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Musician Wren (Uirapuru)

The Uirapuru [Musician Wren] is a small and restless bird of only 12.5cm in length.

Musician Wren (Uirapuru)

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 23/02/2017

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

The Uirapuru [Musician Wren] is a small and restless bird of only 12.5cm in length. Its scientific name is Cyphorhinus aradus and it belongs to the Troglodytidae family. It feeds basically on fruits and insects and its natural habitat is the forests and bush of the Amazon. The music wren looks unattractive: it has a reddish-brown plumage, or olive-green with a reddish tail, a strong beak and large feet. The Indians call it Irapuru or Guirapuru, which means ‘ornate bird’, ‘borrowed bird’, or ‘bird that is not a bird’, and whose mission is to preside over the fate of other birds. Its song is extremely beautiful, and when it makes musical sounds, all other birds quieten to listen to him, as if bewitched.

Câmara Cascudo pointed out that the first foreigner to hear the song of the musician wren and record his melody was the botanist Richard Spruce on a trip to the Trombetas River in the mid-19th century. According to this researcher, the music wren sang to the whole world like a music box:

They were unmistakable clear metallic sounds, exactly modulated as if by a musical instrument. The phrases were short, but each one included all the notes of the tuning fork, and after repeating the same phrase about twenty times, it suddenly passed to another, from time to time with a key change of a major fifth, and proceeded the same. Usually it paused briefly before changing the theme. I had listened to him for a long time ago, when the idea of doing the transcription occurred to me... Simple as it is, this music was coming from an invisible musician in the depths of the wild forest, a magic that enchanted me for almost an hour. Then, abruptly, it stopped, to start again so far away that I could hardly perceive it fading away (p.888)

In North Brazil, there are several legends about the musician wren. One of them says that a young warrior fell in love with a chieftain’s wife. Since he could not approach her, he asked the god Tupã to turn him into a bird. Tupã readily granted his request. But noting that there was a certain bird singing every night for his beloved, the chief pursued it with the intention of catching it. But the bird flew into the forest, and the chief could not keep up with him. Every night, then, Uirapuru returns and sings to the chief’s wife, hoping that she finds him through his beautiful song.

Another legend goes that in a tribe there were two Indian women in love with the same chief. Knowing this, he promised to marry the one who could best aim an arrow. And so it happened. It turns out that the losing Indian – Oribici – wept so much that her tears formed a water source and a stream. On the other hand, she realised that the chief loved his wife very much. So she decided to resign herself to this unluckiness and to move on from that love. The great god Tupã, however, sympathised with the sorrow of Oribici and turned her into a bird, so that she could always see her beloved from above. He also gave her a beautiful song that could bewitch all the other birds in the forest, compensating her for the love she could not have.

A third legend says that the arrow of a passionate maiden struck a bird with red feathers and a perfect song, turning it into a strong and beautiful warrior. There was, however, a crippled and very ugly sorcerer who loved the maiden and was jealous of the warrior. So he played a certain song with his enchanted flute, and made the warrior disappear forever. From that day, only the beautiful song of the warrior remains in the forests and bush of the Amazon. According to the legend, it is the music wren itself.

In relation to this bird, the real and the legendary therefore seem to be confused. Researchers say it never repeats the same musical phrases and is thus considered as a supernatural being by the natives. After it dies, not only its body, but other parts of it or its nest are considered talismans, being much sought after in markets. For the Tupi Indians, the music wren truly represents a god who has acquired the form of a bird, and many people will be attracted to shops that have its amulet. They also believe that it brings happiness: a man who carries just one of its feathers will become irresistible to women and will be very lucky in business. In turn, a woman who gets a piece of its nest will be able to live with the man she loves, and he will remain faithful and in love forever and ever. In addition, anyone who hears the song of this bird should immediately make a wish, because it will come true.

Cascudo recorded that “there are not many innkeepers in Pará, Maranhão and Amazonas who do not have a Guirapuru [musician wren] buried in the doorway, to whom they attribute the virtue of leading customers to their tavern. A Guirapuru, for this reason, is expensive...” Many merchants buy such amulets just to keep it in a drawer in their establishment, or even bury it in the doorway, believing that it will attract customers. However, it is worth informing that it is very difficult to obtain a feather from the musician wren, because the other birds always warn it of the presence of predators and it flies very far. You only get the old feathers, when they fall naturally from its body to the ground.

Also according to the folklorist, the position in which the musician wren falls when it is shot indicates the sex that should use it as an amulet: falling on its back means it will be for a woman, and lying face down means it should belong to a man, after being appropriately prepared by a shaman. For the natives, the amulet will bring happiness and fortune to those who possess it.

Musician wrens have also inspired the writing of some popular songs. One of them was composed by Jacobina and Murilo Latini, and interpreted by Pena Branca and Xavantinho. The lyrics are as follows:


Uirapuru, Uirapuru,
Seresteiro cantador do meu sertão;
Uirapuru, Uirapuru,
Ele canta as mágoas do meu coração.
A mata inteira fica muda ao teu cantar,
Tudo se cala para ouvir tua canção,
Que vai ao céu numa sentida melodia,
E vai a Deus em forma triste de oração.
Uirapuru, Uirapuru,
Seresteiro cantador do meu sertão;
Uirapuru, Uirapuru,
Ele canta as mágoas do meu coração.
Se Deus ouvisse o que te sai do coração,
Entenderia que é de dor tua canção,
Que nos seus olhos anda o pranto em moradia,
Que daria para salvar o meu sertão.
Uirapuru, Uirapuru,
Seresteiro cantador do meu sertão;
Uirapuru, Uirapuru,
Ele canta as mágoas do meu coração.


Musician wren, Musician wren
Serendipitous singer of my backlands
Musician wren, Musician wren
He sings the hurts from my heart
The entire forest falls silent at your singing
Everything quiets to hear your song
That goes to heaven in a melodic sense
And goes to God in the sad form of prayer
Musician wren, Musician wren
Serendipitous singer of my backlands
Musician wren, Musician wren
He sings the hurts from my heart
If God heard what comes from your heart
He would understand the pain of your song
That in your eyes the cry made home
I would give to save my backlands
Musician wren, Musician wren
Serendipitous singer of my backlands
Musician wren, Musician wren
He sings the hurts from my heart.

The melody of this song can be appreciated in the sites: and

Another song was composed by Waldemar Henrique in 1934. Here are its lyrics:


Certa vez de montaria,
Eu descia o Paraná,
E o caboclo que remava,
Não parava de falar,
Oh, oh, não parava de falar,
Oh, oh, que caboclo falador!

Me contou do lobisomem,
Da Mãe-D’água e do Tajá,
Disse do Jurutahy,
Que se ri pro luar,
Oh, oh, que se ri pro luar,
Oh, oh, que caboclo falador!

Que mangava de visagem,
Que matou surucucu,
E jurou com pabulagem,
Que pegou o Uirapuru,
Oh, oh, que pegou o Uirapuru,
Oh, oh, que caboclo tentador!

Caboclinho, meu amor,
Arranja um pra mim,
Ando roxo pra pegar unzinho assim...
O diabo foi-se embora,
E não quis me dar,
Vou juntar meu dinheirinho,
Pra poder comprar...

Mas no dia em que eu comprar,
O caboclo vai sofrer,
Eu vou desassossegar,
O seu bem-querer,
Oh, oh, o seu bem-querer,
Oh, oh, ora deixe ele pra lá!


Once riding,
I descended the Paraná,
And the caboclo that roamed,
Wouldn’t stop talking,
Oh, oh, wouldn’t stop talking,
Oh, oh, what a talking caboclo!

He told me about the werewolf,
The Mother of Water and the Tajá,
He talked of Jurutahy,
Who laughs at the moon,
Oh, oh, who laughs at the moon,
Oh, oh, what a talking caboclo!

Who makes fun of sight,
Who killed surucucu,
And he swore with vainglory,
That he caught a musician wren,
Oh, oh, that he caught a musician wren,
Oh, oh, what a tempting caboclo!

Caboclinho, my love,
Get one for me,
I’ve tried so hard to get one...
The devil left,
And did not want to give it to me,
I’ll save my money,
To be able to buy...

But the day I buy it,
The caboclo will suffer,
I'm going to get restless,
You well-wisher,
Oh, oh, you well-wisher,
Oh, oh, now let him go!

Legends about the musician wren have inspired many artists. In 1917, conductor Heitor Villa-Lobos composed a symphonic poem based on folk material collected on travels through the North Region. In this material, there was the narrative of a very simple legend: a young woman, hearing the song of the music wren (considered the king of love), shot an arrow through its heart. And as the arrow passed through, the bird became a handsome young man. It should be noted that in 1935 Maestro Villa-Lobos made some corrections in its musical score for its debut in Buenos Aires.

On the other hand, in Pará, a theatrical spectacle was mounted which used regional materials and giant dolls, inspired by the Licocó dolls of the Carajás Indians. In 2000, this spectacle was awarded by the theatre edict of the Municipality of Belém.

The number of people who hear (or have heard) the musician wren sing is actually quite low, however. This is due to some important aspects: 1. this bird sings on the highest branches of the Amazonian forests and forests; 2. the song aims to attract females for mating; 3. it only lasts from ten to fifteen minutes; 4. it occurs only at dawn and dusk; 5. it only sings during the building of its nest (about fifteen days a year). In addition, it is necessary to take into account predatory hunting in search of amulets, which has been contributing, to a great extent, to the extermination of the species.

Finally, it should be noted that the musician wren – a bird as small as a sparrow – has enriched Brazilian folklore through legends, myths, beliefs in its supernatural powers, melodies, songs, symphonies composed in its name, and commercialised amulets. There is no song more beautiful than its. When the musician wren begins, all birds seem to be bewitched and stop singing. It seems that they would never dare interrupt the rarest, most melodious and most sacred of the master singers.



Recife, 22 December 2006.
Translated by Peter Leamy, December 2016.

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how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Uirapuru. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.