Loading...

Follow Lyrical Brazil on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid
João Gilberto - Na casa de Chico Pereira (1958) - YouTube

“João Valentão” by Dorival Caymmi (1945)

João Valentão é brigão// João Valentão is a tough
De dar bofetão// He throws blows
Não presta atenção e nem pensa na vida// He doesn’t pay attention and doesn’t even contemplate life
A todo João intimida// He intimidates every João
Faz coisas que até Deus duvida// He does things even God can’t believe
Mas tem seu momento na vida// But he has his moment in life…

É quando o sol vai quebrando lá pro fim do mundo pra noite chegar// It’s when the sun goes breaking over the end of the world, for night to arrive
É quando se ouve mais forte o ronco das ondas na beira do mar// It’s when the roar of the waves can be heard more loudly at the edge of the sea
É quando o cansaço da lida, da vida, obriga João se sentar// It’s when the weariness of the struggle, of life, forces João to sit down
É quando a morena se encolhe, se chega pro lado querendo agradar// It’s when the morena curls up, comes to his side, wishing to please
Se a noite é de lua a vontade é de contar mentiras, de se espreguiçar// If the night is moonlit, the urge is to tell fibs, to stretch out
Deitar na areia da praia que acaba onde a vista não pode alcançar// Lie down on the sand on the beach that ends beyond where the eye can see
E assim adormece esse homem que nunca precisa dormir pra sonhar// And that’s how this man falls asleep, who never needs to sleep to dream
Porque não há sonho mais lindo do que sua terra não há// Because there is no dream more beautiful than his land, there’s none

“Chão de Estrelas” by Orestes Barbosa and Silvio Caldas (1937)

Minha vida era um palco iluminado// My life was a lighted stage
Eu vivia vestido de dourado// I was always dressed in gold
Palhaço das perdidas ilusões// Clown of lost illusions
Cheio dos guizos falsos de alegria// Full of the phony bells of joy
Andei cantando minha fantasia// I went around singing my fantasy
Entre as palmas febris dos corações// Among the feverish palms* of hearts

Meu barracão lá no morro do Salgueiro// My shack, on Salgueiro Hill
Tinha o cantar alegre de um viveiro// Had the cheerful song of an aviary
Foste a sonoridade que acabou// You were the sonority that ended
E hoje quando do sol a claridade //And today, when the sun’s rays
Forra meu barracão, sinto saudade// Stream into my shack, I feel saudade
Da mulher, pomba rola, que voou// For the woman, dove that flew away

Nossas roupas comuns dependuradas// Our modest clothes hanging
Na corda, qual bandeiras agitadas// Out on the line, like waving flags
Parecia um estranho festival// Appeared an exotic festival
Festa dos nossos trapos coloridos// A party of our colored rags
A mostrar que nos morros mal vestidos// Showing that on the poorly dressed hillsides
É sempre feriado nacional// It’s always a national holiday

A porta do barraco era sem trinco// The shack’s door had no latch
Mas a lua furando o nosso zinco// But the moon, boring through our tin
Salpicava de estrelas nosso chão// Peppered our floor with stars
E tu pisavas nos astros, distraída// And you stepped on the stars, absent-minded
Sem saber que a ventura dessa vida// Unaware that the fortune of this life
É a cabrocha, o luar, e o violão// Is the cabrocha, the moonlight and the guitar

— Commentary–

João Gilberto’s debut at Copacabana Palace, 1959. Photo via Arquivo Publico do Estado de São Paulo.  João Gilberto. Photo via Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo.

It would be hard to find a foreign lover of Brazilian music whose life wasn’t fundamentally changed by João Gilberto, who died yesterday, July 6, at age 88.  I remember listening over and over to a playlist put together by the fantastic Zuim Podcast in 2011 for Gilberto’s 80th birthday. I was living in New York at the time and the songs — which still bring to mind memories of runs in Prospect Park and drab days at a midtown office — helped inspire this blog, which I started a few months later, and my move to Brazil. They included several from this 1958 recording from the casa de Chico Pereira, linked above. Especially beautiful to me was “João Valentão,” to this day, thanks to that recording, maybe my favorite Brazilian song — or at least one of the first that would come to mind if I had to answer that impossible question. It was one of the first songs I translated for the blog back in 2011. Here it is reprised with João Gilberto singing, along with “Chão de Estrelas” (which also has its own post from 2012), which follows “João Valentão” on the album. Over the next few weeks I hope to get time to translate more João Gilberto recordings on here; for now, here are two of my favorites.

*The first verse of “Chão de Estrelas” ends with “among the feverish palms of hearts.” In Portuguese, the literal translation for “clap” in English is “to beat palms.” Orestes Barbosa played with this phrase, referring to beating hearts as “palms of hearts.”

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Lyrical Brazil by Lyricalbrazil - 1M ago

Lyrics from “Raízes” by Renato Teixeira (~1992)

Raízes - Renato Teixeira e Pena Branca & Xavantinho – Ao Vivo em Tatuí - YouTube
Galo cantou // Cock crowed
Madrugada na campina // Dawn on the plain
Manhã menina // Tender morning
Tá na flor do meu jardim // Is on the flower in my garden
Hoje é domingo // Today is Sunday
Me desculpe eu tô sem pressa // Forgive me I’m in no hurry
Nem preciso de conversa // I have no need for conversation
Não há nada prá cumprir // No obligations to fulfill
Passar o dia // Passing the day
Ouvindo o som de umas viola // Listening to the sound of some violas
Eu quero que o mundo agora // I want the world now
Se mostre pros bem-te-vi // To show itself to the bem-te-vi (Great Kiskadee)
Mando daqui das bandas do rural lembranças // I send out from here, from the rural parts, remembrances
Vibrações da nova hora // Vibrations of the new hour
Prá você que não tá aqui // For you, who’s not here
Amanhecer // The break of day
é uma lição do universo // Is a lesson of the universe
Que nos ensina // That teaches us
Que é preciso renascer // That it’s necessary to be reborn
O novo amanhece // The new dawns
O novo amanhece // The new dawns
Já tem rolinha // There are already doves
Lá no terreiro varrido // Out on the brushed-earth yard
E o orvalho brilha // And the dew shines
Como pérolas ao sol // Like pearls in the sun
Tem uma sombra// There’s a shadow
Que caminha pras montanhas // That creeps toward the mountains
Se enfiando feito alma // Slipping like a soul
Por dentro do matagal // Into the bush
E quanto mais // And the more
A luz vai invadindo a terra // The sun spreads over the earth
O que a noite não revela // What the night doesn’t reveal
O dia mostra prá mim // The day shows to me
A rádio agora // The radio now
Tá tocando Rancho Fundo// Is playing Rancho Fundo
Somos só eu e mundo // It’s just me and the world
E tudo começa aqui // And everything begins here
Amanhecer // Daybreak
é uma lição do universo // Is a lesson of the universe
Que nos ensina // That teaches us
Que é preciso renascer // That it’s necessary to be reborn
O novo amanhece // The new dawns
O novo amanhece // The new dawns
— Commentary —
Pena Branca (right) and Xavantinho.
For the second post on songs about Sundays, here’s one of my favorite songs from a beautiful album of caipira, or folk-country, music, Renato Teixeira & Pena Branca e Xavantinho: Ao Vivo em Tatuí (1992). The song was composed by Renato Teixeira, one of Brazil’s most prolific singer-songwriters in the caipira genre. That genre is associated with the countryside of the central and southeastern states of São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. But tellingly, Teixeira was born in the city — in Santos, São Paulo. Songs like “Raízes,” or “Roots,” are typical of the caipira revival of the 1980s and ’90s, of which Teixeira was a driving force (for more on that, see this previous post): As more and more rural migrants made their way to greater São Paulo or adjacent cities such as Santos — Brazil became a majority urban country around 1970, and was nearly 70 percent urban by 1980; and greater São Paulo exploded from 2.6 million in 1950, to 8.1 million in 1970, to 15.4 million in 1991 — these popular songs expressed deep longing and cultural affinity for a simpler bygone country life that many may never have experienced firsthand.

The caipira style was typically performed by pairs of brothers, perfectly exemplified by Pena Branca (1939-2010) e Xavantinho (1942-1999), who, like many such duos, began singing together as children on local radio programs in their hometown of Uberlândia, Minas Gerais. In 1968, they moved to São Paulo to pursue a career in music together. There, they were helped by popular performers such as Teixeira and Milton Nascimento, whose “Cio da Terra,” composed with Chico Buarque, they popularized with a 1980 recording. (Here they are performing that song with Milton in 1987: https://youtu.be/3BDTbOnC8-I)

The brothers resisted crossing over into the more commercial sertanejo, or (modern) country, genre, and continued performing together in the traditional caipira style until Xavantinho’s early death in 1999, at age 56, from complications from a motorcycle accident five years earlier. The violas they played, and that are referenced in the lyrics, are the ten-string guitar typical of this style.

“Rancho Fundo” in the song refers to the classic Brazilian song “No Rancho Fundo” (1931), by Ary Barroso and Lamartine Babo, which has a similarly nostalgic and romanticized caipira theme. In 1989, the popular duo Chitãozinho e Xororó released a typically caipira version of the song, cementing its place in the caipira canon. The bem-te-vi  bird referenced in the song is one of the most common in Brazil, and one of the first to begin singing at daybreak, which probably explains its popularity in Brazilian folk song.
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Lyrical Brazil by Lyricalbrazil - 1M ago

Lyrics from “Memórias Conjugais” by Paulinho da Viola (1996)

Paulinho da Viola - Memórias Conjugais - YouTube

Lapidar // Lapidary
Foi a sua frase // Was your statement
Proferida de um jeito natural // Proffered so naturally
Registrei esta preciosidade // I jotted down this gem
Sem alarde // Without any fuss
No meu livro de memórias conjugais // In my book of conjugal memories:
-“Tenho asas, meu amor, preciso abri-las // -“I have wings, my love, I need to open them –
Ao seu lado não sou muito criativa” // by your side, I’m not creative enough”
Depois dessa // After that pronouncement
Fui em busca do meu antidepressivo // I went looking for my anti-depressant
E afundei // And sank
No sofá com meus jornais // Into the sofa with my newspapers

Minha cara no espelho já diz tudo // My face in the mirror says it all
Desconfio de um carma secular // I sense some secular karma
Pelo jeito, eu também sou um embrulho // It would seem I’m also a mess
Mas eu juro, deste muro amanhã vou me jogar// But I swear, tomorrow I’m going to throw myself off this wall
Resolvi // I decided
Vou tomar uma providência // I’m going to take certain measures
Pra começar, lá no bar do seu José // Starting off over at José’s bar
Para ver // To see
Se exorcizo este domingo – céu nublado // If I can exorcise this cloudy Sunday
E esta mala// And this baggage
Que não larga do meu pé // That I can’t seem to shake loose

— Commentary —

I always think about starting a series on songs about Sundays, and this is one of the first that comes to mind. Thinking about Paulinho da Viola trying to “exorcise” a dreary Sunday (and more) is always helpful when you’re trying to do the same. I still haven’t gotten back into the groove of posting on here as much as I’d like (soon!) but I found this translation I’d done a few years ago so wanted to take advantage and put it on the site.  Maybe this will represent the first of the Sunday series…

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Lyrics from “A vida é uma só (pare de tomar a pílula)” by Odaír José (1973)

Odair José Uma vida só (pare de tomar a pílula) - YouTube

___

Já nem sei há quanto tempo // I don’t even know how long it’s been
Nossa vida é uma vida só// Our life is only one
E nada mais// And nothing more

Nossos dias vão passando// Our days go passing by
E você sempre deixando// And you’re always leaving
Tudo pra depois// Everything for later

Todo dia a gente ama// Every day we love one another
Mais você não quer deixar nascer// But you don’t want to give birth
O fruto desse amor//To the fruit of that love

Não entende que é preciso// You don’t understand that we need
Ter alguém em nossa vida// Someone in our life
Seja como for// No matter what

Você diz que me adora// You say you adore me
Que tudo nessa vida sou eu// That I’m everything in this life
Então eu quero ver você// So I want to see you
Esperando um filho meu// Carrying my child
Entao eu quero ver você// So I want to see you
Esperando um filho meu// Carrying my child

(refrain)
Pare de tomar a pílula!// Stop taking the pill!
Pare de tomar a pílula
Pare de tomar a pílula
Porque ela não deixa o nosso filho nascer (3x)// Because it keeps our child from being born

— Commentary —

Odaír José, c. 1973.

Most people associate protest music during Brazil’s dictatorship (1964-85) with MPB singers like Chico Buarque, Geraldo Vandré, and Elis Regina. But even songs like this one, from the brega (corny, cheesy, lowbrow…) genre — an over-the-top romantic style from the northeast — were vehicles of resistance. Composers of brega ballads critiqued racism, social inequality, and the social conservatism of the regime, and advocated for things such as the legalization of divorce (only passed through a constitutional amendment known as the “divorce law” in 1977). Their songs represented a major channel for political discourse among Brazil’s poorest populations.

This song serves as a perfect example. The military government treated the impoverished northeast as a problem: an overpopulated and undercivilized hinterland that bred radical peasants and hindered the country’s drive toward order and progress. To try to stamp out that problem without instituting meaningful social reforms, the regime pushed birth control pills and IUDs across the region. State-sponsored population-control programs attempted to win hearts and minds with the uninspired slogan “take the pill with lots of love” (tome a pílula com muito amor); this song responded with “stop taking the pill!”

The song was catchy, irreverent, and amusing, and was a runaway hit. After a while, the military regime’s censors caught on to the ruse and did not find it amusing: the song was banned and the discs were taken out of circulation.

Like Chico Buarque, who continued to perform banned songs such as “Cálice” and “Apesar de você,” José continued to sing this one at shows. But after a run-in with an angry general who told him, “if you’re not satisfied with the country, leave,” José opted to leave, and went into exile in England.

The late sixties and early seventies were the worst period of Brazil’s dictatorship, known as the “years of lead” (anos de chumbo). Things began to change in 1974, when General Ernesto Geisel took office as president. More moderate than the hardliners who had ruled since ’67,  Geisel began a gradual liberalization program known as “distensão,” which sought to slowly reintroduce some (uncertain) degree of political liberties. Under that aegis, the mid-seventies saw a loosening of censorship and repression, and Odaír José returned to Brazil. His song, meanwhile, experienced a resurgence of popularity in the mid-nineties, when it was the unlikely soundtrack for a C&A department-store commercial that aired throughout Brazil; legions of teenage boys began singing it again, with no clue as to its original context.

Main source for this post: Eu Não Sou Cachorro, Não,  by Paulo César Araújo.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Lyrics from “Saudosa Maloca” by Adoniran Barbosa (1951), interpreted by Adoniran Barbosa & Conjunto do Nelson Miranda

Adoniran Barbosa e Conjunto do Nelson Miranda - SAUDADE DA MALOCA (Saudosa Maloca) - YouTube

___

[intro:
Saudosa maloca // Dear old hut
Maloca querida // Beloved hut
Onde nóis passemos // Where we spent
Dias feliz de nossa vida // Happy days of our life
(2x)]

Se o sinhô não tá lembrado / If you are not recalling, sir
Dá licença de contá // Please do let me tell
Qui aqui onde agora está esse edifício artu // That here where this tall building stands
Era uma casa veia um palacete assobradadu // There was an old house, a two-storey’d palace
Foi aqui seu moço// It was here, my boy
Que eu, Mato Grosso e o Joca // That I, Mato Grosso and Joca
Construímos nossa maloca // Made our quarters
Mas um dia nem quero lembrar // But one day, I don’t even want to think of it
Chegô os homeis com as ferramenta // The men with the tools came
o dono mandô derrubá // The owner ordered it torn down
Peguemo’ tuda nossas coisas // We took all our things
E fumos pro meio da rua // And went out to the middle of the road
Ispiá [espiar] a demolição // To watch the demolition
Que tristeza que eu sentia // What sorrow I felt
Cada tauba [tábua] que caia // Every board that fell
Doía no coração // Hurt in my heart
Mato Grosso quis gritar // Mato Grosso wanted to scream
Mas em cima eu falei // But over him I said
O hômiis tá ‘cá razão // The men they got reason
Nós arranja outro lugar // We’ll find another place
se conformemos quando o Joca falou // We only accepted it when Joca said
“Deus dá o frio conforme o cobertor”// “God deals out cold based on the size of the blanket”
E hoje nóis pega páia nas grama do jardim // And today we collect straw in yards of the garden
E pra esquecê nóis cantemos assim // And to forget, we sing like this
Saudosa maloca, maloca querida // Good old hut, dear hut
Onde nóis passemos dias feliz da nossa vida // Where we spent happy days of our life (3x)

____

Lyrics from “Torresmo à Milanesa” by Adoniran Barbosa and Carlinhos Vergueiro (1979)

Adoniran Barbosa, Clementina de Jesus e Carlinhos Vergueiro - TORRESMO À MILANESA - YouTube

___

O enxadão da obra bateu onze hora // The hoe of the construction site just struck 11 o’clock
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João
(2x)

Que é que você troxe na marmita, Dito? // What’d you bring in your lunch box, Dito?
Troxe ovo frito, troxe ovo frito // I brought fried egg, I brought fried egg
E você beleza, o que é que você troxe? // And you, beauty, What’d you bring?
Arroz com feijão e um torresmo à milanesa // Rice with beans and a pork rind à milanesa
Da minha Tereza! // From my Tereza!

Vamos armoçar // Let’s have lunch
Sentados na calçada // Sitting on the sidewalk
Conversar sobre isso e aquilo // Talk about this and that
Coisas que nóis não entende nada // Things we don’t know nothing about
Depois, puxá uma páia // And afterwards hit the hay
Andar um pouco // Take a little stroll
Pra fazer o quilo // To aid digestion

É dureza João! // Ain’t it tough, João! (4x)

O mestre falou // The master said
Que hoje não tem vale não // That today there’s no lunch pass
Ele se esqueceu // He forgot
Que lá em casa não sou só eu // That it’s not just me at home!

— Commentary —

Adoniran Barbosa with the vocal group Demônios da Garoa, who were the first to record and popularize many of his songs.

I translated “Saudosa Maloca” to show some of my students so decided to take advantage and make a post out of it!

Adoniran Barbosa’s “Trem das Onze” (translated in an old post here) is his song that has achieved the greatest success outside of São Paulo — specifically in the territorial samba circles of Rio — but “Saudosa Maloca” is probably his most iconic and beloved samba among his fellow paulistas. The version included above was the first recording, but the song only became a hit with this 1955 recording by the vocal group Demônios da Garoa:

Demônios da Garoa - Saudosa Maloca (Adoniran Barbosa) - YouTube

That group’s role in popularizing Adoniran’s sambas has generated some controversy in recent years, as members of the present-day iteration of the group have claimed that Demônios was responsible for inventing the “‘narfabeto” (illiterate Italian-inflected) style of singing that Adoniran became famous for. The 1951 recording reveals there is little truth to that claim.

Both of these songs address the rapid expansion of urban Brazil — specifically São Paulo — in the early to mid-twentieth century, and the hard lives of those who built the city but had trouble finding a place in it.

Italian immigrants at a shelter in São Paulo c. 1890. Most immigrants passed through these special shelters before continuing on to coffee plantations. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

As this earlier post explains, Barbosa was born João Rubinato in 1912 to Italian immigrant parents in the interior of São Paulo state. As millions of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 – 1930,  about 4 million more went to South America. Most went to Argentina, but approximately a hundred thousand (exact numbers are hard to come by) disembarked in Brazil. Most of these families, including Barbosa’s, first settled in rural areas to work on and around Brazil’s booming coffee plantations. But as the themes of Barbosa’s songs highlight, most soon ended up seeking better economic possibilities in growing cities.

Italian immigrants selling fruit in the Mooca neighborhood of São Paulo, 1920. Image via Museu da imigração.

As mentioned, Barbosa was famous for composing and singing in the Italian-inflected rural style of speech he grew up with, which is still common all around São Paulo, especially in the rural interior of the state.  I’ve put those words/phrases in bold in the original Portuguese lyrics; it’s things like pronouncing an “r” in place of an “l” (e.g. “armoçar” instead of “almoçar,” to have lunch) and mis-conjugating verbs (e.g., “fumos” instead of “fomos,” we went; “se conformemos” instead of “nos conformamos,” and “nois pega” instead of “nós pegamos.”)  I hope that gives a picture. In a few places I’ve tried to translate into parallel English to add a little of that flavor.

“Maloca” is a pretty hard word to translate. The word originally referred to an indigenous communal dwelling, and can connote an improvised dwelling and the concept of “home.” In this song, I believe it refers to something like squatters’ quarters, set up in the old house that gets torn down.  I haven’t been able to come up with any word in English that would carry all of the same connotations without giving an idea of much greater luxury than “maloca,” so I’ve just left it translated as hut, and “quarters” in one place.

“Saudoso/a” is of course also a challenge: it comes from the notoriously untranslatable word “saudade.” Saudoso is one of my favorite derivatives of saudade. It is often used in the way we use “late” (as in dead) in English, but is much more elegant and appropriately sentimental. (For occasions when no sentiment is called for, the word “falecido/a” might be substituted.)

The phrase “fazer o quilo” is, according to the Internet, a popular corruption of “fazer o quimo,” which refers to chymotrypsin, a chemical responsible for digestion.

In the mid-twentieth century there was a tremendous amount of construction in the centrally located neighborhoods of São Paulo known as Jardins (Gardens): Jardim Paulista, Jardim Europa, Jardim America, etc. Those neighborhoods quickly became some of the city’s wealthiest. In the line “we collect straw in the yards of the garden” (i.e. work clearing yards), “garden” probably refers to that construction boom.

Barbosa and his friend Carlinhos Vergueiro composed “Torresmo à Milanesa” in a bar in 1979. The song apparently began as “Bife à Milanesa,” but Barbosa suggested last minute that they change it to “torresmo à milanesa” to make it more comical, since pork rinds à milanesa doesn’t exist. He then suggested they also change it to “um torresmo à milanesa” — a single pork rind — because that’s “sadder.”

A final note on that song: an enxadão is a hoe. Here it might be referring to some other similar tool from a construction site, but I’m assuming the lyrics mean that a boss struck the time using a hoe (or similar instrument) so that the sound would reverberate across the construction site.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Lyrical Brazil by Lyricalbrazil - 7M ago

Lyrics from “Sujeito de Sorte” by Belchior (1976)

SUJEITO DE SORTE -BELCHIOR - YouTube

___
Presentemente eu posso me considerar um sujeito de sorte // Presently I can consider myself a lucky guy
Porque apesar de muito moço me sinto são e salvo e forte // Because in spite of being very young I feel safe and sound and strong
E tenho comigo pensado Deus é brasileiro e anda do meu lado // And I’ve been thinking to myself God is Brazilian and walks by my side
E assim já não posso sofrer no ano passado // And because of that I can’t suffer anymore in the year gone by

Tenho sangrado demais, tenho chorado pra cachorro // I’ve bled too much, I’ve cried like crazy
Ano passado eu morri mas esse ano eu não morro // Last year I died, but this year I won’t (3x)

— Commentary —

Belchior in 1977. 

Belchior’s 1976 album Alucinação was one of the most important albums of that decade — one of the richest in the history of Brazilian popular music — and remains tremendously popular and relevant today. It was Belchior’s second studio album (after A Palo Seco, 1974), and the Brazilian public devoured it; the album sold over 30,000 copies in the first three weeks after its release.

One Brazilian music critic has attributed the album’s appeal to its quality of “wringing out the anxiety of the Brazilian youth, caught between the violence of the state” — during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85) — “and the end of the dreams of liberation represented by the countercultural revolution.”

Belchior’s death in 2017 coincided with a parallel climate of anxiety. The end of Brazil’s optimistic socioeconomic boom years (~2005-12) culminated in the 2016 impeachment of left-leaning president Dilma Rousseff — Brazil’s first female president — and the rise of authoritarian politicians like the country’s president-elect (to be inaugurated tomorrow, at writing), the far-right retired army captain Jair Bolsonaro. Both the composer’s death and that political turn have brought renewed attention over the past couple years to the messages captured on Belchior’s best-loved album.

Belchior was born Antônio Carlos Gomes Belchior Fontanelle Fernandes in Sobral, Ceará, on October 26, 1946, the thirteenth of twenty-three children. He used to joke that his excessively long name was “one of the greatest in Brazilian popular music,” the kind of name that, in the northeastern backlands where he was born, people said you “crossed on horseback.” Belchior moved to the state capital of Fortaleza for school in 1962, and in the 60s he began performing his compositions for music festivals around the northeast. By the early 1970s he had moved on to the more popular festivals of Rio and São Paulo, taking first place in Rio’s 1971 IV Festival Universitário da Canção with “Hora do Almoço.”

In Rio, Belchior caught the attention of singer-songwriter Sérgio Ricardo, who, in 1972,  launched the short-lived series Disco de Bolso — Pocket Album — with the leftist satirical weekly O Pasquim. The 78rpm series, which unfortunately only lasted two editions, sought to feature a well-known singer-songwriter on one side and promote a relatively unknown composer on the other. The first edition featured Tom Jobim singing his recent composition “Águas de Março” on one side, and the still little-known João Bosco on the other singing “Agnus Sei.”  For the “unknown composer” side of the second edition, Ricardo selected Belchior’s composition “Mucuripe,” a collaboration with Fagner, another singer-songwriter from Ceará who was on his way to becoming tremendously popular. Caetano Veloso recorded the song alongside “A Volta da Asa Branca,” by the northeastern star Luiz Gonzaga.

Elis Regina, one of the greatest voices of Brazilian popular music and one of its most talented curators, took a liking to “Mucuripe,” and released it on her 1972 LP Elis (along with Jobim’s “Águas de Março”). Regina would go on to popularize two of Belchior’s compositions from Alucinação:  “Como Nossos Pais” and “Velha Roupa Colorida.” The latter song was a call for the counterculture crowd to shed its time-worn “peace-love” trappings and take a renewed and more powerful political stance against the authoritarian dictatorship. Raúl Seixas, perhaps the greatest icon of the counterculture, responded to that song with his 1976 “Eu Também Vou Reclamar” (translated on my Facebook page) which ironized the protest song as little more than a gimmick to sell records. Seixas invoked Belchior’s “Apenas Um Rapaz Latino-Americano” (Just a Latin American Guy) explicitly, singing “Agora sou apenas um latino-americano que não tem cheiro nem sabor (Now I’m just a Latin American guy without any scent or flavor). The little feud was in good fun, though, and Belchior went on to record Seixas’s countercultural anthem “Ouro de Tolo” (Fool’s Gold, translated here) in 1984.

Belchior was often compared to Bob Dylan for his nasal and rough-edged singing style; his lengthy poetic lyrics; and his tendency to speak, rather than sing, parts of those lyrics. Dylan was unquestionably an influence, but Belchior said his style of singing actually came from the Gregorian chants he grew up with in the Catholic school he attended in Ceará.

After the release of his final album in late 2002,  Belchior grew increasingly reclusive. He made his last public appearance in 2009, in a show with Tom Zé, and — facing tremendous fines for things like abandoning cars in parking lots — he vanished from the public eye.

Belchior died of a reported heart attack on April 30, 2017, prompting an outpouring of grief from his fans young and old in Brazil. The hashtag/movement #voltabelchior (Come Back, Belchior) swept the internet, and fans in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, established the Carnival bloco (parade group) “Volta Belchior.”

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Lyrics from “Mascarada” by Zé Kéti and Élton Medeiros (1964)

Paulinho da Viola e Elton Medeiros - Pot-Pourri ("Samba na Madrugada") [Áudio Oficial] - YouTube

Vejo agora esse teu lindo olhar/ I see your beautiful gaze
Olhar que eu sonhei/ A sight I dreamed of
E sonhei conquistar/ And dreamed of winning over
E que num dia afinal conquistei, enfim/ And that in the end one day I won over at last Findou-se o carnaval/ Carnival ended
E só nos carnavais/ And only during Carnivals
Encontrava-me sem/ I’d find myself unable
Encontrar este teu lindo olhar, porque/ To find your beautiful gaze, because
O poeta era eu/ I was the poet
Cujas rimas eram compostas/ Whose rhymes were composed
Na esperança de que/ Of the hope that
Tirasses essa máscara/ You’d remove that mask
Que sempre me fez mal/ That always caused me pain
Mal que findou só/ Pain that ended only
Depois do carnaval/ After Carnival

Lyrics from “Minhas Madrugadas” (Paulinho da Viola/ Candeia, 1965)

Vou pelas minhas madrugadas a cantar/ I go along through my late nights, singing
Esquecer o que passou/ To forget all that happened
Trago a face marcada/ I show wear and tear
Cada ruga no meu rosto/ Every wrinkle on my face
Simboliza um desgosto/ Represents a hardship

Quero encontrar em vão o que perdi/ I want to find in vain what I lost
Só resta saudade/ Only saudade remains
Não tenho paz/ I have no peace
E a mocidade/ And my youth
Que não volta mais/ That will never return

Quantos lábios beijei/ How many lips I kissed
Quantas mãos afaguei/ How many hands I caressed
Só restou saudade no meu coração/ Only saudade is left in my heart
Hoje fitando o espelho/ Looking in the mirror today
Eu vi meus olhos vermelhos/ I saw my bloodshot eyes
Compreendi que a vida/ And understood that the life
Que eu vivi foi ilusão/ I lived was an illusion

Lyrics from “Injúria” by Élton Medeiros and Cartola

Pois é/ That’s right
Tudo começou assim/ That’s how it all started
Alguém se vingou em mim/ Someone took revenge on me
Inventando o que eu não pratiquei/ Making up something I hadn’t done
Pois é/ That’s right
Só deus sabe o quanto amei/ Only god knows how much I loved
Por te amar tanto chorei/ For loving you how I cried
E chorando levo a coisa até o fim/ And crying I take the thing to its end
Não sei como foste acreditar/ I don’t know how you came to believe
Em mentira tão vulgar/ In such a vulgar lie
De um sujeito tão vulgar também/ From such a vulgar guy what’s more
Sofri a maior decepção/ I’ve suffered the greatest disillusion
Tentarei te esquecer/ I’ll try to forget you
Pois te amar foi ilusão/ Because loving you was an illusion
Não sei porque foste derrubar/ I don’t know why you went and knocked down
O castelo que eu fiz/ The castle I built
Em meu castelo era tão feliz/ In my castle I was (or you were) so happy


Lyrics from “Recado” by Paulinho da Viola and Casquinha (1965)

Leva um recado/Take a note
A quem me deu tanto dissabor/ To the one who caused me such bitterness
Diz que eu vivo bem melhor assim/ Say that I live much better like this
E que no passado fui um sofredor/ And that in the past I was a wretch
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
{bis}

Vai dizer à minha ex-amada/ Go and tell my ex-love
Que é feliz meu coração/ That my heart is happy
Mas que nas minhas madrugadas/ But that in my late nights
Eu não esqueço dela, não/ I haven’t forgotten her
Leva um recado!/ Take a note


Lyrics from “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” by Cartola and Élton Medeiros (1963)

A sorrir/ Smiling
Eu pretendo levar a vida/ I intend to lead my life
Pois chorando/ Because crying
Eu vi a mocidade/ I saw my boyhood
Perdida/ Lost

Finda a tempestade/ Once the storm’s over
O sol nascerá/ The sun will come out
Finda esta saudade/ Once this saudade is over
Hei de ter outro alguém para amar/ I’ll find someone else to love


Lyrics from “Jurar Com Lágrimas” by Paulinho da Viola (1965)

Jurar com lágrimas/ Swearing with tears
Que me ama/ That you love me
Não adianta nada/ Won’t get you anywhere
Eu não vou acreditar/ I won’t believe it
É melhor nos separar/ It’s better for us to split up

Não pode haver felicidade/ There can’t be bliss
Se não há sinceridade/ If there’s no sincerity
Dentro do nosso lar/ In our home
Se aquele amor não morreu/ If that love hasn’t died
Não precisa me enganar/ You don’t need to try to fool me
Que seu coração é meu/ That your heart is mine


Lyrics from “Rosa de Ouro” by Paulinho da Viola, Élton Medeiros and Hermínio Bello de Carvalho (1965)

Ela tem uma rosa de ouro nos cabelos/ She has a golden rose in her hair
E outras mais tão graciosas;/ And others too so lovely
Ela tem outras rosas que são os meus desvelos/ She has other roses that are my devotion
E seu olhar faz de mim um cravo ciumento/ And her gaze turns me into a jealous thorn
Em seu jardim de rosas/ In her garden of roses
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada em meu peito!/ To have this rose planted in my heart
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada no fundo do peito!…/ To have this rose planted deep in my heart…

— Commentary —

Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros. Photo via Instituto Moreira Salles.

I translated all of these together because they’re all recorded as a single medley track on the album Samba na Madrugada (1966). In April 1966, just before leaving for the First Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros hurriedly recorded the album, which became an enduring samba classic.  (It was supposed to be called Na Madrugada, but the record company misprinted the name, and it stuck.)

According to Élton Medeiros, in an interview recorded in 1985 for the General Archive of the City of Rio de Janeiro, he and Paulinho recorded the album in a single night on the eve of their trip to Africa, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Medeiros laughed as he recalled the other musicians joking that “Benil [Santos, the album’s producer] thinks you’re going to die on that plane,” because Santos was in such a rush to record everything before they left.

Medeiros said that by the middle of the night he was exhausted, and the album included moments of him falling asleep, including at the beginning of the first song in this ‘potpourri,’ or medley, “Mascarada.” He said he could be heard nodding off as the song began but that they were in too much of a rush to do a retake.

In 1968, the renowned music critic Luiz Carlos Maciel wrote in the Rio daily Correio da Manhã that the album transmitted a “pleasant spontaneity,” with performances offering the “freshness of improvisation”; Medeiros’s description of the recording session helps to explain that vibe. Maciel praised Samba na Madrugada as a model samba album, beginning, “O samba carioca has its traditions. And almost all of them can be found on this LP by Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros.” He wrote that the collection of sambas revealed “roots on the morro” — the favela — “but a trunk nurtured by the asphalt,” or more refined city below.

Medeiros recalled that he and Paulinho were in a bit of a fight at the time with Zé Kéti, with whom they had been performing and recording as A Voz do Morro since they all began to frequent Cartola’s restaurant Zicartola together in 1964. So they abandoned A Voz do Morro and decided, upon Benil Santos’s urging, to record an album on their own.

The trombonist on the album is Raul de Barros, who also traveled with the Brazilian delegation to the festival in Senegal. Élton Medeiros played trombone as a teenager, and had always been a vocal admirer of the instrument. He stopped playing when the friend whose trombone he had borrowed asked for it back; after that, he said he went into a botequim and bought a matchbox — a cheaper and more portable instrument. He can be heard playing matchbox on this recording.

A couple notes on the other songs here: “Recado” was the first samba Paulinho da Viola played when he went in late 1964 to Portela Samba School. When the composers there asked him to show them one of his compositions, he played the first part of “Recado” twice and recalls that Casquinha jumped in with the second part on the spot.

Cartola and Élton Medeiros also composed “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” on the spot when challenged to compose a samba one night at the house on Rua das Andradas that prefigured Zicartola.

Main source for this post:  Élton Medeiros depoimento para o Projeto Memória Músical Carioca, Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 4 July 1985.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Lyrics for “Lábios que beijei” by J. Cascata and Leonel Azevedo, recorded by Orlando Silva (1937)

LÁBIOS QUE BEIJEI ........ valsa ......... Orlando Silva - YouTube

___

Lábios que beijei / Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei / Hands that I clutched
Numa noite de luar, assim, / On a moonlit night like this
O mar na solidão bramia/ The sea in its solitude bellowed
E o vento a soluçar, pedia / And the howling wind begged
Que fosses sincera para mim/ That you be true to me

Nada tu ouviste/ You listened to nothing
E logo que partiste / And after you left
Para os braços de outro amor/ For the arms of another love
Eu fiquei chorando/ I was left crying
Minha mágoa cantando/ My anguish singing out
Sou estátua perenal da dor / I’m a longstanding statue of pain

Passo os dias soluçando com meu pinho/ I spend my days sobbing with my guitar
Carpindo a minha dor, sozinho/ Wailing out my pain, all alone
Sem esperanças de vê-la jamais / Without any hopes of seeing you again
Deus tem compaixão deste infeliz/ God have mercy on this wretch
Porque sofrer assim/  Why such suffering
Compadecei-vos dos meus ais / Take pity on my pain
Tua imagem permanece imaculada / Your image remains immaculate
Em minha retina cansada/ In my retina grown weary
De chorar por teu amor/ From crying for your love

Lábios que beijei/ Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei/ Hands that I clutched
Volta vem curar a minha dor/ Come back to cure my sorrow

Lyrics from “Nada Além” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)

NADA ALÉM ........ fox canção ........ Orlando Silva - YouTube

___
Nada além / Nothing more
Nada além de uma ilusão/ Nothing more than an illusion
Chega bem / That’s well enough
Que é demais para o meu coração / It’s too much for my heart
Acreditando / Believing
Em tudo que o amor mentindo sempre diz / In everything that love, lying, always says
Eu vou vivendo assim feliz / I go on living happily like this
Na ilusão de ser feliz/ Under the illusion of being happy
Se o amor só nos causa sofrimento e dor / If love only causes us suffering and pain
É melhor, bem melhor a ilusão do amor/ Better, much better, is the illusion of love
Eu não quero e não peço / I don’t wish for, nor do I ask
Para o meu coração/ for my heart
Nada além de uma linda ilusão / Anything more than a beautiful illusion

Lyrics from “Enquanto Houver Saudade” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)

Enquanto Houver Saudade - Orlando Silva (1938) - YouTube

___

Não posso acreditar / I just can’t believe
Que algumas vezes/ That now and then
Não lembres com vontade de chorar/ You don’t think back with the urge to cry
Daqueles deliciosos quatro meses/ On those four heavenly months
Vividos sem sentir e sem pensar/ Lived without sensing and without thinking

Não posso acreditar/ I just can’t believe
Que hoje não sintas/ That today you don’t feel
Saudade dessa história singular/ Suadade for that singular story
Escrita com as mais suaves tintas/ Written in the tenderest shades
Que existem pra escrever o verbo amar/ That exist to write the verb ‘to love’

Enquanto houver saudade/ As long as saudade exists
Pensarás em mim/ You’ll think about me
Pois a felicidade/ Because happiness
Não se esquece assim/ Isn’t forgotten so easily
O amor passa mas deixa/ Love passes, but leaves
Sempre a recordação/ Forever the memory
De um beijo ou de uma queixa/ Of a kiss or a complaint
No coração/ In the heart

— Commentary —

Orlando Silva (L) and Pixinguinha. (Not quite sure of date – will insert when I find it!) “Lábios que beijei” was an anticipated release: In its April 25, 1936, edition, the magazine Carioca announced the Orlando Silva was preparing to record the song, which was released the following year.

I know most readers who end up here are more interested in the likes of Caetano Veloso and João Gilberto  than romantic valsas from the late 1930s. But as Caetano points out in his memoir Verdade Tropical (1997), João Gilberto called Orlando Silva (1915-1978) the “world’s greatest singer,” and in the few interviews Gilberto granted, he almost unfailingly mentioned Orlando Silva’s refined style as the inspiration for bossa nova.

In Verdade Tropical, Caetano (who turns 66 today — August 7, 2018 — parabéns, Caetano!) suggests that “any fan of Brazilian popular music, in any corner of the world, should try to listen to Orlando Silva’s recordings from the 1930s to better understand (and get more pleasure from) the mystery of the misty sound of the Portuguese language over the Afro-Amerindian rhythm-scape.”

Custódio Mesquita (at piano), Mário Lago, and Orlando Silva. Image via Instituto Piano Brasileiro.

Caetano praises Silva’s “celestial suaveness,” his inventive phrasing, exquisite timing and overall “miraculous” musicality.  Silva had a powerful voice but always used it artfully; he softened, rather than exaggerated, the high notes he hit, for instance, and avoided the vocal “exhibitionism” of his counterparts, Caetano notes.

Silva was known as the cantor dos multidões —  the singer of the masses — and achieved an unparalleled kind of stardom after he released “Lábios que beijei” in 1937. Fans were known to tear at his clothes and faint in his presence in a manner that would only become more familiar with stars like Frank Sinatra years later. His extraordinary success was all the more impressive given his humble background: Silva was from a working-class family in Rio’s North Zone. His father, a choro guitar player and railway worker, died from the Spanish flu when Silva was three, and as a young boy, Silva began working as a meal deliverer. He held several jobs, including bus-fare collector, where his colleagues heard him singing and encouraged him to go to a radio test; once radio producers became aware of Silva, he quickly rose to stardom.

As Caetano points out, Silva created an entirely new style of Brazilian song with his brilliant manner of adjusting his interpretive style to the advent of the electric microphone. Bing Crosby was among the first to have successfully pioneered such changes in singing technique in the United States, where electric recording took off earlier. In turn, while Brazilian singers Dick Farney and Lúcio Alves — men “much richer and better educated than Orlando,” Caetano reminds — worked to incorporate Crosby’s techniques, “there’s more Bing Crosby in Orlando Silva (who possibly heard the American singer, but very little and without a chance to become very familiar with his work) than in those showy singers.”

Several accidents and sicknesses throughout his life left Silva susceptible to morphine dependence, and he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction from the 1940s until his death from a stroke on August 7, 1978 — Caetano’s thirty-sixth birthday.

“Lábios que beijei” was Orlando Silva’s first and greatest hit, according to music historian Jairo Severiano, who wrote that the “melancholy composition never found another interpreter as perfect as the young Orlando, who was 22 at the time,” and that Silva’s presence is so important to the song that one could “symbolically consider him a partner in the composition, alongside Cascata and Leonel Azevedo.” Radamés Gnattali orchestrated “Lábios que beijei” for the 1937 recording, giving an emphasis to the strings that, after the success of that recording, became standard for the Brazilian romantic repertoire.

An announcement from the newspaper A Noite from July 10, 1937, describes the show “Rumo ao Cattete,” which had opened the night before at Teatro Recreio. 

“Nada Além” and  “Enquanto Houver Saudade” were both composed by one of the greatest duos in Brazilian popular music — Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago — for the 1937 show Rumo ao Cattete (‘Headed to Catete’ [presidential palace]) — about the presidential elections that were set to take place in late 1937 but were cancelled by Getúlio Vargas’s November 1937 coup that installed his Estado Novo regime.  As Jairo Severiano recounts in A Canção no Tempo, “Nada Além” accompanied a comic-romantic scene in which a character played by Armando Nascimento watches as a shop salesman pitches several items to him; when the salesman sees that his would-be client can’t make up his mind, he asks him, “So what does the gentleman desire?,” to which the fellow responds in song: “Nada além, nada além de uma ilusão…”

In a 1984 interview with Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós, Mário Lago recalled that he and Custódio Mesquita composed “Enquanto houver saudade” at the last minute because they realized they needed a song for another scene in the show. As they composed the song, Armando Nascimento learned it line by line as it came together. Lago and Mesquita apparently worked quite well under pressure: The song became one of their best-loved compositions. Mesquita invited Orlando Silva to attend the show, and Lago recounted that when they asked Silva afterwards how he had liked it, he said with urgency, “I want to record those two songs – has anyone claimed them yet?” They were his.

Lago recalled that “Nada além” became a favorite of Dona Canô — Caetano and Maria Bethânia’s mother — and Bethânia went on to record the song.  Meanwhile, in the 1984 interview mentioned above, Lago called his friend Custódio Mesquita “one of the most ‘wronged’ (injustiçado) composers of all time,” with some of the most beautiful melodies in the Brazilian popular repertoire, who “didn’t deserve to be forgotten like he’d been forgotten.”

Caetano sings “Labios que beijei”:

Lábios que Beijei - Caetano Veloso (1995) - YouTube

Caetano sings “Nada Além”:

Caetano Veloso cantando Nada Além - YouTube

Sources for this post:  Verdade Tropical by Caetano Veloso; A Canção no Tempo by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello; conversation with Jairo Severiano on Aug. 7, 2018; and Mário Lago’s depoimento for the Projeto Memória Musical Carioca, recorded by Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós at Rio’s Arquivo da Cidade on September 4, 1984.

A different angle: Mesquita,Lato, and Silva. 
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview