“Viena fica na 28 de Setembro” & “Tempos do onça e da fera (Quarador)”

Lyrics from “Viena fica na 28 de Setembro” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco (1982)


Morre a luz da noite // The evening’s light dies
O porre acende pra me iluminar // The liquor lights up to illuminate me
Numa outra cena…// In another scene…
Zune o vento e valsam os oitis // The wind howls and the oiti trees waltz
No velho boulevard // On the old boulevard
Bosques de viena! // The Vienna Woods!
Escrevo carta a uma desconhecida // I write a letter to some unknown woman
Com quem tive um flerte, um anjo azul…// With whom I had a little dalliance, a blue angel
Pobres balconistas de paquete // Poor saleswomen on the rag
de ar infeliz // with an air of discontentment
São novas Bovarys…// Are new Bovarys
Já perdi o expresso do oriente // I’ve missed the Orient Express
Onde sempre sou // Where I’m always
Vítima e assassino… // Victim and assassin
Tomo a carruagem e o cocheiro // I take a coach and the coachman
De tabela dois // On Table 2 (late-night fare)
Diz que é vascaíno… // Says he’s vascaíno
Ah, triste figura, don quixote // Ah, sorry character, Don Quixote
Quer mais um traçado // After another quest
– cadê o sancho? // — Where’s Sancho?
Dá pro santo, bebe, e o passado // He gives a little to the saint, drinks, and the past
Volta a desfilar // comes marching back
Pierrô de marcha-rancho: // Pierrot of a marcha-rancho:
Com as bronca do Ary Barroso, sem elas… // With Ary Barroso’s rebukes, without them
Com a bossa do Ciro Monteiro, sem ela… // With Ciro Monteiro’s bossa , without it
Com o copo cheio de Vinícius, sem ele…// With Vinicius’s full glass, without it
Com nervos de aço Lupicinio, sem eles…// With Lupicínio’s “nervos de aço,” without them
Com as mãos do Antonio Maria, sem elas…// With Antonio Maria’s hands, without them
Com a voz do Lamartine Babo, sem ela… // With Lamartine Babo’s voice, without it
Com a rosa Dolores Duran, sem ela…// With the rose Dolores Duran, without her
Com a majestade da Elis, sem ela…// With the majesty of Elis, without her


Lyrics from “Tempos do Onça e da Fera (Quarador)” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco (1977)


Saindo pro trabalho de manhã // Leaving for work in the morning
o avô vestia o sol do quarador // The grandfather wore the sun of the quarador (bleaching ground)
tecido em goiabeiras, sabiás // woven in guava trees, song-thrushes
cigarras, vira-latas e um amor // cicadas, mutts, and a love
E o amor ia ao portão pra dar adeus // And the love would go to the gate to say goodbye
de pano na cabeça, espanador… // With a headscarf on, a feather duster…
Os netos.. o quintal… Vila Isabel // The grandchildren… the yard.. Vila Isabel
Todo o Brasil era sol, quarador // All of Brazil was sun, quarador
Hoje, acordei depois do meio-dia // Today I woke up after noon
chovia, passei mal no elevador // It was raining; I felt sick in the elevator
ouvi na rua as garras do Metrô // I heard the metro’s talons on the street below
O avô morreu // The grandfather died
Mudou Vila Isabel ou mudei eu? // Did Vila Isabel change or did I?
Brasil
Tá em falta o honesto sol do quarador // We’re missing that honest sun of the quarador 

— Commentary —

Todo mundo é carioca. Mas Aldir Blanc é carioca mesmo.
Dorival Caymmi

1aldir-aos-7-anos-no-quintal-da-casa-dos-avos-maternos-em-vila-isabel

Aldir Blanc at age seven in Vila Isabel.

rua-dos-artistas-e-arredores-de-aldir-blanc-557101-mlb20271391652_032015-fAldir Blanc was born in Estácio — one of Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhoods known as the “cradle of samba” — in 1946. When he was six*, his family moved to Vila Isabel (another “cradle of samba”) to a house on Rua dos Artistas. The yard of the new home provided a perfect natural playground for a young child, with its guava, orange and banana trees. These trees, and the sounds associated with them – like cicadas and song-thrushes (sabiás, the Brazilian national bird) – became an indelible part of the imagery of mid-19th-century Vila Isabel that Aldir passes on through his songs, poetry, and stories (crônicas).  Aldir weaves together the scenery, sounds, and slang from the era, elegantly recreating Rio’s Zona Norte of his childhood.

Vila Isabel was one of Rio de Janeiro’s first planned neighborhoods, laid out by the abolitionist Barão de Drummond in the early 1870s. (Drummond is better known for having created Brazil’s widely popular, albeit illegal, animal-based gambling game, Jogo do Bicho, to promote his new zoo in Vila Isabel.) The thoroughfare, named for the date in 1871 that Princesa Isabel decreed the Law of Free Birth,  earned the distinguished designation of “boulevard” because it was most painstakingly modeled after Parisian boulevards. In the song, the store clerks on the boulevard, like their French forebear Madame Bovary,  exude disappointment with their monotonous lives; nearby, oiti trees waltz, as if to Strauss’s famous “Tales from the Vienna Woods.” While Boulevard 28 de Setembro was lined with pau-ferro (“iron wood trees”) in 1910, oiti is another favorite native tree for urban arborization that was planted around Vila Isabel and surrounding Zona Norte neighborhoods in the beginning of the 20th century.

aldir_blanc_vasco

Aldir Blanc in a Vasco jersey.

Agatha Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express was first released in 1934, and the “victim and assassin” line makes reference to this mystery. I imagine that with Orient Express, Aldir is referring to the tram that ran in Vila Isabel until the mid-1960s, or the bus line.  Blanc, like the late-night coachman of the song, is vascaíno – a die-hard fan of Rio’s Vasco da Gama football team. To “give some to the saint” is a practice of pouring a little bit of alcohol on the ground before drinking. In this line, though in the translation it sounds as though he’s still talking about the coachman, here he actually seems (to me) to be back to talking about himself.

Closely associated with the melancholy pierrotthe marcha-rancho is a slower, more richly melodious style of Carnaval marcha that was most popular from the 1930s – 1950s. Aldir’s mention of the pierrot of a marcha-rancho sets the stage for the reminiscence that follows,  a wistful tribute to a series of beloved masters of Brazilian popular music of the 20th century who had passed away over the preceding 25 years, and who were known for the characteristics he mentions: Lupicínio’s famous song “Nervos de aço,” for instance, Vinicius’s full glass of spirits, and ultimately, Elis’s overwhelming majesty. The song was composed shortly after Elis Regina’s untimely death in January 1982, which had left Aldir stunned. The two had been devoted musical partners, but they’d recently had a falling out, of sorts. Aldir laments that he hadn’t properly gotten the chance to reconcile.

“Tempos do Onça e da Fera”

lugar-onde-a-ma%cc%83e-velha-ia-1965-quarar-a-rou-pa-pq

Example of a “quarador”, or bleaching ground. Sometimes clothes were laid on wire drying racks.

“Nos tempos do Onça” (in the days of the Jaguar) is an old-fashioned carioca way of saying a long, long time ago. The saying derived from references to the Portuguese administrator of Rio de Janeiro from 1725 – 1732, Luís Vaia Monteiro. Monteiro’s harsh, irascible nature earned him the nickname of the “onça,” or jaguar.

The quarador — also known as quaradouro or cuarador — was an especially sunny plot in the yard or courtyard where clothes were laid out to dry, and is usually referred to as a drying ground or bleaching ground in English.  Here Aldir recalls the quarador in his childhood home, where his dear grandfather’s shirts soaked up the “honest sun” of the olden days together with elements of the natural surroundings.

Aldir has said that by and large his lyrics and writings are built of the recollections of the little boy who lived in Vila Isabel, where he could hear Benedito Lacerda’s flute floating in from nearby, and where he was likely first enchanted by the sambas of his predecessor in the Vila, the “poet of the Vila” Noel Rosa. To this day, when asked to choose “the most beautiful song,” he gives a few responses – all by Noel Rosa.

These two songs clearly express Aldir’s love and pining for the neighborhood as it was in his early childhood, or even before. Aldir’s grandparents helped raise him — in part because his mother suffered from debilitating depression — and his close relationship with them may have helped him develop his rich repertoire of old-time sayings and manners of speaking, along with his robust sense of nostalgia.

For more on the Aldir Blanc – João Bosco partnership, see these posts.

* The ages that he lived in Vila Isabel change slightly in different accounts. In this recent interview with O Globo, he recalls that it was from ages 3 – 11. In A poesia de Aldir Blanc, Melodias e Letras Cifradas… he recalls that it was from ages 6 – 13.

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A Rasteira do Presidente

Lyrics from “A Rasteira do Presidente” by Bicalho/Silvio Modesto, released by Bezerra da Silva (1986)

___
Alô, alô Dona de Casa // Hello, hello, Housewife
Fiscais do Presidente, se liga // President’s Inspectors, at attention
Tabela de preços na mão // Table of Prices in hand
E vamos lutar contra a inflação // And let’s fight inflation!

E não é mole não  // And it’s not easy, no
Vivendo dessa maneira // Living this way
Eles inventaram essa tal de inflação // They invented that thing called inflation
E o Presidente deu aquela rasteira // And the president turned the tables (“made that tackle”)
Não é mole não (tuburão) // It’s not easy, no, shark (predatory businessmen who profited from inflation)

(refrain)

O meu salário é o mínimo // My salary is the minimum
porém é o máximo que eu consigo vencer // And yet it’s the maximum I’m able to pull in
Desconto pro INPS// Withholdings for Social Security
e o maldito Leão// And that daggone Lion (income tax)
ainda quer me morder // Is still trying to bite me
ORTN e INPC // ORTN (national treasury bonds) and INPC (inflation index)
Eu escuto dizer, mas eu não sei o que é // I keep hearing talk – but I don’t know what it is
Eu só sei que recebi meu pagamento // I just know I received my payment
Que não deu pra comprar meu alimento // And it wasn’t enough to buy my aliment
Remarcaram os preços eu fiquei a pé // They marked up the prices and I was left behind!

(refrain)

O que não consigo entender // And what I just can’t understand
o meu nome é sujo no SPC // My name’s “dirty” in the SPC (credit protection service)
Meu crédito é cortado na praça // My credit’s cut off on the streets
não me vendem fiado nem o que comer //  They won’t even sell me food on the cuff
O banco não me empresta dinheiro // The bank won’t lend me money
porque não tenho bens para me garantir // Because I don’t have any assets as guarantees
Veja bem, não pedi nada emprestado // But look here, I didn’t ask for anything on loan
Dizem que devo dolar adoidado // Yet they say I owe mad dollars
Ao famigerado, FMI // To that infamous IMF

(refrain)

E agora é que eu quero ver // And now I want to see
Os ladrões de gravata o que vão fazer // What the crooks in ties are gonna do
O bicho vai pegar adoidado // The beast is gonna go crazy (things are gonna get ugly)
Em cima daquele que não obedecer // On anyone who doesn’t obey
O trabalhador já pode com a sua família // The worker can go ahead with his family
Fazer sua ceia // and make his supper
se os federais chegarem em um supermercado // if the feds get to a supermarket
Encontrem os preços remarcados // And find the prices marked up
Dão bolacha no gato e mete na cadeia // They’ll box the cat’s ears and throw him in jail
(refrain)

___
bezerra-da-silva
Bezerra da Silva said he didn’t sing about love because he could only sing about things he knew: “People talk about making love – where is love made, some factory in Bangu?”
bezerra_violenciageraviolencia

Cover of Bezerra’s 1988 album “Violência Gera Violência“, with headlines including: “Military police shoot into crowd and kill woman in Realengo”;  “Fraud of billions in INAMPS” (National Institute of Medical Aid and Social Security)

Bezerra became famous in the 1970s and ’80s for his hard-core but humorous sambas about the hustling malandro lifestyle and life on the morro (favela). He was revered for his deft denouncement of government corruption, most notably the crooked and brutal police force.

Bezerra’s acquaintances from the morro composed many of his best-love songs. They were bricklayers, carpenters, repairmen, and “22s” (crazies) who had by and large chosen to steer clear of crime, but respected and wrote about malandro precepts like the  “Lei de Murici” (Lei de Murici: Cada um cuida de si — Murici’s law: every man for himself; mind your own business) and especially excelled at writing witty smack about snitches and sogras (mothers-in-law) in thick slang.

“A rasteira do presidente” was composed and released in early 1986, during the fleeting moments of optimism that followed the launch of a new economic plan, the Plano Cruzado.

At the time, Brazil was in the midst of a bumpy transition from military dictatorship to democracy, and was meanwhile suffering the consequences of the military government’s brash fiscal and monetary policies (which were not much improved upon in the first years of the democracy). Hyperinflation topped 235% in 1985 and was on track to hit 500% in 1986. José Sarney had taken office as transitional president on March 15, 1985, and after a dismal first nine months, promised in January 1986 that he would not allow inflation to continue shooting up. In an ill-fated attempt to keep this promise, on February 28, 1986, Sarney declared a bank holiday and announced his Plano Cruzado –  “shock treatment” for the Brazilian economy, which was also meant to serve as a symbolic rupture from the legacy of the military dictatorship.

This “heterodox plan”replaced Brazil’s currency the Cruzeiro with the Cruzado (worth 1,000 cruzeiros), fixed at 13.84 to the dollar. Salaries were adjusted up by 8% (public servants) and 15% (minimum wage), and an “inflation insurance” mechanism was put in place to increase salaries automatically if inflation hit 20%.

fiscal-do-presidente

A “fiscal do presidente” checks her price table.

The plan also froze prices for food, gasoline, hygiene and cleaning products, and services. These fixed prices were published on a table (mentioned in the song) as a means of holding business-owners to account. In announcing the plan, Sarney called upon every Brazilian citizen to be “um fiscal do president” – a president’s inspector – making sure that shops were sticking strictly to the price table. And indeed, as the song makes reference to, the government shut down businesses that were caught cheating.

Not surprisingly, the plan led to basic supply-and-demand mismatches, empty shelves, dissatisfied producers and consumers… which as usual nurtured a flourishing black market. In November 1986, Sarney’s government was forced to abandon the plan and launch Plano Cruzado II. Cruzado II unfroze prices and signaled the return of staggering inflation, which would plague Brazil and Bezerra’s friends on the morro until 1994, when the Plano Real finally pulled the country out of this financial quagmire.

21031986-supermercado-paes-mendonca-de-salvador-interditado-pela-sunab-superintendencia-nacional-do-abastecimentopor-praticar-preco-acima-do-autorizado-pela-tabela-do-governo-na-foto-homem-14565224312

21 March 1986: a supermarket in Salvador, Bahia, that was closed for “practicing prices above those that are authorized.” 

Another element of this quagmire that comes up in the song: In the 1980s, Brazil was drowning in billions of dollars of external debt, a dubious legacy of the military government’s over-borrowing to finance ill-advised national development projects. Over the course of the ’80s, Brazil signed eleven bail-out agreements with the “infamous IMF.”

Bezerrra, who was born in 1927 in Recife, Pernambuco, and arrived in Rio as a stowaway in the 1940s, died in January 2005 at the age of 77.

07-03-1986-movimento-no-supermercado-eldorado-nos-dias-que-se-seguiram-ao-plano-cruzado-em-sao-paulo-sp-1456520014617_615x300

Busy supermarket El Dorado in São Paulo in March 1986. The Cruzado plan led to a rush on supermarkets.

fiscal-do-sarney-sticker
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Tarzan, o Filho do Alfaiate

Lyrics from “Tarzan, o Filho do Alfaiate” by Noel Rosa and Vadico (1936)

___

Quem foi que disse que eu era forte? // Who said I was strong?
Nunca pratiquei esporte // I’ve never played sports
nem conheço futebol…// I don’t follow football
O meu parceiro sempre foi o travesseiro // My partner has always been my pillow
E eu passo o ano inteiro // And I go the whole year
sem ver um raio de sol // without seeing one ray of sunlight
A minha força bruta reside // My brute force resides
Em um clássico cabide // On a classic coat-hanger
já cansado de sofrer // Already weary of suffering
Minha armadura é de casimira dura // My armor is made of stiff cashmere
Que me dá musculatura // Which gives me ‘musculature’
mas que pesa e faz doer // but which is heavy, and causes pain

Eu poso pros fotógrafos // I pose for photographers
e destribuo autógrafos // and give out autographs
A todas as pequenas lá da praia de manhã // To all the broads out on the morning beach
Um argentino disse, me vendo em Copacabana: // An Argentinian said, seeing me in Copacabana:
No hay fuerza sobre-humana que detenga este Tarzan‘// ‘There’s no super-human force that could stop this Tarzan’

De lutas não entendo abacate // Of bouts, I know squat
Pois o meu grande alfaiate // You see my masterful tailor
não faz roupa pra brigar // Doesn’t make clothes to fight in
Sou incapaz de machucar uma formiga // I’m incapable of hurting an ant
Não há homem que consiga nos meus músculos pegar//And there’s no man alive who could touch my muscles
Cheguei até a ser contratado // I had even been signed
Pra subir em um tablado // To go up in a ring
pra vencer um campeão // And beat a champion
Mas a empresa, pra evitar assassinato // But the company – to prevent homicide –
Rasgou logo o meu contrato // swiftly tore up my contract
quando me viu sem roupão // when they saw me sans robe

Eu poso pros fotógrafos // I pose for photographers
e destribuo autógrafos // and distribute autographs
A todas as pequenas lá da praia de manhã // To all the broads out on the morning beach
Um argentino disse, me vendo em Copacabana: // An Argentinian said, seeing me in Copacabana:
No hay fuerza sobre-humana que detenga este Tarzan‘// ‘There’s no super-human force that could stop this Tarzan’

Quem foi que disse que eu era forte? // Who said I was strong?
Nunca pratiquei esporte // I’ve never played sports
nem conheço futebol…// I don’t follow football
O meu parceiro sempre foi o travesseiro // My partner has always been my pillow
E eu passo o ano inteiro // And I go the whole year
sem ver um raio de sol // without seeing one ray of sunlight
A minha força bruta reside // My brute force resides
Em um clássico cabide // On a classic coat-hanger
já cansado de sofrer // Already weary of suffering
Minha armadura é de casimira dura // My armor is made of stiff cashmere
Que me dá musculatura // Which gives me ‘musculature’
mas que pesa e faz doer! // but which is heavy and causes pain!

— Commentary —

Ad for the 1936 movie Cidade Mulher

Ad for the 1936 movie Cidade Mulher

Noel Rosa in 1937

Noel Rosa in 1937. Noel is known for his brilliantly poetic and humorous observations of carioca society in the 1930s.

Noel Rosa composed six songs, including this humorous samba, for the 1936 film Cidade MulherRio is often referred to poetically as cidade-mulher (lady-city) in homage to its exquisite enchantments. (In popular music, along with Noel Rosa’s eponymous marcha composed for the movie, there’s Paulo da Portela’s beautiful samba “Cidade Mulher.”)

The movie in and about Rio provided the perfect opportunity for Noel Rosa to flex his critical poetic muscles. He is known for his witty lyrical commentary on carioca society, and this samba satirizing the scene on Rio’s beaches at the time is a perfect example of his humorous critique of one aspect of society in Rio in the 1930s.

Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan set a tough standard of beauty for boys in Rio to achieve.

Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan set a tough standard of beauty for boys in Rio to achieve.

In the early 1930s, Hollywood movies shattered previous standards for male beauty in Rio, establishing a new, much brawnier image of an attractive man. In the 1933 movie Tarzan the Ape Man, translated in Portuguese to Tarzan, Filho das Selvas (Tarzan, Son of the Jungle – hence the title of this song, “Tarzan, Son of the Tailor”),  Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller played the hero: broad shoulders and booming biceps became the ideal many carioca men strove to achieve.

But when so many of the wispy but well-heeled boys on the beaches of Noel Rosa’s Rio de Janeiro couldn’t live up to this standard of beauty, they turned to their trusty tailors, who gave them enough heavy shoulder padding to add plenty of “musculature.” Their strength therefore resided on a weary weighed-down coat-hanger.

Almirante recorded the song for the movie.

Source for this post: Noel Rosa: Uma biografia by João Máximo and Carlos Didier

 

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