Waldemar Henrique

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Waldemar Henrique is an awarded musician and composer of more than 120 songs, whose Northern origin gives his work a different flavor than the mainstream Brazilian popular songs. The folklore of this…
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Artist Biography by

Waldemar Henrique is an awarded musician and composer of more than 120 songs, whose Northern origin gives his work a different flavor than the mainstream Brazilian popular songs. The folklore of this region -- in which he drank as a personal option and also due to advice from Villa Lobos and Mário de Andrade -- has its specificity and isn't as known as the folklore of Southeast (Rio, São Paulo, etc.), Northeast (Bahia, Pernambuco, etc.), and South of Brazil. Henrique began his music classes in 1918, studying piano and solfeggio with Nicota de Andrade in Belém. He would also learn violin, harmony, composition, and singing. His 1923 composition, "Minha Terra," with its nationalistic character announced in the title, foreboded his entire production, soon enriched with his growing understanding of music and his personal maturation but nevertheless would remain faithful to the tradition. He also studied with Filomena Brandão Baars at the Conservatório Carlos Gomes in 1929. Conductor Ettore Bosio taught him harmony and composition, and Beatriz Simões taught him piano.

In 1933 he moved to Rio, where he studied with Lorenzo Fernandez, Barroso Neto, and other distinguished musicians, sharpening his skills in piano, composition, orchestration, and conducting. Henrique was a composer who never made a definitive option between popular and erudite music. He was fond of Pixinguinha, Noel Rosa, Ary Barroso, but also loved the classics. His idea of a fusion was inspired by Villa Lobos, who -- together with great musicologist Mário de Andrade -- always reminded him to pay attention to the roots. Henrique always had a propensity for the song genre, which dominates his production and functions as the major difference between himself and Villa Lobos. Drowning in folklore, he went to Pernambuco and exposed himself to all the maracatus, frevos, and cocos he could handle. Then he put music in poems by such writers as Manuel Bandeira, Ascenso Ferreira, Jorge de Lima, and by some Portuguese writers as well. He also played concertos accompanying his sister singer Mara Costa Pereira (Mara Henrique Ferraz) in Brazil, Argentine, Uruguay, France, Spain, and Portugal. At one of these concerts in São Paulo, Mário de Andrade was in the audience and went to the wings after the presentation. He had loved one song, "Boi Bumbá," and believing that Henrique had collected it from the folklore, asked for a copy of it. When he discovered that it was an original, he was delighted and became a great friend, introducing Henrique to his selected society of artists, intellectuals, and impresarios. Henrique also was appointed by the diplomatic service to play in 1949 and 1955 in France, Spain, and Portugal along with Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentine in 1953 and 1954 .

As a popular pianist/arranger, Henrique worked in casinos, theaters, and radio stations in Rio, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais. Arriving in Rio in 1933, he immediately had his songs published and sung, and he quickly began to work for radio stations. He was also a professor and produced shows for several radio stations along with the Rádio Roquette Pinto, whose orchestra he directed. His first LP is from 1956, sung by Jorge Fernandes. The newspaper Jornal do Commercio awarded the music he composed for the dramatic poem "Morte e Vida Severina" by João Cabral de Melo Neto the best theme of the year. Upon returning to Belém, he directed the magnificent Teatro da Paz for over ten years. His song, "Tamba Tajá" (1934), was a hit in 1976 in the voice of popular singer Fafá de Belém; unfortunately though, the publishers didn't pay him his rights until this became public. In 1978 he was the first alive composer to be subject of the Funarte monograph contest created by Hermínio Belo de Carvalho. The winner was published as Valdemar Henrique: o canto da Amazônia by José Claver Filho, Coleção MPB Vol. 2. Then in 1981, he was elected to Academia Brasileira de Música.