Singer, instrumentalist and composer, José Gomes Filho, known as ‘Jackson do Pandeiro’ (Tambourine Jackson), was born in Alagoa Grande, Paraíba, on 31 August 1919, to potter José Gomes and ‘coco pernambucana’ singer Flora Mourão (Glória Maria da Conceição).
At the age of eight, he started to play the ‘zabumba’ (a type of regional bass drum) and began to accompany his mother to parties in Alagoa Grande.
In 1932, after the death of his father, he moved with his mother and siblings to the city of Campina Grande, also in Paraíba, where he began to work as a bread delivery boy and shoe-shiner to help support his family.
He liked to watch the popular street poets that performed in the city market, also loving films, especially westerns:
At the time I was playing as an artist, in that time of silent movies. Then they had the western person, and every boy made their gangs, Indian, gang leader, outlaw, and I was Jack Perry. I bought a straw hat, a wooden revolver and we played. As I grew up, I had to help my mother provide food for the crowd and I had to work. I stopped playing but kept the name Jack, just J-a-c-k. I began to play the tambourine and the guys: - What’s up, Jack, Tambourine Jack? … I became ‘Jack do Pandeiro’.
In 1936, aged 17, he left is job and became a replacement drummer in a musical group at Clube Ipiranga, later effectively becoming the group’s percussionist.
In 1939, using the artistic name ‘Jack do Pandeiro’, he formed a duo with the older brother of Genival Lacerda, José Lacerda, becoming a success in Campina Grande.
At the beginning of the 1940s, he moved to João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba, where he continued playing in cabarets and was later contracted by Rádio Tabajara, performing under the name of Zé Jack.
He moved to Recife, Pernambuco, in 1948, to work at Rádio Jornal do Commercio, where he adopted the artistic name ‘Jackson do Pandeiro’, which he thought sounded better, forming a duo with the already famous composer and presenter Rosil Cavalcanti.
He only recorded his first album for Copacabana, in 1953, a compact 78 rpm, with two of his biggest hits, Sebastiana, by his partner Rosil Cavalcanti and Forró em Limoeiro (Forró [a musical style] in Limoeiro), by Edgar Ferreira:
Convidei a comadre Sebastiana (I invited my friend Sebastiana)
Pra dançar e xaxar na Paraíba. (To dance the ‘xaxado’ in Paraíba) (chorus repeats)
Ela veio com uma dança diferente (She came with a different dance)
E pulava que só uma guariba. (And jumped like a ‘guariba’) (chorus repeats)
E gritava: a, e, i, o, u, ipsilone... (And she shouted: a, e, i, o, u, y) (choir repeats)
Já cansada no meio da brincadeira (Already tired in the middle of the game)
E dançando fora do compasso (And dancing out of time)
Segurei Sebastiana pelo braço (I held Sebastiana by the arm)
E gritei: Não faça sujeira (I shouted: Don’t make a mess)
O xaxado esquentou na gafieira (‘Xaxado’ got intense)
Sebastiana não deu mais fracasso. (Sebastiana no longer failed)
Mas gritava: a, e, i, o, u, ipsilone... (But shouted: a, e, i, o, u, y)
FORRÓ EM LIMOEIRO
Eu fui pra Limoeiro (I went to Limoeiro)
E gostei do forró de lá. (I liked the forró there)
Eu vi um caboclo brejeiro (I saw a nice caboclo)
Tocando a sanfona, entrei no fuá. (Playing the accordion, I entered the dance)
No meio do forró houve um tereré (In the middle of the forró there was a fight)
Disse o Mano Zé, aguenta o pagode (Said Mano Zé, handle the pagode [a musical style])
Todo mundo pode, gritou o Teixeira (Everyone can, shouted Teixeira)
Quem não tem peixeira briga no pé. (Who doesn’t have a knife uses the feet)
Foi quando eu vi a Dona Zezé (It was when I saw Mrs Zezé)
A mulher que é, diz que topa parada (The women who stands for herself)
De saia amarrada fazer cocó (With a tight skirt)
E dizer: eu brigo com cabra canalha (And says I fight nasty guys)
Puxou da navalha e entrou no forró. (Pulled the razor and entered the forró)
Eu que sou do morro, não choro, não corro, (I’m from the hills, don’t cry, don’t run)
Não peço socorro quando há chuá (Don’t ask for help by any means)
Gosto de sambar na ponta da faca (I like to dance holding the knife)
Sou nego de raça e não quero apanhar.(Cos I have guts and don’t want to be beaten)
He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1954, having success with the song Forró em Limoeiro, which was the top-selling album at the time.
In Rio de Janeiro he began to host radio shows at the Tupi and Mayrink Veiga stations, later being hired by Rádio Nacional.
In 1956, he married Almira Castilho de Albuquerque, a former teacher, singer and dancer, with whom he formed a successful duo until 1967, when the marriage ended and the pair split up. It was Almira who taught her husband how to write his name, as well as encouraging him to take his music beyond the states of Paraíba e Pernambuco. He married for the second time, to Neuza Flores dos Anjos, from Bahia, also separating from her before he died.
Jackson do Pandeiro was also a composer; however he put a large part of his songs in the name of his wife at the time: Almira Castilho. He wrote successes like Na base da chinela (On the Slipper’s Sole), with Rosil Cavalcanti; Aquilo bom (That Good Thing), with José Batista; Cantiga da perua (Turkey Song), with Elias Soares; Cabeça feita (Made-up Mind), with Sebastião Batista, and others.
He recorded dozens of songs that became national hits, such as O canto da ema (The Emu’s Song) (Ayres Vianna and João do Valle), Chiclete com banana (Banana Gum) (Gordurinha and Almira Castilho) and Cabo Tenório (Corporal Tenório) and Moxotó (Rosil Cavalcanti); 1 a 1 (1 to 1) (Edgar Ferreira); Forró em Caruaru (Forró in Caruaru) (ZeDantas); Como tem Zé na Paraíba (As There’s Joe in Paraíba) (Manezinho Araújo and Catulo de Paula), Casaca de couro (Leather Shell) (Rui de Morais e Silva); Meu enxoval (My Outfit) (Gordurinha and José Gomes); 17 na corrente (17 on the Chain) (Edgar Ferreira and Manoel Firmino Alves); Coco do Norte (Northern Coco) (Rosil Cavalcanti); O velho gagá (The Old Stutterer) (Almira Castilho and Paulo Gracindo), Vou ter um troço (I’m Gonna Pass Out) (Arnô Provenzano, Otolindo Lopes and Jackson do Pandeiro) among many others.
His extensive discography, comprised of 137 albums, was recorded on big national labels, such as Copacabana (1953-1958), Columbia (1958-1960), Philips (1960-1965), Continental, Cantagalo, CBS, Chantecler and Polygram.
Big names in Brazilian Popular Music, like Luiz Gonzaga, Alceu Valença, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Elba Ramalho and Geraldo Azevedo, have recorded some of his hits.
Jackson do Pandeiro died on 10 July 1982, in Brasília, D.F, and was buried the following day in Caju cemetery, in Rio de Janeiro.
Recife, 30 April 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.
FALA Jackson. Disponível em: <http://jacksondopandeiro.digi.com.br/livro.htm>. Acesso em: 27 abr. 2010.
JACKSON do Pandeiro: O suingue da voz de ouro da Paraíba. Disponível em: <http://:www.facom.ufba.br/pexsites/mucicanordestina/jacksonn3.thm>. Acesso em: 23 abr. 2010.
JOSÉ Gomes Filho, o Jackson do Pandeiro . Disponível :em <http://www.netsaber.com.br/biografias/ver_biografia_c_2436.html>. Acesso em: 23 abr. 2010.
OLIVEIRA, Antônio Kydelmir Dantas de. Os 3 pilares da música popular nordestina. Mossoró, RN: Fundação Vingt-Un Rosado, 1998. (Coleção mossoroense, série, B, n. 1562).
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GASPAR, Lúcia. Jackson do Pandeiro. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar_en/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.