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Early 1950s: The first Trio Elétrico E-mail
On January 29th 1951, a Monday before carnival [1], Dodô and Osmar had a key experience while witnessing a parade of the famous brass band Clube Carnvalesco Misto Vassourinhas, who performed in Salvador on their way from Recife to Rio de Janeiro. The Vassourinhas were specialized in Frevo music, an up-tempo marching band style from Pernambuco that had become popular all over Brazil since the 1930s. The performance of the Vassourinhas in Salvador was an important and much anticipated event, amply covered by newspapers, welcomed by the authorities and supported by sponsors and radio stations.

"[...] Almost the entire city went to see the parade on Avenida Sête. [...] I was there in the crowd, jumping and dancing behind them and next to them. It was pretty crazy, everybody was dancing. [...] It was then when i said to Dodô: Dodô, lets go out and play this kind of music. I already knew some of the songs. Compositions by Nelson Ferreira and Capiba, Frevo Rasgado", that kind of thing. The main theme is still played today, you know the one [sings the tune "Vassourinhas"]. This was when we set up the "Fobica", using a Ford '29."
O. Macêdo, 1995 apud PAULAFREITAS (2005)


The ensuing events are of great importance in the history of Bahian Carnival: Osmar's retired Ford '29, used to haul metal parts for his workshop, was transformed into a moving stage, in order to enable Dodô and Osmar to perform brass band Frevo tunes with their exotic pau elétricos during the upcoming festivities. Equipped with a 2 kW generator, decorated with carnivalesque motives and speakers mounted on front and rear, the musical Ford, nicknamed Fobica ("road hog"), entered the scene around 4 pm on Carnival Sunday, prime time. Backed by 6 percussionists and Osmars' father in law Armando Mereiles Costa dressed as a Hula dancer, it entered Rua Chile street at the height of Castro Alves square, mingling with the official parade (the car corso).

"..we messed up the corso, for we were followed by a compact crowd of people, jumping around and having fun like you'd never seen it in Bahia,  [...] It was very exciting. More than 200 meters of people following the Fobica [...] When we were almost past Castro Alves Square, I asked Olegário Muriçoca, the driver, to halt for a while since the square offered more space. We asked him various times, but he just wouldn't stop. Already mad, me and Dodô started yelling at him, upon which he replied that clutch and breaks had broken a while ago and that the car had he motor turned off . It was being pushed forward by the crowd."
O. Macêdo, 1978 apud GÓES (1982)



This was the first time that popular carnival, usually restricted to backstreets and surburbs, had succesfully taken over the space of the offical celebrations which, although public, remained reserved for the activities of the Bahian elites. In hindsight, the parade of the Vassourinhas orchestra had served as a full dress rehearsal for the triumphant ride of the Fobica a few days later, including the enthusiatic reception of Frevo music by the entire city, the particular tunes, and the crowd that spontaneously followed the music around in a jumping dancing style. The episode had left everyone with their jaws down - including Dodô and Osmar - and marked the birth of both of a new musical genre (Frevo do Trio aka Frevo Novo aka Frevo Baiano) and a new form of celebrating carnival in Bahia, soon to be known as Trio Elétrico.

In the following year, Dodô and Osmar replaced their Fobica with a Chrysler Fargo pick up  truck and added a third electric instrument to their set up: a triolim  or tenor guitar, played by their friend Temístocles Aragão. Consequently, their name changed from Dupla Elétrica to Trio Elétrico. In the next year, they were back on a lorry featuring 8 speakers, flourescent lights and generators, sponsored by the local soft drink producer Fratelli Vita [2]. By the mid 1950s, when other bands had copied the concept, the term Trio Elétrico became generic.

"... a Bahian industrial by the name of Miguel Vita noticed that the Trio Elétrico had great advertising potential. [...] From thereon, the thing started growing, and other Trios appeared on pick up trucks, with lights and speakers everywhere. These people all played instruments that Dodô had built for them, since you couldn't buy them anywhere as you can today.  There were at least 3 other bands then: "5 Irmãos", "Ipiranga", and "Conjunto Âtlas" [...] People would start to say 'Here comes the Trio Elétrico' when they saw these blinking vehicles playing frevo music. Eventually, the term would refer not just to our band, but to all these bands ...."
O. MACÊDO 1978 apud GÓES (1982)

The years to come brought a landslide of vans, buses and trucks transformed into moving band stands, with an ever increasing sophistication in size, sound and decoration. Today, 60 years later, the old Ford'29 of the first Trio Elétrico evolved into the brontosaur sized road trains Bahian carnival has become so famous for: Mobile concert halls carrying 200 db (!) amplification on all four sides, a 25 piece band plus dancers stomping away on their roofs, very large crowds of people partying all around them and scientific articles published on the long term effects of exposure to their sound. The Pau Elétrico/Guitarra Baiana can take credit for having been among the principal raisons-de-être of these machines - which are still referred to as Trios.

 
When Dodô and Osmar withdrew from performing in 1960, the tradition was firmly established and continued to grow in in the hands of other trios, most notably the Trio Tapajós, organized by Orlando Campos since the second half of the 1950s.



NOTES

[1]
The historic parade of the Clube Carnavalesco Misto Vassourinhas do Recife in Salvador took place on Monday, January  29th, 1951. It brought 80.000 people to the central area of the city, about one fifth of its population at the time.
Diario de Notícias, Bahia, 1/30/1951 (right)




An "A TARDE" article covering the event, published on January 30th, 1951, is reproduced in the book "50 anos do Trio Elétrico" (GÓES, 2000), next to a text stating that the event took place in 1950. Such errors regarding the year of the Vassourinhas performance in Salvador are common in literature on Bahian carnival. Another frequent error concerns the  week day of the performance, due to the fact that Osmar Macêdo often referred to that day as a Wednesday.

Osmar Macêdo repeatedly and consistently described the performance of the Vassourinhas orchestra as the event  that  directly inspired him and his partner Dodô to set up the famous Fobica. As the parade took place on Monday, January 29th, 1951 (less than a week before carnival), Sunday, February 4th, 1951 seems to suggest itself as the date of the Fobica's famous maiden voyage into the official downtown carnival parade.

The official  birth year of the first Trio Elétrico is, of course, 1950. It's 25th and 50th anniversaries were celebrated in 1975 and 2000, and practically all texts on Bahian carnival cite 1950 as the year when the Trio Elétrico tradition first began. This unanimity may be misleading, as the vast majority of these publications are based on the same personal accounts of Osmar Macêdo in one way or another.

The curious enthusiast of the Carnaval da Bahia is left with two choices: Either, he can disregard the date given by Osmar Macêdo and trust his story, which without the shadow of a doubt revolves around an event that ocurred in 1951. Or, he can disregard the entire story and go for the date alone, which is what most people seem to be doing.

[2]
The partnership with Fratelli Vita lasted until 1957 and enabled Dodô and Osmar them to sophisticate their setup.
The Fratelli Vita company was bought by Brahma in the 1970s.