LOS INDIOS TABAJARAS – Maria Elena – (RCA) – 1963

Los Indios Tabajaras - Maria Elena

This is the big one from 1963. The one that propelled Los Indios Tabajaras to the world stage and kick started "Indios Tabajaras Mania".

Well not quite.

I have commented on this duo of Brazilian Indian exotica guitarists before. Check out the other comments for background on them … but I will give a little detail here which leads up to this album.

RCA and their concert promoters have always drawn a veil of mystery around Los Indios Tabajaras, so it's tough to trace their early years accurately. Likewise, despite appearances of later night and variety shows little was revealed about them, perhaps due to the "superficial" nature of the shows in the 60s or perhaps because their command of English wasn't that great.

Either way they smiled, played, bowed.

Their story is "they discovered a guitar in the jungle near Ceara, Brazil, and, after making sure it wasn't going to explode like other firearms their tribesmen had found, began to examine it. Eventually, they both mastered the instrument and came to the attention of townspeople, one of whom took them to Rio de Janeiro to play … " http://www.spaceagepop.com/indios.htm

Certainly it seems they were touring by the early 1940s and were signed to RCA's Latin American arm in 1943. Singles followed though it wasn't until the 1957 they released their first album on the RCA subsidiary Vox label, "Popular And Folk Songs Of Latin America" (There appears to have been a South American album released in 1953, "Ternura" though that may have been a later compilation of singles from the early 50s)

They were around at the right time and, the back of the exotica trend in "adult" music, they released an album, "Sweet And Savage" in 1958 on RCA

One of their singles (from that album), "Maria Elena," became a steady seller, and by early 1962, its success caught the eye of RCA tastemakers. They issued the tune, and the song bolted up the charts. The "Sweet and Savage" album was dusted off, given a new name to cash in on the single and a new sleeve and released.

It did well.

The only other charting record, the single "Always in My Heart:" went to #82 in 1964.

Their mainstream widespread popularity was a fluke for them or, the novelty had worn off.

They took 20 years a long time to get to there and a year to plummet.

More singles and albums followed and they were popular live and on television until rock n roll achieving mainstream acceptance in the mid 1960s eventually did them in.

But for a moment in time these Indians from Brazil were gold.

As I said in another comment, "What I like about them is that the music is gentle, velvety, and evocative, without being syrupy".

This album has quite a few vocal tunes that perfectly match the strummed and gently plucked guitars. It's almost trance like.

It's not unusual for them to do vocals but they did lean towards evocative instrumentals. This album comes awfully close to leaving exotica and becoming a ethnic folk record, not that there is anything wrong with that.

But it is not folk music, given the versions of American songs and the number of songs written by one of the Indios, Natalicio Lima . It is music of time and place and it soaks up the influences of mid-century South America … look at the covers chosen.

This is a relaxing evocative and a perfect accompaniment to a cocktail in the early evening dark.

Tracks (best in italics)

           Side One

  • Maria Elena  – (Lorenzo Barcelata / Bob Russell) – A Mexican song going back to 1932. The song has life as a vocal song and as an instrumental. The song was used as a theme in the Bette Davis and Paul Muni film Bordertown (1935), Jimmy Dorsey recorded a version of it in 1941 (Bob Eberly, vocal) which went to #1. Los Indios Tabajaras released it in 1958 as a single before having a hit with it in 1963. As beautiful a acoustic guitar instrumental as you are going to get and evocative of lazy and slightly melancholic sunny holidays of the past. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Elena
  • Maran Cariua – (Natalicio Moreyra Lima) – with vocals and quite native folksy. The voices intermingle with each other in trancelike fashion..
  • Los Indios Danzan – (Natalicio Moreyra Lima) – a instrumental and another beautiful one.
  • La Orilla del Lago – (Natalicio Moreyra Lima) – an instrumental and more European in fasjion.
  • Moonlight Serenade – (Glenn Miller / Mitchell Parish) – an instrumental.  It is a joy hearing this famous Glenn Miller tune stripped down to the basics and given just a hint of exotica. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonlight_Serenade
  • Baion Bon – (Natalicio Moreyra Lima) – with vocals. This is a gentle bounce with a Mexican country lilt.

    Side Two

  • Pajaro Campana – (Felix Cardozo) – a instrumental and a song that was on their (possible)1953 album. I don't know if it was re-recorded or not. Quite exhilarating in its on way. Félix Pérez Cardozo is a legendary Paraguayan musician and composer who mainly worked in Argentina.
  • Stardust (Polvo de Estrellas) – (Hoagy Carmichael / Mitchell Parish) – a instrumental. This is one of the greatest of all Tin Pan Alley songs. It is often (always) done stripped as wa sintended by the writers. Beautiful. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stardust_(song)
  • Ternura – (Natalicio Moreyra Lima) – an instrumental. Another song that was on their (possible)1953 album. I don't know if it was re-recorded or not.
  • Ay Maria – (Pinto) – with vocals. This is a Mexican type of song (as was popular t the time) and sung in Spanish rather than Portuguese.
  • Vals Criollo – (Antonio Lauro) – a  instrumental with bounce. Antonio Lauro was a Venezuelan musician, and legendary composer for the guitar.
  • Jungle Dream – (Natalicio Moreyra Lima) – a instrumental with touches of Martin Denny. Slow, moody and quite, as the title refers to, dreamlike.

And …

Beautiful from start to finish … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1963 Maria Elena #6 pop

1963 Maria Elena #3 Easy Listening


1967 #7



1963 Maria Elena #5



Maria Elena

mp3 attached

Maran Cariua


A La Orilla del Lago


Moonlight Serenade


Ay Maria

mp3 attached














  • The linersnotes on the back sleeve give a history of the duo: "It's a long way from the jungles of northern Brazil to Hoagy Carmichael, but that's just part of the path followed by the guitar duo known as the Tabajaras Indians in what must surely be one of the greatest off-trail adventure stories in the whole history of music … The story began in the jungle of the State of Ceara, up in the northeastern shoulder of Brazil. Here an Indian tribe called the Tabajaras lives well isolated from the world of the white man. While peaceful enough, the Tabajaras have been generally unfriendly to the white man's civilization, which they have considered inferior to their own … One of the leaders of the Tabajaras was a tribesman by the name of Mitanga who was the father of thirty children. One day, twenty-odd years ago, Musaperi, his No. 3 son, and Herundy, the next oldest boy, found a guitar lying in a path in the woods along which a party of white men had passed. Not knowing what it was, they carried it home and kept it hidden for a couple of weeks … When it failed to explode as had firearms found by some of their fellow tribesmen, the two young boys took it out and examined it more closely. The sound that the strings made as they were touched by their exploring hands excited the boys' curiosity, and in some unexplained manner the brothers learned to play the instrument. They loved it enough to want to follow it into the white man's world from which it had come … Rio de Janeiro was their first important stop, and here they scored a hit with their primitive yet effective handling of the guitar as an accompaniment to their tribal folk songs.  A theatrical agent spotted them and booked them for a series of tours throughout South America that lasted six years. Then they headed north for Mexico for a long engagement. Somewhere along the line they changed their Indian names to Natalicio and Antenor Moreyra Lima, although they were known everywhere they played as just "Los Indios Tabajaras." … About this time they decided to stop their concerts in order to take formal instruction in the guitar. Each worked with a different teacher, Antenor specializing in accompaniment and Natalicio working on melody. They studied the classics, and soon augmented their Indian folk lore and Brazilian repertoire with the works of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Falla and Albéniz … Then, after two years of study, came a new debut and a tour of the opera houses of the South American capitals. This was followed by a long European tour which took them before concert audiences in Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Athens and Lisbon. They learned to sing and speak in Italian, German and Greek, in addition to their native Tupi, their adopted Portuguese, and the Spanish they had learned while touring Latin America … These two young Indians are true virtuosos. Their unique personal and musical background is reflected in the numbers they play on these two sides. In addition to the tribal folk songs they learned first, they present Brazilian regional music and international favorites of Latin America. Star Dust and Moonlight Serenade, though, show how far they've wandered, both musically and geographically, since they first saw something strange lying on the matted floor of their native jungle … RICHARD JOSEPH Travel Editor, Esquire"


Los Indios Tabajaras - Sweet and Savage

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on franklycollectible@gmail.com though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at http://www.franklycollectible.com Cheers
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