O mundo é um moinho

Lyrics from “O mundo é um moinho” by Cartola

Album:  Cartola II (1976)


It’s still early, love

You’ve only just begun to get to know life

And already you announce that it’s time for you to leave

Without even knowing the path you’ll take

Pay attention, dear

Even though I know that your mind is made up

On each corner, your life falls a little bit

And in a short time, you won’t be who you are anymore

Hear me well, love

Pay attention, the world is a mill

It’s going to grind up your dreams, so petty

It’s going to reduce your illusions to dust

Pay attention, dear

From each love you’ll only inherit cynicism

And when you realize it, you’re at the edge of the abyss

The abyss you dug with your feet.

— Interpretation —

Legend has it that Cartola wrote this song when he discovered that an adoptive daughter was leaving home to become a prostitute (On each corner, your life falls a little bit), but that is unconfirmed…

A bit about Cartola:  He was born in Rio de Janeiro on October 11, 1908, and is regarded by many as the greatest sambista of all time.  He spent part of his childhood in Rio’s Laranjeiras neighborhood, but when he was an adolescent financial difficulties forced his family to move to Mangueira Hill, where a small favela (slum) was forming.

In Mangueira, Cartola became friends with Carlos Cachaça and others and became wrapped up in a life of swindling and samba.  He got a job as a construction worker, and began wearing a hat as protection from falling cement.  It was a bowler hat, but his nickname became Cartola – meaning “top hat.” Together with his friends from Mangueira – including Carlos Cachaça and Nelson Cavaquinho – Cartola created the Arengueiros Samba block (bloco), and in 1928 founded Estação Primeira de Mangueira,  the Green and Pink.  To this day, Mangueira is one of Rio de Janeiro’s most well-known and widely supported samba schools. The colors and name were chosen by Cartola, who also composed their first samba, “Chega de demanda.”  Cartola went on to compose sambas that were performed by some of Brazil’s most prodigious voices of the 1930s, including Francisco Alves, Mário Reis, Silvio Caldes and Carmen Miranda.

At the end of the 1940s, after the sudden death of his companion Deolinda and some problems with friends on Mangueira, Cartola disappeared for awhile; rumors of his death abounded. But he was rediscovered in 1956, when the journalist Sérgio Porto bumped into him at a café near the carwash where Cartola was working.  Porto and his friends pushed Cartola to return to the samba circuit. They brought him to play on the radio, at restaurants and clubs, and encouraged him to write new sambas.  In 1974, Cartola recorded the first of his four solo albums, Cartola, with songs that had been written over the course of the past 40 years; in 1976, he recorded Cartola II, which includes the classic song O mundo é um moinho. 

* Please note that in these translations some of the words might vary slightly from those sung in the video versions, since the singers often play around with the lyrics a bit in their live recordings.  I’m trying to provide a literal translation of the original version of the song, which may be a bit different from the YouTube video.

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)

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