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Cracking the Code of Clube da Esquina Listening to records with my father...

Cracking the Code of Clube da Esquina

Listening to records with my father...

by Sofia Ribeiro Willcox, Cultural Exchanger and Explorer
first published: June, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

The work stands as a rare example of longevity in music, still resonating with contemporary artists fifty years later.

Recently, 'Clube da Esquina' (1972) was recognized by Paste Magazine as the 9th best album of all time. Did you notice that? Let me share with you of the possible reasons why, and dare to say that 'Clube da Esquina' deserved an even higher position.

Clube on the cornerBEGINNINGS
The album itself holds a history that resonates broadly. It was born out of a friendship between Milton Nascimento and the Borges brothers, who were also neighbours in Santa Tereza, Belo Horizonte—hence the album's name, meaning "corner's club." 

Their friendship began around 1963 when Nascimento came to Belo Horizonte to study and work. It all started when Borges' mother asked Lô Borges to buy milk and bread at the bakery, and as he descended the 17 floors of the Levy building, he heard the voice and guitar playing of Milton Nascimento. Milton Nascimento heard Lô Borges playing in a record store too, and was impressed by his talent.

Their intention was never to form a band or even play live; they were friends who shared musical references and hung out at the corner of Paraizópolis Street and Divinópolis Street. Gathering there because they didn't have the money and weren’t  old enough to attend the parties of the time. 

Before recording 'Clube da Esquina', Milton Nascimento, won the famous Festival de Música Popular Brasileira and had one of his compositions, "Canção do Sal," recorded by the then up-and-coming Elis Regina. 

The album is divided into two parts, with one released in 1972 and the other in 1978. They represent a coming-of-age journey for long-term friends, from adolescence to the present day, where many of them are seniors.

NATIONAL DISCOURSE
Their sound is rooted in an eclectic melting pot, they incorporated elements from choro, Afro-Brazilian music, sacred music from Minas Gerais, and bossa nova. The use of incidental music, repetition of melodic themes, variety of time signatures, asymmetric measures and Brazilian regional music and Latin influences contribute to the unique and diverse sound of Clube da Esquina, showcasing the innovative approach to composition and arrangement by its members.

The album's innovative compositions and intricate musicality led to the formation of a cultural movement named after it. Despite not receiving immediate recognition from critics, the musicians gathered in the studio with minimal rehearsals and scripts, fostering a creative environment for improvisation. Despite Brazil's military dictatorship, 1972 was a great year for music, with albums like 'Acabou Chorare' by Novos Baianos and 'A Dança da Solidão' by Paulinho da Viola shaping the musical landscape; Tim Maia, Tom Zé, and Elis Regina released important records and Tropicália icons Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso returned from exile, the 'Clube da Esquina' album emerged as one of the most emblematic and influential records in Brazilian music history, characterised by its uplifting tracks in Spanish and Portuguese, spread over a double album.

The movement is known for its diverse fusion of high-quality sound experimentation in the composition, with lyrics that address socio-political themes with poetic language, as well as philosophical and spiritual aspects, providing a deep and reflexive experience.

Amidst of the chaos of the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1977, a group of musical compatriots created a version of Woodstock in Milton’s hometown. He used his influence to invite important Brazilian artists of the time. In addition to Clube da Esquina, Chico Buarque, Fafá de Belém, and Clementina de Jesus were among the stars of the festival.

INTERNATIONAL APPEAL:
As a group, they drew inspiration from international sources as well, including the Nouvelle Vague and the student movement. Musically, they were influenced by jazz legends like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, as well as classical composers like Claude Debussy. On the other hand, they also took cues from iconic bands like the Beatles and Genesis, as well as the rich tradition of gypsy music from Eastern Europe.

Their work stands as a rare example of longevity in music, still resonating with contemporary artists fifty years later.

SONGS WITH MY FATHER:
The album was created on a beach (Piratininga) in my hometown (Niterói), and its cover picture was taken in Nova Friburgo, a destination for many of my childhood holidays. It served as a classic soundtrack for family road trips across the state of Rio de Janeiro. And it's no coincidence that my personal music librarian, also known as my father, was responsible for that. He carries the album with him wherever he goes, from our old apartment's corridor to an interactive exposition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Sofia Ribeiro Willcox
Cultural Exchanger and Explorer

Sofia has a BA with Hons in Creative and Professional Writing and Film and Television Studies from the University of Wolverhampton (2020-2023). Born in Brazil, Sofia is an enthusiast of pop culture (cinephile and melophile), social sciences (snowflake generation), and poetry (lusophone).


about Sofia Ribeiro Willcox »»

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