Piano na Mangueira

Lyrics from “Piano na Mangueira”
Music by Tom Jobim, Lyrics by Chico Buarque

Album: Antônio Brasileiro (1994)

I’m on the platform
Of the First Station
The Hill came to call me
In a white suit and a straw hat
I will introduce myself to my new partner
I already ordered the piano to be lifted to Mangueira

My music doesn’t stir up the dust
But it can enter the shed
Where the mulatta hangs her skirt
At dawn on Wednesday
First Station of Mangueira…


Cartola (L), Nelson Cavaquinho and Juvenal during a Mangueira Carnaval parade


This is one of many songs paying homage to GRES Estação Primeira de Mangueira, arguably Rio’s most celebrated samba school, founded by Cartola, Carlos Cachaça, Nelson Cavaquinho and others in 1929.

In the DVD “Chico Buarque: Estação Derradeira” (2005), Chico Buarque reveals that he has been a lifelong fan of Mangueira, saying he chose to root for them because “Mangueira is always referenced, its the real capital of samba. The impression people have is that everything started here.” Indeed, Mangueira was the first champion of Rio de Janeiro’s carnaval samba parades, which began in 1932.

Antônio (Tom) Carlos Jobim is considered one of the fathers of bossa nova, along with Vinicius de Moraes and João Gilberto. He is perhaps best known as the composer of “Garota de Ipanema” (Girl from Ipanema); Vinicius wrote the lyrics for the song. (In this clip, you can hear Tom, Vinicius, and João Gilberto perform “Garota de Ipanema” for the first time, in the restaurant Au Bom Gourmet in Rio de Janeiro in 1962. João Gilberto begins, “Tom, what if you were to make a song that could say to us, tell us what is love”; Tom responds: “Look, Joãozinho, I wouldn’t know how, without Vinicius to write the poetry; Vinicius: “For this song to happen, I wish for João to sing…”)

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1927, Tom Jobim’s musical style was influenced principally by jazz and samba, along with more “erudite” music, most notably the French composer and pupil Chopin, Claude Debussy.

By age 20, Tom was performing in parties and nightclubs in Rio de Janeiro.  He recorded his first album in 1954, but only achieved widespread fame in 1954, with “Orfeu da Conceição – a collaboration with Vinicius de Moraes for Vinicius’s play by the same name.

In 1958, João Gilberto released his first album, Chega de Saudadethe album is recognized as the beginning of bossa nova‘s dominance in the Brazilian music scene, and the title track was a collaboration between Tom and Vinicius. Tom became known for his beautiful style on the piano, adding unique, jazz-influenced touches to simple and melodic pieces.

In 1962, Tom achieved international fame when Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd released the LP Jazz Sambawhich included an instrumental track of Tom’s song “Desafinado” (Off key). A year later, Tom sang “Garota de Ipanema” in Carnegie Hall; during the 1960s and 1970s he recorded with major U.S. labels, and spent years in New York City.

Chico Buarque and Tom Jobim met around 1965, but Tom left for the United States very shortly after. He returned in 1967, and Chico and Tom formed a close partnership, with Tom composing music and Chico contributing the lyrics.

The first song they collaborated on was “Retrato em Branco e Preto” (Portrait in Black and White) in 1967. Since they were not very close yet – and perhaps because Tom was trying to motivate Chico – Chico says Tom was very accepting of his lyrics.  By the time they wrote Piano na Mangueira, however, for the 1992 Mangueira parade dedicated to Tom Jobim, Chico noted that Tom insisted on second-guessing his lyrics.  What’s more, when Chico presented him with lyrics that he’d written to match the metric of the music perfectly, Tom changed the music. In certain versions, Tom removes the “already” from “I already ordered the piano be lifted…” because he liked the way the lyrics sounded better that way, according to Chico.

“Dawn on Wednesday” refers to Ash Wednesday, the day after Carnaval. The song is a tribute to Tom and his piano and the legendary Mangueira samba school.


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