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)

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About lyricalbrazil

My name is Victoria Broadus and in early 2012 I moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Brazil - first São Paulo, and now Rio de Janeiro. I began studying Portuguese while working toward a Master's degree in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University, and have since become fluent. I love Brazilian music and want to be able to share it with more people, so I'm working on translating songs to English and providing some contextual interpretation and stories about the songs and the musicians.
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7 Responses to Valsinha

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