Saudade da Bahia

Lyrics from “Saudade da Bahia” by Dorival Caymmi (1957, Odeon)

1973 footage of Caymmi singing “Saudade da Bahia,” aired in a tribute after his death on Aug. 16, 2008:

Ai,  what longing I feel for Bahia
Ai, if I’d listened to what mama said
“Dear, don’t go leaving your mother worried
We do as our heart commands
But this world is made up of malice and illusion”
Ai, if I’d listened, today I wouldn’t suffer
Ai, from this longing in my breast
Ai, if feeling longing is some sort of defect
I at least deserve the right
To have someone with whom I can confess
Put yourself in my place, and look how an unhappy man suffers
He had to unburden himself
Telling everyone that which no one says
See, what a situation
And see how a poor heart suffers
That poor guy who believes
That glory and money bring happiness

— Interpretation —

Caymmi and his guitar, Rio de Janeiro, 1980

The Bahian singer-songwriter Dorival Caymmi (April 30, 1914 – August 16, 2008) wrote this samba on a melancholy, sultry summer day in Rio de Janeiro in 1947. Caymmi, “annoyed by the agitation of the city,” composed the lyrics in his head as he sat alone in Bar Bibi, in Leblon; he asked the barman for a piece of paper to write down the lyrics, so as not to forget them.

Original lyrics for “Saudade da Bahia,” written at Bar Bibi, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1947. In these lyrics a few words are different: Caymmi says “If I had thought…” which became “If I had listened,” and “…this emptiness in my breast” which turned into “this longing in my breast.” Source: Dorival Caymmi, O Mar e o Tempo

He then held on to the paper for ten years, reticent to share the raw, wistful lyrics with the public. After all, Caymmi prided himself on his optimism and his ability to deflect “brown and black feelings.” According to his wife Stella, he never complained.

These lyrics revealed a different side of him. Fortunately, as Stella observes in Dorival Caymmi: O Mar e o Tempo, it’s a side that everyone can identify with, which is part of what made the song such a timeless success (along with the beautifully matched melody and lyrics, she points out).

After Caymmi’s 1956 hit “Maracangalha,” Odeon Records director Aloysio de Oliveira was eager to release another sure-fire hit from Caymmi in 1957.  De Oliveira had heard “Saudade da Bahia” at Caymmi’s home, and insisted that the singer record the song. Caymmi resisted initially, but de Oliveira won out, and “Saudade da Bahia”was released in May of that year.

The song recalls a poem from 1859 written by one of Caymmi’s favorite poets, Casimiro de Abreu, called “Meus Oito Anos” (My eight years):  “Oh, what longing I feel/for the aurora of my life/Of my dear childhood/That the years won’t bring back.”

Of course, longing is a simplified translation of saudade, a word that encompasses feelings of yearning, longing, nostalgia, heartache, homesickness, and simply missing something — people, places, things, moments, etc.

Beloved Bahian singers Caetano Veloso, Dorival Caymmi, and Gilberto Gil at Copacabana Palace

Lyrics in Portuguese

Ai, ai que saudade eu tenho da Bahia
Ai, se eu escutasse o que mamãe dizia
“Bem, não vá deixar a sua mãe aflita
A gente faz o que o coração dita
Mas esse mundo é feito de maldade e ilusão”
Ai, se eu escutasse hoje não sofria
Ai, esta saudade dentro do meu peito
Ai, se ter saudade é ter algum defeito
Eu pelo menos, mereço o direito
De ter alguém com quem eu possa me confessar
Ponha-se no meu lugar
E veja como sofre um homem infeliz
Que teve que desabafar
Dizendo a todo mundo o que ninguém diz
Vejam que situação
E vejam como sofre um pobre coração
Pobre de quem acretida
Na glória e no dinheiro para ser feliz

Main sources for this post:  Dorival Caymmi: O Mar e o Tempo by Stella Caymmi, and A Canção no Tempo:  85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 1: 1901 -1957 by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello

Camisa Amarela

Lyrics from “Camisa Amarela” by Ary Barroso (1939)

Original Recording by Araci de Almeida:

1956 Recording by Ary Barroso:

I found my man in the avenue
In a yellow shirt
Singing Florisbela, ah, Florisbela
I invited him to come home in my company
He showed me an ironic smile
And disappeared in the tumult of the gallery

He wasn’t well at all, my man, in truth
He was rather tipsy, loaded, wasted
He went staggering around
Finishing himself off on the rope
With the reco-reco in his hand
Later on I found him in a cheap café in Largo da Lapa
A full-blooded reveler, drinking his fourth cup of cachaça
And this is no joke

He came back at 7 a.m.
But just on Wednesday
Singing Jardineira, ohh, Jardineira
He asked me, still reeling, for a cup of water with baking soda

My man was really bad, cause he fell into bed
And didn’t even take off his shoes

And he snored a week, woke up in a bad mood
And tried to fight with me
What trouble, but I don’t mind!
My man conquers me, he captivates me – he’s the one

That’s why I let it slide
He took the shirt, the yellow shirt
And set fire to it
That’s how I like him
Once playtime’s over and he’s just for me
My Senhor de Bomfim

— Interpretation —

The female protagonist in this song tells a tale about finding her man — in the Portuguese lyrics, literally her “piece” (pedaço) — drunk in the avenue during Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.  The song was released in 1939, and the protagonist mentions two Carnaval hits from that year, “Florisbela” and “Jardineira.” The mention of those songs — along with Rio’s Carnaval landmarks: Largo da Lapa, the Avenue (Rio Branco) and the Gallery (Cruzeiro) —  bring the story to life.  The reco-reco is a noisemaker, played by scraping a stick over notches in the hollow instrument (pictured below). The rope mentioned in the song is the rope used to cordon off Carnaval parades.

A young Brazilian boy playing the reco-reco during a Carnaval festival

Araci de Almeida released the song in 1939, and in 1956, Ary Barroso recorded it himself, unfazed by its feminine voice.

Eleven years later, Chico Buarque released his first song written from a female point of view, “Com Açucar e com Afeto,” on the LP Chico Buarque de Hollanda 2. Chico, who was just 23 at the time, said he was worried everyone would think he was gay if he sang the song himself, so it was recorded by a woman. Later on, Chico heard Ary Barroso’s recording of “Camisa Amarela” and decided it was fine for him to sing in a female voice.  He quickly became renowned for his lyrics written from a female point of view, including “Olhos nos Olhos,” “Folhetim,” “Tatuagem,” and “Anna de Amsterdam.” (He has attributed his talent for writing songs from a feminine perspective to the number of women in his life: his former wife Marieta, his three daughters, their friends, and the household’s maids.)

“Camisa amarela” speaks to the hardships suffered by women in Brazil’s mid-20th century machista society.  The protagonist in the song resigns herself to being happy with her husband’s attention whenever he’s not out partying; he returns home on Wednesday – the end of Carnaval –  and she takes care of him in his drunken state, pleased just to have him around again.  (Chico’s songs with female protagonists, or those written about women, frequently address the same issues – often ironically.)

Ary Barroso (1903 – 1964) is widely considered the greatest master of Brazilian popular music, alongside Pixinguinha. Born in Ubá, Minas Gerais, his mother and father both died when he was just eight years old, and he went into his maternal grandmother’s care. He began playing piano and first appeared in public at age 12, in Ubá’s cinema Ideal. When he was seventeen, an uncle died and left him an inheritance, which he used to go to Rio de Janeiro.  He began law school, but ran out of money after the first two years, and started playing piano around Rio de Janeiro to support himself.

Carmen Miranda incorporated many of Barroso’s songs into her repertoire.

Ary had written his first song, “De longe,” at age 15, and shortly after, “Ubaenses Carnavalescos,” and he began to write more during his years in Rio. He was hired by the maestro Sebastião Cirino to play in Cirino’s orchestra, and made enough money to go back to law school in 1926. In 1929, Ary finished law school and had his first hit song: “Vamos deixar de intimidade,”  recorded by his friend and classmate Mário Reis. The same year, he entered and won first place in Casa Edison‘s contest for Carnaval songs with “Dá Nela,” and used the prize money to marry Ivone Belforte de Arantes.

Ary Barroso at Radio Tupi

Renato Murce invited Ary to work at Radio Philips in 1932, and throughout the 1930s, Ary worked as a commentator, comedian, and musician on a number of radio stations. In 1938, he composed the hit “Na baixa do sapateiro,” which Carmen Miranda recorded; in 1939, he released “Aquarela do Brasil,” sung by Francisco Alves, which was a hit in Brazil and abroad, recorded by the most esteemed singers around the world. “Aquarela do Brasil” was considered the first song in an entirely new genre, called  samba de exaltação — samba songs that sang praise of Brazil, which were popular with Getulio Vargas. (For more on this, see this post on “Aquarela brasileira.“)

Ary’s international fame grew with his soundtrack for Walt Disney’s movie The Three Caballeros (in Brazil, entitled Você já foi a Bahia?), and he spent much of 1944 in the United States, where he composed the theme song to Three Little Girls in Blue

Preoccupied with keeping samba “authentic,” Ary was a vocal critic of bossa nova and its “American chords.” Nonetheless, João Gilberto made a hit – a second time around – of Ary’s song “É luxo só” when he sang it bossa-nova style on his debut album, Chega de saudade. 

Ary Barroso died of liver cirrhosis in February, 1964, during the Carnaval in which Império Serrano paid tribute to him with the samba “Aquarela brasileira.” Since his death, his songs have been rerecorded by many of Brazil’s best-loved voices, including Gal Costa, Elis Regina, Paulinho da Viola, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, and Tom Jobim.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Encontrei o meu pedaço na avenida
De camisa amarela
Cantando a Florisbela, oi, a Florisbela
Convidei-o a voltar pra casa
Em minha companhia
Exibiu-me um sorriso de ironia
Desapareceu no turbilhão da galeria

Não estava nada bom
O meu pedaço na verdade
Estava bem mamado
Bem chumbado, atravessado
Foi por aí cambaleando
Se acabando num cordão
Com o reco-reco na mão
Mais tarde o encontrei
Num café zurrapa
Do Largo da Lapa
Folião de raça
Tomando o quarto copo de cachaça
Isto não é chalaça

Voltou às sete horas da manhã
Mas só na quarta feira
Cantando A Jardineira, oi, A Jardineira
Me pediu ainda zonzo
Um copo d’água com bicarbonato

O meu pedaço estava ruim de fato
Pois caiu na cama
E não tirou nem o sapato

E roncou uma semana
Despertou mal humorado
Quis brigar comigo
Que perigo, mas não ligo!
O meu pedaço me domina
Me fascina, ele é o tal

Por isso não levo a mal
Pegou a camisa, a camisa amarela
E botou fogo nela
Gosto dele assim
Passada a brincadeira
E ele é pra mim
Meu Sinhô do Bonfim

Main sources for this post: Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira, by Ary Vasconcelos (1964); Chico Buarque: Análise poético-musical by Gilberto de Carvalho (1982); and A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 1, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (1997)


Lyrics from “Acontece” by Cartola
Album: Cartola (1974)

Good Audio Version (Cida Moreira)  and Cartola

Forget our love, go on and forget it
Because everything in the world happens,
And it so happens that I don’t know how to love anymore
You’ll cry, you’ll suffer, and you don’t deserve it,
But it happens

It so happens that my heart went cold
And our nest of love is empty
If I were still able to pretend I love you,
Oh if only I were able…
But I don’t want to, I oughtn’t do that
That won’t happen

— Interpretation —

Paulinho da Viola, Aracy de Almeida, Albino Pinheiro, Carlos Cachaça, Cartola, and Clementina de Jesus.

On December 7, 1980, a week after Cartola passed away in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian TV program Fantástico aired footage from 1977 in which Cartola said he would like to be remembered, “years and years later,” by the song “Acontece.” (This YouTube video shows Fantastico’s homage to Cartola, which includes Paulinho da Viola singing “Acontece” with Cartola by his side in 1977, and a group of Rio de Janeiro’s most beloved sambistas singing him “Samba for Cartola” in 1979.) Acontece was also the name Cartola gave to his first round of solo performances, which were at Rio’s Teatro da Galeria in 1978 — just two years before his death.

In a previous post, I briefly mentioned Cartola’s mysterious disappearance from Rio’s samba scene at the end of the 1940s, after the death of his companion Deolinda. Here’s what happened during those years when many believed Cartola had died:

Immediately after Deolinda’s death, Cartola went on composing. He wrote “Rolam meus olhos” and “Sim” in response to her passing, and for Carnaval 1948 composed the samba-enredo  “Vale São Francisco” with his friend and partner Carlos Cachaça. That was the last samba-enredo the two composed together, and the last Carnaval that Cartola marched with Mangueira samba school to a song he’d written.  Mangueira’s new president, Hermes Rodrigues, didn’t like Cartola; Cartola became frustrated, and had a falling out with the school he had founded.  Shortly after, he disappeared from Mangueira.

Reflecting on those years, Cartola remarked, “I had been sick, and then I lost my first wife and ended up mixing myself up in some business that it’s not even worth mentioning. I ended up wasting six or seven years of my life… It was something that happened to me that could happen to anyone. I hid myself from everyone.”   Asked where he had been,  Cartola said “I didn’t disappear! I was with that woman, I gave up everything for that woman; I even gave up music, I stopped playing guitar!”

That woman was Donária, whom Cartola took up with after Deolinda’s death. The two moved in together in another Rio de Janeiro neighborhood, Caju, much to the chagrin of Carlos Cachaça, who remarked, “I would go a lot to the Manilha favela, in Caju, going after Cartola. He was with that big fat woman, Donária. What’s more, Cartola had the hots for fat women. And at the time, he was a bit of a vagrant. That woman wasn’t for him, God save me. But he was in love with her. And she was crazy for Mário de Aurora, from Mangueira. She would leave Cartola alone in Manilha and come here chasing after Mário.”

Cartola and Zica pictured in the window of the home they built together in Mangueira.

Fortunately, Zica — a lifetime acquaintance from Mangueira, and sister of Carlos Cachaça’s wife, Menina — fell in love with Cartola even at this low point in his life. In 1953 she went to live with him in Manilha for a couple of months, and then brought him back to Mangueira. She encouraged Cartola to continue composing and playing guitar. Still, Cartola maintained a low profile, until one fortuitous night in 1956 when he was rediscovered by the journalist Sérgio Porto at a café in Ipanema. Cartola was working nightshifts at an Ipanema carwash, and went to have a quick drink at the café; Porto spotted him and grew ecstatic. Porto and his friends, enamored of the samba master they referred to as “the Divine One” (“o Divino”), quickly reintroduced Cartola to Rio’s samba circuit, where he remained a central figure until his death in 1980.

Lyrics in Portuguese:

Esquece o nosso amor, vê se esquece.
Porque tudo na vida acontece
E acontece que eu já não sei mais amar.
Vai sofrer, vai chorar, e você não merece,
Mas isso acontece.
Acontece que o meu coração ficou frio
E o nosso ninho de amor está vazio.
Se eu ainda pudesse fingir que te amo,
Ah, se eu pudesse
Mas não posso, não devo fazê-lo,
Isso não acontece.

Main source for this post:  Cartola: Os Tempos Idos, by Marília Barboza da Silva and Arthur de Oliveira Filho