Lyrics from Arrastão (Trawl) by Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes, 1965

Good Audio Version (Grooveshark)

Eh! There are dinghies in the sea
Hey! hey! hey!
They’re trawling today
Eh! Everyone fishing
Enough of the shade, João
Jovi, look at the trawl
Going into the endless sea
Eh! My brother, bring me
Yemanjá for me
My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína

Eh! Pull real slowly
Hey! hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea
Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína…

Eh! pull real slowly
Hey! Hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea

Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

— Interpretation —

Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes‘ “Arrastão,” intepreted by Elis Regina, took first place in Brazil’s I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira, staged by Excelsior TV in 1965. The performance marked a breakthrough in both Edu Lobo’s and Elis Regina’s musical careers: the young artists became household names and came to represent the emerging genre called “música popular moderna” (modern popular music, MPM), which soon began being labeled as MPB —  música popular brasileira. “Arrastão” is considered to mark a watershed moment, when erudite bossa novistas began to explore other styles and incorporate social messages in their music. Edu Lobo mixed social protest with regional influences from northeast Brazil. (In his book Verdades Tropicais, Caetano Veloso recognizes Edu Lobo’s role in incorporating northeastern elements into popular music, remarking, “Actually, the northeastern modalism came through to us more from Edu Lobo, from Rio, than from the border between [northeastern states]Bahia and Pernambuco.”)

“Arrastão” powerfully recalls Dorival Caymmi‘s lyrics about fishing, the sea, and the goddess of the sea Yemanjá.  Fittingly, Edu began composing the song during a music session at Dorival Caymmi’s house. Dorival was singing “História de Pescadores,” and during the third part, “Temporal,” Edu began composing a response, which became the base of the song.

Vinicius de Moraes’ lyrics reveal his involvement at the time with Afro-Brazilian mystical themes; the following year, he released the album Afro-Sambas with Baden Powell.  Yemanjá and Janaína are names for the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian sycretic religion Candomblé.  Catholicism’s Santa Barbara is represented in Candomblé by Yansã, the goddess of wind and storms. Our Lord of Bonfim is the syncretic counterpart of Jesus.

Although “Arrastão” is not explicit in its protest, it is identified as a protest song because of its regionalist and populist undertones. The song evokes a scene from a poor, remote northeastern fishing village, yet was written and performed by young, upper middle class, urban and well-educated Brazilian artists. The element of protest, then, lies in the attempt to draw the urban masses’ attention to social realities in Brazil during the early years of military dictatorship in the country. These kinds of messages were absent from the classic bossa nova songs from a few years earlier, which reflected an optimism that didn’t really consider what was going on outside of Ipanema.

Edu Lobo, identified among a “second wave” of bossa novistas, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1943, son of the composer Fernando Lobo.  He began playing accordion as a child before switching to guitar.  He was profoundly influenced by Dorival Caymmi, and in the early 1960s began playing with Caymmi’s eldest son, Dori. He composed his first song with Vinicius de Moraes in 1962,  “Só me fez bem,” and went on to collaborate frequently with Vinicius, Tom Jobim, and Chico Buarque.

The I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira was such a hit that TV Record, a competitor of Excelsior, immediately appropriated the show, staging a competition by the same name the following year. The military dictatorship shut down TV Excelsior in 1970.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985,  Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (Editora 34, São Paulo), 1998

Sinal Fechado

Lyrics from “Sinal Fechado” by Paulinho da Viola
Albums: 45 with “Ruas que sonhei” (1969);  Sinal FechadoChico Buarque (1974)

— Hello, how are you doing?

— I’m getting along, and you, all is well?

— All is well, I’m getting along running, to secure my place in the future, and you?

— All is well, I’m getting along, in search of peaceful slumber, who knows?

— It’s been so long!

— That’s right, It’s been so long!

— Pardon my rush. It’s the soul of our affairs!

— Oh, no need to ask pardon. I, too, am always in a hurry.

— When will you give a call?  We need to see each other sometime.

— During the week, I promise, maybe we’ll see each other, who knows?

— It’s been so long!

— That’s right, it’s been so long!

— I had so much to say, but I disappeared in the dust of the streets.

— I also had something to say, but it escapes me now.

— Please, call, I need to drink something, quickly.

–During the week…

–The light…

–… I’ll look for you

–…is going to change, is going to change….

— I promise, I won’t forget.

— Please, don’t forget, don’t forget!


— Interpretation–

“Sinal Fechado” was the winner of the V Festival da Música Popular Brasileira in 1969,  the year recognized as the start of the most brutal period of Brazil’s military dictatorship. (More on this period in the posts on “Ruas que sonhei” and “Valsinha.”) The song seeks to capture the urgent sense of despair that cloaked Brazil during these years, as the military regime espoused a doctrine of economic growth and national development — citing Brazil’s destiny as a future great power, and pursuing massive, misguided projects like the TransAmazonian Highway — at the expense of human rights and civil liberties.

Paulinho da Viola wrote this “protest samba” as a dialogue between two friends who happen to stop side by side at a red light.  But he recorded the song alone and sang alone at the festival, adding to the song’s desperate tone by making the dialogue sound like two isolated, solitary monologues.

Critics seeking a more traditional samba griped that the song just “wasn’t samba – not here, not even over there in China,” and in the video below from the MPB festival you can see the crowd’s mixed response.  Paulinho da Viola recognized that the song wasn’t a samba, though he based the song on a samba: “I made use of simple melodies and simple harmonies, and then added to all of the chords a minor second, seeking the atmosphere of anguish of the characters…”  Many of the chords came from the Villa-Lobos guitar exercises he used to practice with. (Heitor Villa-Lobos, d. 1959, is widely regarded as the most influential Brazilian and Latin American composer; he wove traces of Brazilian folk music into his erudite compositions.)

In 1974, Chico Buarque — banned from releasing new albums of his own songs — resolved to release an album with meticulously chosen songs by other songwriters, including Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, and Julinho da Adelaide (the pseudonym Chico adopted to release 3 songs: “Acorda Amor,” on Sinal Fechado, “Jorge Maravilha” and “Milagre Basileiro”). Chico chose Paulinho da Viola’s “Sinal Fechado” as the tital track. The song became one of the most emblematic protest songs against the military dictatorship.

Main source for this post: Paulinho da Viola by João Máximo from Perfis do Rio series and Sinal Fechado: a música brasileira sob censura by Alberto Ribeiro da Silva, 1994.

Rosa Morena

Lyrics from “Rosa Morena” by Dorival Caymmi
Recordings include: Os Anjos do Inferno (1942, Columbia); Dorival Caymmi (Album: Sambas de Caymmi, 1955); João Gilberto  (Album: Chega de Saudade , 1959)

Original Recording:

João Gilberto, on Chega de Saudade:

Rosa Morena
Where are you going, morena, Rosa
With that rose in your hair and that gait of a carefree girl
Morena, morena Rosa
Rosa morena, the samba is waiting
Waiting to see you
Leave aside this act of coyness
Come on, Rosa, come see me
Leave aside this pose, come to the samba, come dance samba
Because the people are tired of waiting, oh Rosa
The people are tired of waiting, morena Rosa
The people are tired of waiting, you hear, Rosa?

— Interpretation —

“Rosa Morena” was first recorded in 1942 by the Anjos do Inferno (Angels from Hell). The group, playfully named after Pixinguinha’s famous orchestra Diabos do Céu (Devils from Heaven), recorded a number of Dorival Caymmi‘s songs in the 1940s, including the hit “Você já foi à Bahia?” (1941).

In 1959, João Gilberto recorded “Rosa Morena” on his iconic debut album Chega de Saudade — generally recognized as the first bossa nova album. Gilberto, who was 27 when he recorded the album, had come to Rio de Janeiro from Bahia, like Caymmi. He was known in the early 1950s for his singing with the group Garotos da Lua, but his career as the voice of bossa nova truly took off with the launch of Chega de Saudade. Many sambistas from Caymmi’s era were put off by bossa nova because it so ardently defied the musical aesthetic of their generation; Caymmi, on the other hand, was full of praise for the young Gilberto. When he heard the song “Chega de Saudade” for the first time, before its initial release in 1958, he told Aloysio de Oliveira, of Odeon Records, “You’ve discovered a gold mine!”

At the same time, Gilberto’s recordings of Caymmi’s songs — and of sambas by Caymmi’s contemporaries, like Ary Barroso (Barroso’s “É luxo só” is on Chega de Saudade) — showed that bossa nova wasn’t the radical rejection of the sambas from the thirties, forties, and fifties that some took it to be. In many cases, it was just a reinterpretation of these songs.  Bossa nova abandoned the previously popular operatic singing style — a vestige of Italian influences in Brazilian music — in favor of Gilberto’s soft-voiced singing style and innovative rhythmic balance between guitar, percussion, and voice.

And João Gilberto recognized “Rosa Morena” as one of the first songs that he experimented with as he developed the bossa nova style:

One of the songs that awoke in me,  that showed me that I could try something different was “Rosa Morena,” by Caymmi.  I felt that the way other singers prolonged the sounds ended up hurting the natural balance of the music. By shortening the sounds of the phrases,  the lyrics fit perfectly within the beats and ended up floating.  I could try different things with the whole structure of the song, without needing to alter anything.  Another thing I didn’t agree with were the changes that singers made with some words, where they would make the accent of the rhythm fall on these words to make a greater balance.  I think that the words should be pronounced in the most natural form, as if I were having a conversation.  Any change ends up altering what the songwriter meant to say with his verses. Another advantage of this concern is that, sometimes, you can start the phrase a little earlier and sometimes make it so that two or more phrases fit in a fixed beat. With that, you can create a rhyme of rhythm. One musical phrase rhymes with the other without the song being artificially altered.

— João Gilberto in interview with Tárik de Souza (Veja, 12 May 1971, my translation)

In turn,  Caymmi declared, “I would like to have recorded my songs the way he [João Gilberto] sang them.  That half-voiced manner, using the voice almost as an instrument — he made a trombone, incredibly in tune.”

Source for this post: Dorival Caymmi: o mar e o tempo, by Stella Caymmi

Note: I’ve noticed some people have found this post after searching for a different song by Caymmi, from 1965, called “Das Rosas,” which has an English translation of “And Roses and Roses” by Ray Gilbert. I’ll add a literal translation soon, but for now, you can listen to the song here.

Post by Victoria Broadus