Sitting a good 90-minute drive away from Rio de Janeiro’s crowded beaches and packed tourist hot-spots, Campo Grande is not a neighbourhood that attracts travellers from around the World. Traditionally it is home to the city’s lower middle-class, whose aspirations of moving up the social ladder were played out in a suburb that has always been solidly working-class.
Campo Grande is home to Elizio De Buzios, a Brazilian musician who started playing music in the late 1970s and early 1980s. De Buzios began as a drummer, before learning to play guitar and starting to compose and sing his own music. When he turned 18, De Buzios joined a local band formed by some of his friends and other like-minded local musicians: Sol da Terra. The band mostly played samba in neighbourhood bars and small venues around Camp Grande, but De Buzios was interested in more than just samba. While he naturally admired great samba composers such as Cartola and Beth Carvalho, his musical pass went far beyond Brazil’s national music. He also loved MPB and bossa-nova and at home he listed to Joäo Bosco, Milton Nascimento, Luis Melodia, Tom Jobim, and many bossa-nova singers.
In 1980 De Buzios was noticed by a local representative of international major label Polygram, who gave him the opportunity to record two songs. He was excited, so started searching for inspiration for the songs he would eventually lay down. He found that inspiration close to home while passing a neighbourhood shop which made and sold clogs. After noticing a display of then fashionable Portuguese clogs outside the store, De Buzios popped inside to talk to the owner. It turned out that he was a tamanqueiro – as clog-makers are traditionally called in his native Portugal – and was as passionate about music as he was about the footwear he made. Thus inspired, De Buzios returned home to work more on the lyrics and music.
The next day, he headed into the studio to record the song, with Vale Ribeiro, who later went on to produce tracks for Marcos Valle, behind the desk. With Ribeiro’s assistance, De Buzios managed to record two songs in one day: ‘Tamanqueiro’ and ‘Sou Um Louco’, a ballad with English lyrics blended into the mostly Portuguese text. From the start, it was clear that ‘Tamanqueiro’ would be the single’s A-side. Incredibly catchy and funky, with some subtle disco elements, the song remained distinctively Brazilian thanks to the use of the cuíca. Listening back all these years on, De Buzios’ lyrics seem almost spontaneous, carry the track forward, and make it almost impossible not to sing along. Its infectiousness and funkiness made it an instant hit with the first few people to hear it.
When it was released, responses to the song were enthusiastic, even if it never became the Brazil-wide smash it should have been. It resonated well in the local clubs and on the radio, but unfortunately the marketing was handled by an inexperienced Polygram employee who failed to adequately promote the track. As a result, the record sank without trace and De Buzios’ dreams of stardom evaporated. Having just started a family, he realized he could not live off the uncertainty of being a musician. Instead, he got a job at city hall as a civil servant, a role he continued until his retirement a few years ago. ‘Tamanqueiro’ and ‘Sou Um Louco’ remain the only two songs he ever recorded.
In the early 2000s, with the rise of diggers’ culture, ‘Tamanqueiro’ slowly surfaced again. It became a sought after, hard to find seven-inch single, finding its way onto the airwaves once more and into the ears of a new generation of listeners. Some started appreciating the song so much that it was referred to as the “best-Jorge-Ben-song-Jorge-Ben-never-recorded”. And they are right: ‘Tamanqueiro’ does have that Jorge Ben-straight-forwardness. It’s a completely honest song that’s almost impossible not to fall in love with. Thanks to this remastered reissue on New Dawn, De Buzios may now get the props his sole record so richly deserves.
Now for the good news: De Buzios is still singing in local bars and clubs in and around Campo Grande. He is surprised, but also incredibly proud, that the record he had almost forgotten about is appreciated so much by a group of music lovers he didn’t even know existed. But above all, he is happy that more than 40 years after the recording session, the record lives on – not only on this re-release, but also in his weekend sets in the bars of Campo Grande. (words and research Jorn Konijn)