I was friends with Waldir 59 for the last seven years of his life, and fought to preserve his works and memory. Within a week of my arrival in Australia, Waldir had left for his Blue and White heaven. Waldir is not just one of the greatest champions of the Rio Carnaval, he epitomises the great spirit of love and liberty in Brazilian samba.
Originally the Carnaval parade was performed in Pequena África, in Praça Onze. In 1961 the parades were closed off and made into ticket only events. Some years later O Globo, Brazil’s monopoly media network, took over the parade, speeding up the tempo of the music to fit the songs into a television schedule and uprooting the carnaval from its popular origins. The carnaval was transformed into an international commercial product, the principal symbol of which was a dancing black woman (the ‘globeleza’). Samba musicians like Candeia, Waldir 59, Clara Nunes, Martinho da Vila, Nei Lopes, Zé Luiz do Império Serrando and others opposed this transformation, creating a new Samba School, G.R.E.S. Quilombo dos Palmares, to parade freely through the streets.
Waldir de Souza was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on the 3rd of March 1927, and died on the 25th of November 2015. In 1935 he began working with the Portela Samba School, where he was a dancer, singer, ‘Director of Harmony’ (parade performances), and composer.
Waldir 59 founded the first choreographed group of the Carioca carnaval, the "Ala dos Impossíveis da Portela", and as a composer won more than seven samba-enredos with Portela. He was one of the most important Performance Directors of the Carioca carnaval, having won various awards for Unidos da Tijuca and Vila Isabel among other Rio Samba schools.
In 2010 he received a prize from the Brazilian culture ministry in recognition of this work as one of the founders of Brazilian samba culture.
In 2013 the only performance of his original songs was carried out in a presentation by Anita Ekman and Sergio Krakowski in Lapa (a Bohemian district of Rio de Janeiro), with the support of a public art grant from the Rio government.
Due to this event Waldir 59 was recognised as a member of the ‘Velha Guarda Show’ of Portela.