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The Mother of Modern Brazilian Music and Culture, Research Paper Example

Pages: 13

Words: 3605

Research Paper

As a woman living in Brazil at the turn of the century, Chiquinha Gonzaga was subject to unfair treatment because she was a woman. As a consequence, she forced us to rethink the way in which women are treated and what their involvement in the world of music should be. Gonzaga was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1847, from a mulatto mother and a wealthy white father. She is best known for being the first Brazilian woman composer[1]. As a mulatto, she also played a significant role in the fight to end slavery and racial discrimination in Brazil; she sought equality and a life in music. Just three years before Gonzaga’s death in 1935, women in Brazil finally earned the right to vote, ending the struggle that both she and many other revolutionaries had dedicated their lives to fighting for[2]. Many fans of Gonzaga argue that her prominence in Brazilian history have encouraged those who enjoy her music and involvement in her human rights campaign to take part in the feminist movement in the country. While Gonzaga herself was not responsible for initiating the right to vote in the nation, her influence encouraged many others to take part until equality was finally achieved.

Much of what is currently known about Gonzaga were biographies of her life, written by individuals who focus on her music[3]. However, in these works, Gonzaga’s influence on society is clear. Because she is a woman and one of mixed race, she was faced with many challenges that other members of society were not required to follow. Thus, her story is one that many women and members of different ethnic backgrounds can connect with because she represents the diversity of her region in addition to the importance of emphasizing the value of diverse members of society. She was a hero for many diverse peoples and through an examination of her story with regards to women’s rights and other aspects of the human rights movement, we can study Gonzaga as a sample of the human rights movement that motivated so many people to come to action in both South America and in other parts of the world. Due to the presence of biographies about Gonzaga’s life, some academic scholars believe that reports of her feminist activism are what encouraged the feminist paradigm shift in the region. It is therefore valuable to evaluate the impact of such stories and their realities on national and world culture to truly understand Gonzaga’s influence a woman and as a musician.

Gender equality has been a problem in Brazil historically, with men in the forefront of society and politics. The fact that such an emphasis was placed on defending the honor of men made it challenging for women to rise to the forefront of society. When exploring Brazilian history, there is typically an underreporting of the struggles faced by lower and middle class women[4]. Gonzaga was therefore representative of the need to understand these populations. Since they were in the political minority, Gonzaga recognized a need to place an emphasis on their treatment and involvement in society. During the late 1800s to early 1900s, women were expected to act as home makers so those who deviated from these expectations were naturally violating cultural normalities. It could therefore be said that Gonzaga acts as a revolutionary in this manner as well. Therefore, by abandoning the sense that she was required to remain at home and avoid becoming educated, Gonzaga acts as a model for what women could become if they simply abandon the societal expectations that their patriarchal society places on them.

According to fans of Gonzaga’s work, “Feminist Chiquinha challenged and transgressed many macho customs at the time in which she lived, and even more: she is currently considered one of the greatest composers and musicians of Brazilian music. Her work has more than 2000 compositions [translated from Portuguese]”[5]. At the time of Gonzaga’s birth, slavery was still considered to be legal in her country. She began her life like most women did at her age. She was forced to marry early at 13, but was inspired to leave her unhappy marriage just five years later. Shortly after, she met a railroad engineer that she fell in love with and began a relationship with him. Such a relationship was typically unheard of during this time period. However, Gonzaga was unbothered by the atypical nature of this relationship and unconcerned about the opinion that her father would have. In doing this, Gonzaga showed women across the country that it is okay to go against societal standards if these standards are not in favor of an individual’s happiness. By leaving her husband and entering a relationship of her own choice, Gonzaga shows that the feminist movement is simply about equality and fighting for the right for women to live their lives happily without intervention from others in society. Eventually, Gonzaga was forced to leave this relationship because society scorned such romantic involvement. However, this event inspired her to recognize the cruelness that women in Brazil face as a consequence of the social hierarchical structure.

After Gonzaga’s relationship with the railroad engineer came to an end, she was forced to give piano lessons in order to support both herself and her children. At this time, she was introduced to flutist Antonio da Silva Calado, who inspired her to write her first hit, the polka “attractive”. Shortly thereafter, she also became involved in writing music for the theater, including one act in “Feast of St. John” in 1883. However, she found that her involvement in this industry was challenging because many individuals involved in the theater industry did not want to be involved with a female musician. In time, she found that her music had her well-known by many individuals and this process became easier. It could be said that in doing so, she paved a way for other women to enter this field because individuals would begin to take women composers and musicians more seriously due to her talent. No longer was music a field just for men. Gonzaga proved that women have an ability to become involved in this typically male dominated industry as well.

When Gonzaga’s music began to become popular, she used her influence to advocate for the rights of slaves. With her successes, she began to become politically involved as well. Recognizing her own personal restrictions in a male dominated society, Gonzaga recognized the plight of the slaves and saw that she had an opportunity to use her music to support these individuals. “She directed the theater musicians and the band of the Military Police, becoming the first woman to conducting an orchestra in Brazil. In 1887, she made at the Teatro São Pedro, in Rio, a concert with 100 guitars. At that time, Chiquinha actively participated in the movement for the liberation of slaves. Sold door to door their scores in order to raise funds for the Liberation Confederation (anti-slavery organization). With the money she got by selling the sheet music for their song “Caramuru,” Chiquinha Gonzaga bought in 1888, the emancipation of the slave and musician José Flute, anticipating a few months to the Golden Law. She was also an active participant in the campaign for the proclamation of the Republic [translated”[6]. While Gonzaga’s involvement in this movement did not originally make a large reach, she believed that even freeing one individual would demonstrate a greater need to take action to end the institution of slavery. With her own money, she purchased the freedom of a slave and set an important precedent for those interested in her music and political involvement to make them recognize that slavery is wrong and that they themselves can take action to end it.

At the high point of her career, Gonzaga’s music had so much influence that the Brazilian president’s wife set up a concert featuring her music. Interestingly, this started a scandal because many other affluent Brazilians felt that music was a symbol of moral decay. However, it was more than likely that these individuals were simply afraid of the challenges that Gonzaga presented to the Brazilian establishment. Simply being a female musician in itself was of anti-establishment nature, but her plight to bring equality to women and end slavery was an even greater threat to these individuals in power. Thus, Gonzaga’s career was one that challenged the mindset of many people in Brazil, calling people to pay attention to the plight of the ordinary man and woman. As a consequence, Gonzaga will be remembered not just for her music, she will also be remembered for her braveness in the face of the need for political and social change of Brazil.

Chiquinha Gonzaga faced many interesting life challenges that were related to her gender and wealth status. Because her father was a wealthy white individual who eventually gained political influence by becoming a marshal, she was subject to the standards of society and required to marry at a young age. Her opposition to society was also an opposition to her father, who rejected her as a consequence of this. However, Gonzaga had the unique opportunity to become educated due to her status, although she used this education to fight against the establishment rather than support it. Her education involved learning the piano because this was considered to be the mark of a lady in high society. Again, however, rather than using this skill to impress high ranking individuals in the government, she used this skill as a form of expression to fight for the rights of less heard individuals throughout the country. When Gonzaga married, her husband prohibited her from playing music, and she also suffered mental and physical abuse at his hand. Thus, Gonzaga left this marriage in order to fight against this cruel treatment and to pursue her love for music as a form of communication that would help her cope with her role in society and form a connection with others in turn. Gonzaga’s role in music was notable during this time period because she participated in musical styles that were typically reserved for only male participation[7].

Analyzing Gonzaga’s music makes it apparent that her music is written with extreme skill. Although no recordings of her performances exist, many modern musicians have acquired her compositions and performed them for modern audiences. While these pieces do not sound to be revolutionary to the modern listener, it is important to consider that they combine components of Brazilian culture, classical music, and other art forms that make these pieces distinct (Murphy 2006). In fact, many of the motifs used in Gonzaga’s music have been reused in modern pieces. When listening to “Lua Branca”, for example, it becomes apparent that this music was written for all people to enjoy, not just the privileged class. The piece has a soothing feel that makes it feel appropriate for parlor or group entertainment. At the same time, the music consists of a tone that reflects sadness, which is a sentiment that Gonzaga herself personally felt when writing and releasing most of her music. As a consequence, it could be said that this piece was meant to represent the working class, women, and slaves, to reflect the harshness and unfairness that they face in their daily lives. In the modern sense, this piece is a reminder that there was once a great inequality experienced among Brazilian citizens, and it is important to remember the source of this struggle so that it could be avoided in the future.

Other pieces created by Gonzaga were meant to serve as a form of entertainment. “Ô Abre Alas” appears to have a beat that reflects conventional Brazilian rhythms. While this song also seems that it could be enjoyed in a parlor because it’s lively, there are pieces of the music that are reminiscent of a tango beat. It is clear that this song was meant for people to dance to and enjoy. It appears that this tune is one of the pieces that were written later in Gonzaga’s career that furthered its success because of mass appeal. By listening to this tune, it is clear that this artist influenced many further pieces of Brazilian composition. Several of her other tunes follow at a similar speed and pep. Interestingly, “Ô Abre Alas” is considered to be the first composition that is a part of the marcha carnavalesca genre. The purpose of this genre is to bring about light-hearted pieces that could be easily enjoyed. Thus, it is apparent that Gonzaga is capable of great diversity in her music. She is easily able to capture the sad and the happy, which allows her to connect with her audience easily. While her pieces feature piano because this is the musical instrument that she knew the best, modern renditions of the music can be performed using a series of instruments including trombones, tubas, horns, clarinets, flutes and piccolos, and percussion to create a livelier “big band” feeling.

Throughout her career, Gonzaga attempted to ensure that her music was written to support members outside of the privileged class. One piece that led to particular ridicule was Maxixe because this piece included a sensuous rhythm and dance. This contradicted establishment views regarding sexuality and the position of women in Brazilian culture, so it was opposed. Interestingly, modern Brazilian music is well-known for its inclusion of sensuous rhythms, so it can be said that Gonzaga was responsible for the incorporation of this element into her music. Furthering her career, while working under Palhares Ribeiro, Gonzaga played her first role as not just composer, but conductor[8]. She was the first Brazilian woman to fill this role, which worked to contradict many of the societal boundaries that were in place to bias against women. Throughout the remainder of her career, Gonzaga continued to break boundaries for her gender. Playing music in front of a live audience, for example, was something that was not typically done by a woman in her time. However, the audience loved her performances and as her music became popularized, so did the feminist and human rights movements that she stood for. Thus, Gonzaga could be said to be a revolutionary in many different ways. Her songs are continuously honored in the public domain today, in which even male musicians honor her music and cover it in performances. On a large scale, people consider Gonzaga to be the mother of Brazilian music. While there are many “fathers” of both past and modern music in the country, Gonzaga was the one woman to revolutionize the way that we think about composition, the role of women in music, and the power that music brings to society. As a consequence, Gonzaga represents a deeper meaning for Brazilian music. Through her art, she was able to enact significant social change.

Even though Gonzaga was primarily active during the 1920s and 1930s, her influence on Brazilian music and music throughout the world is apparent. The mark of a good musician is one that is able to adapt to the wants and needs of the people in a manner that drives communication between the masses. To respond to such a need Gonzaga was able to adapt a variety of music styles, leading to many different compositions that continue to influence modern music today[9]. She is associated with Latin, classical, international, and jazz music, while her styles are broad as well, including elements of Brazilian traditions, choro, samba, European, and popular music[10].

Gonzaga’s career ultimately shows how music can influence members of the public to enact great change. Not only does music help people cope with social discrepancies, it also motivates them to recognize the problems that exist in the world around them. One of the most prominent effects that Gonzaga had in her career was the influence that her music had not just on other members of her class, but also on the social elite. A political scandal occurred when the Second Lady of Brazil, Nair de Teffé, wife of the president, performed one of Gonzaga’s songs, Gaucho, on guitar in public in 1914. This was problematic for members of the elite class who viewed Gonzaga as a direct hindrance to their influence on society due to the support that she was able to gather. However, the Second Lady of Brazil performed this piece out of admiration for Gonzaga’s music, demonstrating that even members of the elite class could be reached and made to recognize the plight of the average citizen. It is important to consider that even women in the elite class were subject to many of the same problems that women of other classes were subject to as well, so Gonzaga’s music served as a form of connection between these different groups of women. Thus, the political community of Brazil was shocked that the Second Lady would perform this piece because of what it represents within the context of Brazilian society during this time period. Since the song contained a sexual innuendo as well, as “corta jaca” is translated to “cut the jackfruit”, the public became worried that the Second Lady was corrupted in publicizing such a piece[11]. However, the need for sexual freedom of women was apparent during this period and it was beneficial for Gonzaga to take the forefront of this battle in order to help recruit other women to this cause. While women’s suffrage in Brazil was not achieved until the several years prior to Gonzaga’s death, it is apparent that her music and involvement in the feminist movement had a lasting effect that conferred significant advantage to the women of Brazil, bringing a downfall to the previously predominantly patriarchal society.

In the modern era, when an individual considers what Brazilian music means, one does not typically think of sexual repression. Instead, Brazilian music is associated with freedom and fun. However, it is because of Gonzaga that such associations are made. By breaking away from the formal traditions of classical music during the 1800s in Brazil, Gonzaga and other artists that followed in her style were able to recreate Brazilian music and culture in a manner that is meaningful for all of those who are present. After several hundred years’ worth of their music tradition, Gonzaga allowed Brazil to develop a musical style that was distinctly their own. In a nation known for many diverse styles of music and dance, artists like Gonzaga were able to change the status quo to make music a representation of the people, their struggles, wants, and desires. No longer were musicians concerned with producing art for the elite class. Gonzaga’s movement made it so that music would be for the people. Thus, as the mother of modern Brazilian music, Gonzaga is to thank not just for her productions, but her bravery in challenging her own status as a woman and as an individual born illegitimately to a member of the elite class. By respecting the rights of others, slaves and women alike, she was able to create radical change through her music and her personal actions that have created a lasting effect on Brazilian culture today. While there is still an inequality of classes, Gonzaga shows us that it is plausible for us to fight what we believe in and to encourage others to act. We cannot create change by simply wishing that change will happen. Instead, we must motivate others through words and music to take parts in movements that will drastically change out world in a manner that will benefit everyone. Chiquinha Gonzaga is not just a woman, a feminist, or a nationalist; she is an individual that shows us that through music, anything is possible.

Bibliography

Besse, Susan K. Restructuring Patriarchy: The Modernization of Gender Inequality in Brazil, 1914-1940. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Lazaroni, Dalva. Chiquinha Gonzaga: sofri e chorei tive muito amor: Rio de Janeiro: Entre Linhas, 1998.

Livingston-Isenhour, T.; Garcia, T. G. C. Choro: A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Mariz, Vasco. História da Música no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 2005.

Metcalf, Alida C. Women and Means: Women and Family Property in Colonial Brazil, Journal of Social History. Vol. 24, No 2 (Winter 1990) pp. 277-298.

Murphy, John P. “Music in Brazil: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture”. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Neder, Alvaro. “Artist Biography by Alvaro Neder”. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/chiquinha- gonzaga-mn000191856 (accessed December 30, 2015).

Roschel, Renato. “Chiquinha Gonzaga”. http://almanaque.folha.uol.com.br/chiquinha.htm (accessed December 30, 2015).

Sansone, Livio. “The Localization of Global Funk in Bahia and Rio”. In Perrone, Charles A.; Dunn, Christopher. 2002.

Thompson, Daniella. “The lewd dance that shocked a venerable senator”. http://daniellathompson.com/Texts/Le_Boeuf/boeuf.pt.8.htm. (accessed December 30, 2015).

[1] Sansone, Livio. “The Localization of Global Funk in Bahia and Rio”. In Perrone, Charles A.;  Dunn, Christopher. 2002. pp. 9.

[2] Metcalf, Alida C. Women and Means: Women and Family Property in Colonial Brazil, Journal of Social History. Vol. 24, No 2 (Winter 1990) pp. 277-298.

[3] Lazaroni, Dalva. Chiquinha Gonzaga: sofri e chorei tive muito amor: Rio de Janeiro: Entre Linhas, 1998. pp. 1.

[4] Besse, Susan K. Restructuring Patriarchy: The Modernization of Gender Inequality in Brazil, 1914-1940. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. pp. 76.

[5] Roschel, Renato. “Chiquinha Gonzaga”. http://almanaque.folha.uol.com.br/chiquinha.htm (accessed December 30, 2015).

[6] Roschel, Renato. “Chiquinha Gonzaga”. http://almanaque.folha.uol.com.br/chiquinha.htm (accessed December 30, 2015).

[7] Mariz, Vasco. História da Música no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 2005. pp. 3.

[8] Neder, Alvaro. “Artist Biography by Alvaro Neder”. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/chiquinha-gonzaga-mn000191856 (accessed December 30, 2015).

[9] Livingston-Isenhour, T.; Garcia, T. G. C. Choro: A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2005. pp. 4.

[10] Neder, Alvaro. “Artist Biography by Alvaro Neder”. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/chiquinha-gonzaga-mn000191856 (accessed December 30, 2015).

[11] Thompson, Daniella. “The lewd dance that shocked a venerable senator”. http://daniellathompson.com/Texts/Le_Boeuf/boeuf.pt.8.htm. (accessed December 30, 2015).

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