Canto do povo de um lugar

Lyrics from “Canto do povo de um lugar” by Caetano Veloso (1975)

Good Audio Version (Pena Branca and Xavantinho with Renato Teixeira)

Every day the sun rises
And we sing to the sun of each day

Late afternoon, the land blushes
And we weep because the afternoon is gone

When it’s night, the gentle moon
And we dance, worshiping the night

Late at night, sky of stars
And we sleep, dreaming of them

— Interpretation —

The album cover for Caetano Veloso's 1975 album Jóia features the sun and moon,birds, and Caetano looking primitive.
The album cover for Caetano Veloso’s 1975 album Jóia features the sun, moon, birds, and Caetano looking primitive.

Caetano Veloso recorded “Canto do povo de um lugar” – which translates to “Song of a people from a place” – for his 1975 album Jóia.  The song’s folkloric style and lyrics evoke, or even exalt, a simple rural way of life that revolves around the sun, moon and stars. In this way, the song combines Caetano’s nostalgic style and his tendency at the time to focus on metaphysical wonders and people’s veneration of nature.

The song’s style and theme also held an element of protest.  In 1975, the country’s military leaders were consumed with a pursuit of economic growth and full industrialization at whatever cost, and the lives of well-to-do urbanites seemed governed by stiff conventions and material acquisitions. Between 1968 and 1973 – some of the most repressive years of military rule – Brazil’s economy grew at an average rate of over 10 percent. Leaders and the press called it the “Brazilian miracle.” Meanwhile, the country’s wealth became more highly concentrated, and rural populations suffered from both destitution and discrimination. Popular singers including Caetano Veloso, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil and Geraldo Vandré  incorporated themes of regional, backcountry life in their music, and performed and praised the music of Luiz Gonzaga – whom Gil called the first spokesperson for the marginalized culture of the northeast – in large measure to draw attention to the plight of rural populations.

Still, “Canto do povo de um lugar” tends more toward nostalgia and wonder than protest, and since its release it has become a treasured folk song in Brazil.

The album Jóia comprises mostly serene acoustic recordings like this one, which, along with others on the LP – “Na asa do vento” (On the wind’s wing), “Asa, asa” (Wing, wing), and “Lua, lua lua” (Moon, moon, moon) – express a reverence for nature and its relationship with music, rhythm and song.  The latter two also illustrate Caetano’s affinity with the concrete poetry movement. In “Asa, asa,” the word “passaro” (bird) serves as the song’s foundation; it is repeated over and over paired with different words or split in different ways so as to make the narrative flow over the backdrop of an unvarying beat. “Lua, lua, lua” recalls the poem “branco…” by one of the leaders of the movement, Haroldo de Campos.

In the versions of “Canto do povo de um lugar” linked above the final verse is left out.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Todo dia o sol levanta
E a gente canta
Ao sol de todo dia

Fim da tarde a terra cora
E a gente chora
Porque finda a tarde

Quando a noite a lua mansa
E a gente dança
Venerando a noite

Madrugada, céu de estrelas
E a gente dorme
sonhando com elas.

Main sources for this post:  Balanço da Bossa e outras bossas by Augusto de Campos and Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: 1965 – 1985 by Charles Perrone

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