ARCHITECTS + MUSIC | 2 :: The Samba Side of Niemeyer

What a difference a year makes.

Today, 15 December 2010, Niemeyer was in Niterói celebrating his birthday in the city across the Bay from Rio with its magnificent assortment of Niemeyers, Niemeyer Way/Caminho Niemeyer (the third largest collection of the architect’s work after Brasília and Belo Horizonte):

Last year, as he put it himself, Oscar had a “crap” birthday, the result of an earlier, extended hospitalization.

Complaining of abdominal pain, he was admitted to Rio’s Samaritan Hospital for 24 days starting on 24 September 2009. The diagnosis was acute gallstones and an abscess in the liver, plus a tumour in the large intestine.

But, the man, it seems, is made of steel. And, being the productive type, he didn’t stop working while in hospital.

Rather than picking up the pencil and drafting, though, Niemeyer turned to a new art form: music, specifically the Brazilian samba.

His convalescence (and musical career?) was aided by the kindness of Marcelo Caio (below), one of the nurses in Samaritan’s Intensive Care Unit.

Caio told Globo that the samba, Tranquil With Life (or, Calm Life or Quiet Life), was composed in two phases. Phase one was done during Niemeyer’s hospitalization; the second was finished once the architect was discharged. Caio provided the music and Niemeyer wrote the lyrics.

“He created the lyrics and dictated them while I took notes. Afterwards I composed the melody. At first he wanted the samba to be a tribute to President Lula.”

ABOVE > What a terrific official portrait (by Ricardo Stuckert) of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in front of my favourite Niemeyer, Brasília’s presidential pile, The Palace of the Dawn. Lula was arguably the best thing for Brazilian morale since President Juscelino Kubitschek inaugurated Brasília fifty years ago.

BELOW > Lula and his second wife, Marisa Leticia. Great dress!

“But then he gave up, thinking it would be political propaganda, and then he decided to do new lyrics,” said Caio, adding: “The idea came from him. He mused one day: “Let’s do a samba together,” then he wrote the first verse and asked, “Is that what makes a song?”

Niemeyer’s lyrics (harshly translated, below, by Google) evoke images of favelas on the hills and luxe condos on the ocean, pretty girls (natch!), and hope for a better tomorrow. They remain true to his (almost) life-long communist ideals, but with wisdom about the process of social change that comes from 10+ decades of life.

Niemeyer’s only previous attempt at composition was in 1962, when he wrote The Samba of the Architect/Samba do arquiteto, which urged his colleagues to join the revolution:

“But if you’re honoured / There must conform / Put aside the clipboard / We will collaborate / Poor tired of hunger or tired of having to wait / And go off to fight”




The next phase in the samba’s evolution involved composer, singer and instrumentalist, Edu Krieger (the stage name of Lyra Eduardo Krieger, below), who received a call from Monica, the girlfriend of Caíque Niemeyer, Niemeyer’s great-grandson, asking him to record the samba.

“I accepted the invitation on the spot and tried to finish the samba: I put the lyrics in metre, created a second part to go with the melody and harmonized, ” said Krieger.” I went into the studio, recorded the samba and sent it to the family. Everyone loved the result, especially big Oscar, who invited me to his office to meet him.”

Tranquil With Life was released this week in celebration of the architect’s birthday.

At 103, the world’s oldest architect is still amazingly productive and, contrary to what he said at the start of his 102nd year, 2010 has been filled with honours, openings, and accolades (not to mention the 50th anniversary of Brasília and chocolates!).





Tranquilo com a Vida > download and listen here (thanks, ArchDaily!)




Exclusivo! Samba criado por Oscar Niemeyer, Marcelo Caio e Edu Krieger! | Niemeyer compõe samba com enfermeiro de hospital durante internação

Wikipédia: A encylopédia livre | Edu Krieger | Home page

Blog Musical – Blu-ray, DVD e CD | Deck lança samba de Oscar Niemeyer e Edu Krieger

Oscar Niemeyer Minha Arquitetura 1937-2004 | Caminho Niemeyer | Às vésperas de seus 103 anos, Oscar Niemeyer se lança como compositor e faz música com Edu Krieger

estadãícia Villalba | Tranquil With Life: Edu Krieger débuts the samba at Cinelândia’s Teatro Rival