Samba Musician Ismael Silva: Brazil Samba Founder

Ismael Silva - Samba Composer Legend

 

Brazilian samba singer Ismael Silva was born from a cook called Benjamin Silva and washerwoman Emilia Correa Chaves, from Rio de Janeiro.  He was the youngest of a group of five brothers.   Faced with financial difficulties after the death of his father,  Ismael moved with his mother from Jurujuba Beach (Niterói)  to a neighborhood in Rio called Estacio de Sá, when he was three years old.  ( Estacio de Sá neighborhood in Rio is considered one of Brazil´s Samba birthplaces.)  Despite humble origins, Ismael was able to finish high school at age 18, after living in other neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro such as Catumbi.

At the early age of 15, Ismael wrote his first samba song, called “Já Desisti”, which could be translated freely to “I've given up”.   In 1925, the young talent had his first samba song officially recorded:  “Me faz carinhos” – “It makes me cuddle”.    This recording pushed  him to another level and promoted his meeting with a famous samba singer at the time called Francisco Alves, aka Chico Viola or “King of the Voice”.   Then, in conjunction with Nilton Bastos and Francisco Alves, Ismael Silva formed a trio that became known as Bambas da Estácio , which produced one of the most beautiful sambas songs ever:  “Se voce jurar” - If you swear.    After the death of samba composer Nilton, Ismael started his composing partnership with Noel Rosa, poet and samba composer too.    Eighteen songs arose from this duo which made Ismael Silva the most frequent partner of legendary samba composer Noel Rosa, also called Vila´s Poet.

Below a photo of Samba-man Ismael Silva in 1955.

Samba Man Ismael Silva


On 1928, Ismael Silva with a group of samba-men from Estacio de Sá neighborhood founded a street party group ( Bloco de Carnaval ) which was the forerunner of the first samba school ever to exist:  Deixa Falar.    Although Deixa Falar was the pioneer samba-school in Rio, and took part of Brazil´s first carnival parades - 1929, 1930 and 1931, it had a short life.  The samba-school activities ended prematurely due to moving of Ismael to the center district of Rio de Janeiro, and also due to the deaths of Nilton Bastos and Edgar Marcelino.

Below from left to Right: the great Nelson Cavaquinho; Osmar Frazão, cultural producer Waldomiro de Oliveira, Ismael Silva and finally samba composer Bahianinho - Photo Credit:  Osmar Frazão.


ismael silva and samba partners

Like many modern day rappers artists, samba composer and singer had also his police problems.  Ismael was sentenced to five years in jail - having served only two years due to good behavior - after shooting the buttocks of Edu Motorneiro, a famous Lapa and Rio bohemian.   Apparently Edu was interested on Ismael ´s sister called Orestin and he did not approve the relationship.  After this episode ( 1935 ) he became recluse and only returned to the scene in the fifties.   During this period, Ismael Silva went through enormous financial difficulties.   He was able though to record another of his all time history samba song success: “Antonico” .   The song came out as tremendous novelty.


From this point on, Ismael starts to become a frequent visitor of legendary Zicartola bar and restaurant, where samba composers gathered in Rio de Janeiro, at Rua da Carioca Street.  Later,  Ismael was invited to  participate of a samba musical called " O samba pede passagem", with Araci de Almeida, at the Teatro Opinião  in Rio.  In 1973, another important highlight in his career: RCA Records decided to launch a new album from Ismael Silva.   The album was named “Se voce jurar” and featured works from the past, as well as new compositions such as “Entre elas” and "Contrastes, Alegria, Alias e Receio”.

Below, the cover of the Album by RCA, "Se voce jurar":

se vc jurar


Ismael´s recognition as a true samba composer came late in his career, but they happened nevertheless.  As an example, journalist and samba scholar Sergio Cabral made a special homage to him at the early seventies.   As mythical samba composer, Ismael was able still to take part of a few occasional concerts accompanied by samba singers like Aracy de Almeida, Carmen Costa and the MPB-4 group.   One of his last concerts was held in 1973, and was produced by Ricardo Cravo Albim and entitled “Se você Jurar”, name one of his most famous samba songs.

Ismael Silva died in 1978 of a heart attack due to complications after surgery to treat a varicose ulcer had in one leg.   Ismael Silva, next to Cartola, may have been one of the true samba genre “inventors”.   As a samb-man, had a distinguished originality and elegance which contributed decisively to the foundation of samba and carnival in Brazil.

According to some specialists, the following are his most famous and prized samba song compositions:
 
SE VOCÊ JURAR
ANTONICO
TRISTEZAS NÃO PAGAM DÍVIDAS
NEM É BOM FALAR
GOSTO, MAS NÃO É MUITO 
A RAZÃO DÁ-SE A QUEM TEM
O QUE SERÁ DE MIM?
NINGUÉM TEM QUE ACHAR RUIM
UMA JURA QUE FIZ
ADEUS
CONTRASTES
COM A VIDA QUE PEDISTE A DEUS
ME FAZ CARINHOS
PARA ME LIVRAR DO MAL


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