He was the owner of one of the few temples of samba left in Copacabana, a neighborhood that was home to dozens of live music places back in the 50s/60s. Bip Bip was a bar he ran with no intention of becoming rich, but to keep busy and make a decent enough living whilst providing punters with lots of beer, music and culture.
He treated the bar as an extension of his living room: you were his guest, to the extent that you were expected to fetch your own beer in the fridge! Since the eighties - when he bought the bar and began organizing his famous ‘rodas de samba’ - his bar acquired a reputation as a point of resistance - culturally and politically.
The 19 square meters that initially gathered the likes of Cristina Buarque, Elton Medeiros, Walter Alfaiate and Zé Keti shaped a new generation of sambistas that learned the old songs and are now creating their own repertoire, perfectly befitting their distinguished elders.
We too have our personal Alfredinho tale to tell...
Back in 2007, Kika and I went there for some beers and ended up recording a really good roda de samba. The resulting bootleg was duly turned into a fine episode of the Caipirinha Appreciation Society show, entitled - you guessed it - Bip Bip. We mixed the local musicians playing and singing the classics with each song’s original recording. All that, however, in our usual style: alongside a whole variety of old and new Brazilian music.
We released the show and readily and proudly approached Alfredinho with a CDR of the podcast. “Mas isso não é sobre o Bip Bip, tem rock no meio!” was his angry verdict, telling us off (as was his way) for including anything other than samba in a show about the bar. Oh, well, we tried.
It's a real feat for a bar to survive in Rio for that long, from the toughest days of the dictatorship through to our feeble (and currently receding) redemocratization, witnessing the gentrification process and transformations resulting from events like the World Cup and the Olympics.
I guess Alfredinho managed to make the bar what it was due to his gregarious nature. Mind you, he was not the smiley-smiley chatty-chatty type of bar owner. Quite the opposite. Maybe because of the nature of the average Carioca bar-goer (spacious, if not abusive, and most of the times, arrogant), Alfredinho’s stern face imposed respect. For him, talking while the musicians were playing was the utmost act of disrespect, and you would see (and hear) him telling people off for that reason more often than actually engaging in conversation with clients.
In spite of that, he was the promoter, organizer and sponsor of Rancho Flor do Sereno, the carnaval bloco that opens Rio's independent carnival season. He was also capable of rallying his clients and friends around his social assistance project and political actions and debates.
In short, he was a legend not just in Copacabana, but in Rio’s cultural - and political - scene
Doc BipBip by Thalles Chaves (English Subtitles)
But as we say in Brazil, there are legends and there are Legends, and a true Legend's departure from this world has to be the subject of... legend. And so it was: To begin with, Alfredinho ‘decided’ to leave this life not on a regular Saturday, but on Carnival Saturday. His friends found him sitting on an armchair in his place. He died peacefully, but was not going uneventfully: The lift carrying his body, with funeral employees and some close friends got stuck. For ages. It seems Alfredinho didn’t want to go.
His wake was with the coffin inside the bar. Outside, a ‘roda de samba’ was formed and Alfredinho had his ‘gurufim’ - a celebration of African origin, where the deceased's life is celebrated by friends and family with music, dance, tales about the person's past, and drinks to make the passage a less traumatic moment. A tradition inherited by the samba community.
Fotos por Claudia Ferreira
(CLICK ON THE DATE BELOW 'BIPBIP' TO SEE THE PICTURES ON FB)
Considering all this was happening in the middle of carnival, everything gained a surreal atmosphere, with people in mourning clothes mingling with people in costume, dressed up as native indians, donning funny hats or in bikinis, all singing sambas in honor of the deceased. The crowd left the bar in procession following the funeral car, that at a certain point had a breakdown. Yes, the crowd had to push the hearse the rest of the way to the cemetery. Alfredinho most definitely did not want to go. He was probably enjoying his crowd singing their last goodbyes and coming across other ‘blocos’ as they made their way from Copacabana to Botafogo. In the cemetery, more samba while his body was buried. Another surreal scene was when the procession took a wrong turn in the direction of the burial site and everybody walked backwards, because 'Bip Bip's crowd never turns to the right'!
Do you think that was enough for a guy like Alfredinho? No! In the mass traditionally celebrated in the 7th day of burial in Brazil, there was a ‘roda de samba’ inside the church!
Unfortunately we were not there to witness such a beautiful departure; all that is written here was compiled from videos and reports by his friends. Check the videos below and see for yourself!
Samba do Bip
Hino do Botafogo
Samba in the church - Missa de 7o dia
And last but not the least: the famous 'esporro' (scold) by Alfredinho
Playlist of the episode