Marching Bands (Bandas de Música)

Lúcia Gaspar
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Librarian
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Estava à toa na vida (I was wondering about life)
e o meu amor me chamou (and my sweetheart called me)
pra ver a banda passar (to see the band play)
cantando coisa de amor. (singing things of love.)
A minha gente sofrida (My suffering people)
despediu-se da dor (said goodbye to the pain)
pra ver a banda passer (to see the band play)
cantando coisa de amor. (singing things of love.)
(A Banda (The Band), Chico Buarque de Holanda)
Widespread in Europe, marching bands appear to have their origins in France.

In Brazil, although there is confirmation of the existence of military bands in the second half of the 18th century in Pernambuco, they began to be more popular from the arrival of D. João VI and his court to Rio de Janeiro, in 1808. The king brought with him a Portuguese marching band and throughout the royal family’s stay in Rio de Janeiro there were many concerts performed by different bands of the time.

Civil bands, which inherited the discipline and organisation of military bands, were formed all over Brazil. There were marching bands as much in the cities as in towns, villages and even on farms. Country towns organised civil bands that became a vehicle for collective entertainment, participated in political movements, and religious, civic and social events.

On the days of the presentations, the bands left their meeting places in military formation, the musicians wearing clean and starched uniforms, polished shoes, caps on their heads, parading and playing their counterpoint music (dobrados) through the streets towards the bandstand at the town square, where they would perform the best of their repertoire, which besides counterpoints include schottisch, quadrilles, waltzes, choros (laments), maxixes (Brazilian tangos), frevo and operatic overtures.

In the old days, retretas, or public square marching band concerts, were very common. In Recife, the retretas at Praça do Derby (Derby Plaza) were famous and drew many important people and local personalities, much like the performances at Praça da República (Republic Plaza), in front of the Palácio do Governo (Government Palace) and those at Praça Maciel Pinheiro (Maciel Pinheiro Square).

The bands also played a fundamental role in the development of new musicians and exposure of great talent. To give two examples: the famous composer Carlos Gomes, composer of The Guarany, was a marching band musician in Campinas, SP, where he was born; and the maestro of the Brazilian Symphonic Orchestra, the internationally renowned Eleazar de Carvalho, who played bass tuba in the Marines marching band.

Pernambuco has always had a strong tradition of marching bands. During the visit of Pedro II to the state in 1859, the Emperor was welcomed on various solemn occasions to the sound of marching bands in Recife, Goiana and Escada.

Today, the tradition of marching bands is dying in Brazil. In Pernambuco, there are around 150 of them, among which the oldest, still-performing group in the State’s musical scene is Sociedade Musical Curica (Curica Music Society), from Goiana (1848), the oldest in Brazil; Saboeira, also from Goiana (1849); 22 de Novembro, from Paudalho (1852); Santa Cecília, from São Bento do Una (1854); Sociedade Musical Pedra Preta (Black Rock Music Society), from Itambé (1870); Banda de Música da Polícia Militar de Pernambuco (Pernambuco Military Police Marching Band), from Recife (1873); Euterpina Juvenil Nazarena, also known as Capa-Bode, from Nazaré da Mata (1884); Nova Euterpe Caruaruense, from Caruaru (1896); São Sebastião, from Belo Jardim (1887); Isaías Lima, of Triunfo (1890); 15 de Novembro, Gravatá; Filarmônica Dinon Pires de Carvalho, from Belém de São Francisco and Comercial de Caruaru (1900).
Recife, 30 March 2004.
(Updated on 21 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.


IRMÃO, José Pedro Damião. Tradicionais bandas de música. Recife: CEPE, 1970. 184 p.
SILVA, Leonardo Dantas (Org.)  Bandas musicais de Pernambuco: origens e repertório. Recife: Governo do Estado de Pernambuco, Secretaria do Trabalho e Ação Social, Fundo de Amparo ao Trabalhador, 1998. 395 p.


Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Marching Bands (Bandas de Música). Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.


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