Popular ballads and songs 

The little village of Casa Branca is situated in the valley of the Parque de Serra do Rola Moça, a mountainous region of semi-tropical forest in the state of Minas Gerais.This state of Southern Brazil owes its wealth to its mineral resources, mainly gold, iron ore and precious stones. Casa Branca was founded in the 17th century by Portuguese settlers seeking for gold. They left in their wake a considerable cultural heritage of customs and religious rites as well as a hybrid population descending from slaves and settlers. Casa Branca lies thirty-odd kilometres from Belo Horizonte (capital of the state of Minas Gerais), one of Brazil’s main industrial centres. The village and its surroundings have gradually become a favourite “weekend” tourist destination. Today, this trend represents a threat to the environment and to the three hundred inhabitants cultural identity. Until the end of the seventies, Casa Branca had a population of less than two hundred. At that time the majority of village land was owned by ten to twenty families. Since then, successive economic crises have forced the owners to sell their lands in order to survive and by 1999 over 5,600 plots had been sold. Previously, the inhabitants were farmers, stockbreeders or masons. Today they are turning to new types of employment in response to the demand for labour in the building and tourist sectors.

Folia dos Santos Reis” is one of the most widespread religious events in rural Brazil. It evokes the journey of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. On December 24th musicians set out singing from the village church and visit each house. Each time they stop, a clown scratches the door with a spur: the group then enters singing and executing certain mimed dances. Next, they share a meal here or receive a present there, in thanks for the singing and for having brought the Three Wise Men to the dwelling. Still singing, the group leaves. These alms-raising songs continue through to the 6th of January.

According to historians, “La folia” was an element of primitive Christian ceremonies. It appeared in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century, with the arrival of the Portuguese. The Jesuits used it to evangelize the Indians, but it was subsequently prohibited by the Church. “La folia” then moved beyond the confines of the Church and spread through the streets and countryside.
According to popular belief, “La folia” is a celebration reserved for the poor and has existed since before the birth of Jesus. Participants, therefore, are traditionally farmers and workers from the least privileged social classes.

La folia” at Casa Branca includes twenty-odd singers and singer/musicians. The latter play the guitar, the pandeiro (tambourine with bells), the accordion, the cavaquinho (string instrument of Portuguese origin, smaller than a guitar) and the drum. The flags, images, medieval clown disguises, caps and sticks make the groups highly colourful. Originally, the songs were inspired by the Gospels, but today they speak of love, of everyday life, the difficulties and joys each person encounters.

La Folia de Reis” is a testimony to the difficult survival of a ritual. It is an amazing choral system with the hierarchical organisation of “repentistas” (improvisers), musician troubadours and singers - a mixture of traditional welcoming and of popular religious devotion.

CD tracks
  1. Folia
    The group announces its arrival at the entrance to the house to be visited to the rhythm of this music.
    The following songs belong to the popular repertoire of Minas Gerais. They generally evoke sadness and passion. They are generally performed according to the musician’s inspiration, during moments of relaxation.

  2. Facao de Penacho (Feather knife)
    In this song a man tells the story of his life, his bravery, his knife fights, but also his regrets. For, despite all his adventures, he remains alone. 

  3. Cachoeira de lagrimas (Waterfall of tears)
    This song tells the story of a man whose wife has left him. He still hopes that she will come back to him some day. As he waits, he cries night and day and is transformed into a “waterfall of tears”.

  4. Cançao do soldado (Soldier’s song)
    his song tells the story of a young man who leaves the “Sertão” for the big city to make his dream - that of becoming a soldier - come true. A few years later, happy in his uniform and living a stable life, he returns home to fetch his dear mother. He hears sad news: she has been found in her home, dead from hunger and cold. The soldier’s life is henceforth stripped of all meaning and he lives out his life with this profound pain.

  5. Gaivota (Seagull)
    I went to the sea to meet my love and I found a letter on the sand ... The waves have carried her away. I tried to bring her back, but a seagull dived down, seized her and flew off with her...”

  6. Grao de areia (Grain of sand)
    A man sings of how he is suffering because he has been betrayed. He tells how his heart, which had been made of grains of sand, has been transformed to stone. 

  7. Nao deixo de te amar (I still love you)
    A lover sends a message to his love over the radio. He believes she is out there somewhere listening. The fiancée’s parents have forbidden the marriage and he had to accept her departure. But he knows that she still loves him and that she too is suffering from their separation.

  8. Convencida (“Show-off”)
    You are beautiful and attractive, but you are also a show-off and my only feelings for you now are those of rejection...”

  9. Saudade da mibha terra (Homesickness)
    This song expresses the nostalgia of those who have moved to the big city to find a better life: “What good is it to live in the city if I leave happiness behind me? Goodbye Paulistinha (Sao Paulo) of my heart.”
    This song evokes the birds the singer no longer hears in the city, the memory of horse rides, the beauty of his homeland...

  10. Quem sera seu outro (Who is the other?)
    The pain of betrayal: a man asks his wife to come back and remove from his chest the pain she has burdened him with.

  11. Amargurada (Cursed)
    A woman has been abandoned by her husband because she betrayed him. For him, it is the end of a great love. Drunk, in a bar, she stares sadly at the wedding photo she clutches in her hands.

  12. Tres Marias (The three Marias)
    This song evokes the sadness of a man who has lost three women, his three Marias.
    “Brincando eu plantei a rosa, brincando a rosa pegou, brincando eu encontrei o amor, brincando o amor me pegou”.
    “While I played, I planted a rose; while I played, the rose grew; while I played, I met love; while I played, love was taken from me.”

  13. Amigo Maneco (Maneco the friend)
    A wife surprises her husband at a bar with his friend Maneco. Maneco advises him to beat her, for a woman should not cause a scene. The husband rejects the idea and acknowledges that he himself is not without blame.

  14. Noite Triste (Sad night)
    This is the place she chose, This bar, this same table where we sat, That is why I come here ! Another double for me, please ! For me, for her, for after, leave...”

  15. Coraçao prisioneiro (Prisoner heart)
    How sad it is to love someone and not be loved in return ! Why is my song sad? Because my life is sad! Only my heart knows the torment it feels... My heart is a prisoner; it is black with passion, Like ink writing sad memories...” 

  16. Improvisations
  17. Improvisations
  18. Improvisations

    These improvisations are played during the visits or at the end of the night when the ball takes place. There is dancing until dawn while people drink “pinga” (sugar cane alcohol) and eat fried sausages.

  19. Paulista
    This music, which is part of most “Folias”, accompanies a group choreography. The musicians form a circle, dancing and singing, clapping hands and stamping feet. The song requests the permission of the Lord and the Virgin Mary to salute the baby Jesus :
    “Meu Senhor e minha Senhora, me d’em licença...”

  20. Sinfonia Forgato
  21. Improvisation
  22. Folia
  23. Folia
    In this typical “Folia” song musicians ask the owner of the house to open their door and allow the Son of the Virgin Mary to enter. Next they ask for alms. The song continues until all the occupants of the house have given something. The money is shared out at the end of the tour. In certain regions, hens, fruits and other farm products are offered.

  24. Repeat of a main theme of the “Folia”
    which announces the departure of the group.