquinho(four-string ukelele-like instrument). Sereno offered the tan-tanor tanta,a drum resembling a pa- rade conga played with the hands on the lap, supplanting the heavier surdo bass drum, which is struckwith a mallet. And Ubirany modified the high-

pitched repique tenor drumto be played with the hands, yielding the repique-

de-mdo (hand-repique). In

(Brazilian tambourine), Jorge Aragao played six-string violao (guitar),

Sombrinha played seven-string violao,and Neoci

on record and in live performances the group added Ademir Batera on drum set as well as other guest instrumentalistson surdo,bass, and so on.) The Cacique gang revived old samba forms neglected by the escolas, such

as the partido-alto, and their lyrics were unpretentious, centering on situa- tions from daily life (McGowan and Pessanha 1991,50). Fundo de Quintal and the pagode movement in general gained wider exposure largely through the efforts of the popular samba vocalist Beth Carvalho. In 1977, Carvalho participated in the Cacique pagode and later invited members of the collective there to appear on two of her LPs, De Pe No Chao (1978) and No Pagode(1979), before taking them on a nationwide tour. Then in 1980, Carvalho brought to Cacique Durval Ferreiraof the Sao Paulo record company RGE-the first, and ultimately, most important label involved in the pagodemovement-resulting in Fundo de Quintal's debut recording, SambaE NoFundoDo Quintal(Samba Is in the Backyard). With barely any promotion at all, the album sold 30,000 copies, and the group went on to record with all of the big names in samba as well as supply their highly regarded composing talents to other artists;Carvalho, for instance, relied heavily on the group's material and instrumental skills on her albums in the 1980s. According to one articlein the Brazilian press, by the mid-1980s, a majority of the albums by samba artistshad at least three or four songs composed by members of Fundo de Quintal.9

The ensemble-which has had a periodically shifting

since its inception-has continued to release its own albums, winning

additionto these innovations, Bira played pandeiro

contributedvocals. (Later,


of musicians

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Pagode SambaMovement: 125

commercial success and criticalacclaim. Today, Fundo de Quintal remains Brazil'sforemost traditional pagode band.10 By 1983, the newly invigoratedpagode event had spreadthroughout Rio's

1988, 143). In addition to Cacique, other

important locales had emerged, including the Clube do Samba in Meier, the Terreirao da Doca in Oswaldo Cruz with the rehearsals of the Old Guardof the legendary Portelasamba school, and the Pagode do Arlindinho in Cascadura (Lopes n.d., 58). In 1983, following Fundo de Quintal's con- tinued success, the movement also began consistently to infiltratethe me- dia in defiance of the city's FM radio stations' longtime neglect of the samba. While Radio Cidade FM began to include some samba in its program- ming during carnival season (Lopes 1986, 101), homemade tapes recorded

live with samba composers were played on Radio Ipanema's eight-hour time-slot devoted to pagode.1 Zeca Pagodinho-a one-time Ramos adher- ent and one of the most dynamic and influential pagodepioneers-made his phonographic debut that year as well, singing with Beth Carvalho on "Camarao Que Dorme A Onda Leva" (The Wave Takesthe Shrimp That Sleeps), a now classic tune authored by Beto Sem Braco, Pagodinho, and Arlindo Cruz. According to one source, in 1983 the pagodebegan to sur- pass the samba-enredo (theme samba for carnival) in popularity.12 The year 1986 marked the explosion of the pagode movement in the media.13RGE released ten LPs of "pagode," FM radio stations in Rio and Sao Paulo decreased their performance of international music and began to play pagodedevotedly to great success, and Zeca Pagodinho, Almir Guineto, andJovelina Perola Negra all produced hit records for RGE in

sprawling suburbs (Moura et al.

1986, becoming huge stars. Selling 600,000 units that year, the inimitable Guineto earned the title, "King of Pagode." The new samba luminaries, without abandoning their suburban audiences, began to perform on con- cert stages and in clubs in Rio and other cities to the general public. Large- scale festivals and free shows of pagode were promoted by radio stations and Rio's tourism agency (Riotur) that year and next. Meanwhile, the tra- ditional events themselves around Rio were filled with Brazilians of the most diverse social classes, to which many press articles at the time attest. Indeed, the style had won an entirely new audience for samba among the middle class, whose identification with the movement is confirmed by ra- dio play and demographically factored record sales (Perrone1989a, 204).'4

By this time, the pagode event had pervaded



from north to

south. It was occurring every night of the week as much in Sao Paulo as in Rio, although the style and repertory in Sao Paulo were based on Rio's tradition.15 In Rio, the pagodes of the so-called tias (literally, "aunts"; Afro- Brazilian matriarchs) of the poorer North Zone were predominant, though the wealthier South Zone had certain bars featuring the music as well; in

Sao Paulo, the event occurred near the center of the

theJardins and of the beach (principally in Itarar6).16By 1986, Rio's samba

city, in the region of

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126 : Philip Galinsky

schools had acknowledged the phenomenon as well, almost all of them featuring their pagodenights.7 And the Cacique quadra(headquarters) it- self, which previously might have attracted only eighty people, came to take in eight thousand during the pagode boom.18 By 1988, the pagode had peaked commercially (Lopes 1993, 7). Ceding its position to subsequent fads, such as sertanejo(a mixture of Brazilian country and romantic musics), lambada, and Bahian axe-music, the pagode became relegated primarily to the suburbs and morros (hill-side slums) of Rio and poor neighborhoods of other Brazilianurban centers. Pagode art- ists still released records but their public appearances were no longer on the same scale. By 1990, Rio's prestigious Canecao, a gauge of success, no longer featured the pagodeiros because they were unable to draw large


1990s Pagode

Around 1992, a new crop of groups emerged onto the national scene play- ing a more polished samba. Instead of addressing the problems of living on the fringes of the city or everyday issues, as the original pagodeiros had often done, most have focused on sentimental love, with a highly romantic lyrical style borrowed from the sertanejo.20 Some samba bands have re- tained the pagode instruments of their innovative forbears; others favor the more common surdo, tamborim (small frame drum hit with a stick), and cavaquinho. More significantly, many have embraced electric guitar, syn- thesizers, and brass instruments, in addition to electric bass and drum set (which the originalpagodealready made use of). This new sound is achieving a success in the 1990s that in some cases exceeds that which the original movement had in the 1980s. Radio and television have attended greatly to the current trend and all classes and races in today's Brazil are consuming samba, which as of 1994 was selling much better than rock music.21 To be sure, record buyers, who can afford usually no more than one record a month, buy what they hear on the radio.22The new samba has also infiltratedthe club scene as a romantic dancehall style. In fact, in 1994 it was far easier to hear cover bands play- ing newer pagode hits and other pop songs at dances in Rio than to hear the older style either in concert settings or as it is played traditionally-at an informal gathering with no stage, no amplification, and no cover charge. To experience the latter, I had mostly to venture to remote suburbs, where the old pagode and new pagode are both enjoyed. The new surge of samba is still referred to as pagode,although much of it has also more appropriately garnered the title suingue(Brazilian Portu- guese for "swing"), the label for a type of samba from Sao Paulo with a strong U.S. soul influence and the marked use of brass instruments. The

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Pagode SambaMovement: 127

prominent popular musicianJorge BenJor (formerlyJorge Ben), who pio- neered this sound in the 1960s, is the forerunner and idol of some of the samba acts now enjoying fame. Raca Negra (BlackRace), which formed in Sao Paulo in the early 1980s, has adapted Benjor's influence into a pop formula, becoming the most successful and perhaps the least traditionalof the 1990s bands. Epitomizing the current suinguesound, the group sells an average of one million units per release23and performs an average of thirty shows a month.24The label sambanejo(samba mixed with sertanejo) has also come into currency to describe the sentimental quality of Raca Negra and other groups. Along with Raca Negra, the Rio-based groups S6 Pra Contrariar (Only To Contradict) and Razao Brasileira (BrazilianReason)

were the most popular pagode acts in


A Musical Analysis of the Old and New PagodeStyles

Pagode is defined principally as the gathering of musicians to play samba; it is not a separate musical genre, as the mass media ostensibly led many Brazilians to believe. For this reason, Ubirany is quick to deny claims that Fundo de Quintal invented the pagode:

and we didn'tcreatethe

Now, it's

Pagode is a meeting of people to sing

pagode becausethe meeting to sing sambawas always done

only we of Grupo Fundode Quintal who enjoy a pagode in our way withour


we simply cameto add, butwe didn'tcreateit.26



singing andof composing,you understand?So

Lopes concurs with Ubirany's definition of the word, stating that, "Pagode is not a musical genre, it is more a place and behavior. But one can speak of a type of samba in which this instrumentation [i.e., banjo, tantd, repique- de-mdo, and so on] is used."27It is this samba style-defined by its instru- mentation, playing techniques, and musical traits-that I will briefly eluci- date here, comparing it to the 1990s tendency. Musically, the pagodestyle of the 1980s is not radically different from the traditional type of samba that had developed in the morros (hill-side slums) and working-class suburbs of Rio. Charles Perrone claims that the musical structure of pagode is "essentially the same as modern sambade morro" (1989a, 204). Music scholar Sergio Cabral calls the pagode "a recu-



of old elements of the samba but without the old flavor, that is to

with a young flavor because the composers that made this music were


Cabral furthersees the pagode as a musical response to a transformation

of the samba-enredo (theme samba for carnival), which had greatly sped up

in tempo to enable the increasingly large schools to parade within their


time limit.29In the process, the samba-enredois said to have turned

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: Philip Galinsky

into another, more middle-class carnival genre-the

to have lost its rhythmic subtleties and distinctiveness:

marcha (march)-and


the samba-enredoturnedinto marcha. [And] with

the accelerationof the samba-enredo this

type subtleties.One sambaschool bateria [drum and

equal totheotherbecause they allcameto play thesame thing, because they



accompany the same rhythm, the same tempo. It impoverished the

accelerating its tempo

of sambalosta lot.Itlostits became


The pagode, Cabral argues, the samba:

successfully attended to these shortcomings in

The pagode sambacameto correctthis

the samba-enredo] becausefromthis pagode movement youbegan

perceive seven-string violdo,certain things in the


a fantastic generation of



deficiency in the samba [evident in

to discover,


had been abandoned:the violdo [guitar], the

accompaniment. The lyrics


importance. A slower tempo.[From the pagode ] emerged

One of the defining features of the pagode is its rhythmic texture, con- veyed below in Figure 3. Given the highly improvisational nature of the music in which rhythms are constantly evolving according to the whim and interaction of the players, all notated parts here are prototypical. They are meant not necessarily as precise descriptions of what musicians actu- ally play, but as prescriptive patterns that can give the reader some sense for what this music sounds like. The pagodestyle is based on the peculiar combination of three primarypercussion instruments-tantd,repique-de-mdo, and pandeiro-all of which are played with the hands. This feature, along with the pagode'ssmall-group format, lends the style a softer, more intimate sound than the hard-edged batucada (sambaperformance with various per- cussion instruments) exemplified by the samba schools. As Ubirany as- serts, "The hand is our principal instrument. Nothing is more sensitive than the hand to take to the people the sound of our land."32 The tantdis positioned on the lap, and while the right hand beats out the basic rhythm on the skin, the lefthand percusses off-beatson the wooden

body. The smaller, higher-pitched repique-de-mao is played

ion. As a substitute for the deep surdobass drum, the tantamarks the

meter of the samba, accenting the second beat of the measure, while the repique swings on top of the tantdis strongpulse by playing variationsaround it.33The pandeiro, a tambourinethatis played with a variety of hand strokes, adds to this texture primarilyby offering a sixteenth-note locomotion; also

common, however, is a syncopated pattern known as the partido-altofig- ure.34 Although the latter traditionally characterizes the partido-altosong form, it may be used in other song forms as well. I have included both

in a similarfash-


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Pagode SambaMovement: 129

patterns for pandeiro here and if there are two players, the two partsmay be played simultaneously.

banjo or cavaquinhoplayer in a samba or pagode ensemble usually

bases his (I use the male possessive pronoun here because women rarely

on an Afro-Brazilian time-line

figure of Central African origin which Gerhard Kubik has called the "Angola/Zairesixteen-pulse standard pattern," a defining traitof the samba as seen in Figure 1. (1979, 17)

play pagodeinstruments) rhythms loosely


Figure 1. Angola/Zaire Sixteen-pulse Standard

























(nine-stroke version)

(seven-stroke version)

I have found that in much traditional samba, Figure 1 most often occurs in

its nine-stroke incarnation beginning from the second

lent to the classic samba figure played on

hit with a stick), which may alto figure as seen in Figure 2.

pulse; this is equiva-

the tamborim (small frame drum

be regarded as an elaboration of the partido-

Figure 2. Classic tamborimtime-line









Adapted loosely from Leci Brandao's hi