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Block Apois Fum: King Momo’s lyricism and boldness

Recife's carnivals took place at the mercy of the evolution of pedestrian clubs, which usually represented some professions during the momo period. From that decade on, however, Recife's carnival will brighten with emotion and colors that only the carnival groups, which we call “lyrical blocks”, were able to provide to the revelers.

Block Apois Fum: King Momo’s lyricism and boldness

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 28/07/2022

By: João Montarroyos - Professor, writer and researcher

Until the 1920s, carnivals in Recife took place at the mercy of the evolution of pedestrian clubs, which usually represented some professions during the King Momo period. Among the main ones, we can mention Vassourinhas, Empalhadores, Toureiros and Batutas de São José, Caiadores, Clube das Pás, which to this day fill our hearts with passion and nostalgia.

 

From that decade on, however, Recife’s carnival will brighten with emotion and colors that only the carnival groups, which we call “lyrical blocks,” were able to provide to the revelers. Emerging from the isolation cordons where the ladies of the time could parade, such associations thrived thanks to the sentimentality already imprinted by the creches, where the women sang and the men only played their wood-and-string instruments, such as mandolins, guitars, tambourines, etc., admitting, at most, in addition, a harmonica. The Valença Brothers (João and Raul) were of fundamental importance in this process, as the creche they kept in the Casarão da Madalena, on the Valença farm, was very famous, a tradition inherited from their grandparents.

 

Thus, as the ladies did not like to attend the carnival of the pedestrian clubs, these singing groups ended up founding the street blocks, an extension of their elegant soirees.

 

The verses of the march Último Regresso, by Getúlio Cavalcanti, give us a good dimension of this truth (emphasis by the author):

 

It is beautiful to see
The day dawn
With guitars and thousand shepherdesses,
Saying well
That Recife has
The best carnival in my Brazil!

 

There were several blocks of that golden decade of Pernambuco’s carnival: the Bloco das Flores (the first to form), Flor da Lira, Andalusas, Pirilampos, Crisanthemos, especially among them the Bloco Apôis Fum, since its premiere would really change the course of the carnivals at the time. The former had already been called, two years before, Bloco das Flores Brancas. Based in Praça Sérgio Loreto, on Rua Imperial, in the residence of Captain Pedro Salgado, it had Prince Raul Morais, composer and conductor of its return march, as its conductor.

 

Contrary to what most researchers of the genre usually cite, the Apôis Fum block, originally from Torre, was effectively founded in 1923, and not in 1925 (even the year 1929 was absurdly claimed), as can be deduced from the edition of Jornal Pequeno, of February 2nd, 1923: “APÔIS FUM – Next Sunday, the Tower will be inside out, as prophesied by Raymundo da Elite. It is the rehearsal day of master Felinto with his boys from the Apôis Fum orchestra, which will constitute the carnival note [...].” In an issue of Jornal do Commercio, dated March 4, 1924, Apôis Fum is mentioned, so that there is no doubt as to the year of its foundation, as an association that was shown at that carnival “with the same name since last year,” referring to the carnival of the previous year, therefore, that of 1923.

 

The Torreanos (Torre residents), by the way, always knew how to dignify the revelry, from which large groups emerged, such as Um Dia Só, founded by Prof. José Severino Calazans, conductor of the choirs of the Baptist Churches of Torre and Iputinga. He also founded a school of first letters on Rua Belarmino Carneiro. He was the author of the salutation march to the great groups of the time, among them  Apôis Fum:

 

In sincere greeting, the Bloco Um Dia Só,
To these so appreciated groups,
Salutes all with powdered gold.
We wish you all, pleasure and sympathy,
Undisputed victory, that the people will happily attest.

 

Um Dia Só also became Champion of the City, but, after two years of existence, it disbanded due to dissension, resulting in a new group, Bobos em Folia, which soon had as its rival the naughty Sabido Não Grita.

 

Unfortunately, it is in the Tower that we still remember A Dor de Uma Saudade, a march composed by Edgar Morais in honor of his brother Raul, who would die on September 8, 1937, on Rua do Cailigeiro, today called R.Dom Manuel da Costa, in the same neighborhood.

 

But Edgar Morais also composed very cheerful carnival marches, although without ever abandoning the nostalgic spirit, as can be seen in his march Valores do Passado (Values of the Past):

 

Blocos das Flores, Andaluzas, Cartomantes,
Camponesa, Apôis Fum and Bloco Um Dia Só.
Os Corações Futuristas, Bobos em Folia,
Pirilampos de Tejipió.
A Flor da Magnólia,
Lira do Charmion, Sem Rival,
Jacarandá, Madeira da Sé,
Crisântemos, Se Tem Bote and Um Dia
De Carnaval [...].

 

Apois Fum formed a block of notables, having in their ranks titles of military honor that conferred social distinction, acquired from the National Guard, as happened with Captain Fenelon Albuquerque and Colonel Francisco de Sá Leitão, its honorary president. At the head of finance, the then respected dealer of the square, Raymundo Silva, owner of the Salão Elite, which earned him the nickname Raymundo da Elite. Its main representative, however, would become Felinto de Morais (one of the greatest guitarists of the time), all of whom honored in the composition of the late conductor Nelson Ferreira, Evocaçao nº.1 (1957): “Felinto/Pedro Salgado/ Guilherme/Fenelon/ where are your famous blocks: Bloco das Flores/Andaluzas/ Pirilampos/ Apôis Fum/ of late carnivals! [...].” (emphasis added)

 

Although born in different neighborhoods, it was common for many clubs to have their headquarters in central locations, more privileged in relation to popular attendance. It was no different with Apôis Fum: in the year of its foundation, in February 1923, the group had been installed, “from Saturday to Wednesday, in the comfortable building, No.39, on Rua da Imperatriz, having signed a contract with Mme. Baldi, who maintains a dance hall there.” It had also been installed on Rua Nova, on the famous Confeitaria Crystal, point of major events in the city and where, six years later, the then governor of the state of Paraíba, João Pessoa de Albuquerque, would be assassinated, triggering the famous 1930 Revolution.

 

Its rehearsals, however, were always held at Rua José Bonifácio (formerly Rua do Rio), in the Torre neighborhood, at the residence of the illustrious Sá Leitão – in a place today corresponding to the building opposite the SESI in the same neighborhood – from where the famous association would go out to greet its competitors and the general public, notably the press. Before any performance, however, the group would go up the street to the banks of the imposing Capibaribe – in whose bed their waters were rolling, to the sound of the joyful fanfare –, from there returning to win the main streets of the neighborhood. Often, the block and the river would meet again, socializing, in downtown Recife, from where the waters resumed the sway of the party, to later fall, exhausted, in the arms of the sea.

 

Such sessions were always much appreciated by the neighborhood public, who flocked there in ecstasy, as we can see on the occasion of their first rehearsal, on February 4, 1923, a Sunday of carnival previews: “The rehearsal, yesterday, was a success, of the heavy Apois Fum orchestra, a group made up of families, ladies and boys from the Tower. The house of Sá Leitão was invaded by a hubbub, where everyone did the horse-dog step, it’s not an airplane.” The preview lasted ten hours, the rehearsal starting at noon on that festive Sunday, ending only at 10 p.m. on the same day. There, a new rehearsal had already been scheduled for the following Wednesday, and Thursday was agreed for a presentation to the press, in Praça da Independência, at eight in the evening, in front of the Elite Room, owned by treasurer Raymundo.

 

On Carnival Sunday of that year, Apôis Fum conquered, once and for all, the streets of Recife’s carnival; it featured a float representing a snow block, where its standard-bearer, a beautiful young woman, was stationed. It left at 03 pm, leaving the headquarters of Imperatriz to tour the main points of the city, visiting the Boa Vista bridge, Rua da Concórdia, Campina do Bode (currently Cinco Pontas, in the São José neighborhood), Av. Lima Castro (current R. Imperial), Praça da Independência, the Government Palace, and then go back to its headquarters, at Rua da Imperatriz. Its unforgettable orchestra was made up of 24 guitars, 6 cavaquinhos, 3 stick trombones, 2 flutes, and reco-recos, 2 ganzás, 2 saxhorns, 2 bass drums, 1 saxophone, 2 surdos, 1 piccolo, 3 tambourines, 2 bugles, led by bohemian Felinto de Morais. Conducting the stringed instruments as well as the wind instruments, Prof. José Lourenço da Silva, known as Zuzinha, conductor of the PMPE Music Band.
 


The following carnival, in 1924, represented the true apotheosis of the Apôis Fum block. That year, the press, through Jornal do Commercio, promoted a contest to reward the carnival highlights. Jornal do Commercio inaugurated its Carnival Section, attracting several commercial houses to donate prizes to be given to the best of that period. Ford agents here in Recife, for example, would award the two cars that best performed on the parade, as long as they had the Ford brand and Goodyear tires.

 

It was one of the busiest carnivals in the city, full of fun clubs, such as Dragões de Momo (S. José), Jacarandá (ditto, founded by Raul Morais), SeTem...Bote (Torre), Pyrilampos (Tejipió), Lobos de Afogados (Afogados), Philocriticos de Campo Grande (Campo Grande), Os Inocentes (Paulista), Andarilhos de Feitosa (Feitosa, current Hippodrome), Apronta a Coisa que Eu já Chego (ditto), Chora pra Mamar (Av. Lima Castro, current R. Imperial), Brinca Quem Pode (Casa Amarela – Av. Norte), and many other newly founded happy groups. In a lapse of discrimination, the blacks also mixed themselves in such enterprises, presenting equally their luxurious fantasies, of rich embroidery and abundant symbolism.

 

The elite sought the lounges of the International Club (at the time still located on R. da Aurora) – whose statutes were approved in the General Assembly of October 6, 1895 – or the Allemão Club, which had its improvised headquarters that year on a ship – the DEKAPE – anchored next to the Tower bridge, holding its “brilliant festival” there on the 10th of February.

 

Nothing stopped the frenzy. Widely announced by the newspapers, the forecast of a lot of rain, contrary to the fear of repetition of the recent floods – such as the Capibaribe jumping out of its bed to mix with the revelers – even brought about a contest of verses, from which we can extract the following:

 

[...]
Momo in cape, overshoes
And an umbrella? Not going!
How to light your torches,
If abundant rain falls?
How does frevo go out on the street?
[...]

 

A feast despised by the Church, not even the priests escaped the revelers’ fierce language:

 

Even the friars of the convent
In their cell feel bad...
I say, swear and maintain:
They, just for pretense,
Do not like carnival.

 

The great poet from Pernambuco, Austro Costa, also did not miss the opportunity and fired, messing with the two institutes that the Pernambuco people are most passionate about:

 

I don’t know whether I should or should not
say, but, I say, after all:
If frevo went to Rome,  
It wold have a papal blessing.

 

Considered one of the finest in the city, the Apôis Fum block was choreographed and decorated by master Eustórgio Wanderley, professor of Arts at the Escola Normal do Estado. Its cadre of conductors, composers and choir stood out for the relevant figures of the old Raul Morais, great composer of marches for blocks, today an immortal of carnival music; Augusto Calheiros – the Patativa do Norte –; José Lourenço da Silva, known as Zuzinha, conductor of  Music Band of the Pernambuco Military Police, in addition to the brothers Luperce and Romualdo Miranda, who would later compose the Turunas da Mauricéia group, together with Augusto Calheiros (vocals), João Frazão (director and guitar), the blind Manuel de Lima (guitar), and his brother João Miranda (guitar), making their presentations in Rio de Janeiro a great success.

 

Another famous conductor of that decade, Miguel Barkokebas, also composed part of the bloco’s repertoire, such as the march Esse Bloco é Meu, although he signed under the pseudonym João Sem Nome, perhaps due to his close relations with the Parish of Nª. Srª. do Rosário, from the Torre, for which he composed the religious hymns presented every Sunday at the 9 a.m. mass. He would die on August 14, 1978, but he would leave a record of his charm for Apôis Fum:

 

[...]
Take a good look at our block,
which is the king of frevo and the king of step.
Neither Pierrot nor Columbine
nor Harlequin nor Clown.
Black and white come together
Forget everything, join hands,
In this carnival of Recife
The rich and the poor are in step.

 

Finally, on February 26, Jornal Pequeno recorded the group’s departure, “from the Tower to Recife, in special trams, to pick up its banner of honor (flabelo) at the home of a prominent partner, on Av. Conde de Boa Vista, later being honored by residents of Rua dos Pires, from there on to Praça da Independência”, where it participated in a lively party with the burning of German-made mortars. Much appreciated, the block soon won the favor of the people for the delightful props and the vibrancy of its components. It won first place among the Critics Clubs, receiving the JORNAL DO COMMERCIO Award by the Krause & Cia.

 

The Bloco das Flores, great champion in 1923 and the main competitor of Apôis Fum, deserved only an honorable mention, with a minority of votes among the members of the judging committee. Pedro Salgado, its president, kicked up a fuss but did not win, outraged at the new champion keeping “particularities formulated as incompatible with the characteristic of the block.” He was referring mainly to its brass orchestra, precisely what had most impressed the Momo crowd. He shouted: “I have a block and not a carnival club...” and withdrew from the carnival.

 

From then on, Recife experienced carnivals as never before, given the spirit of competition that had been created between the associations.

 

Apôis Fum had always immortalized itself, standing out as the main group and bringing joy to the revelers who only found the best of the lyrical blocks in their chords, a tradition that is renewed today in the old streets of the late carnivals.

 

 

Recife, March 30, 2010.

sources consulted

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Diario de Pernambuco, Recife, 14 abr. 1993. [Fundaj/Fonoteca.

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MÁRIO FILHO. O teu cabelo não nega. A história carnavalesca dos grandes poetas João e Raul Valença. Recife: Rádio Capibaribe do Recife, 1992. [Fundaj/Fonoteca]

OLIVEIRA, Waldemar de. Frevo, capoeira e passo. Recife: CEPE, [19--?]. p. 15.

REAL, Katarina. O Folclore no Carnaval do Recife. Rio de Janeiro: Min. Educ. e Cult., 1967.

SILVA, Lenoardo Dantas (Org.). Raul Moraes. Repértório variado. Recife: Ed.Massangana, 2003.

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FONTES ORAIS:

MAESTRO Edgar Morais. Entrevista à TV Universitária do Recife, 8 ago. 1973. [Fundaj/Fonoteca].

DEPOIMENTOS de Toinho Valença, filho de João Valença; Baltazar Valença, filho de Raul Valença. Sítio dos Valença, Madalena, mar. 2006.

how to quote this text

MONTARROYOS, João. Block Apois Fum: King Momo’s lyricism and boldness. In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2010. Available from: https://pesquisaescolar.fundaj.gov.br/pt-br/artigo/bloco-apois-fum-o-lirismo-e-a-ousadia-de-momo/. Access on: Month. day, year. (Ex.: Aug. 6, 2021.)