Solução da Vida

Lyrics to “Solução da Vida” by Paulinho da Viola
Album: Bebadosamba (1996)


Good Audio Version

I believed in passion, and passion showed me that I’d lost my reason
I believed in reason, and reason turned out to be a great illusion
I believed in destiny, and let myself be carried along, and in the end
Everything’s a lost dream, mere folly, too many sorrows

Today with my disillusions I begin to think
That in life, passion and reason both have their place
And that’s why I tell you that it’s not necessary to seek a solution for life
It’s not an equation, it doesn’t have to be solved

Life, therefore, my friend, has no solution

— Interpretation —

Paulinho da Viola, one of Brazil’s most beloved sambistas.

Paulinho da Viola‘s lighthearted observations on life are one of the most charming parts of his music.  In this song, he encourages  listeners to stop trying to figure out their lives. In another, “Num Samba Curto” – which is often paired with this song in spoken word as “Molejo Dialético” (very roughly, “Dialectical Flair”)  – he concludes, “No one can explain life in a short samba song.”

In the documentary Paulinho da Viola: Meu Tempo é Hoje, he remarks that he doesn’t understand what it means to feel saudade, the Portuguese word that expresses feelings of yearning, longing, nostalgia, heartache, homesickness, and simply missing something — people, places, things, moments, etc.  Portuguese-speakers are almost universally proud to embrace the word saudade as one of the world’s most untranslatable and beautiful concepts. But Paulinho da Viola declares, “I think this thing of saudade, which is something I don’t feel, I’m unable to feel,  I’m not even talking about nostalgia, but saudade itself  – it annuls history, annuls life, places it in a separate time, something that we no longer have. And I don’t think like that.”

Later, he expands on this thought: “When I say I don’t feel saudade, it’s in a broader sense… it’s that thing of clinging to a given moment, as if you wanted to go back in time… My time is now. I don’t live in the past. The past lives in me.”

(But of course he has plenty of songs in which he sings quite convincingly about saudade.)

Lyrics in Portuguese

Acreditei na paixão
E a paixão me mostrou
Que eu não tinha razão

Acreditei na razão
E a razão se mostrou
Uma grande ilusão

Acreditei no destino
E deixei-me levar
E no fim
Tudo é sonho perdido
Só desatino, dores demais

Hoje com meus desenganos
Me ponho a pensar
Que na vida, paixão e razão,
Ambas têm seu lugar

E por isso eu lhe digo
Que não é preciso
Buscar solução para a vida
Ela não é uma equação
Não tem que ser resolvida

A vida, portanto, meu caro,
Não tem solução

Conversa de Botequim

Lyrics from “Conversa de Botequim” by Noel Rosa and Vadico (1935)


Good Audio Version

Mister Waiter, do me a favor and bring me hurriedly
A good coffee that’s not reheated
Some bread, nice and warm, with plenty of butter
A napkin and a cup of chilled water
Close the door on the right, carefully,
As I’m not inclined to be exposed to the sun
And go ask your customer there the result of the football match.

If you go on cleaning the table, I’m not getting up nor will I pay the bill
Go ask your boss for a pen, an inkwell, an envelope and a card
Don’t forget to give me toothpicks, and a cigarette to scare the mosquitoes
Go tell the cigar maker to lend me some magazines, a lighter and an ashtray

Mister Waiter, do me a favor and bring me hurriedly
A good coffee that’s not reheated
Some bread, nice and warm, with plenty of butter
A napkin and a cup of chilled water
Close the door on the right, carefully,
As I’m not inclined to be exposed to the sun
And go ask your customer there the result of the football match.

Call, at least once, to three-four- four- three-three-three
And tell Mr. Osório to send me an umbrella here in our office
Mister Waiter, lend me some money, cause I left mine with the bicheiro
Go tell your manager to hang this tab on the hanger up front

Mister Waiter, do me a favor and bring me hurriedly
A good coffee that’s not reheated
Some bread, nice and warm, with plenty of butter
A napkin and a cup of chilled water
Close the door on the right, carefully,
As I’m not inclined to be exposed to the sun
And go ask your customer there the result of the football match.

— Interpretation —

Noel Rosa, known as “o poeta da Vila” – the poet from Vila Isabel.

Nearly eighty years after its release, “Conversa de Botequim” (roughly, bar talk) is still considered one of the most astute and poetic observations on carioca society in Brazilian popular music. Written by Noel Rosa, whom Ary Vasconcellos calls “without a doubt, the greatest name in samba carioca,” the song spiritedly satirizes a quotidian scene in Rio de Janeiro in the 1920s and 1930s that resonates today.

Noel Rosa c. 1936.

Noel Rosa (1910 – 1937) had a face that was badly deformed from an accident right after his birth.  Likely as a result, he spent much of his brief adult life in dimly lit bars and cafés in Rio de Janeiro, and became familiar with their clientele.  This song pokes fun at a customer who acts as if he owns the establishment just because he’s buying a measly coffee and bread. After making a litany of absurd requests of a waiter he addresses with a phony reverence, and referring to the bar as his “office,” the customer says he’s going to have to put the meal on his tab (from Portuguese, this line translates literally to “hang it on the hanger”) since he left his money with the bicheiro – the local boss of the Jogo do Bicho, a popular nationwide lottery allowing bets as low as a cent.

The character is Rosa’s depiction – or mild caricature – of the typical carioca malandro, the likes of which Rosa had little patience for. (The concept of the malandro is explained in this post.) The listener can infer that the character gets by day-to-day with this kind of idle talk and maybe some winnings from the Jogo do Bicho.

The song is also acclaimed for its perfectly matched syncopated melody, by Vadico.  And though many artists went on to record it, Zuza Homem de Mello and Jairo Severiano remark that Rosa’s recording (both versions above) is the best, “because he ‘speaks’ the lyrics with the same naturalness with which a malandro would give all of those orders to a bar waiter.”

Lyrics in Portuguese

Seu garçom, faça o favor de me trazer depressa
Uma boa média que não seja requentada
Um pão bem quente com manteiga à beça
Um guardanapo e um copo d’água bem gelada
Feche a porta da direita com muito cuidado
Que não estou disposto a ficar exposto ao sol
Vá perguntar ao seu freguês do lado
Qual foi o resultado do futebol

Se você ficar limpando a mesa
Não me levanto nem pago a despesa
Vá pedir ao seu patrão
Uma caneta, um tinteiro
Um envelope e um cartão
Não se esqueça de me dar palitos
E um cigarro pra espantar mosquitos
Vá dizer ao charuteiro
Que me empreste umas revistas
Um isqueiro e um cinzeiro

Seu garçom, faça o favor de me trazer depressa
Uma boa média que não seja requentada
Um pão bem quente com manteiga à beça
Um guardanapo e um copo d’água bem gelada
Feche a porta da direita com muito cuidado
Que estou disposto a ficar exposto ao sol
Vá perguntar ao seu freguês do lado
Qual foi o resultado do futebol

Telefone ao menos uma vez
Para três quatro, quatro, três, três, três
E ordene ao seu Osório
Que me mande um guarda-chuva
Aqui pro nosso escritório
Seu garçom me empresta algum dinheiro
Que eu deixei o meu com o bicheiro
Vá dizer ao seu gerente
Que pendure esta despesa
No cabide ali em frente

Seu garçom, faça o favor de me trazer depressa
Uma boa média que não seja requentada
Um pão bem quente com manteiga à beça
Um guardanapo e um copo d’água bem gelada
Feche a porta da direita com muito cuidado
Que não estou disposto a ficar exposto ao sol
Vá perguntar ao seu freguês do lado
Qual foi o resultado do futebol

Main sources for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 1: 1901 – 1957 by Zuza Homem de Mello and Jairo Severiano (1997), and Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira, vol. 2, by Ary Vasconcellos (1964)

Conceição

Lyrics to “Conceição” by Dunga and Jairo Amorim, interpreted by Cauby Peixoto (1956)


Good Audio Version

Conceição, I remember so well
Lived up on the hillside, dreaming of things the hillside doesn’t have

That was when, way up there, someone appeared
And told her to smile, and that going down to the city, she would really ascend

If she ascended, nobody knows, nobody saw
Because today her name’s been changed and she’s taken strange paths

I only know that trying to ascend she was brought down
And today she would give a million to be Conceição once again

— Interpretation —

Cauby Peixoto in 1958

“Conceição” was the top hit of 1956 in Brazil, much thanks to Cauby Peixoto’s legendary interpretation – still the most famous and beloved song in his repertoire.  Dunga (Valdemar de Abreu) composed the melody and Jair Amorim wrote the lyrics, which addressed a situation that was becoming increasingly common in Brazilian cities at the time:  young women selling themselves to escape the misery of the rapidly expanding favelas. (For more on the growth of favelas from the 1930s – 1980s, look at this post on “O Meu Guri.”) The girl’s name, before it’s changed, is deeply religious, taken from the Immaculate Conception. The lyrics were written in what Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello call a “picturesque style,” captivating listeners across Brazil.

Cauby Peixoto was born on February 10, 1931, in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Much of his family was involved in music in Rio de Janeiro: His father, Cadete, was a guitar player, and his uncle was the famous pianist Nonô, known for popularizing samba on the piano. Cauby’s cousin was the acclaimed singer Ciro Monteiro (1913-1973), who sang many Carnival hits alongside Carmen Miranda, Francisco Alves, and Mário Reis, and who was best known for playing his percussion on a matchbox.

Peixoto began singing in the choir at the Salesian school where he studied in Niterói, and in 1949 he began participating in amateur radio contests in Rio de Janeiro, which launched his career as a crooner.  He released his first album in 1951, with the samba “Saia branca,” by Geraldo Medeiros, and the march “Ai, que carestia!” by Victor Simon and Liz Monteiro. Shortly thereafter, he moved to São Paulo, where he began singing at bars Arpege and Oásis, and on Rádio Excelsior.  He impressed the musical marking mogul Di Veras with his ability to sing in English, and Veras helped Peixoto create a stage persona and develop a repertoire that included covers of American hits such as “New York, New York.” Peixoto was also one of the first Brazilian musicians to record rock and roll, testing the market in the country before more proper rock musicians began to emerge. After Time Magazine labeled him the “Brazilian Elvis Presley,” he was invited to the United States, where he recorded an album in English under the name Ron Coby. The album included his English version of the popular Brazilian song Maracangalha:

Twenty years after the release of “Conceição,” Jorge Ben wrote a song telling a similar tale, but this time with a happy ending —  “Jesualda.” Jesualda, meaning “she who believes in Christ,” is also drawn to go down from the hilltop (where she’s “up high, but not on top”) to find work in the city. But Jesualda – who could be considered Jorge Ben’s portrayal of the second generation of favelados  –  “has completed primary school,” and is able to find work as a maid. And even that doesn’t last too long: A rich man sees her at a bus stop, falls in love and marries her, and they move abroad. Jorge Ben is known for defending favelados in his music, as he did most expressly with “Charles, Anjo 45.”

Cauby Peixoto still sings regularly at Bar Brahma in São Paulo, where he’s almost always sure to sing “Conceição.”

Cauby Peixoto in 2010, nearing his 80th birthday.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Conceição
Eu me lembro muito bem
Vivia no morro a sonhar
Com coisas que o morro não tem

Foi então
Que lá em cima apareceu
Alguém que lhe disse a sorrir
Que, descendo à cidade, ela iria subir

Se subiu
Ninguém sabe, ninguém viu
Pois hoje o seu nome mudou
E estranhos caminhos pisou

Só eu sei
Que tentando a subida desceu
E agora daria um milhão
Para ser outra vez Conceição

Main source for this post:  A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, Vol 1: 1901-1957