Romaria

Lyrics from “Romaria” (1977)
Sung by Elis Regina
Composed by Renato Teixeira

It’s of dream and dust
The destiny of one alone
Like me lost
In thought
On my horse

It’s of lasso and knot
Of holster and jiló  
Of this life carried out alone

I’m caipira, Pirapora
Our Lady of Aparecida
Illuminate the dark mine and guide
The train of my life (2x)

My father was a peon
My mother, loneliness
My brothers lost themselves in life – the price of adventures
I unmarried, I played
I invested, I gave up
If there’s luck, I don’t know
I never saw it

I’m caipira, Pirapora
Our Lady of Aparecida
Illuminate the dark mine and guide
The train of my life (2x)

They told me, nonetheless
That I should come here
To request, through pilgrimage and prayer
Peace in hardships (desaventos)

Since I don’t know how to pray
I just wanted to show
My gaze, my gaze, my gaze
I’m caipira, Pirapora
Our Lady of Aparecida
Illuminate the dark mine and guide
The train of my life (2x)

— Interpretation —

A caipira in Brazil is someone from the country, most commonly in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro (other regions use different words, e.g. matuto in the Northeast).   This song speaks of the rough and solitary life of a caipira. Its forlorn, fatalistic tone is typical of caipira music, as is the theme of the loneliness and hardships of life on the range or in the mine.

“Pirapora” – which comes from the words for “fish” and “jump” in the indigenous Tupi language – likely refers to Pirapora do Bom Jesús, in São Paulo state, which is known as the “City of Miracles” and receives thousands of religious pilgrims every year.  Our Lady of Aparecida is the patroness (or patron saint) of Brazil. The composer, Renato Teixeira, wrote the song after observing pilgrims on their way to the basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Aparecida do Norte.

Jiló is a fruit — solanum gilo, known as “scarlet eggplant” in English, though I’ve never come across the fruit in the United States. I’ve translated “desaventos,” a caipira word, as hardships, but  it most literally translates to an enemy or event that has caused a disturbance or problem. Finally, I’ve translated gibeira (a corruption of the portuguese word algibeira) as holster because it is a small leather sack for carrying an object that needs particular care; however, the word in Portuguese does not have the same automatic association with a firearm as the word “holster” in English — the jiló, for instance, may be in the holster.

Elis Regina recorded the song in 1977 and it became an instant national sensation, even helping to reduce stereotypes and reclaim the word “caipira” as something to be proud of.  Elis Regina was renowned for her ability to draw such deep emotional reactions from the Brazilian public with her singing. She was one of the most beloved voices of Brazil’s MPB movement before dying at in 1982, at 36, from a drug overdose.

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)

João Valentão

Lyrics from “João Valentão” by Dorival Caymmi (1945)

Listen: João Gilberto, recording in Chico Pereira’s house, 1958

João Valentão is a bully, he throws blows
He doesn’t pay attention and he doesn’t even contemplate life
He intimidates every João, he does things that even God can’t believe
But he has his moment in life…

It’s when the sun goes breaking over the end of the world, for night to arrive
It’s when the roar of the waves can be heard more loudly, at the edge of the sea
It’s when the weariness of the struggle – of life –  obliges João to sit down
It’s when the morena curls up, comes to his side, wishing to please
If the night is moonlit, the urge is to tell fibs, to stretch out
Lie down on the sand on the beach that ends where no one can see
And that’s how this man falls asleep, who never needs to sleep to dream
Because there is no dream more beautiful than his land (there’s none)

(Spoken in João Gilberto version linked above:  That land is Bahia...)

— Interpretation —

Dorival Caymmi on the beach, via tomjobin.org.
Dorival Caymmi on the beach, via tomjobin.org.

Dorival Caymmi was born in Salvador da Bahia on April 30, 1914.  He composed over a hundred songs — almost all about life and death at sea, fishing, and Bahia — before his death in 2008 at the age of ninety-four.  At first listen, his songs may sound simple or even simplistic: most are short and have few lyrics.  But Caymmi was known for spending years laboring over every word and note in each of his songs (he started “João Valentão in 1936 and finished and released the song in 1945), and this perfectionism is clear in his compositions, which stand alone in their exquisite portrayal of life in Bahia and Brazil in the 20th century. As Caetano Veloso put it, he has few songs “compared to other composers, but each of his songs is a perfect jewel, and his tone is one of a sort of very deep wiseness, that he seems to have always had.” João Gilberto, a fellow Bahian  considered the “father of bossa nova” in Brazil, said that he fine-tuned the bossa nova style while playing around with Caymmi’s song “Rosa Morena,” which he recorded in 1959 on his first LP, Chega de Saudade.

In the book Dorival Caymmi: O Mar e o Tempo, Dorival tells the story behind the song “João Valentão.”  It began as a song about a beloved fisherman in Salvador, whose name he did not know, but whose nickname was Carapeba – a type of fish. Originally, Caymmi wrote the song as “João Carapeba.” Carapeba was a muscular fisherman, the father of Caymmi’s friend Aurelino, and Caymmi says he was an idol of sorts. Fom there, he came up with “João Valentão” – i.e. “big tough João” or João the Bully.

The rest of the story is a mixture of Caymmi’s interpretation – and fabrication – of aspects of Carapeba’s/João’s personality and the Bahian surroundings.  For instance, Caymmi recounts a day when Carapeba invited him to go fishing at 5 a.m., but he decided to spend the day with his friends, instead. When Carapeba returned from fishing, he scolded Caymmi, startling him and all of his friends who exclaimed, “What a foul-mouthed man!” This tale added to the depiction of João as a tough guy in the song. What follows (beginning with “It’s when the sun goes breaking…”), Caymmi says, is purely a product of the atmosphere in which he was writing — starlit nights, beach and sand, fresh sea breezes, lovely ladies, etc.

When he got to the point of describing João Valentão lying on the sand, Caymmi reasoned, “Lying down on the sand is really comfortable, isn’t it? So I stopped there.”

* A couple of notes about the translation: I translate “mentira” in Portuguese as “fibs” rather than “lies,” because the word was meant in a more lighthearted sense in the song.  I’ve left “morena” in Portuguese because the English translation to “brunette” isn’t the same; a morena implies someone with not only brown hair but darker skin and eyes, as well.

Main Sources for this Post: Dorival Caymmi: O Mar e o Tempo, by Stella Caymmi

O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)

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

Album: Nara (Nara Leão, 1964); Cartola (1974)

—–

Smiling…

I intend to live life

Because crying

I saw my childhood lost

Smiling…

I intend to live life

Because crying

I saw my childhood lost

When the storm ends

The sun will come out

When this longing ends

I’ll have someone else to love

Smiling…

I intend to live life

Because crying

I saw my childhood lost (repeat)

— Interpretation —

Like Samba da Bênção,” the lyrics of “O Sol Nascera (A Sorrir)” convey a simple but powerful optimism: Although sadness is inevitable, it will pass, and it’s not worth letting day-to-day hardships keep you from living a blissful life.

As Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello point out in vol. 2 of A Canção no Tempo,  Cartola’s career can be divided into two phases: the “poor phase,” from in 1930s through the 1950s, in which he recorded only 14 songs, and the “rich phase,” from 1964 – 1980, when he was rediscovered and revered, and recorded most of his songs.

The release of “O Sol Nascerá” in 1964 symbolizes the beginning of Cartola’s rich phase. The song was also Élton Medeiros’s first hit.

Cartola and Élton composed “O Sol Nascerá” in 1962, at Cartola’s house. According to Élton, the two had just finished composing the now forgotten samba “Castelo de Pedrarias” when their friend Renato Agostini arrived with his wife and challenged them to compose another samba, then an there.

They quickly composed “O Sol Voltará” (“the sun will come back”); when the song was recorded two years later, Oloísio de Oliveira, of Odeon Records, suggested they change it to “O Sol Nascerá” (“the sun will rise,” literally or “the sun will be born”). Élton said he thought the change was an improvement.

Growing up in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Cartola dealt with his share of hardships, a few of which are outlined in the interpretation section of “O mundo é um moinho.” Yet his and Élton’s positive outlook in this song is contagious,  and thankfully so.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. II: 1958-1985, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (São Paulo, Editora 34: 1998)

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)