Valsinha

Lyrics from “Valsinha” by Chico Buarque and Vinicius de Moraes

Album:  Construção (1971)

—–

One day he arrived much different from the way he usually arrived

He looked at her much more warmly than he usually looked at her

And he didn’t curse life as much as he usually did

And he didn’t even leave her alone in a corner

To her great astonishment, he invited her to go out

So then she got all done up,  as she hadn’t dared to for so long

With her décolleté dress, smelling of storage from waiting for so long

And then the two laced arms, as they hadn’t for so long

And full of tenderness and grace, they went to the plaza, and embraced

And there, they danced so much dance that the whole neighborhood woke up

And their happiness was so great that the entire city lit up

And there were so many crazy kisses, so many hoarse screams as weren’t heard anymore

That the world understood, and the day broke in peace.

— Interpretation —

For context on the song Valsinha, it is best to look at the album as a whole.  Construção was Chico Buarque’s fifth album, and was released at the height of Brazil’s military dictatorship.  Two years earlier, the military government had issued Institutional Act 5 (AI-5), which led to the immediate forced closure of Brazil’s National Congress; heightened censorship of all journalism and the arts;  criminalization of political meetings not authorized by the police; and the suspension of habeas corpus for politically motivated crimes, among other judicial travesties.  AI-5 essentially shut down any channels of criticism or accountability, and gave unbounded power to Brazil’s president to rule by decree.

The issuance of AI-5 signaled the beginning of the darkest period of Brazil’s dictatorship. The following years became known as the Anos de Chumbo, or Years of Lead, and lasted until the restoration of habeas corpus in 1978.  These years were marked by systematic torture and forced disappearances of anyone deemed subversive, and many musicians were taken prisoner and forced to leave the country on account of their lyrics criticizing the regime.

Chico Buarque left for Italy from 1969 to 1970; upon his return to Brazil, he released Construção, a brilliant album of songs whose incomparable lyrics, full of allegory and double entendre, spurned the military censors and their weak interpretive skills. The album is listed as number 3 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Brazilian Albums.    While other songs on the album speak more directly to the horrors of life under the dictatorship, Valsinha, a lyrical waltz composed with Vinicius de Moraes –  one of Brazil’s most well-known poets and songwriters –  tells a story of a couple overcoming an unspoken oppression they’re living under to rediscover each other and find joy in life again. Their happiness is so great that it wakes up the neighbors and lights up the city – a city living through very dark days under the dictatorship.

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)

7 thoughts on “Valsinha”

  1. […] The title “Bread and Circuses” is an allusion to the classical poet Juvenal, author of the Satires, who scorned ancient Romans for their easy and predictable manipulation through bread and circus — or the diversion of food and games.  The song, in turn, is a satire of bourgeois conventions. In the lyrics, a first-person poetic voice tries desperately to alarm the family, to snap them out of their mental and physical stagnation; the attempt is futile.  During these early years of military rule in Brazil, when economic liberalization brought quick financial boons to the complaisant and complicit upper middle class, expressions of rejections of these mores were frequent in Brazilian music. (Ouro de Tolo carried quite a similar message, as did Chico Buarque’s Valsinha). […]

  2. […] The title “Bread and Circuses” is an allusion to the classical poet Juvenal, author of the Satires, who scorned ancient Romans for their easy and predictable manipulation through bread and circus — or the diversion of food and games.  The song, in turn, is a satire of bourgeois conventions. In the lyrics, a first-person poetic voice tries desperately to alarm the family, to snap them out of their mental and physical stagnation; the attempt is futile.  During these early years of military rule in Brazil, when economic liberalization brought quick financial boons to the complaisant and complicit upper middle class, expressions of rejection of these mores were frequent in Brazilian music. (Ouro de Tolo carried quite a similar message, as did Chico Buarque’s Valsinha). […]

  3. […] At the time, Buarque was a self-declared socialist. The song, though not an overt protest song, has clear egalitarian overtones; at the same time, it evokes a moment that transcends Cold War-era politics.  To see more about Chico Buarque, MPB and protest songs from the years of military rule in Brazil, look at the post on Valsinha.  […]

  4. […] AI-5, issued on December 13, 1968, brought about the immediate forced closure of Brazil’s National Congress; heightened censorship of all journalism and the arts;  criminalization of political meetings not authorized by the police; and the suspension of habeas corpus for politically motivated crimes, along with a litany of other authoritarian policies. (You can read a bit more about AI-5 in the post on Valsinha.) […]

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