SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.32 issue63When the dragon takes the horse's place: a post-colonial character in Xul Solar's criollo painting"One, two, three MFA...": the rise and fall of Portugal's Armed Forces Movement (MFA) author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links


Revista Brasileira de História

On-line version ISSN 1806-9347

Rev. Bras. Hist. vol.32 no.63 São Paulo  2012 



Festivities and urban space: music broadcasting and dance parties in 1950s Belém1



Antonio Maurício Dias da Costa

Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA). Centro de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas. Rua Augusto Corrêa, 1 – Guamá. 66075-110 Belém – PA – Brasil.




The article discusses the use of symbolic references, from memories and printed periodicals, ascribed to the socio-spatial context of orchestral and sonoro balls in Belém, at the so-called 'social clubs' and 'suburban clubs'. The varied forms of organization of dance parties in the city were connected to musical broadcasting on the radio in the 1950s, as well as being linked to the performance of commercial sonoros or those that specialized in dance parties. The different ways in which the urban population used and accessed the means of communication were accompanied by an emphasis on social distinction in the local press. Symbols and values related to the urban space emerge in newspaper reports and memorialist recollections the city's festive panorama.

Keywords: Balls; sonoros; social distinction.


O artigo discute o uso de referências simbólicas de origem memorialística e jornalística atribuídas ao contexto socioespacial dos bailes dançantes de orquestras e sonoros em Belém, nos assim chamados 'clubes sociais' e 'clubes suburbanos'. As formas variadas de organização de festas dançantes na cidade estiveram associadas à difusão musical radiofônica nos anos 1950, mas também se ligaram à atuação dos sonoros comerciais ou daqueles especializados em bailes dançantes. Formas diferentes de uso e acesso aos meios de comunicação/sonorização pela população urbana foram acompanhadas pela ênfase da imprensa local na distinção social. Referências simbólicas e valorativas do espaço urbano emergem nos registros de jornal e memorialístico acerca do panorama festivo da cidade.

Palavras-chave: bailes dançantes; sonoros; distinção social.



This article examines the meanings attributed to the dance parties that were a part of the urban panorama of mid-twentieth century Belém. These meanings are evoked through memorialist recollections and journalistic refer ences that focus on many different aspects of the dance parties of the time. This article presents and discusses some of these recollections, collected from people involved in the world of popular dance parties in 1950s Bélem, as well as journalistic references from the city's major publications at the time.

The suburban dance parties were organized around presentations by what the contemporary press referred to as picarpes or sonoros, predecessors of the modern sound systems that can still be found in Belém.2 These sound systems began emerging and developing in Belém between the 1950s and the 1970s. The sonoros that animated these dance parties were assembled, beginning in the late-1940s, in an artisanal manner by people with expertise in electronics. They were composed of a metal valve amplifier, a 78 rpm record player (the pick-up, which came to be known by its Brazilianized form, picarpe), a small speaker and a sound projector, known as the boca de ferro (iron mouth).

These sonoros or picarpes were related to the commercial sonoros, but they were mainly used at festive events, particularly dance parties. Many sonoro owners began their careers at neighborhood parties, at birthdays and weddings. Those who were successful could start charging to provide music for festive events at both established and lesser known suburban clubs.

However, the so-called 'social clubs' located in the downtown area of the city and/or catering to middle and upper class society, preferred live music performances by popular ensembles and orchestras.

In this study, I seek to identify and discuss the symbolic memorialist and journalistic references regarding the socio-spatial arrangement of the dance parties featuring orchestras and sonoros in the city, at the so-called 'social clubs' and 'suburban clubs.' The diversification of means of communication (and the means of playing music) in the mid-twentieth century is linked in a variety of ways to the organization of dance parties in the city. The different ways in which the city's population made use of these means of communication and broadcasting have ties with ideas related to social distinction. These ideas are evoked in the consulted sources as symbolic references to the urban space.

The memorialist records discussed below were collected from personal memoirs and compilations of journalistic reports. Interviews were also conducted with people involved in the festive scene of the 1950s dance parties. At the same time, a range of journalistic reports regarding the 1950s – primarily from A Província do Pará and O Liberal – were extensively consulted.

The memory of the parties and the urban landscape of the time is herein considered to be based on the individual experiences of the subjects in relation to the festive events. I was therefore guided by the work of Halbwachs,3 who highlights the relationship between the individual who engages in the act of remembering and the collective, who are the people who were closest to that person and who exchanged/shared their impressions. Each of our stories, in this sense, is intertwined with memorialist impressions from a variety of sources (media, conversations, hearsay, experienced events), based on collective contexts and condensed into personal versions.4

The journalistic references are taken simultaneously as historical accounts and discursive creations. On the one hand, the news and advertisements in publications served as 'historical witnesses,' because they reveal the informative dynamic of the press as a means of communication, mediating the interests and points of view of a variety of social subjects.5 On the other hand, they reflect the choices and stylistic options of authors, taking into account their commitment to the editorial line of the publication and certain political forces of the time. By treating journalistic texts as discursive creations, it is possible to uncover their compositional processes and, in turn, their artistic and social influences.



Beginning in the early 1930s, samba became the most popular musical style in Brazil, following the early twentieth century popular preference for maxixes, tangos and boleros.6 In the case of Pará, radio broadcasts played samba while also featuring Latin rhythms that had been heard since the 1920s on programs from foreign stations, such as Rádio Havana, from Cuba. In the 1950s there was a local audience for boleros and merengues, as well as salsas, congos, mambos and cúmbias, which stood out as unique characteristic of the region's musical receptivity.

The mass production of radios in the 1930s contributed to the popularity of radio programs. The Rádio Club do Pará (Pará Radio Club), founded by Edgar Proença, Roberto Camelier and Eriberto Pio on April 22, 1928 –becoming the first radio station founded in the Amazon region – benefitted from radio's increasing popularity. Its employees were largely recruited from the local newspapers. PRC-5 and 'the voice that speaks and sings for the plains' became Rádio Club do Pará's prefix and slogan, respectively. It was created under the system of associated radio stations,7 paying a monthly fee and playing records that were borrowed from business owners, whose names, establishments and products were publicized in return.

The invention of valve radios in the 1930s helped lower the production costs of receivers and helped broaden the access of the listening public. The increased financial contribution by sponsors to the programming made it a profitable business venture. At the same time, political groups of the era began to see radio as a formidable instrument for reaching out to society.

The 1940s are seen by radio professionals as 'the golden years.' The Rádio Club broadened its reach using the Ondas Tropicais (Tropical Waves) radio frequency, which allowed it to be heard in far-flung corners of the state. The radio started to perform a role that had previously been carried out by river traders – and subsequently by the postal service – passing along information to the residents of distant localities.

With respect to music, the Rádio Club hired its own orchestra, while also incorporating musical ensembles into its rotation, such as Edyr Proença's (the son of Edgar Proença) Banda da Estrela and the Alberto Mota ensemble, which will examined in greater detail later in this article. The station's musical programs were performed in its auditorium, opened in 1945 in the Aldeia do Rádio (Radio Village) complex, the station's first headquarters, located in the Jurunas neighborhood.

Competing with the city's only radio station until the early 1950s were the sonoros, speaker services in the commercial areas of the city, devoted to advertising, interspersed with musical programming. The commercial sonoros featured speakers mounted on poles, connected to a network that led to a kind of central studio, installed within the area of business. The authors of the work Ligo o radio para sonhar (I turn on the radio to dream) mention the existence of three sonoros in the neighborhood of Pedreira and another in the neighborhood of Comércio, during the 1940s: A Voz Suburbana (The Suburban Voice) and A Voz da Pedreira (The Voice of the Quarry), which operated in the neighborhood market; O Canto da Felicidade (The Song of Happiness), on the corner of Rua Barão do Triunfo, and A Voz do Dia (The Daily Voice) on Rua João Alfredo, in the Comércio neighborhood.

In his memoir about Belém radio, journalist Expedito Leal8 emphasizes that the 'mass communicators' of radio in Pará in the mid-twentieth century adhered to a nationwide radio practice that followed the U.S. model of disk jockeys (DJs). Some of the Club's broadcasters worked as sonoro announcers before joining the station. Accustomed to interacting with the public while engaged in commercial advertising, the broadcaster/DJs were able to maintain their same communicative style on the radio programs. Leal identifies some of the successful Belém broadcasters of the 1950s and 1960s as having come from commercial sonoros. The most prominent examples are the broadcasters Costa Filho and Eloy Santos, who worked at Sonoros Rauland, the city's first mobile sonoro (installed in an automobile), and Haroldo Caraciolo, an important proponent of merengue on the airwaves in Pará.

Expedito Leal points out, in the section on Caraciolo, that "merengue was fashionable in the suburbs of Belém during the 1960s and 1970s, connected mainly to the dance style." Merengue from the Antilles was very popular in the city, especially the hits from the orchestras Sonora Matancera (from Matanzas, Cuba) and Sonora Santanera (a Mexican group), and from the Dominican singer Luis Kalaff, known for his boleros. Caraciolo's interest in merengue originated from his initial experience as a sonoro announcer – not the commercial advertising sonoros, but the ones that played music at parties held at suburban clubs. Caraciolo, like other lead picarpe and sonoros announcers that played each week in the suburban clubs, came from the suburbs. Caraciolo began his career with "Sonoros Flamengo," in the neighborhood of Pedreira. He then transferred to "Clube do Remo", followed by "Botafogo", which was also located in Pedreira. In the neighborhood of Umarizal, he worked for "Diamante" and then at "Big-Bem", a sonoro that operated as an 'affiliate' of "Flamengo".

In the mid-1960s, Caraciolo was hired by Rádio Guajará, originally to work as a commercial announcer. Soon after, he became the host of a musical program, where he made a name for himself by using slang and popular expressions, the trademarks of his communicative spontaneity that attracted the attention of listeners. Through this music program, Caraciolo was said to have created and spread the use of the word 'lambada' to refer to what he 'would take' during the intervals between his presentations. A lambada was a shot of cachaça that he would take at the bar next to the station as the merengue songs were playing. By the 1970s, the term lambada came to be associated with Caribbean dancing rhythms played by local music groups.

Caraciolo worked at other radio stations in the city during the 1970s and, at the end of the decade, due to professional problems, abandoned radio work and began working for sonoros dedicated to commercial advertising, where he would remain until the end of his life.

There is a clear line running through Caraciolo's career, from his experience with the sonoros, to the height of his popularity on the radio. Both his communicative style, which featured popular expressions, and his preference for merengue accentuate the characteristic elements of the festive environment of the suburban clubs where the sonoro 'announcer/controllers', as they were known, would work. The continuum of party sonoros, radio stations and com mercial sonoros that characterized Caraciolo's career all fell within the same realm of professional possibilities.

The evolution of the radio announcer profession followed the growing presence of party and commercial sonoros throughout the city. The sonoros did not merely fulfill a complementary position to radio, but instead occupied a particular space as a means of communication connected to festive events.



Ensembles and orchestras were given preference over sonoros at popular dance parties. According to Salles,9 the development of urban music in Pará, particularly from the 1920s onwards, was closely associated with the spread of instruments such as the flute, the banjo and the cavaquinho, which served as the foundation for small musical ensembles. In addition to the music being broadcast by Brazilian and foreign radio stations (choro, samba, tango, bolero and mambo), other dancing rhythms, such as the foxtrot, the Charleston and swing music, among others, became popular in Pará during the 1920s and 1930s, due to the popularity of American cinema.

These influences formed the basis of the musical references that underpinned the work of the orchestras and musical ensembles that were introduced as Jazz Bands in Pará. According to Corrêa,10 jazz became a 'real epidemic in the city' during the 1920s. According to the author, during the 1920s and 1930s, a variety of groups with jazz features emerged in Belém,11 although their repertoire was diverse, and included tangos, marches, choros and sambas.

With respect to the performances of these 'jazzy' musical ensembles, their musical identity seemed to be more associated with the formation of these ensembles (in which the wind instruments, in particular, stood out) than with an exclusive connection with a musical genre. 'Jazzy' ensembles, in this context, corresponded more with a group of non-scholarly musicians who also played rhythms from Brazil and other countries, than with a musical specialization in an American genre.12 Their performances first started in the 1920s, in the salons of the elite, and then began taking place at public events in the 1930s and 1940s, as they became more popular.

News reports highlighted the presence of orchestras at carnival parties in Belém beginning in 1945, where they played 'the sambas, marches and choros of the time.' The jazz bands and orchestras circulated among the more 'aristocratic' and other, less sophisticated salons. Furthermore, the presence of musical ensembles in the more modest salons signaled the occurrence of a special event, for which the attendees most likely took care in preparing themselves. The newspaper advertisements cited by Lúcio Flácio Pinto stressed the importance of these parties by accentuating the fame of the musical group that would perform, stressing the 'high-class' public that would be in attendance and the dancing rhythms that would be played.

These 'jazzy' groups or 'club ensembles', as they were known in the 1950s, had their fame accentuated by the success of their performances in the 'salons of the elite.' The instrumental composition of the band – with a double bass, trumpet, saxophone, bass, drums and a Brazilian tambourine known as the pandeiro – became the standard for the 'stick and string' orchestras, as they were also known.

The Jazz Orchestras that were most publicized in the newspapers of Belem during the early 1950s were: "Batutas do Ritmo", led by Sarito; "Jazz Internacional", led by "O Mago da Viola" (The Viola Magician) Professor Candoca (subsequently led by Orlando Pereira, beginning in 1955); "Jazz Martelo de Ouro", led by the musician Vinícios; "Jazz Vitória", led by Raul Silva; "Jazz Marajoara", led by maestro Oliveira da Paz; "Jazz Orquestra de Maçaneta", led by Reginaldo Cunha; "Jazz-Band Pará", led by Professor José da Paixão, and the Orchestra of Maestro Guiães de Barros, connected to the Club's radio station.

The 'stick and string' instrumental ensemble would only change in the 1960s, when the orchestra "Alberto Mota e seu conjunto" included an important electronic novelty at their parties at the Automóvel Clube: the solovox.13 Two years later, the Automóvel Clube dance party became a regular occurrence, livened by the Orlando Pereira's Orchestra, which featured their novelties the vibraphone14 and the ukulele. Their first musical performance took place during a twist contest, and they would perform again at a cha-cha-cha contest, both styles referred to in the local press as 'fashionable dances.'

Due to the pioneering introduction of electronic instruments into these ensembles, the so-called 'stick and string orchestras,' which were entirely acoustic, quickly lost ground to the more modern orchestras, such as those led by Alberto Mota, Orlando Pereira, Lélio Pais Henrique, Maçaneta and Guiães de Barros.

The introduction of instruments such as the solovox, vibraphone and electric guitar were attractions in and of themselves during the performances of these musical ensembles. The main attraction of the 'stick and string' orchestras were the wind instruments, such as the trumpet, saxophone and trom bone. The electronic orchestras, in turn, were organized as addenda to the electronic equipment.

According to Costa,15 the high price of these instruments made it difficult for many acoustic ensembles to 'modernize', leading them to stop performing altogether. Meanwhile, familiarity with electronic instruments helped the careers of popular artists identified with the new musical genres being released on the radio and on records.

One interesting example of this is the early career of the musician Joaquim Maria Dias de Castro, born in Cametá, who came to be known as "Mestre Cupijó". In Sociedades de Euterpe, Vincente Salles writes that the early career of the young musician was marked by the 'anxieties and indecisions of modern youth,' resulting from the influence of mass communication, particularly radio and television.

When he was 13 years old, Joaquim Castro began playing in a 'pop music' group, "Batutas do Ritmo," while also practicing with the traditional band Euterpe Cametaense, which was founded in Cametá in 1874. He began composing sambas and mambos in 1951. In 1960, he formed his first ensemble, equipped with an electric guitar and a solovox, which is referred to by Salles as 'merely a matter of status.' The end of the decade brought a major turning point in his career. He 'discovered' siriá, defined by Salles as a typical dance of the Tocantins region, and he began making records with his folk ensemble "Ases do Ritmo." On his siriá records, Joaquim Castro began performing as Mestre Cupijó.

Salles is rather critical of the early stages of Cupijó's career. The future siriá master had been interested in the musical universe that Salles refers to as pop, in reference to the popular music played on the radio and on television. The 'anxieties and indecisions of modern youth' had led the young musician to compose and perform sambas and mambos with his musical ensemble, equipped with electronic instruments. His ultimate turn towards folk music is not questioned by Salles, since it could be seen as a natural development in the career of a countryside musician.

In fact, Cupijó's experience with so-called 'pop music' can be viewed as a relatively common occurrence, given the popularity of 'electronic' orchestras in Belém and the boleros, mambos and sambas being played on the radio. It was not 'merely a matter of status,' as Salles states, but rather a question of musical taste connected to the different stages of the artist's career. The change in his identity is largely related to the opportunities to further his career: the choice between playing in a dance party orchestra, similar to many that ex isted in Belém, or to becoming the precursor of a musical style (siriá) with strong links to the popular traditions of Baixo Tocantins, Pará.

A different route was taken by Aurino Quirino Gonçalves, who came to be known in the 1970s as Pinduca, the "Rei do Carimbó" (King of Carimbó). Also from Baixo Tocantins, Pinduca began his musical career in Belém in the 1960s as a member of the Alberto Motta Ensemble, where he became familiar with electronic instruments. The know-how that he acquired performing at dance parties led Pinduca to establish his own ensemble in the late 1960s. His group, which was known as "Pinduca e seu Conjunto," featured 'modern' elements from the very beginning, incorporating the popular dancing rhythms of the time into his performances, including the twist (which was popular at the 'society clubs') and the merengue (which was very popular at the 'suburban clubs').

In the early 1970s, Pinduca's ensemble began playing carimbó – the popular musical style and dance from the countryside – at dance parties on the outskirts of the city, becoming relatively successful. The performances by Pinduca's ensemble were unique because the carimbó was played using the modern formation of the electronic orchestras, even though it was originally an acoustic musical style. Pinduca recorded his first carimbó record in 1973 and sold a whopping 100,000 copies that same year, mainly in the local market.

Pinduca's record resulted in some relative national success for carimbó during the first half of the 1970s. At the same time, comments published in the local press during the mid-1970s tended to look unfavorably upon Pinduca's innovations, often described as a misrepresentation or degeneration of the 'creation of popular culture.'

The opponents of Pinduca's music lost sight of the fact that his musical output was strictly in line with the interests of the public attending the suburban and social club balls in the innovations of sound technology. Carimbó played with guitars and perhaps even a solovox was an attractive 'language,' particularly for the suburban audiences of Belém, who were already accustomed to the sonoro dance parties and the popular rhythms being played on the radio.



The leisure options connected to 'bohemia' expanded in Belém throughout the 1950s. In addition to the cinema, the Arraial de Nazaré theater and the traditional parties (carnival, the festas juninas held around the Feast of St. John,  the feasts of other patron saints, etc.), the bars, and the elite and suburban clubs were important leisure options for the city's residents.

Some of these clubs were founded even before the 1950s. Among them are a few dating back to the early twentieth century, such as "São Domingos Esporte Clube." In an article published in the newspaper O Liberal on May 27, 1987, São Domingos is described as the oldest club in the neighborhood of Jurunas. It was founded in 1915, and its name was a tribute to the São Domingos Chapel, located in the same neighborhood. In the beginning, the club was mainly focused on athletics and its members took part in several sports (soccer) tournaments in the 'suburbs.' The club also began to carry out initiatives focused on the welfare of the neighborhood's residents, which ultimately led it to change its name, in 1940, to "São Domingos Esporte Clube Recreativo e Beneficente" (São Domingos Recreational Sports and Charity Club).

According to the article, the club operated under a system that relied on the payment of monthly dues by members, in which women were cooperating members and men were sitting members, most likely composed of couples who lived in the area. The club's high point came during the 1940s and 1950s, when it 'progressed,' on account of the revenue earned from the 'social parties' it hosted. The article does not provide details regarding the nature of these parties, but it is possible to deduce that they were dance parties featuring musical ensembles and/or sonoros, tied to the festive dates of the club and the city (carnival and the festas juninas, for example).

From among the 'social clubs' cited by the press in the 1950s, several stood out in the regular advertisements of the time: Assembleia Paraense and the Automóvel Clube, on Avenida da República, in the neighborhood of Campina; Azas Esporte Clube, on Avenida Independência, in the neighborhood of Nazaré; Delta Clube, on Travessa Rui Barbosa, in the neighborhood of Nazaré; Clube Paragon, on Travessa Cintra, in Cidade Velha, as well as the nightclubs of the Central Hotel and Palace Teatro, in the back of the Grande Hotel, in the neighborhood of Campina.

Meanwhile, in the suburban neighborhoods, dance parties were promoted by a wide range of clubs, which served as the headquarters of trade unions and professional associations, as well as associations for sports and leisure.16 Some clubs whose locations were identified in the newspapers published in the early 1950s are listed below (including their neighborhood and street, when available): Artístico Esporte Clube (Umarizal, Avenida Alcindo Cacela, 663); Bôa Fama Esporte Clube (Pedreira); Botafogo Esporte Clube (São Bráz); Esporte Clube Norte Brasileiro (Cremação); Imperial Clube (Jurunas); Leblon Esporte Clube (São Bráz, Avenida Ceará); Municipal Clube (Cremação); Santa Cruz Esporte Clube (Pedreira); Sociedade dos Estivadores da Borracha (Umarizal, Rua Boaventura da Silva); Sociedade União e Firmeza (Jurunas); Uberabinha Esporte Clube (Telégrafo Sem Fio); Viação Beneficente Esporte Clube (São Bráz, Travessa de Maio, 175); Vitória Clube (Umarizal, Alcindo Cacela, 563).

Here we see the strong presence of clubs located in the immediate outskirts of central neighborhoods such as Cidade Velha, Campina and Nazaré. From Jurunas to Telégrafo sem Fio, from the banks of the Guamá River to the Guajará Bay, these clubs were spread across a range of suburban neighborhoods during the 1950s, marking the city's longitudinal territorial boundary to the East.

The presence of picarpes and sonoros was more common at the dance parties in these neighborhoods, while the city's successful orchestras preferred to perform in the so-called 'society clubs.'

The occasional performances by Jazz Orchestras in the suburbs were filled with merengue, boleros and sambas, among others. It was the same repertoire performed by Pinduca's ensemble, with the inclusion of that 'old' musical style and dance, the carimbó, which came to be played with electronic instruments.

In the years that followed, these preferences with respect to music and dance would become characteristic musical traits (of composers and music lovers) of this part of the Brazilian Amazon. The process later resulted in the formation of popular musical genres at the end of the 1970s, such as brega and lambada. Currently, the professionals involved in the world of sound system parties tend to see a continuity between the older and more recent musical preferences, to the point of characterizing brega as a 'lighter bolero' or a 'more finely tuned bolero.'

In his "Canto da cidade" column, published from November 11 to 17, 2001, the journalist Walter Pinto of the newspaper O Paraense also evokes memories of the suburban clubs that operated during the 1960s and 1970s. Pinto highlights the "big dance parties at the site of Clube Athlético São Paulo," which, in his opinion, was the "largest suburban club in the Marco neighborhood." Below is an important passage from among his recollections:

It was there that I had the pleasure of watching one of the greatest popular dancers of my childhood. The fabulous Agostinho, a thin black man who wore loose linen clothes and danced the merengue like nobody else. That guy Agostinho was an ace. You just don't see things like that anymore.

Amateur dancers like Agostinho were unquestionably a common presence at the suburban dance parties of Belém, particularly when dancing rhythms like the merengue became one of their hallmark features.17

The number of these suburban clubs swelled during the period between the 1950s and the 1970s. His recollection is invoked by the memory of some of the people who used to attend these dance parties. Valderina Lopes, a history professor and longtime resident of the neighborhood of Marambaia mentioned during an informal conversation (in April 2010) that there were several clubs in the neighborhood since the 1950s. According to her, there were 'lookouts' at the 'more renowned' clubs (also known in Marambaia as 'social clubs') who prohibited children and women associated with prostitution from entering the dance parties. According to Lopes, this concern highlights the difference between the 'family parties' and 'cabaré parties' often cited by the people who attended these events.

The same distinction is mentioned by the owner of G. Amaral Produções, Gilmar Amaral (interviewed in February 2003), who points out that since the 1950s, the cabarés (cabarets) were known as places of prostitution, unlike the gafieiras (dance halls), which were geared towards dance parties. The professional dance party promoter Sinval Pereira, 56, (interviewed in April 2010) makes a distinction between dançarás18 (places to hold dance parties) and boates (nightclubs), where patrons were 'more interested in drinking.'

In most of the memorialist references to the suburban clubs, there are few allusions to the association between these party halls and prostitution. Perhaps this may be explained by the relative anonymity of the cabarés at the time and/or since it was an issue that was of little interest to the interviewees. The collective recollection of the carabrés retained negative associations.

We therefore have a very lively festive dynamic present in the social and suburban clubs of Belém during the mid-twentieth century, through which circulated party organizers, musicians and singers from ensembles, sonoro professionals, dancers and a captive audience that frequented dance parties in each neighborhood.



The characterization of the suburban clubs in the journalistic reports of the 1950s shows connections to the representations made at the time about the urban configuration of Belém, which contrasted the city center with the suburbs. Beyond the spatial references, the city center and the suburbs could be  understood as evaluative assessments,19 stated in the press of the time as a mark of social distinction.20

Using São Paulo-based geographer Antonio Rocha Penteado's research into the spatial configuration of Belém,21 carried out during the 1960s, it is possible to visualize the suburban setting where the sonoro parties took place. In his work, the city is presented as being divided into 'distinct functional areas,' beginning with the neighborhoods of Nazaré and São Bráz, which are 'elegant', filled with trees and 'surrounded by beautiful gardens'; the neighborhoods of Cidade Velha, Campina and Reduto, all of which surround the neighborhood of Comércio, are characterized as being modest and occupied by the 'middle class'; the third sector, which is the most populous, is the one occupied by 'poor residential neighborhoods' on the outskirts of the city, made up of: "wooden houses covered with leaves, covered with palm trees, some of which were built on very moist terrain and are raised on stilts, others of which sit directly on the ground."

This socio-spatial arrangement is relatively consistent with the journalistic and memorialist descriptions of the city regarding the marginal position of some of the so-called 'suburban neighborhoods.' In the 1960s, the outskirts of the expanding city were marked by the presence of the so-called vacarias, described by Penteado as "unsanitary backyard stables next to residences, or small farms." The vacarias provided milk and flowers for most of the suburban population and were mainly located in flooded sections, far from the urban infrastructure.

The suburban neighborhoods, with their homes made of straw, mud, wood and filling, according to the description provided by Penteado, testified to the "degree of poverty of the residents of the urban outskirts of Belém." The disappearance of the vacarias would only come to pass in the 1970s. The first to be deactivated were those closest to areas that were urbanized or in the process being urbanized.

At the same time, the ones located in the flooded regions and those that were located further from the city center, did not give way to any improvements in the urban infrastructure. This is more or less the situation that persists up to the present day, with a lack of infrastructure in the peripheral neighborhoods.

It was in this environment of poverty and a near total lack of urban infrastructure that the suburban clubs flourished until the 1970s. Despite the popularity of the dance parties in these clubs, which were located in the poor and peripheral neighborhoods, it was not common to find news written about them in the press at the time. In fact, it was common to find news in the local periodicals that associated urban violence with the suburban dance parties, such as the in the article "Duas Desordens" (Two Disorders), published in the O Liberal newspaper on January 2, 1951:

It is common, almost a general rule, that after consecutive days of parties, the police records are full of incidents, particularly disorderly conduct. Oftentimes the rounds in the suburbs exceed all the others in the police records. The parties at some suburban clubs, where Prohibition is not respected, often give rise to serious cases of disorderly conduct, which result in injuries and altercations where, as a general rule, the aggressive parties wind up in the police station and those who were attacked wind up in the Emergency Room.

The news item specifically mentions two dance parties held in the neighborhood of Jurunas, one at "Sociedade União de Firmeza" and the other at "Imperial Clube". In the end, it is emphasized that the incident took place at a suburban party, while in the streets, only one disturbance was reported. The author mentions "Prohibition," which was probably enforced after a certain hour in the evening. It is important to note the emphasis given to the police rounds in the suburbs and the perception of suburban clubs as places of violence. This is the journalistic focus that placed news of suburban clubs on the police page, while the social columns were filled with announcements about parties in 'aristocratic and elegant clubs.'

Although not often reported upon, suburban parties enjoyed widespread popular participation, at a time of significant population growth in the suburbs. Suburban parties were the preeminent spaces for performances by the city's sonoros and picarpes. Whether at the regular weekend dance parties or at major festive events that mobilized the entire city, the sonoros and their variants would be present, creating the festive environments typical of suburban Belém.

The press in Pará did not limit itself to reports of violence at suburban parties or police concerns about sonoro dance parties. There was also a certain idealization of the popular festivities. Such is the case with a 1956 mention of the suburban parties for the Feast of St. John in the newspaper A Vanguarda as a place "where the happiness is more abundant, more sincere, more joyful."

The sonoros, meanwhile, seem to be everywhere in which the festive effervescence was marked by a massive popular presence, whether during carnival or the festas juninas.22 The item below, from O Liberal presents the pro gram of carnival celebrations at the Club "Estrela do Mar," in the neighborhood of Pedreira, on January 10, 1951:

Program of parties at the Estrela do Mar headquarters, located at Av. Marquês do Herval, 883 Saturday – 20 (Picarp) / Thursday – 25 – jazz-Guaraní / Satuday – 27 (Picarp)/ Thursday – 01 (Picarp) / Saturday – 3 (Picarp) / Monday – 5 – jazz Guaraní

This programming includes a mix of performances by (unnamed) picarpes and a jazz ensemble, with more frequent performances by the former. The same registry mentions a performance by the future Mestre Cupijó's jazz ensemble "Batutas do Ritmo" at the Sociedade dos Estivadores da Borracha's pre-carnival party.

The various types of carnival parties came to be associated with the sonoro parties, composing a new form of celebration. This is the case with the carnivalesque 'assustados', common in Belém in the early 1950s. The 'assustados' were a type of surprise party created by a Radio Club program in the 1940s.23 During the carnival period, radio employees and announcers would choose a residence and hold a surprise party, transmitted over the radio. The news archives consulted for this article showed that the 'assustados' moved beyond their exclusivity with the radio and began to occur much like the other carnival parties. This can be seen through the ads in the newspaper O Liberal on January 12 and 26, 1951, respectively:


Guaranteed to please, the Queiroz brothers will hold an assustado tomorrow night, in the ample halls of Atlético Regional, at Praça Floriano Peixoto, 390. A powerful "pick-up" will play this year's biggest carnival hits, and the club's headquarters will be decorated, transforming the location into an authentic kingdom of Pandegolândia.

Virgilio's Assustado

Next Saturday, at Rua Mudurucús, 1760, a pyramidial carnivalesque assustado will take place under the command of Virgílio, one of the most faithful subjects of Momus. For this party, which is sure to be a nig hit, Virgílio hired the Queiroz brothers' "Pick-up," which guarantees its absolute success. We received an invitation.

The 'assustado' reinvented as a popular carnival party therefore included the presence of the sonoros, or 'pick-ups' as the journalist faithfully rendered the term in English. The 'guarantee of absolute success' was modeled on the suburban popularity of the sonoros at regular weekend parties.24 This popularity was further increased by being featured in the press, which was duly compensated with an invitation sent to the newspaper's offices.

Moreover, in the case of the Queiroz brothers' assustado, the 'carnival hits' would be played by their own sonoro at the headquarters of the Atlético Regional club. And the 1951 party in honor of Momus would feature the sounds of the picarpe that belonged to the very same Queiroz brothers.

During the 1950s, picarpes could be found at unlikely events and locations, such as at the parties held at the São José Prison, according to a January 3, 1951 report in O Liberal:

Two days of festivities at the S. José Prison

At the "São José" Prison, from December 31 to January 1, parties were held for the prisoners, at the initiative of Dr. Orlando Brito, warden of the prison, with support from the State government, which provided a grant to improve the meals.


The 1st of this year was filled with satisfaction for the prisoners of the "São José" Prison. Early in the morning, a powerful "Pick-up" was installed inside the prison, which transmitted recordings of the most recent musical successes… Throughout the morning there was music… Visits were allowed in the afternoon, which, much like the morning, featured musical recordings…

Of course, this vaunted 'day of satisfaction' served much more to ensure the satisfaction of the public security authorities, particularly the warden. The reports of 'improved' meals were excellent propaganda regarding the government's performance in this area. In addition, the prisoners, most of whom came from the lower echelons of society, could use to event to engage in a leisure activity with which they were already familiar. The prisoners from the suburban neighborhoods of Belém certainly knew how to appreciate a good picarpe party.



The emergence of new technologies for the amplification, broadcasting and recording of sounds, which began in the late nineteenth century,25 defined a new orientation towards the production and dissemination of popular urban music and songs. The insertion of gramophones, records and radios into the consumer market and the increasing ease of purchase and access to these products by the middle class had a decisive influence in transforming the musical preferences of various segments of Belém society during the mid-twentieth century.

As Hobsbawm points out, the 1950s and 1960s were a time of economic prosperity for developed countries.26 There emergence of new productive technologies, which decreased the need for labor, was accompanied by an exponential increase in production and consumption capacity. At the same time, the expanding means of mass communication gave the working class27 access to a more diverse range of magazines, newspapers, radio programs and records, which better suited the multiplicity of interests of this diverse and growing audience.

In the case of the peripheral countries in the capitalist system, access to the technological innovations of the industrialized world in the realm of communications remained, in the mid-twentieth century, limited to wealthy urban areas. However, this did not stop the poor population, settled in the suburbs of Brazil's major cities, from creating a means of inserting themselves into the new society of mass communication that was taking shape in the country at that time.

In the case of Belém, in addition to radio broadcasts of music, there was an extensive and diverse field of musical propagation and leisure at the dance parties held at 'social' and 'suburban' clubs. This was the historical makeup of a form of celebration, which gradually brought together diverse elements such as Brazilian and international musical influences, radio broadcasting, as well as the proliferation of sonoros and suburban clubs, primarily.

The newspaper reports helped register the meanings attributed to the 'aristocratic' and suburban dances at the time, the performances by musical ensembles, the presence of sonoros at dance parties, and the relationship between parties and urban space. The variety of meanings related to the city's festive dynamic was configured in such a way as to provide a clear sense of distinction and social stratification between 'suburban' and 'aristocratic,' between elegant leisure and entertainment for the masses.

However, the memorialist records presented in this article generally assume a nostalgic position with respect to the artists, communicators and frequenters of the dance parties of the past. The present-day city, which serves as the temporal and spatial reference from which the subject recalls the past, is far from the Belém of the 1950s, which featured a clearly defined separation between the city center and the suburbs. Recollections of the diversity of festive events put aside social divides to highlight the eccentricity of the older modes of celebration.

In the pages of the newspapers and the minds of those who share memories from that time, taking part in the dance parties is fully associated with a variety of forms of access to the urban space. This access can even be viewed from the perspective of Lefebvre,28 as participation in the (at times symbolic) construction of the city and its collective appropriation. The use of sound systems and access to them, to orchestra and sonoro performances, and to dance parties in social and suburban clubs, are examples of the struggle for a 'right to the city' in Belem in the mid-twentieth century.



1 Este artigo é um resultado parcial das pesquisas realizadas para o projeto "Expressões da cultura de massa e da cultura popular em Belém na segunda metade do século XX", por mim coordenado na Faculdade de História da Universidade Federal do Pará. A execução do projeto conta com financiamento da Pró-Reitoria de Pesquisa e Pós-Graduação da UFPA. Agradeço o levantamento de fontes conduzido por Elielton Benedito Castro Gomes e Edimara Bianca Corrêa Vieira, graduandos de História e bolsistas de iniciação científica vinculados ao projeto.         [ Links ]

2 Aparelhagens são empresas de sonorização voltadas especialmente para a realização de festas de brega e que surgiram com essa denominação a partir da década de 1970. Sobre isto ver COSTA, Antonio Maurício. Festa na Cidade: o circuito bregueiro de Belém do Pará. Belém: Eduepa, 2009.         [ Links ]

3 HALBWACHS, Maurice. A memória coletiva. Trad. Beatriz Sidou. 2.ed. São Paulo: Centauro, 2006. p.51.         [ Links ]

4 Ver também o artigo coletivo de Alistair Thomson, Michael Frisch e Paula Hamilton, assim como o texto de Henry Russo na coletânea de AMADO, Janaína; FERREIRA, Marieta. Usos & abusos da história oral. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. FGV, 2006.         [ Links ]

5 De acordo com FREHSE, Fraya. O tempo das ruas na São Paulo de fins do Império. São Paulo: Edusp, 2005, p.23-32, os textos de jornais podem ser entendidos como produção cultural, prenhe de valores e do repertório simbólico da sua época. Estes se revelam nas expressões típicas do jargão jornalístico, na maior ou menor dose emocional do autor impressa no texto, na apresentação de títulos, subtítulos e padrão tipográfico.         [ Links ]

6 Sobre isto ver VELOSO-PAMPOLHA, Augusto. Figuras do sereno: desejos amorosos, transgressão e boemia na poesia das canções de sucesso dos anos 50. Dissertação (Mestrado em Literatura Brasileira) – FFLCH, Universidade de São Paulo. São Paulo, 2003;         [ Links ] TINHORÃO, José Ramos. Música popular: do gramofone ao rádio e TV. São Paulo: Ática, 1981;         [ Links ] e TINHORÃO, José Ramos. Pequena história da música popular brasileira: da modinha à canção de protesto. Petrópolis (RJ): Vozes, 1974; VIANNA, Hermano. O mistério do samba. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar; UFRJ, 1995.         [ Links ]

7 A maior parte das informações a seguir sobre a história do rádio no Pará é oriunda de VIEIRA, Ruth; GONÇALVES, Fátima. Ligo o rádio para sonhar. Belém: Coordenadoria da Prefeitura de Belém, 2003. Sobre esse assunto ver também FERREIRA, Paulo Roberto. Após o regatão, o rádio e a televisão (Disponível em: "Almanaque da Comunicação",; Acesso em: 5 dez. 2010); e o site "O Pará nas Ondas do Rádio" (; Acesso em 5 dez. 2010).         [ Links ]

8 LEAL, Expedito. Rádio Repórter: o microfone aberto do passado. Belém: Meta, 2010. p.13. A obra é uma coletânea de relatos biográficos da trajetória de profissionais destacados da história do rádio paraense. Apresenta um caráter comemorativo, acentuando a importância dos comunicadores perante a audiência local. O autor também realizou entrevistas com alguns biografados. Não há preocupação no texto com a veracidade das informações ou com a comparação de versões diferentes. O testemunho histórico, neste caso, se confunde com a busca pelo 'resgate', pela valorização memorialística de profissionais que tiveram grande popularidade na época de apogeu do rádio como meio de comunicação.         [ Links ]

9 SALLES, Vicente. Sociedades de Euterpe: as bandas de música no Grão-Pará. Brasília: Ed. do Autor, 1985. p.105.         [ Links ]

10 Os dados sobre a difusão do jazz em Belém nas primeiras décadas do século XX foram consultados em CORRÊA, Ângela Tereza de Oliveira. História, cultura e música em Belém: décadas de 1920 a 1940. Tese (Doutorado em História) – Programa de Pós-Graduação em História Social, Pontifícia Universidade Católica. São Paulo, 2010. p.165-166.         [ Links ]

11 Tais como a "Jazz-Band do City Club" (1923), sob a regência do maestro Isaías Oliveira da Paz; a "Jazz-Band Escumilhas" (1924); o grupo de músicos negros "Los Creollos" (1927); a "Dandy-Jazz" (1929), a "Jazz Alegria" (1931), a "Jazz da Mocidade" (1931), a "American Jazz-Band" (1937) e a "Yara Jazz-Band" (1938). Todas estão citadas na tese de Ângela Corrêa (ibidem, p.166).         [ Links ]

12 Ver HOBSBAWM, Eric. História social do Jazz. Trad. Ângela Noronha. 7.ed. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2009 [1961]. Sobre o surgimento do jazz nos Estados Unidos em fins do século XIX, Hobsbawm afirma que a música de New Orleans era igual à das bandas militares, considerando o uso de instrumentos de sopro e o repertório de marchas, quadrilhas e valsas. A proliferação de bandas de jazz em Nova Orleans teria sido a primeira expressão do gênero musical como fenômeno de massa: com uma população de 89 mil habitantes negros em 1910, a cidade contava com 30 bandas. Já no século XX, o aparecimento do jazz orquestral nos Estados Unidos associou as apresentações musicais com bailes dançantes, cujo ritmo característico era o swing. A música destas chamadas big bands nos anos 20 e 30 seria, segundo o autor, uma espécie de 'música híbrida', o jazz vertido num estilo pop e dançante. (p.62, 69, 93, 83).         [ Links ]

13 Sintetizador monofônico que pode ser acoplado a piano ou órgão para adicionar uma voz de solo. Foi inventado nos Estados Unidos por volta de 1940. Exemplo do destaque do solovox como novidade em termos de equipamento musical em Belém em 1955 é este trecho da obra memorialística de Lúcio Flávio Pinto: "a Associação Desportiva Recreativa Bancrévea, 'o clube das grandes realizações sociais', abrilhantava seu réveillon com Armando Sousa Lima, 'o rei do solovox' (trazido diretamente 'da televisão e das noites paulistas')...". Ibidem, p.33.         [ Links ]

14 Instrumento composto de sinos tubulares eletrificados com função semelhante à do xilofone.         [ Links ]

15 COSTA, Toni Leão da. Música do Norte: intelectuais, artistas populares, tradição e modernidade na formação da 'MPB' no Pará (anos de 1960 e 1970). Dissertação (Mestrado em História Social) – Programa de Pós-Graduação em História da Amazônia, Universidade Federal do Pará. Belém, 2008. p.160.         [ Links ]

16 Grêmios esportivos, na maioria (de basquete, vôlei, esportes náuticos e futebol amador), em cujas sedes ocorriam bailes dançantes. Isto talvez tenha contribuído para a referência popular corrente até hoje em Belém do termo 'sede' como lugar de festa dançante.         [ Links ]

17 Expedito Leal apresenta o radialista Paulo Ronaldo, "fenômeno do rádio paraense nos anos 60 e 70", como "gafieirista e merengueiro, ao melhor estilo suburbano" (LEAL, 2010, p.121).         [ Links ]

18 O termo dansará (com s) é empregado no sétimo verso da letra do poeta Antônio Tavernard para a canção "Foi Bôto, Sinhá", de Waldemar Henrique. O texto é de 1933 e está repleto de palavras e expressões de uso regional, representativas do "falar do caboclo amazônico". Para um estudo de algumas letras de canções de Waldemar Henrique ver ALIVERTI, Márcia J. Uma visão sobre a interpretação das canções amazônicas de Waldemar Henrique. In: VIEIRA, Lia Braga; IAZZETTA, Fernando (Org.) Trilhas da música. Belém: Edufpa, 2004. p.121-162.         [ Links ]

19 Sigo aqui a perspectiva de Evans-Pritchard, em que o espaço é tomado, em si, como construção simbólica, resultante de um processo de apropriação que articula as próprias representações e valores de seus moradores Sobre isto ver cap. II, "Tempo e Espaço", em EVANS-PRITCHARD, E. E. Os Nuer. Trad. Ana M. Goldberger Coelho. 2.ed. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999. p.122-123.         [ Links ]

20 Na linha da reflexão de Pierre Bourdieu, que identifica 'distinção social' como forma de classificação e estratificação de grupos sociais de acordo com seu montante de capital simbólico. Ver BOURDIEU, Pierre. A distinção: crítica social do julgamento. Trad. Daniela Kern; Guilherme J. F. Teixeira, São Paulo: Edusp; Porto Alegre: Zouk, 2008.         [ Links ]

21 PENTEADO, Antonio Rocha. Belém: estudo de geografia urbana. Belém: Edufpa, 1968. Esse estudo foi apresentado como tese para o concurso de Livre-Docência na cadeira de Geografia da Universidade de São Paulo em 1966. Os trechos entre aspas a seguir foram consultados entre as páginas 45 e 54.         [ Links ]

22 É também o caso desta notícia do jornal A Vanguarda de 26 jun. 1955, intitulada "Outro sábado de matutice e originalidade vai ser vivido em meio a balões e fogos": "Terminou às primeiras horas da madrugada de ontem a grande festa na roça que o Pedro Belfort e outros moradores da rua Curuçá ... promoveram em homenagem a São João. A música foi a do Sonoros 'Lira de Ouro', que apresentou os maiores sucessos de sua excelente discoteca para a quadra junina. Num terreiro dos mais amplos, dezenas de pares dançaram a quadrilha e os baiões, choros e maxixes". É uma das poucas referências elogiosas à apresentação de sonoros encontradas em jornais nesta pesquisa. É destacada no texto a 'discoteca' do sonoro voltada para ritmos dançantes considerados como juninos, dentre eles, choros e maxixes. No ano seguinte, A Vanguarda anunciou a presença do 'som dos boleros' ecoando nas ruas que "se enchiam de gente e de fogueiras". Os boleros ouvidos pelo jornalista teriam sido provavelmente tocados por um sonoro.         [ Links ]

23 VIEIRA; GONÇALVES, 2003, p.65: "programa Assustados da Onda do Rádio. Durante os três dias da festa, um grupo de funcionários e locutores da emissora batia na porta de uma casa qualquer e entrava fazendo a maior farra".         [ Links ]

24 Vários sonoros são mencionados na festa do rei momo Virgílio, anunciada no jornal O Liberal de 1º fev. 1951: "Os assustados estão aí, Sábado estará o Virgilio, na Mundurucus, comandando o frevo. Domingo, o São Domingos, Paraense, Botafogo, Regional e completando a festa o comparecimento de Rei Momo com sua corte de Colombinas, Pierrots, Arlequins..." (grifos meus).         [ Links ]

25 Ver: WILLIAMS, Raymond. Means of Communication as Means of Production. In: _______. Culture and materialism: selected essays. London & New York: Verso, 2005.         [ Links ]

26 Ver capítulo "Os anos dourados". In: HOBSBAWM, Eric. A era dos extremos: o breve século XX: 1914-1991. Trad. Marcos Santarrita. 2.ed. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1995. p.253-281.         [ Links ]

27 Sobre este assunto ver a obra de HOOGART, Richard. The uses of literacy. 6.ed. London & New Brunswick: Transaction, 2008. Essa obra, publicada originalmente em 1957, – com Culture and society (1958), de Raymond Williams e The making of the English working class (1963), de Edward Thompson – constitui um dos marcos fundamentais para o desenvolvimento da área de "Estudos Culturais" na Inglaterra.         [ Links ]

28 LEFEBVRE, Henry. O direito à cidade. Trad. Rubens Eduardo Frias. 4.ed. São Paulo: Centauro, 2001.         [ Links ]

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License