Rapaz folgado

Lyrics from “Rapaz Folgado” (Idle Youth) by Noel Rosa (1933)

Stop dragging your wood-soled shoe
Because a wood-soled shoe was never a sandal
Take that kerchief off your neck
Buy dress shoes and a tie
Throw out that razor
That gets in your way
With your hat to the side, you slipped up
I want you to escape from the police
Making a samba-song
I already gave you paper and a pencil
Arrange a love and a guitar

Malandro is a defeatist word
All it does is take away
All of the value of sambistas
I propose, to the civilized people
To call you not a malandro
But rather an idle youth

— Interpretation —

As I mentioned in the previous post, “Rapaz folgado” was Noel Rosa’s response to Wilson Batista’s anthem to the malandro sambista “Lenço no pescoço.” The dispute continued in samba form over the next couple of years: Batista responded to “Rapaz folgado” with “Mocinho da Vila,” which suggested that a pretty boy from Vila Isabel – the middle class neighborhood where Rosa was born – had no right to discuss malandragem or even penetrate the world of sambas do morro; rather, he should stick to more erudite music and pursue his radio career.  Rosa, in turn, responded with “Feitiço da Vila” (Enchantment of Vila), a technically and lyrically elegant samba that affirmed that sambistas from Vila brought samba to a new level with their poetic lyrics and broader themes. “Feitiço da Vila” quickly became one of the most popular sambas of all time. The dispute continued over the course of a few more sambas, but the success of “Feitiço da Vila” evidently spoke to the popularity of Noel’s perspective.

Noel Rosa (1910 – 1937) is revered as Brazil’s greatest “popular poet” and storyteller: In his brief life — he died of tuberculosis at age 26 —   he contributed profoundly to the evolution of samba and Brazilian national identity, more broadly.

Born to a middle class family in Vila Isabel, Rio de Janeiro, Noel came from a background much different from the Afro-Brazilian sambistas from the nearby favelas.  What’s more, an accident at birth left Noel Rosa with a crushed jaw that left his face permanently distorted, preventing him from achieving the dapper look common to sambistas of the time. Rosa was white, sickly and forlorn, but his clever lyrics and technical prowess brought samba to a new level in Brazil, bridging the favelas — where Rosa often collaborated with  sambistas like Ismael Silva — with the rest of the city, and linking samba symbols — the malandro, the morena and the batucada — to Brazil’s national nascent national identity.

Sources for this post: Hello, Hello Brazil by Bryan McCann; Literature Comentada: Noel Rosa

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)

1 thought on “Rapaz folgado”

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s