Lapinha

Lyrics from “Lapinha” by Baden Powell and Paulo César Pinheiro (1968)

Good Audio Version (Elis Regina)

When I die, bury me in Lapinha
When I die, bury me in Lapinha
Britches, suit jacket, shoulder pads
Britches, suit jacket, shoulder pads
Go, my wail, go tell of all the sorrow of living
Ah, the truth always betrays
And sometimes brings more evil
Ay, it just tore me up
Seeing so many people give in
But I didn’t give up
Going against the law
I know that I didn’t regret it
I have just one request
My final, perhaps, before departing…

When I die, bury me in Lapinha
When I die, bury me in Lapinha
Britches, suit jacket, shoulder pads
Britches, suit jacket, shoulder pads

(Repeat)

Go away, my pain
Get away from me
There are so many evil hearts
Ay, it’s so maddening
For love to lose to indifference
Ay, so many problems I saw, I fought
And as a loser, I screamed
That I’m just one man
Without knowing how to change
I’ll never hurt again
I have just one request
My final, perhaps, before departing…

When I die, bury me in Lapinha
When I die, bury me in Lapinha
Britches, suit jacket and shoulder pads
Britches, suit jacket and shoulder pads

Good Bye Bahia, zum zum zum
Cordão de Ouro
I’m going to leave because they killed my Besouro

— Interpretation —

Manoel Henrique Pereira, better known as Besouro Mangangá – or “Cordão de Ouro” (gold chain) – was Brazil’s most legendary capoeirista during the first half of the twentieth century. His dramatic death by stabbing, allegedly from behind, at the age of twenty-four reinforced his idolization within the capoeira world, and earned him a number of popular capoeira songs, including “My Besouro,” with the refrain: “Quando eu morrer, me enterre na Lapinha/ Calça-culote paletó almofadinha.” (“When I die, bury me in Lapinha/ Britches suit jacket shoulder pads”)

Baden Powell heard the Bahian capoeira master Canjiquinha singing this song, along with the girl group Quarteto em Cy, and decided to use its refrain for his next afro-samba, which would compete in TV Record’s First Samba Festival. (He had released the album Os Afro-Sambas with Vinicius de Moraes two years prior.) In the spirit of the new festival — which was launched in response to complaints about the lack of samba in MPB festivals — Powell chose a new partner for the song, the nineteen-year-old lyricist Paulo César Pinheiro, whom he met through his cousin, Pinheiro’s partner João de Aquino. With Elis Regina‘s dramatic performance at the festival, the song took first place.

Dorival Caymmi explained that Lapinha refers to Salvador’s Largo da Lapinha, where civic festivals traditionally took place. Lapinha probably became the chosen burial ground in the song because of its festive tradition and, more superficially, because it rhymed with “almofadinha” (“shoulder pads”). It is also speculated that “calça culote” may be a corruption of original lyrics “calça, colete,” which would change the lyrics slightly,  from “britches” to “slacks, vest.”

Mangangá is the name for a hornet with a particularly painful sting, and in northeastern Brazil is also the name for a giant beetle that eats certain types of wood. The nickname to this day is still used to refer to someone who’s powerful and dangerous.

Baden Powell de Aquino was born near Rio de Janeiro in 1937, son of the cobbler Lilo de Aquino and Adelina. He was named after the British founder of the Scout Movement, Robert Baden-Powell. He demonstrated musical talent at an early age, playing around first with his father’s violin and then on a new guitar, which he learned to play right-handed even though he was left-handed. By age nine he made his first national solo performance, winning first place for best guitar solo on Renato Murce’s program “Papel Carbono” on Radio Nacional. Around age twelve he entered Rio de Janeiro’s National School of Music, and by thirteen he was playing at dances around Rio de Janeiro.  He met and worked with illustrious musicians like Ary Barroso and Pixinguinha at a very young age, and became perhaps best known for his prolific partnerships with Vinicius de Moraes and Paulo César Pinheiro. He died in 2000.

Pinheiro, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1949, composed his earliest songs with Powell’s cousin, João de Aquino, in the mid-1960s. His career as a lyricist took off after Elis Regina performed “Lapinha” at the 1968 Samba festival and he developed a lasting partnership with Powell.

Capoeira group sings about Besouro Mangangá

Largo da Lapinha in Salvador, Bahia, c. 1960.
Besouro Mangangá playing capoeira in Bahia

Lyrics in Portuguese

Quando eu morrer me enterre na Lapinha,
Quando eu morrer me enterre na Lapinha
Calça culote, paletó almofadinha
Calça culote, paletó almofadinha
Vai meu lamento vai contar
Toda tristeza de viver
Ai a verdade sempre trai
E às vezes traz um mal a mais
Ai só me fez dilacerar
Ver tanta gente se entregar
Mas não me conformei
Indo contra lei
Sei que não me arrependi
Tenho um pedido só
Último talvez, antes de partir
Quando eu morrer me enterre na Lapinha,
Quando eu morrer me enterre na Lapinha
Calça culote, paletó almofadinha
Calça culote, paletó almofadinha
Sai minha mágoa
Sai de mim
Há tanto coração ruim
Ai é tão desesperador
O amor perder do desamor
Ah tanto erro eu vi, lutei
E como perdedor gritei
Que eu sou um homem só
Sem saber mudar
Nunca mais vou lastimar
Tenho um pedido só
Último talvez, antes de partir
Quando eu morrer me enterre na Lapinha,
Quando eu morrer me enterre na Lapinha
Calça culote, paletó almofadinha
Calça culote, paletó almofadinha
Adeus Bahia, zum-zum-zum
Cordão de ouro

The main source for this post was A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras vol. 2, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello.

Samba do Avião

Lyrics from “Samba do Avião” by Tom Jobim (1963)

Good Audio Version

My soul sings
I see Rio de Janeiro
I’m dying of longing
Rio, your sea
Beach without end
Rio, you were made for me
Christ the Redeemer
Open arms over Guanabara
This samba is just because
Rio, I like you
The morena is going to dance samba
Her whole body swaying
Rio, of sun, of sky, of sea

In one more minute we’ll be at Galeão
Rio de Janeiro, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

(Repeat)

Tighten your seatbelt, we’re going to arrive
Shining water, look at the runway coming up
And here we go
Landing…

— Interpretation —

The scene that inspired Tom Jobim’s “Samba do Avião”

Tom Jobim was terrified of flying. He spent days dreading any travel that required him to take a plane, and usually needed a lot of cajoling from friends and family members before gathering the courage to board.

Upon arriving in New York in 1962 for the famous Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall show, he wrote to his wife Thereza about the “thousand years – An Eternity”  during the last leg of his journey from Brazil when he felt his plane was barely staying in the air. (A full section of the letter is translated below.) Soon after, Brazil’s Varig airline suffered a tragic accident in Lima, Peru, and Tom Jobim  played guitar for the Varig crew in New York City to try to cheer them up. Writing to Thereza about the scene, he wistfully remarked that he would be returning to Brazil by taxi.

Coupled with this crippling fear of flying was the euphoria he felt every time he survived a flight — a euphoria that was heightened when he was landing in his beloved Rio de Janeiro.  “Samba of the Airplane” was written about the joy that overwhelmed him when his plane was landing at Rio’s international airport, Galeão — now renamed “Galeão/Antônio Carlos Jobim.”

The song became a classic in the repertoire of the vocal group Os Cariocas. You can listen to their version here.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Minha alma canta
Vejo o Rio de Janeiro
Estou morrendo de saudades
Rio, seu mar
Praia sem fim
Rio, você foi feito prá mim
Cristo Redentor
Braços abertos sobre a Guanabara
Este samba é só porque
Rio, eu gosto de você
A morena vai sambar
Seu corpo todo balançar
Rio de sol, de céu, de mar
Dentro de mais um minuto estaremos no Galeão
Copacabana, Copacabana

Cristo Redentor
Braços abertos sobre a Guanabara
Este samba é só porque
Rio, eu gosto de você
A morena vai sambar
Seu corpo todo balançar
Aperte o cinto, vamos chegar
Água brilhando, olha a pista chegando
E vamos nós
Pousar…

 Tom’s letter to Thereza:

The DC-8 I came in was beautiful. Its wings have fingers, like a bird’s, which it uses to handle and oppose the wind. A giant aluminum bird. Me, alone, in an empty airplane.

From San Juan, Puerto Rico, to New York it’s a direct flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Well, two hours after taking off from San Juan, the bird (at midnight) started to jump. We were at 35,000 feet — the “fasten your seatbelts” sign lit up. After that, all of the lights went out — great, I thought, the fuse is blown.  Then, the pilot began to speak slowly, as if he were sleepy (how phony!)

 — “We have some turbulence… ahh, ahh, ahh … some strong winds, more or less 200 miles an hour … ahh, ahh, ahh… Coming from the Northeast … We’re going to slow down to get more… ahh, ahh, ahh…comfortable.”

He said that the wind was against us, which would make us late. The sounds from the jet-engines started to change, and the plane slowed down —  the bumps did, too. From the window (total darkness in the plane) I saw two thick flames that intermittently appeared and disappeared in the darkness. They beat like a heart, they seem like a live animal, breathing, and make the sound of a person panting after a run, right by your ear. Except you don’t hear the inhale, only the exhale: haaa – haaa-haaa…– the sound and the pause are about the same. The inhale is loud, and through the mouth — the pace is rigorous. The sound coincides with the flame. [A drawing of flames coming out of the plane’s three motors.]

There, a thousand years passed. An Eternity. I closed my eyes and saw the face of Beth [daughter] with the mumps. Beautiful as only she is.

The pilot continued making his small talk, acting like he was in striped pijamas and a wicker chair. He said, hour after hour, that we were 15 minutes away from the NY area. A roller-coaster with rubber tracks…. [infinity sign]… Finally,  the “NY area” arrived.  Thousands of lights, New Jersey, Manhattan — the giant bird was moving its fingers, going against the air, braking, descending — it rolled onto the runway, went into reverse thrust (already a familiar phenomenon for me. There were 4 landings that day — Brasilia – Port of Spain – San Juan, Puerto Rico – New York) and the hundred-and-fifty tons (air train) came to a stop.

 INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT OF IDLEWILD

The rest was cake…

[Carnegie Hall]

Main sources for this post: Antônio Carlos Jobim: Um Homem Iluminado  (pages 116-117 in Portuguese version), and  A Canção no tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985 by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello

Charles, Anjo 45

Lyrics from “Charles, Anjo 45” by Jorge Ben
Album: Jorge Ben (LP, 1969)

Oba, oba, oba Charles
What’s the deal
My friend Charles
How are things going Charles?

Charles, Angel 45
Protector of the weak
And the oppressed
Robin Hood of the hillsides
King of malandragem
A true man
With a lot of courage
Just because one day
Charles messed up
He went on vacation, without meaning to
To a penal colony

So the malandro fools
Laid down in the soup
And our hillside turned into a tremendous mess
Because the hillside, which was part of heaven
Without our Charles
Turned into a hell…

But God is just and truthful
And before vacation ends
Our Charles will return
Peace and happiness all over
Every hillside will dance samba
Starting Carnaval early
There will be batucada
A Thanksgiving mass
There will be feijoada
Whiskey with beer
And other trimmings…

Lots of firecrackers
And hailstorms of bullets
In the air
For the moment when our Charles
Comes back…

And all of the people, happy,
Will sing, like so…

Oba, oba, oba, Charles
What’s the deal
My friend Charles
How are things going Charles?

— Interpretation–

After Jorge Ben‘s initial success with his 1963 debut album Samba Esquema Novo, he went six years without producing a major hit.  Then he swept the Brazilian music scene again in 1969 with the release of the LP Jorge Ben, with hits including “Charles, Anjo 45,” “País Tropical” and “Que Pena.”

“Charles, Anjo 45” tells the tale of Charles — an angel with a .45,  a sort of Robinhood of the hillside slums who ends up “on vacation” at a penal colony. The rest of the song predicts the jubilation – including “storms of bullets” – that will mark Charles’s return.

The lyrics are longer, more narrative and more socially engaged than Jorge Ben’s previous successes. The song, which was Ben’s top self-performed hit from the LP, is considered a precursor to Bezerra da Silva‘s bitterly ironic sambas, and even rap,  with its partly recited lyrics that allude to the sad reality of the hillside slums being taken over by drugs and drug traffickers.

Caetano Veloso, a much more politically contentious figure than Jorge Ben Jor  (who declared himself apolitical from the start of his career)  also recorded the song in 1969, and it is often mistakenly attributed to him.  The military leaders loathed the song’s celebration of banditry (as they were wont to loathe anything Caetano did). Shortly thereafter, Caetano went into exile in London.

As in previous posts, I’ve left “malandro” and “malandragem” in Portuguese. Malandro is sometimes translated as “rogue” in English, and “malandragem” is the art of leading a malandro life, described in this post. “Oba” is an exclamation of contentment in Portuguese, and could be translated to something like “great!” The phrase “my friend Charles” is spoken in English in the original version. “Laid down in the soup” can be interpreted as “made a mess of things.”

Jorge Ben LP, 1969

The main source for this post was Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello’s A Canção no Tempo:85 anos de músicas brasileiras, vol. 2.