Quero voltar pra Bahia (I want to go back to Bahia)

Lyrics from “Quero Voltar Pra Bahia (I Want To Go Back To Bahia)” by Paulo Diniz/Odibar (1970)

I don’t want to stay here
I wanna to go back to Bahia

Eu tenho andado tão só // I’ve been so alone lately
Quem me olha nem me vê // People look at me and don’t even see me
Silêncio em meu violão // My guitar’s fallen silent
Nem eu mesmo sei por qu. // And I don’t even know why
De repente ficou frio // It suddenly grew cold
Eu não vim aqui para ser feliz // I didn’t come here to be happy
Cadê o meu sol dourado? // Where’s my golden sun?
Cadê as coisas do meu país? // Where are the things from my country?

I don’t want to stay here
I wanna to go back to Bahia.

Eu tenho andado tão só // I’ve been so alone lately
Quem me olha nem me vê// People look at me and don’t even see me
Silêncio em meu violão // My guitar’s fallen silent
Nem eu mesmo sei por que // And I don’t even know why
Via Intelsat eu mando // Via Intelsat, I send
Notícias minhas para “O Pasquim” // News of myself to “O Pasquim”
Beijos pra minha amada // Kisses to my love
Que tem saudades e pensa em mim // Who misses me and pines over me

I don’t want to stay here
I wanna to go back to Bahia.

— Commentary —


This 1970 soul sensation was inspired by Caetano Veloso, who was depressed in exile in London at the time. Legions of fans embraced it as an anthem pleading for Caetano’s return to Brazil.


Caetano and Gil displayed the image 

As the song exploded, Brazil was living through the direct aftermath of decree Ato Institucional V (AI-5), issued on 13 December 1968, which shut down the national Congress, abolished habeas corpus, and essentially opened the path for Brazil’s military regime to expand its systematic repression, censorship, and persecution of anyone perceived as a leftist sympathizer or societal provocateur. That same month, Caetano and Gil were arrested, ostensibly for having featured tropicalist artist Helio Oiticica’s image of a marginal — representing 23-year-old Cara de Cavaloshot dead two months earlier by a Rio police death squad — with the caption “Be an outlaw, be a hero!” in a December 1968 show in Rio de Janeiro.


Caetano in London, c. 1970.

The two were thrown in jail for two months, placed on house arrest for four more, and then forced into exile in 1969.  Caetano missed Brazil tremendously; he has called his 1971 album recorded in London “a document of depression.” (For more on this period, see “Back in Bahia” [Gilberto Gil, 1972]; “Panis et Circenses” [1968] and “Expresso 2222” [Gilberto Gil, 1972].)

As Brazil plunged into the AI-5-era known as the anos de chumbo (years of lead), Paulo Diniz released this song, infused with his strong northeastern accent and Caribbean sounds, providing a perfect example of the new twists that Brazilians brought to soul music, inspired by 60’s R&B, Motown and James Brown’s funk.

Pasquim, mentioned in the song, was a leftist magazine with a weekly circulation of about 200,000, established in 1969 as an outlet of resistance against the military dictatorship.

Main source for this post: Vale Tudo: Tim Maia, by Nelson Motta

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Tim Maia: “Não vou ficar” – “Azul da cor do mar” – “These are the songs”

“Não vou ficar” (Tim Maia; recorded by Roberto Carlos, 1969)

Há muito tempo eu vivi calado // For so long I kept quiet
Mas agora resolvi falar // But now I’ve decided to speak up
Chegou a hora, tem que ser agora // It’s time, it’s gotta be now
E com você não posso mais ficar // And with you, I can’t stay any longer
Não vou ficar, não (não, não) // No, I’m not gonna stay,  no no no
Não posso mais ficar, não, não, não (nao, nao) // I can’t stay any longer, no no…
Não posso mais ficar // I can’t stay any longer

Toda verdade deve ser falada // All truths must be spoken
E não vale nada se enganar // And it’s worthless to fool yourself
Não tem mais jeito, tudo está desfeito // There’s no way out, everything’s undone
E com você não posso mais ficar // And with you, I can’t stay any longer
Não vou ficar, não (não, não) // I’m not gonna stay, no no no
Não posso mais ficar, não, não, não(Não, não) // I can’t stay, no no
Não posso mais ficar // I can’t stay any longer
Pensando bem // Thinking it over
Não vale a pena // It’s not worth it
Ficar tentando em vão // To keep trying in vain
O nosso amor não tem mais solução // Our love has no cure
Não, não, não, não, não, não, não // No, no, no, no no no
Por isso resolvi agora // That’s why I decided now
Te deixar de fora do meu coração // To leave you out of my heart
Com você não dá mais certo e ficar sozinho // It doesn’t work with you anymore, and to stay alone
Minha solução, é solução sim (nao, nao) // My solution, that’s a real solution (no no no)
Não tem mais solução, não, não, não (nao, nao) // There’s no other way out (no no no)
Não tem…// There’s no other way out

“Azul da cor do mar”  (Tim Maia, 1970)

Ah! Se o mundo inteiro me pudesse ouvir // Ah! if the whole world could only hear me
Tenho muito pra contar // I have a lot to tell
Dizer que aprendi // To say that I’ve learned

E na vida a gente tem que entender // And in life we need to understand
Que um nasce pra sofrer // That some are born to suffer
Enquanto o outro ri // While the other laughs

Mas quem sofre sempre tem que procurar // But the sufferer always needs to seek out
Pelo menos vir achar // At least come to find
Razão para viver // A reason to live

Ver na vida algum motivo pra sonhar // See in life some reason to dream
Ter um sonho todo azul // Have a deep blue dream
Azul da cor do mar // Blue the color of the sea

“These are the songs” by Tim Maia, released together with Elis Regina (1970)

These are the songs
I wanna sing
These are the songs
I wanna play
I will sing it every (little) time
And I will sing it every day (Now listen here)
These are the songs
That I wanna sing and play

Esta é a canção que eu vou ouvir // This is the song I’m gonna hear
Esta é a canção que eu vou cantar // This is the song I’m gonna sing
Fala de você, meu bem // It speaks of you, my dear
E do nosso amor também // And of our love, too
Sei que você vai gostar // I know you’ll like it


— Commentary —


Tim Maia, right, during his days in Tarrytown, NY, where he lived from 1959 – 1963. He formed this vocal-harmony group the Ideals with an Italian singer he met, and the group recorded one song – “New Love” – with lyrics by Maia. Maia re-recorded the song in 1973.


A few days back – 28 September 2016 – would have been the 74th birthday of the father of Brazilian soul music, Tim Maia. I meant to have this post up in time for the date, but got too caught up in the stories in Nelson Motta’s biography, Vale Tudo: Tim Maia. I decided to separate the post in two parts:  The first covers Maia’s early life and the beginning of his career (1942 – 1970ish), and an upcoming post will focus on the 70s, 80s and 90s.



Baby “Tião” Maia, Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, c. 1946.

Sebastião “Tião” Maia (September 28, 1942 – March 14, 1998) grew up in Rio’s north-zone neighborhood of Tijuca. The youngest of twelve children, his irascible temperament and plumpish figure were signs of the spoiling he received starting early on, as the youngest of the clan; both would plague him throughout his life.

Tião’s father ran a fairly successful little restaurant, and Tião began delivering boxed meals – marmitas -for the restaurant at age 12. He spent the rest of his adolescence trying to rid himself of the unfortunate appellation the neighborhood kids gave him, “Tião Marmiteiro” – something like Tião Lunchbox Boy; his rocker personas were part of this attempt to shed that identity. As he pounded the pavement carrying  meals on an iron rod over his shoulders, he sang radio hits, refining his voice.

When he was 13, Tião was allowed to take a different job, as an office boy with a local business, running odd errands around town. He was fired after three months for being disrespectful and talking back to his bosses, a portent of his professional future. He lasted even less time in his next job, and began to spend more and more time running around the city with friends, eating, playing soccer, singing and banging out beats on any can he could find. When he turned 15, he demanded a debutante ball, a luxury none of his sisters had indulged in, but which he felt he deserved – and his parents conceded.

The Beginning

The explosion of rock and roll in the United States in the mid-1950s reverberated over radio waves in Tijuca, where Maia became enraptured with the sounds and simple chords, which he quickly learned to imitate on the guitar.


Tim Maia playing with the Sputniks in 1957

Every day at 5 p.m. he tuned in to the Hora de Broadway on Rádio Metropolitana, where he listened to and perfected his imitations of the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Barry. He began to hang out with other young local rock aficionados at Lanchonete Divino (address: Haddock Lobo, esquina com Matoso). The usual crowd at Divino included one of Tião’s old friends from the Tijuca soccer pitches, Erasmo Carlos, Jorge Ben, and  Arlênio Lívio. One day in late 1957,  Arlênio brought along another friend to sing for Tião:  Roberto Carlos. Tião invited Roberto to be the fifth member of the rock band he was forming with Arlênio, Edson Trindade and Wellington Oliveira,  the Sputniks. And through this crowd, Roberto Carlos met Erasmo Carlos, who would become one of his greatest musical partners over the next half-century.


The Nickname “Tim” 

The Sputniks kids auditioned for local rock big-shot Carlos Imperial, who invited them for their one and only TV appearance on his segment Clube do Rock – the beginning of the end for the group. Back stage after the performance, Roberto sang a solo Elvis impression for Imperial, who invited him to perform alone on an upcoming program. Tião felt jealous and betrayed when he heard the news, and the ensuing fight signaled the end of the Sputniks. On the program, Imperial announced Roberto Carlos as the “Brazilian Elvis Presley.” Trying to swallow his rage, Maia determined that he preferred to be the Brazilian Little Richard anyway – their extravagant, brash-black styles were much more in sync. He tracked down Imperial and belted out “Long Tall Sally“; Imperial scheduled him for the show, suggesting he go by a more stage-friendly nickname, Tim.

Bossa Nova and New York


João Gilberto and Tom Jobim in front of Copacabana Palaca, 1961.

But just when rock seemed to be taking off in Tijuca, the late 50s brought dramatic changes: Between late 1957 and early 1959, Elvis Presley went into military service in Germany; Little Richard became an ordained minister of the Seventh Day Adventist Church; and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in February 1959 – the same month Maia’s father passed away. Meanwhile, João Gilberto released Chega de Saudade, the archetypal album of bossa nova. Suddenly the upper-class crowd from Rio’s beachside Zona Sul dominated the music scene across Rio and Brazil, with chords and harmonies that Tim had never even imagined.


Frustrated by the flagging rock scene and fascinated by the bossa nova boom, Maia and Roberto Carlos struggled to break into that scene with the help of well-connected Carlos Imperial, but to no avail.  So, taking advantage of the relative sense of liberty that came with the death of his father, Maia gathered what amounted to almost nothing and caught a church-sponsored plane to New York.

A former client of the family restaurant gave him a letter with the address of a woman who had married an Irish New Yorker thirty years prior. After myriad mishaps, Maia was warmly received by the woman’s family in a cozy, Tarrytown, NY, home. Fortunately they had a son born on the exact same day – 28 September, 1942 – a coincidence which warmed their hearts to Tim.

Maia quickly became fluent in the slangy English spoken by the blacks and Puerto Ricans he hung out with in Tarrytown, and became increasingly infatuated with the rock and soul music that now surrounded him. He took odd jobs as long as they’d put up with him, and when he tired of the comfy suburban life, he moved in with questionable characters in a gritty part of town.  From then on he essentially couch-surfed,  sometimes passing cold nights on the heated NYC subway trains when he had the money for the fare.

In late 1961, he met Felix De Masi, an Italian singer, and together they formed the vocal group The Ideals, and recorded one song, with lyrics by Maia – “New Love” – which Tim re-recorded in 1973.

Finally,  Maia made his way out of the suburbs, to Manhattan, where he found a job that made more sense for him: janitor in an old-folks home. He earned room and board, and was closer to the vibrant music scene, frequenting the Village and Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater.

Road Trip, Prison and Deportation

But with the arrival of winter 1963, Tim decided to steal a car with friends and head south with plenty of pot for the road. On the trip he was arrested five times, the last time charged with car theft and thrown in a Florida jail, where he spent six months before being deported. He disembarked in Rio in April 1964: the country was now run by the recently installed military dictatorship, and to his surprise, his old Tijuca buddies Roberto Carlos, Erasmo Carlos and Jorge Ben Jor had moved to São Paulo and were blowing up on the radio.

Maia managed to land some jobs as a tour guide with his good English, but his lackluster knowledge of the city’s geography and history meant he didn’t last very long in the field. And it didn’t take too long for him to get thrown back in jail again: In early 1966, he was caught stealing a table and chairs from a home in Tijuca – an attempt to finance an upcoming recording. As he completed his ten-month prison sentence, he looked on in helpless dismay as his old friends from Lanchonette Divino became stars.

São Paulo and the Jovem Guarda


October 1966: Roberto Carlos was crowned the “Rei da Jovem Guarda”

Immediately after he was released from jail Maia scrambled onto a bus to São Paulo, armed with two full cans of condensed milk to drink along the way. He went directly to TV Record, where he tried to make his way into the rock program Jovem Guarda with Roberto and Erasmo. But for months Tim had no luck even talking to Roberto, much less making it onto the stage. He finally managed to earn an appearance on the show after he caught up with Roberto’s wife, Nice, in Rio, in 1967. But he was bitterly disappointed by the rather straight-edge audience’s reception of his black, soul sound.

“Não vou ficar”


L-R: Erasmo Carlos, Tim Maia, and Roberto Carlos, c. 1969.

Still convinced that he deserved the same – actually more – fame and adulation as his old friends, Tim sought out Roberto Carlos and Nice at their São Paulo apartment to show them his composition “Você,”  which Eduardo Araújo was preparing to record. They liked it, but Roberto wanted something rougher, with more swing – and that another singer wasn’t already getting ready to release. Roberto said he’d record it if Tim brought it.

Tim anxiously composed “Não vou ficar” and brought it back to Roberto, with the arrangement already in mind. Roberto kept his word, recorded the song, and it was a hit across the country, received as the mark of a new, grittier, more adult period for Carlos .

“Azul da cor do mar”


Fábio and Tim Maia

The tremendous success of “Não vou ficar” opened doors for Tim, who received an invitation to record a compact with Polydor in Rio de Janeiro. Still in São Paulo, Tim ran into the popular Rio-based Paraguayan singer Fábio, whom he had met through an acquaintance from Tijuca, Almir Ricardi, and who was an early admirer of Tim’s soul style. Maia told Fábio that he would be moving back to Rio de Janeiro and brazenly asked Fábio if he could stay at his apartment. Fábio conceded.


Soon after, Maia arrived in Rio de Janeiro to record the compact with Polydor. Crashing at Fábio’s, he found himself sleeping on an uncomfortable couch as Fábio and his producer Gláuco received girl after girl in their private rooms. He felt alone and frustrated. When Fábio and Glaúco traveled to Salvador, he moved into Gláuco’s room, where he could still smell the girls’ perfume on the sheets, and felt even more lonesome in the empty apartment. As he gazed at a poster on the wall, with a naked girl in front of blue Tahitian sea, he composed “Azul da cor do mar.”  Fábio listened to Tim sing the song when he returned to the apartment, and exclaimed: “Carajo, brother, you’ve just written the song of your life!” Tim recorded the song for his first LP, also with Polydor, and indeed the public loved it – more out of appreciation for Maia’s tremendous voice and fresh soul style than for any particular aspect of the song itself.

Elis and “These are the songs”


Tim and Elis

In early 1969, Nelson Motta, Maia’s biographer, had just taken a job as a record producer with Phillips, and was assigned to produce for Elis Regina, to this day perhaps Brazil’s most beloved female singer of all time. Elis was looking for a new sound to record, and when Motta heard Tim Maia’s recording of “Primavera” (Cassiano & Silvio Rochiel) and “Jurema” on that simple compact  Maia had recorded while staying with Fábio, Motta had a feeling this was just what Elis was looking for.  He scheduled a meeting in Rio with Tim, Elis, Wilson das Neves, and other musicians recording with Elis.

Tim arrived at the studio on his best behavior and played two songs, the second being “These are the songs” – half in English, half in Portuguese; half soul, half bossa nova. Elis and Motta loved it. Elis asked him to play it again, and started singing along as the musicians in the studio started playing around with accompaniments. They quickly moved on to recording. After a few takes, Motta recalls, “More than a duet, the recording was turning into a duel between two giants, two styles, two very different schools, each one wanting to sing better than the other.” The president of Phillips heard the recording and loved it. Tim went to São Paulo with Elis and the musicians, and received advanced royalties from the album, which the Phillips execs knew was going to blow up. The recognition also was a tremendous boost for his first LP, which he was just finishing recording with Polydor. Everything finally seemed to have come in place for his career to take off.

Main source for this post: Vale Tudo: Tim Maia by Nelson Motta, and A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras, vol.2, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello



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Cordas de aço

Lyrics from “Cordas de aço” by Cartola; first recorded on Cartola II (1976)

Ah, essas cordas de aço // Ah, these steel strings
Este minúsculo braço // This minuscule arm*
Do violão que os dedos meus acariciam // Of the guitar that my fingers caress
Ah, este bojo perfeito // Ah, this perfect body
Que trago junto ao meu peito // That I carry close to my heart
Só você violão // Only you, guitar
Compreende porque perdi toda alegria // Truly understand why I lost all of my joy
E no entanto meu pinho // And nevertheless, my pine
Pode crer, eu adivinho // You can believe, I divine:
Aquela mulher // That woman
Até hoje está nos esperando // To this day is waiting for us
Solte o teu som da madeira // Let your song out of that wood
Eu você e a companheira // You and I and our lady
À madrugada iremos pra casa cantando // Will go back home singing at dawn

— Commentary —

cordas de aço
Cartola‘s fellow Mangueirense composer Nelson Sargento famously pronounced: “Cartola didn’t really exist; he was a dream we had,” (Cartola não existiu, foi um sonho que a gente teve) and sambas like this one lend credence to his claim. Cartola first recorded this beautiful homage to the guitar and the companionship of a musical instrument on his second LP, Cartola II (1976). Luiz Melodia (1988), Beth Carvalho (1991), Gal Costa (1992), and Ney Matogrosso (2002), among others, went on to record the song.

*Arm in Portuguese is used for the part of the guitar that is called the neck in English.














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