Icon of Bahian music, composer Paulinho Camafeu dies aged 73

Composer Paulinho Camafeu, 73 years old, died this Monday night (29). He was in an induced coma in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Hospital do Subúrbio for five days after suffering a heart attack.

Earlier, still on Monday, the musician suffered a new cardiac arrest that worsened his health, even requiring blood donations. However, he did not resist. “He was suffering a lot, it was a lot. He had already escaped 6 years ago, when he fell into a coma and came back. And now he has found eternal rest”, comments Geraldo Badá, a close friend of the artist.

Camafeu was transferred to the hospital unit after spending five days in an Emergency Care Unit (UPA) in the Pau Miúdo neighborhood. Diabetic, the composer started to present cardiac complications for about 10 days.

Camafeu was already in a poor state of health. As a result of diabetes, he had already had a foot amputated. According to Badá, the musician’s body should be buried in a ceremony held this afternoon (30), at Campo Santo Cemetery, where the mortal remains of his father are located.


Paulinho Camafeu is one of the most important composers of Bahian music in recent decades – which ended up in axé music. Baptized Paulo Vitor Bacelar, he was created under the influence of godfather Camafeu de Oxóssi – another outstanding character in Velha Bahia – and inherited his artistic surname from him.

In an interview with CORREIO in 2015, during Axé’s thirty years, Gilberto Gil defined it as follows: “Paulinho lived with great singers and composers. He grew up in this environment, very articulated in the peripheral neighborhoods, absorbing the cultures of these places, where there was everything that we call black culture in Bahia. He was one of the first to express his taste for disseminating this culture, a great musician, a great tambourine player”.

This was the inspiring environment for the song Mundo Negro (Que Bloco é Esse?), which marked Ilê Aiyê’s first fashion show, in 1975, and became a classic for several generations. In translating the impact that the Black Power Movement had on our lands, Camafeu gave voice to the wishes of many young black people like him.

Recorded by Gilberto Gil and later by Rappa, Criolo and other artists, the anthem remains strong and refreshed at every Carnival. Paulinho was also the author of another instant hit, Fricote, a partnership with Luiz Caldas that generated the whirlwind called axé. “My partnership with Luiz Caldas is transcendental”, defined Paulinho.

Before Fricote, he had already released Deboche, another hit, recorded by Sarajane. With Carlinhos Brown, he made Vale. And there were also songs in the repertoires of Pepeu Gomes, Paulinho Boca, Timbalada, Fafá de Belém, Sergio Mendes and Cheiro de Amor. With Chocolate da Bahia and Bell Marques he composed the famous Menina do Cateretê. Another partnership with Bell and Wadinho Marques is Meu Cabelo Duro é Assim.

Despite the many successful songs, Paulinho Camafeu did not have the recognition he deserved and went through difficult times in recent years – with many financial difficulties, aggravated by health problems. On more than one occasion his friends joined in to help him, performing shows where his compositions had a prominent place, of course.

‘He ushered in a new era in the city’

He was a boy who watched Camafeu de Oxossi at Mercado Modelo. His grace, his intelligence, his vivacity made him a unique figure in the City of Salvador. He was an authentic Bahian and had become what was called a folkloric figure. Up close, always a delight for the interlocutor, a stimulus to mental life. Composing ‘What block is this?’, a song that was soon recorded by Gilberto Gil, Paulinho not only gave voice to the spontaneous reaction – of surprise, enchantment, curiosity – that provoked the appearance of Ilê Aiyê in Salvadorans: he inaugurated a new era in City. Salvador’s self-image changed with the emergence of Ilê – and Paulinho’s song was the news-poem of that event. It is a double historical song: it is the story told in the heat of the hour and it is itself unforgettable. Artists like O Rappa, Criolo, years after Gil, resumed his verses and notes. It is a milestone that announced a milestone. Salvador asserting itself black and better tempering Brazil.

Caetano Veloso, in a text published in CORREIO in February 2015

About Hrishikesh Bhardwaj

Tv specialist. Falls down a lot. Typical troublemaker. Hipster-friendly advocate. Food fan.

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