Dos Prazeres, Heitor

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dos Prazeres, Heitor

September 23, 1898
October 4, 1966

Eduardo Alexandre dos Prazeres, a clarinetist in the Brazilian National Guard Band, had enormous pride in his origins. He saw heroic resistance in the stories of slaves who fought to liberate and affirm their African roots. His own namePrazeres (Pleasures)represented to him the ability to find light and joy even in the darkest situations. This pride turned into enormous satisfaction on the day his son, Heitor dos Prazeres, was born. Heitor would carry the family name and his father's pride into the twentieth century. (Famous Brazilians are often referred to by their first name or by a nickname.)

One day in 1908, Heitor left his house in Rio de Janeiro early. He had a can of shoe polish and a leather rag slung over his shoulder, and he carried a cavaquinho (a four-stringed instrument, resembling a ukelele) in his other hand. The instrument was a present from the famous musician and close family friend "Uncle" Hilário Jovino (also known by his nickname, Lalau de Ouro), one of the founders of Rio de Janeiro's ranchos (carnival groups from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries). The instrument would become his constant companion and faithful partner in creations like the chorinho "Cadenciado"his first composition, written when he was twelve years oldand it helped him gain the nickname "Lino do Cavaquinho." (The chorinho was a popular musical genre at the turn of the century, played with string and wind instruments and marked by improvisation and rapid and changing melodies.)

In addition to his work polishing shoes, Heitor worked as a newspaper boy, a carpenter's assistant, and a furniture polisher. But he continued to work on his music, and by 1910 he was participating in the gatherings at Tia Ciata's house, where participants cultivated African-Brazilian religious practices and musical rhythms like candomblé, jongo, lundu, cateretê, and samba. Among the stars that participated in those gatherings were Lalau de Ouro, José Luiz de Moraes (a.k.a., Caninha), João Machado Guedes (João da Baiana), José Barbosa da Silva (Sinhô), Getúlio Marinho (Amor), Ernesto Joaquim Maria dos Santos (Donga), Saturnino Gonçalves (Satur), and Alfredo da Rocha Viana (Pixinguinha), each of whom became icons of Brazilian popular music.

The development of these sounds took place in the area that Heitor is popularly credited for naming "Little Africa," which extended from the city's ports to the Ci-dade Nova neighborhood, with its geographical heart at the famous plaza Praça Onze. It was in Little Africa where Heitor spent countless hours, became a respected samba musician, and helped found the first samba schools (carnival groups that succeeded the ranchos and gained limited government patronage beginning in the 1930s.)

Heitor's complete oeuvre includes more than three hundred compositions ranging from sacred (Candomblé, Umbanda, and Christian hymns) to popular (waltzes, choros, sambas, canções, marches, rancheiras, baiões, rumbas, and mambos ). Of these works, 219 were recorded, the most important of which are "Pierrô Apaixonado," "Lá em Mangueira," "Gosto que me Enrosco," "Mulher de Malandro," "Vou ver se Posso," "A Tristeza me Persegue," "Canção do Jornaleiro," "Olinda," "Carioca Boêmio," and "Consideração."

After the death of his wife in 1937, Heitor began to dedicate himself to painting. He taught himself his new trade, and his initial objective was simply to decorate the walls of his house and illustrate sheet music. His artistic production through 1940 was dominated by depictions of rustic, rural scenes of nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro, images he transferred to the canvas by relying on little more than his intuition.

In 1943, at the urging of his friend Augusto Rodrigues, he participated in an exposition organized by the Royal Air Force to benefit victims of the Second World War. In the following years, he took part in various expositions, both in Brazil and abroad. In 1951 he was honored at the First Bienal in São Paulo, winning third place among national artists with Moenda, a painting inspired by the daily life of sugar planters. Today, the work hangs in São Paulo's Museum of Contemporary Art.

The mark of Heitor's self-taught work rests in its uninhibited artistic creativity. Like other naïf artists, he portrayed an intensely personal vision of the world, replete with color and marked by careful but unique brush strokes. In Brazil, the art naïf movement gained momentum after 1937, in large part due to the work of Heitor and Cardosinho, both of whom were also inspired by contemporary European artists.

In 1950 the writer Rubem Braga said about Heitor, "His paintings are flowers which bloom from his music and his life" (Braga, p. 14). In 1961, a Time magazine contributor wrote, "A modest, quiet, and unassuming man, Heitor dos Prazeres is, as we are seeing, a name which deserves respect and attention. The victories he has won in music and in painting are the result of his own hard work."

See also Art; Candomblé; Jongo; Music; Samba; Tia Ciata


Braga, Rubem. Três Primitivos. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Educação/Serviço de Documentação, série Os Cadernos de Cultura n§ 63, 1953.

"Heitor dos Prazeres." Time (Portuguese-language supplement; December 10, 1961).

Prazeres Filho, Heitor dos, and Alba Lírio. Heitor dos Prazeres: sua Arte e seu Tempo. Rio de Janeiro: ND Comunicação, 2003.

walter pinto (2005)

heitorzinho dos prazeres (2005)
Translated by Marc Adam Hertzman