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São Paulo television, from popular to erudite

Study investigates what musical programs meant to the country

GUILHERME LEPCAIn São Paulo, in 1954, three TV stations, controlled by private groups, contended for viewer preference in the country on the 344,000 TVs then existing. The programming schedules included an extensive and varied range of musical programs, all presented live and using the large orchestras that had been formed on the radios. Pioneering company TV Tupi (channel 3), inaugurated in 1950 in São Paulo by businessman, Assis Chateaubriand, was betting on arias, operas, ballets and foreign musical performances with Brazilian singers, as can be seen in recent research carried out at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). “TV had very little or practically no reach outside São Paulo, but showed musically what the city was at that moment,” says researcher, Rita da Cassia Lahoz Morelli, a professor in the Department of Social Anthropology, at the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences at Unicamp. According to Ms. Morelli, exhibiting musical programs to the Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese who lived in the city would have functioned as a a sort of TV group aggregator. “To get an idea of the importance of this, Tupi had on its staff two artists who sang in Spanish, Lolita Rodrigues and Triana Romero,” says the researcher.

Rita de Cassia, the author of such books as “The phonograph industry: an anthropological study” (Editora Unicamp) and “Arrogant, anonymous, subversive: interpreting agreement and disagreement in the Brazilian copyright tradition” (Mercado de Letras), is now analyzing what the music dissemination process via television in Brazil was like between 1954, when President Getulio Vargas committed suicide, and 1969, shortly after AI-5, the decree whose first consequence was the closure of Congress. “Little is known about production in this period. Studies done so far result in general statements, such as program schedules being made for an elite audience. I want to understand why there was so much musical variety and why investors were interested in divulging both classical and popular music at the same time,” says Rita de Cassia. The research, “Music and musicians on TV in São Paulo: work, distinction and identity (1954-1969)”, which was supported by FAPESP, looks for the roots of television in São Paulo. According to Rita de Cassia, there are few studies on the subject and not even the well-known journalist and music critic, José Ramos Tinhorão, one of those who has most studied the subject, went into it in any depth in his research. “His studies focus much more on the musical production of TV in Rio,” observes the researcher.

Rita de Cassia is investigating two basic and empirical questions. She wants to know if, during the period selected for her research, viewers watched classical music as a sign of status, and also whether music became an object of national identity. In the period analyzed she identified 4078 programs and among them 1068 (or 26.2 percent ) were classified as ‘musical art’ many more than the soaps, which totaled 308 at the time surveyed. The project is still on-going, but she said that after Tupi, the broadcasters that sprang up in São Paulo also invested heavily in music programs. TV Paulista, channel 5, which went on air in 1952 also started out with a huge investment in musical repertoires. It was the smallest TV station in São Paulo: its headquarters were a small apartment in the Liege Building on Consolação Street, near Avenida Paulista. Their studios were set up in the garage and in an area on the building’s ground floor, says Rita de Cassia. Despite the makeshift and precarious conditions – the writers worked in the living room and the darkroom was in the kitchen – important artistic names from Brazilian TV worked with the TV station, like Hebe Camargo and conductor and composer, Guerra Peixe.

“TV Record, which was launched the following year by the Machado de Carvalho family, also bet heavily on musical programs, but focused more on a Brazilian and popular repertoire, which was a little different from Tupi,” says the researcher. Among the TV station’s artists were names like Ary Barroso, Inezita Barroso, Dorival Caymmi, Elizabeth Cardoso, Ataulfo Alves, Jacob do Bandolim and Aracy de Almeida. “It was then that the marketing identity of the channel became the ‘yellow-green chain’. Even so, the TV station was also responsible for initiating the internationalization process”. Various foreign artists appeared here, like Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and many others. But it cannot be said that their presence characterized foreignness,” explains Rita de Cassia. Was Record a visionary TV broadcaster? For the professor, it is impossible to say this. “What is known is that without videotape, it was easier and more economical to record shows than to produce soaps,” she explains.

Rock n’ roll began to appear on the scene and expressions like ‘teenager’ arose in television comments and newspaper publications. “Although not conclusive, maybe these references were important in building up programming schedules that targeted the young audience,” is the author’s assessment. Until the late 1950’s, TV networks in São Paulo presented even more heterogeneous musical programs: operettas, fados, boleros, samba, rock and romantic music, because there was a public for all tastes. The 1950’s, which was the so-called interregnum period (the democratic interval between two governments that occurred between the end of the New State and the military coup), is viewed with importance by the researcher. “These years were marked by a retreat by the State in national culture.TV broadcasts were a public concession, but it was private groups that took command, leaving programming schedules without any institutional interference. The same thing happened with the newspapers,” she says. Television grew rapidly. In 1958, the country had 344,000 TV sets and it is estimated that there were 1.5 million viewers. As a result, there were many cultural programs and advertisers began to emerge. Rita de Cassia recalls that Maysa, a singer, songwriter and actress, for example, had a TV program called the Piraquê Shows. However, there were others, says the professor, in the same negotiation molds. “‘Antarctica in the world of sound’ was sponsored by the drinks brand and brought together a huge orchestra and important conductors,” she recalls.

As the end of the decade approached, the so-called samba-song, as sung by Angela Maria, Cauby Peixoto, Dalva de Oliveira, Maysa, among many others, started to divide the repertoire with young music: the yeh-yeh-yeh of Roberto Carlos, and the American rock of Elvis Presley. In 1960, the Excelsior network, belonging to businessman Mário Simonsen Wallace, went on the air to compete with musical programs, too. At the Cultura Artistica Theater, in the center of São Paulo, which had been leased by the broadcaster, attractions such as Brazil 60, with Bibi Ferreira, were organized. The program received singers and composers, like João Gilberto, Roberto Carlos, Elis Regina and Dercy Gonçalves. On the other hand, TV Paulista produced Bom Tom, presented by none other than Tom Jobim. “New programs were beginning to emerge, presenting a whole new variety of styles. It had the young generation, bossa nova and rock – roll. This is a moment that was rich in musical production,” says Rita de Cassia.

In 1964, the military coup radically changed the direction of the country and interfered with this development. However, the new political situation, the researcher emphasizes, did not affect the immediate scheduling of the TV stations. In São Paulo, a new type of Brazilian music began to dominate university meetings, bars and theaters; a confrontational sound that was quite different from bossa nova, which had already had its glory days. With an eye on this trend, in 1965 Excelsior organized the first music festival, which established the reputation of the singer, Elis Regina. The following year, Excelsior and Record competed in audiences for festivals, with Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, Nara Leão, Geraldo Vandre, Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes, names and bands until then little known. With the success of these programs, TV networks invested even more in programs that valued Brazilian music.

New stations emerged in São Paulo: Bandeirantes in 1967, and Cultura, two years later, when TV broadcasts already had an almost national reach – the exception was the State of Amazonas, which started receiving transmissions in 1970. “There are studies that indicate the military as being responsible for national broadcasting. It was a political issue,” states Rita de Cassia. If on the one hand the idea was to take the nationalist feeling to all states, on the other it ensured that music genres reached every corner of the country. What was the impact? Rita de Cassia does not have all the answers yet. The author remembers that the military regime’s crackdown, which began with the AI-5, led various artists to leave the country and a process of censorship and control began. “My research extends to 1969. What really interests me is precisely this period between the two governments, as well as the effects of the coup and the AI-5 on music programming.” To carry out this anthropological study of the classical and popular music broadcast on television stations in São Paulo , Rita de Cassia is relying on live sources, the very people who helped make the early days of television in São

The project
Music and musicians on in TV in São Paulo (1954-1969): work and identity. (nº 2008/55025-0); Type Regular Research Awards; Coordinator Rita de Cássia Morelli – Unicamp; Investment
R$ 40,957.00