Oito Batutas

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The group Oito Batutas was of fundamental importance to Brazilian music for several reasons. Led by Pixinguinha, Oito Batutas was formed to entertain the audience of the Cinema Palais in its foyer. Opening…
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The group Oito Batutas was of fundamental importance to Brazilian music for several reasons. Led by Pixinguinha, Oito Batutas was formed to entertain the audience of the Cinema Palais in its foyer. Opening on April 7, 1919, the group was a success from its debut. The Carioca élite, who were used to the Viennese waltzes (already having absorbed the refined piano playing and Chopin-inspired tangos of Ernesto Nazareth) were taken by surprise by the repertory of maxixes, sertanejo songs, batuques, cateretês, and choros. The instrumentation, typical of the working-class of the suburbs and shantytowns, was also seen for the first time by the average bourgeois of Rio de Janeiro: bandola and reco-reco (Luís de Oliveira), pandeiro (Jacó Palmieri), ganzá (José Alves, also a mandolinist), and cavaquinho (Nelson Alves). The other members were Pixinguinha and his flute, his brother China (vocals/guitar/piano), Raul Palmieri (guitar), and Donga (guitar). Luís de Oliveira, who died soon after the debut, was replaced by João Tomás. After their historic season in Paris in 1922, they introduced via the choro the instrumentation taken from jazz by Pixinguinha (saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, banjo, and drums), at the same time they also introduced a new repertory of fox trots, shimmys, and ragtimes.

In 1920, the group performed for the King of Belgium and in the next year they toured São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, and Pernambuco. Returning to Rio, they went to play at the luxurious Assírio Club, accompanying the dancing duo Duque & Gaby. In January 1922, the group departed for Paris, France, financed by millionaire Arnaldo Guinle, with the brothers Palmieri and João Tomás being replaced by Feniano (pandeiro) and José Monteiro (vocals). Introduced as Les Batutas at the Scherazade club, they performed there for six months, returning to Brazil in time to participate in the exhibit of the Centennial of the Independence in the same year. Also in 1922, they left for Argentina, performing at the Empire Theater (Buenos Aires) and recording ten albums through the Argentinean Victor. The formation on that trip was Pixinguinha (flute/saxophone), Donga (guitar and six-string banjo), João Tomás (drums), China (guitar/banjo), J. Ribas (piano), Nelson Alves (cavaquinho), and José Alves (mandolin, banjo, and ganzá). Upon their return to Brazil in 1923, they diminished their performances until they dissolved the group (even if the name was used for Odeon around 1928 to designate other groups).