Jards Macalé

Carioca Jards Macalé rose to the task he assigned to himself in “Let´s Play That”, namely to “untune the chorus of the complacent” (citing poet Torquato Neto). When we ask him for gentleness, he gives us noise; when we expect him to be delusional, he comes on reverent, as if to say, “Eu só faço o que quero – I only do what I want” (the title of his biography by Fred Coelho).

Macalé baffles anyone who observes culture through the lenses of “genres”, “movements”, and “niches”. Let´s see. He studied under Guerra-Peixe, Peter Dauelsberg, Turíbio Santos, and Esther Scliar, so we´re talking about a classical musician. And since he was the guitarist for Grupo Opinião and composed with Vinícius de Moraes, and since Elizeth Cardoso, Nara Leão, and Clara Nunes recorded his songs, it might be more appropriate to place him among the left-wing nationalists of Brazilian popular music (MPB) that flourished between bossa nova and tropicália.

His family´s apartment in Rio, where Maria Bethânia stayed when she had just arrived from Bahia (and while Macalé was producing her work), was subsequently frequented by Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Hélio Oiticica, and Torquato Neto shortly before the tropicália movement struck, changing the direction of Brazilian culture. As a participant in those debates, was Macalé himself a tropicalista?

He baffles us again here, since his tropicalista happening (the performance of Gotham City, a partnership with Capinam in the 4th International Song Festival on TV Globo, with explosive arrangements by Rogério Duprat) dates to 1969, when tropicália had already run its course and Caetano and Gilberto Gil were departing for exile in London. The crowd at the 4th Festival responded to Macalé´s provocations with one of the longest and loudest boos in the festivals´ history. That event likely launched what some would eventually call “post-tropicalismo”.
In this phase, from `69 to ´72, the musician recorded his first compact single, performed the arrangements with guitarist Lanny Gordin for the LP Legal by Gal Costa (which shortly afterwards became “Vapor Barato” by Macalé and Waly Salomão in a hippie hymn, rerecorded decades later by Rappa), produced the show My Name is Gal, directed Transa in London (one of the most important albums in Caetano´s career), and released his own first LP, Jards Macalé.

Alongside Lanny Gordin and drummer Tutty Moreno, Macalé developed an idiom based on his crisp guitar that hybridized lament, rock, whispered and guttural lyrics, blues, and samba-canção. He joined Capinam, Torquato, and Waly (with whom, after the success of “Vapor”, he went on to create their “line of romantic morbidity”) and was a constant and emblematic presence at Posto 9 on Ipanema Beach (the place to turn on, tune in, and hang out all those summers). Macalé was thus one of the leading names in Brazilian counterculture. He also happened to broaden the very definition of counterculture.

His subsequent projects, Aprender a Nadar (Learning to Swim) (1974) and Contrastes (1977), reaffirming his avant-garde vibe, revisited the past of Brazilian popular music (rereading Ismael Silva, Miguel Gustavo, Herivelto Martins, Paulo da Portela, etc.) and offered us another piece in his persona´s puzzle: the streetwise sambista who toured with the king of samba de breque, Moreira da Silva, and emerged in the ´80s with Quatro Batutas e um Coringa (Four Aces and a Joker), performing songs by Paulinho da Viola, Nelson Cavaquinho, Lupicínio Rodrigues, and Geraldo Pereira.

His ease in moving between the various tribes of Brazilian popular music was already evident by 1973, the most truculent year of the dictatorship, when he organized O Banquete dos Mendigos (Beggars Banquet), a show to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, held in Rio´s Museum of Modern Art. Macalé brought Gal Costa, Paulinho da Viola, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento, Edu Lobo, and Raul Seixas, among others. The double album resulting from the show, in an underground recording, was not authorized by the military government until 1979, after the Banquet´s organizer (always the anarchist) gave none other than hardline General Golbery himself a copy.

Episodes like the “launch” of Learning to Swim under the central span of the Rio-Niterói Bridge (in an indirect reference to the threats of waterboarding Macalé had received from the dictatorship´s political police), his habit of performing in prisons and psychiatric hospitals, his arrest on accusations of pornography during a tour with Moreira da Silva, his demonstrations of outrage at the recording companies´ commercialism, and his performance/hospital visit to ailing then-president General Figueiredo gave the composer the epithet of “maldito” (cursed), which he rejected vehemently: “cursed is your f*&#@ mother!”

Born of a time when Brazil´s various artistic camps engaged in constant dialogue, Macalé also developed a deep relationship with cinema. He participated in the creation of the soundtracks for such classics as Macunaíma by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro (Antonio das Mortes) by Glauber Rocha, and The Amulet of Ogum by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, having acted in the latter and in Tent of Miracles (by the same director). He later acted again in short films and in the feature film Big Jato by Cláudio Assis, besides lending his name to the documentaries Jards, a bat at the front door by Marcos Abujamra and João Pimentel and Jards by Eryc Rocha.

After playing chess in the Cecília Meirelles Hall with John Cage (!!!), singing with Jackson do Pandeiro, sharing projects with Naná Vasconcelos (the album Let’s Play That), with Guinga, Zé Renato, and Moacyr Luz (the show/DVD Dobrando a Carioca), and with various artists from the totally contemporary Brazilian musical scene (Juçara Marçal, Ava Rocha, Kiko Dinucci, Tim Bernardes, and others emerging in Besta Fera, from 2019), Macalé is further expanding his list of partners, sharing work for the first time with legendary pianist and composer João Donato: Síntese do Lance – released by our Rocinante label. This “meeting of two staunch iconoclasts”, as defined by music critic Tárik de Souza, was nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for Best BPM Album of 2022.

On the same track, one of our next projects will be the album “Mascarada”, in which Jards Macalé and tambourine player Sergio Krakowski’s trio will offer us “free lyrical” interpretations of Zé Keti’s sambas.

And we hope to present listeners with many more Macalé’s – bent, loose, and crazy.