Quando o Carnaval Chegar

Lyrics from “Quando o Carnaval Chegar” by Chico Buarque (1972)



Good Audio Version (Chico Buarque)

For those who see me just standing there, distant
Who guarantee I don’t know how to samba
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes

I’m just watching, knowing, feeling, hearing – and I can’t speak
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
I see the china legs of the girl who passes – and I can’t touch
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
How long I’ve desired her kiss, wet with passionfruit
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes

And for those who offend me, humiliate me, step on me
Thinking I’ll put up with it
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
And for those who see me taking beatings in life
Who doubt I’ll reply in kind
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
I see the first beam of day emerging, asking us to sing
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes

I have so much joy postponed, suffocated
Oh what I’d give to scream

I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes…

— Interpretation —

Album cover for the soundtrack to the 1972 musical Quando o Carnaval Chegar

Album cover for the soundtrack to the 1972 musical Quando o Carnaval Chegar.

In 1972, Brazil was in the midst of the period known as the Anos de Chumbo (Years of Lead) following the decree of Institutional Act 5 (AI-5) at the end of 1968.  The president, military general Emílio Médici, was one of the most repressive of the military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 – 1985.  As Médici stepped up censorship, repression, persecution and torture in his ostensible effort to prepare Brazil for a return to democracy, he boasted of the “Brazilian Miracle” – consecutive years of annual GDP growth surpassing 10% – in spite of figures showing skyrocketing poverty and inequality in the country.

Meanwhile, by 1972 a number of artists who had left Brazil in fear or protest in the wake of AI-5  had returned from exile, and were doing their best to produce music and films (and thus make a living) despite these inauspicious conditions.  Chico Buarque had returned from exile in Italy in 1970; Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were back from London; and likewise,  Carlos “Cacá” Diegues, the celebrated Cinema Novo director, and his wife, singer Nara Leão (known as the “muse of bossa nova”) were  back in Brazil after over a year in Paris.

Maria Bethânia and Chico on the painted schoolbus.

Maria Bethânia and Chico on the painted schoolbus.

Diegues enlisted Buarque’s help to write the soundtrack for his experimental musical Quando o Carnaval Chegar , (full movie available here – but without subtitles) and this song was the title track.  Buarque starred in the musical alongside Caetano’s sister, Maria Bethânia, and Nara Leão. The three singers play a hapless trio of radio performers who spend much of their time riding a painted school bus around Brazil. They’re driven by Cuíca, a black cuíca player from the favela, and guided by the whims of their slick, flamboyant producer, Lourival, who has arranged for them to sing at a “party for a king” and struggles to keep the troupe together for the party in spite of new loves, jealousies and broken hearts. The movie portrays the extravagance and false hopes of the so-called Brazilian Miracle years and the anticipation of new beginnings with the arrival of Carnival. It is the only Cinema Novo musical, and a chanchada a campy musical comedy style that was popular in Brazil from the 1930s – 1950s.

Diegues was aligned politically and artistically with the  Centro Popular de Culturaa collective of artists who sought to create a “democratic national popular culture” by  educating the popular classes through revolutionary art. To that end,  he attempted to appeal to a wide audience with his movies, thus drawing criticism from factions of the political left who favored ideological purity at the expense of popular appeal in the arts. In 1978, Diegues stirred up controversy when he referred to such critics as “ideological patrols.”  Regardless, this film was not Diegues’s greatest success with critics or crowds. But the title track has become one of Chico Buarque’s best loved songs in Brazil, even more so in the weeks preceding Carnival.

The song begins by contrasting the singer’s subdued, somber, and highly restricted day-to-day existence with the liberty that Carnival will bring. The metaphors for censorship and repression – and the euphoria that will come when the offenders get their comeuppance and all of this “postponed joy” is released – grow clearer at the end of the song, and recall Chico’s most famous protest song (which he calls his only true protest song), Apesar de você.”

These days, outside of its original political context, the song represents a larger, universal human sentiment of yearning for a more carefree life where sensibility, sincerity and personal liberty are supreme.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Quem me vê sempre parado,
Distante garante que eu não sei sambar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu tô só vendo, sabendo,
Sentindo, escutando e não posso falar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu vejo as pernas de louça
Da moça que passa e não posso pegar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Há quanto tempo desejo seu beijo
Molhado de maracujá…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

E quem me ofende, humilhando, pisando,
Pensando que eu vou aturar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

E quem me vê apanhando da vida,
Duvida que eu vá revidar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu vejo a barra do dia surgindo,
Pedindo pra gente cantar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu tenho tanta alegria, adiada,
Abafada, quem dera gritar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar…

Main sources for this post: Revolução do Cinema Novo by Glauber Rocha; Chico Buarque do Brasil, ed. Rinaldo de Fernandes; Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization, ed. Charles Perrone and Christopher Dunn; and this blog post.

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About lyricalbrazil

My name is Victoria Broadus and in early 2012 I moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Brazil - first São Paulo, and now Rio de Janeiro. I began studying Portuguese while working toward a Master's degree in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University, and have since become fluent. I love Brazilian music and want to be able to share it with more people, so I'm working on translating songs to English and providing some contextual interpretation and stories about the songs and the musicians.
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2 Responses to Quando o Carnaval Chegar

  1. charles andrew says:

    Keep up the good work. Great choice.

    (parado, = just standing there?)

  2. Hm, yeah, I had just standing there (or standing still), but decided – only because he’s sitting while singing that part in the movie – that maybe I should just keep it as still, not necessarily standing. But I think you’re right — it sounds better as standing there. Thanks for the suggestion, and for reading.

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