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

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.

The TV Record festivals took place in São Paulo and the absence or undervaluing of samba was symptomatic of a disconnect and distrust between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. What’s more, these festivals – which contestants had to sign up for via open registration – tended to repel classic sambistas because of the tradition of booing and hissing throughout the presentations. The festivals attracted a young and electrically politicized audience hungry for songs spurning the country’s military dictatorship. Sambistas whose often apolitical or just subtly political sambas would not have pleased the young, electrically politicized crowd feared the jeers they might face were they to participate, so they didn’t sign up.

To ensure participation, the I Bienal do Samba was organized by invitation, rather than open registration. A committee of fifteen at TV Record picked the musicians who would be invited to compete for a golden trophy and 20,000 cruzeiros novos (the equivalent of approximately $75,000 today).

Paulinho da Viola submitted Coisas do mundo, minha nega and Jair Rodrigues sang it. Rodrigues removed his painfully tight shoes right before performing, and commentators speculated that this would hurt Paulinho da Viola’s chances. But after the samba Foi Ela by Synval and Zé Keti was disqualified (it’d already been released in the 1957 movie Rio, Zone Norte), Coisas do mundo, minha nega made it into the final round.

Paulinho da Viola went to São Paulo to watch the performance. He hid behind a column in the audience, and was pleasantly surprised to see Chico Buarque’s sisters raise up a banner for Coisas do mundo, minha nega when his song was up. Lapinha, an audience favorite, ended up taking the title, with Coisas do mundo, minha nega coming in sixth.  But Coisas do mundo, minha nega has become recognized among critics and the public alike as one of the most pristine samba compositions ever written.

Paulinho da Viola performs Coisas do mundo, minha nega in 1980:

Lyrics in Portuguese

Hoje eu vim minha nega
Como venho quando posso
Na boca as mesmas palavras
No peito o mesmo remorso
Nas mãos a mesma viola onde eu gravei o teu nome (bis)
Venho do samba há tempo, nega
Venho parando por ai
Primeiro achei zé fuleiro que me falou de doença
Que a sorte nunca lhe chega
Que está sem amor e sem dinheiro
Perguntou se não dispunha de algum que pudesse dar
Puxei então da viola
Cantei um samba pra ele
Foi um samba sincopado
Que zombou de seu azar

Hoje eu vim, minha nega
Andar contigo no espaço
Tentar fazer em teus braços um samba puro de amor
Sem melodia ou palavra pra não perder o valor (bis)

Depois encontrei seu bento, nega
Que bebeu a noite inteira
Estirou-se na calçada
Sem ter vontade qualquer
Esqueceu do compromisso que assumiu com a mulher
Não chegar de madrugada
E não beber mais cachaça
Ela fez até promessa
Pagou e se arrependeu
Cantei um samba pra ele que sorriu e adormeceu

Hoje eu vim, minha nega
Querendo aquele sorriso
Que tu entregas pro céu
Quando eu te aperto em meus braços
Guarda bem minha viola, meu amor e meu cansaço (bis)

Por fim achei um corpo, nega
Iluminado ao redor
Disseram que foi bobagem
Um queria ser melhor
Não foi amor nem dinheiro a causa da discussão
Foi apenas um pandeiro
Que depois ficou no chão
Não tirei minha viola
Parei, olhei, fui-me embora
Ninguem compreenderia um samba naquela hora

Hoje eu vim, minha nega
Sem saber nada da vida
Querendo aprender contigo a forma de se viver
As coisas estão no mundo só que eu preciso aprender (bis)

Main source for this post: A Era dos Festivais by Zuza Homem de Mello.

2 thoughts on “Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega”

  1. Tory, Thanks again. Can’t wait to listen to this–we’re in Canada at our cottage and have a very, very weak connection. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Hope all is well. Dixie

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