With a career spanning from the 40’s to the 70’s Adoniran Barbosa was a very different kind of Sambista, way beyond his time.
His life history and his work set him apart from his contemporaries; first of all he was from Sao Paulo, a town that is, and was, considered as infertile ground for quality Samba, due to its strong economy, its urban soul and its great amount of immigrants. Vinicius de Moraes the godfather of Bossa Nova and of Ipanema’s coolness called that town the “grave of Samba”
Adoniran’s real name was Joao Rubinato, the son of an upper middle class Italian immigrant who would never accept the career. A sambista from his social background was something unheard of in the forties and fifties when the door was wide open for kids like him to become rich in the booming Brazil. Yet Adoniran dropped out and despite not having a great voice, after a lot of suffering and effort, he finally made it.
His songs talk about the humble folk insisting in a poetic life way of life despite the harshness of Sao Paulo’s money-making reality. His work was not essentially political, his posture was more like the one of a reporter talking about a world he was not born into but came to discover and love because of his artistic vocation. As most Paulistas he took that suffering in a candid way and with a good dose of good humor.
He died in 1982, but is still held by the the people of Sao Paulo as a representation of their true soul. Below are some of the examples of his work:
With Elis Regina, one of Brazil’s best singers of all times:
Demonios da Groa ( the band that made most of his songs famous) playing Adoniran’s most famous song, Trem das Onze: