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Manioc flour, served up with a song

A manioc flour salesman in the Amazon aspires to musical fame. His customers aren't so convinced.

Bernardino Sena da Cruz is by far the most famous singing manioc-flour salesman in the town of Cameta. (Seth Kugel/GlobalPost)

CAMETA, Brazil — In this old riverfront town in the Amazonian state of Para, toasted manioc flour is served with just about every food, be it pirarucu fish, sliced steak or acai fruit. In a hole in the wall shop near the town center, however, it’s served up with a song.

From as early as 6 a.m., the dreadlocked, 56-year-old Bernardino Sena da Cruz opens up his store, so he can spend some time strumming his sticker-adorned guitar and composing new ditties. Commuters on foot, on bicycle, on motorbike and even the rare car or pickup truck might also catch him crooning one of his classics, like “Michael Jackson” or “Taxi.”

They can also pick up one of the CDs he recorded in a local studio, or two scoops of the yellow flour known as farinha d'agua for two and a half reais (about $1.43). Most customers prefer the latter: Sena da Cruz is certainly creative and entertaining, but his talent seems more suited for campfire gatherings than sold-out stadiums

Miguel Mocbel, a local postal worker, had only two critiques: the music, and the words. “He has some good songs,” said Mocbel. “His problem is that he plays only three chords.” He later added: “What he’s missing is a person to edit the lyrics.”

His best known “hit” is entitled “Sharon Stone,” and reflects a long-held obsession with the actress whose name he pronounces more like “Shari Stoney”:

Sharon, Sharon Stone
My cinematic muse
Sharon, Sharon Stone
My sex symbol
I get jealous of Arnold Schwarzenegger,
The avenger of the future*,
Kissing her beautiful lips
Kneading her beautiful breasts.

[*“Avenger of the Future” was the Portuguese title for the Schwarzenegger film “Total Recall.”]

Sena da Cruz, much more widely known as Dino Seno — which you might call his stage name if he ever appeared on a stage — originally thought he might become a priest. But he ended up moving from here to the state capital, Belem, where he worked for 16 years as a pharmacy salesman.

“I was sitting there one afternoon,” he said, “when I saw a divine light. I got up, grabbed a piece of computer paper, and I wrote down the lyrics.” The song was called “Girl of My Dreams," he said, “because I was a dreamer.”