Nzinga – Tabareu e Pitombeira

After Mestra Janja’s visit at our last event in June 2016 I have been listening to Nzinga’s album. These two songs caught my ear as being easy to learn, trance like, therefore good for the roda and also very interesting. They both referred to things I didn’t know the meaning of, giving me an excuse to do some research.

So I transcribed them and put them on YouTube – press play and read on… (I believe these are sang by Tião Carvalho)

The first song: Tabaréu que vem do sertão – I had heard before in Mestre Boca Rica and Bigodinho’s album. I almost didn’t transcribe this version, but I decided to due to subtleties and extra verses in Nzinga’s version.

So, first of all, I didn’t remember what tabaréu meant – or maybe I never knew, I can’t know for sure. I got various meanings. The one that fits in with this song also brought up these words I hadn’t heard for years: Matuto, Jeca-tatu, capiau, jeca, caipira. These are all words that refer to people from the interior. Most of them are deprecating, demeaning. Brazilian versions of ‘red neck’ and ‘country bumpkin’. Another meanings included: ‘naive, inexperienced soldier’ and ‘someone not very bright and clumsy’.

HOWEVER, I’m not sure tabaréu, in this song’s context, is meant pejoratively. It’s almost as if the song is reclaiming it, or perhaps it’s one of those words that take on different tones depending on who says it. Sertão refers to the semi-arid region in Northeastern Brazil comprising parts of the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Maranhão, Piauí, and parts of northern Minas Gerais.

Taking out the embelishments of ‘Êh’ and so on, the core of this corrido is this:
Tabaréu que vem do sertão – tabaréu who comes from the sertão
que vende maxixe, quiabo e limão – who sells gherkin, okra and lime.
Que vem do sertão, do sertão meu irmão – who comes from the sertão, from the sertão my brother
E lá da Bahia e do Maranhão – … from Bahia and from Maranhão.

Sounds like a homage to this almost folkloric character, who comes from a very tough (in terms of resources and environment). A man who’s not educated, who is poor and earns a living selling produce.

This song then turns into the next, O nome do pau, which also caught my ear, as I couldn’t remember what ‘Pitombeira’ meant, at first I heard pitombeiro, or bidonbeiro, I was confused… Anyway, I figured out it must be pitonbeira, the tree which produces the pitomba fruit, a.k.a. ‘olho de boi’ – bull’s eye. Talisia esculenta, for those botanically inclined as myself. If this doesn’t send you into a trance, nothing will! Once again, without all the embelishments, the song is essentially this:
Mas o nome do pau é Pitonbeira – but the name of the wood is Pitonbeira
E a casca do pau é Pitonbeira – the shell (or bark) of the wood is Pitonbeira.

I can’t think of any hidden metaphors for this one. It’s just a song about a tree! I love it. I love how Tião Carvalho plays with these two sentences just by adding Êh, ai, oi.