Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega

Lyrics from Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega by Paulinho da Viola (1967)

Good Audio Version (Paulinho da Viola)

Today I came, my nega
As I come whenever I can
In my mouth, the same words; in my heart, the same remorse,
In my hands the same violin where I carved your name (repeat)

I left the samba a long time ago, nega
I kept stopping along the way
First I came upon Zé Fuleiro, who spoke to me of malady
Said luck never comes for him, he has no love and no money
He asked if I didn’t have any to spare
So I plucked on the guitar, I sang a samba for him
It was a syncopated samba that poked fun at his bad luck

Today I came, my nega, to walk around with you
To try in your arms to make a pure samba of love
With no melody or words so as not to lose virtue (repeat)

Later I came across Seu Bento, nega
Who’d been drinking all night
He stretched out on the sidewalk, without the will to do anything
He forgot about the agreement he’d made with his wife:
To never arrive in the middle of night and to stop drinking cachaça
She even made an oath, was punished and repented
I sang a samba for him, he smiled and fell asleep

Today I came, my nega, wanting that smile
That you give to the sky when I squeeze you in my arms
Take care with my guitar, my love and my weariness  (repeat)

Finally I came upon a body, nega, lit up around it
They said it was something silly — one guy wished to be better
Neither love nor money was the cause of the argument
It was just a pandeiro that ended up on the ground
I didn’t get out my guitar; I stopped, I looked, I left
No one would comprehend a samba at that time

Today I came, my nega, knowing nothing of life
Wishing to learn with you the way to live
These things are in the world, it’s just that I need to learn [them] (repeat)

— Interpretation —

Paulinho da Viola c. 1970. Image via Veja.
Paulinho da Viola c. 1970. Image via Veja.

“It is, of my sambas, the one I like the most,” Paulinho da Viola once said of Coisas do mundo minha nega. He lists it among the few compositions that he feels perfectly pleased with from start to finish.

Cervantes Bar in Copacabana, where Paulinho da Viola worked on the lyrics to "Coisas do mundo, minha nega". Photo via
Cervantes Bar in Copacabana, where Paulinho da Viola worked on the lyrics to “Coisas do mundo, minha nega”. Photo via

The song tells the story of a man who arrives home and tells his wife about the places he’s passed through. (Nega is his wife – nega, or nego, is a term of endearment in Portuguese which comes from the word negra/negro, but no longer indicates the person’s race.)  It was inspired after Paulinho da Viola walked through Morro do Salgueiro one night and passed by a wake, where a group of boys was playing with the corpse of a young man. The man had been killed by his girlfriend’s father, who didn’t approve of the relationship. Shaken by the scene, Paulinho da Viola couldn’t sleep that night, and he wrote these verses, in which he relates a number of vignettes and then concludes to his wife that he still needs to learn a thing or two about life with her.  At first he worried the song was too long, but he brought the lyrics to Cervantes Bar in Copacabana and edited them to perfection with the help of friends.

The song was Paulinho’s entry in the 1968 First Biannual Samba Festival (I Bienal do Samba).  Producers at TV Record, led by Solano Ribeiro, decided to host the samba festival in response to criticism that their annual MPB Festivals snubbed the genre. On the rare occasions when a samba made it into the final rounds of the contest, it was invariably among the lowest ranked. Continue reading “Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega”