Lyrics to “Maracangalha” by Dorival Caymmi (1956)

Good Audio Version (Dorival Caymmi)

I’m going to Maracangalha, I’m going
I’m going in a white uniform, I’m going
I’m going in a straw hat, I’m going
I’m going to invite Anália, I’m going
If Anália doesn’t want to go, I’ll go alone, I’ll go alone, I’ll go alone!
If Anália doesn’t want to go, I’ll go alone, I’ll go alone, I’ll go alone – without Anália –
But I’ll go! (3x)

— Interpretation —

Dorival Caymmi recorded "Maracangalha" for Odeon Records in 1956.
Dorival Caymmi recorded “Maracangalha” for Odeon Records in 1956.

 is a little hamlet in Dorival Caymmi’s home state of Bahia.  Caymmi’s good friend Zezinho used to do business at a sugar mill there, Cinco Rios, and began using the excuse “I’m going to Maracangalha” whenever he left home and didn’t feel like telling his wife where he was going.

Dorival Caymmi, in his white shirt and straw hat
Dorival Caymmi, in his white shirt and straw hat.

Caymmi remembered this story one day in 1955 when he was at his apartment in São Paulo painting a self-portrait. (Caymmi was an avid painter; the background painting for this site is by him.) He began to sing the phrase “Eu vou para Maracangalha,” and quickly put together lyrics and music about a man who says he’s off to Maracangalha wearing a white suit and straw hat – traditional samba garb – and with a woman on his arm, if she should choose to join. As Caymmi sang to himself, his neighbor Cenira came to the window to ask Caymmi’s wife, Stella, about the pretty little tune he was singing. Caymmi told them both that he was writing a song about a guy who goes out to have fun — “He’s going to Maracangalha, and he’s going to invite Anália,” he explained. Cenira asked why he wasn’t inviting Cenira, rather than Anália. But Cenira didn’t fit with the rhythm of the song, so Caymmi begged forgiveness — Anália would be invited, this time.

Hamlet of Maracangalha in São Sebastião do Passé, Bahia.
Hamlet of Maracangalha in São Sebastião do Passé, Bahia.

Dorival Caymmi was known for taking months or years to perfect his sambas. He took nine years to finish João Valentão, for instance. But this one came to him all at once that afternoon. He put it aside until the next year, when he returned to Rio de Janeiro and recorded it at Odeon records. The song achieved instant success. It became a Carnaval hit the next year, 1957, and with its playfully rebellious spirit it continues to be among the most well-known and best-loved sambas.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Eu vou prá Maracangalha
Eu vou!
Eu vou de liforme branco
Eu vou!
Eu vou de chapeu de palha
Eu vou!
Eu vou convidar Anália
Eu vou!
Se Anália não quiser ir
Eu vou só!
Eu vou só!
Eu vou só!
Se Anália não quiser ir
Eu vou só!
Eu vou só!
Eu vou só sem Anália
Mas eu vou!…(3x)

Eu vou só!…(16x)

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras, vol 1: 1901-1957, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello

Ministério da Economia

Lyrics from “Ministério da Economia” by Geraldo Pereira and Arnaldo Passos (1951)

Mister President, your Excellency has shown that it’s for real
Now everything’s gonna be a steal
Now the poor man can go ahead and eat

Mister President, well that’s just what the people wanted
The Ministry of the Economy seems like it will solve things

Mister President, thank God I’m not gonna eat any more cat
Beef on butchers’ hooks is in abundance
Now I can go ahead and live with my love
I’m going to go get my nega to come live with me
Because I’ve seen there’s no more danger, she’s not going to die of hunger

Life was so tough that I sent my nega so fetchin’
Off to Copacabana, to stick her breasts in the madame’s kitchen
Now I’m going to get my nega, cause I like her so dog-gone much
The cats are the ones that’ll crack up laughing
From joy, up there on the hillside

— Interpretation —

Rocinha favela c. 1950. Image via
Rocinha favela c. 1950. Image via

First a few notes on the translation: Nega is a term of endearment in Portuguese, featured in this post; it refers to the singer’s wife.  “…To stick her breasts in the madame’s kitchen” literally means to work in the kitchen, and just to clarify, the cats are cracking up laughing from joy because they’re no longer going to get eaten, thanks to the Ministry of the Economy.

In 1950, Getulio Vargas, populist president-dictator of Brazil from 1930 – 1945,  ran for and won back the presidency.   Shortly after taking office in 1951, he announced the creation of a new government agency for economic advisement and planning.  But in spite of Vargas’s populist rhetoric about the boons of this economic planning office, Geraldo Pereira, an Afro-Brazilian sambista who grew on Morro da Mangueira, was highly skeptical of how this new agency would help him, so he wrote this sarcastic song about it.

In the late 1940s Ary Barroso remarked, “I am not a sambista, Geraldo Pereira is a sambista.” Above, Geraldo Pereira.

Expressing his frustrations through sharply critical popular sambas, Pereira was one of the most notable composers who reclaimed samba from the state that had largely co-opted it during Getulio Vargas’s dictatorship.

While in power from 1930 – 1945, Vargas supported and exploited the expanding broadcast industry in Brazil to build his popularity.  One of the ways he did this was by heavy-handedly promoting samba-exaltação,  patriotic sambas like Ary Barroso‘s seminal “Aquarela do Brasil” that exalted Brazil’s natural beauty, cultural richness and purported racial harmony. These sambas portrayed the idealized image what it meant to be Brazilian that Vargas wanted people to believe in; and for a decade or so, with Vargas’s help, such patriotic sambas dominated the genre.

But Vargas was deposed in 1945, and under Eurico Dutra’s presidency from 1945-1950, the government withdrew from popular culture. By the time Vargas returned to power in 1951, his reign was too tenuous to exercise the same kind of control over music, and the stark contrast between samba-exaltação’s celebration of Brazil’s beauty and harmony and the dire situation of Rio’s hillside favelas made these celebratory sambas more and more laughable.

Throughout the 1940s, as favelas expanded on Rio’s hillsides, the government repeatedly promised and failed to deliver basic services. Residents became increasingly cut off, economically and socially, from the rest of the city below. This situation, combined with reduced state control over popular culture, made space for Afro-Brazilian sambistas from the favelas, like Geraldo Pereira and Wilson Batista, to create hits with popular songs scoffing at the government’s rhetoric and laying bare the tragic realities of life in the hillside slums.

Other such sambas are “Acertei no milhar” (Wilson Batista and Geraldo Pereira, 1940), “Chico Brito”  (Wilson Batista, 1950) and “Escurinho” (Geraldo Pereira, 1955). For more on this theme, the best source is Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil by Bryan McCann.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Seu Presidente,
Sua Excelência mostrou que é de fato
Agora tudo vai ficar barato
Agora o pobre já pode comer
Seu Presidente,
Pois era isso que o povo queria
O Ministério da Economia
Parece que vai resolver
Seu Presidente
Graças a Deus não vou comer mais gato
Carne de vaca no açougue é mato
Com meu amor eu já posso viver
Eu vou buscar
A minha nega pra morar comigo
Porque já vi que não há mais perigo
Ela de fome já não vai morrer
A vida estava tão difícil
Que eu mandei a minha nega bacana
Meter os peitos na cozinha da madame
Em Copacabana
Agora vou buscar a nega
Porque gosto dela pra cachorro
Os gatos é que vão dar gargalhada
De alegria lá no morro

Main sources for this post:  Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Model Brazil by Bryan McCann; A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello; and Desenvolvimento Econônomico e Reformas Institucionais no Brasilby Salvador Werneck Vianna.

Conto de Areia

Lyrics from “Conto de Areia” by Romildo Bastos e Toninho (Antônio Carlos Nascimento Pinto), recorded by Clara Nunes (1974)

Good Audio Version (Clara Nunes)

It’s water in the sea, it’s high tide, oh, makes you woozy, oh
Makes you woozy,
It’s water in the sea…

They say that all the sadness there is in Bahia
Was born of some moreno eyes soaked with sea
I don’t know if it’s story of sand or if it’s a fantasy
That the light of the lantern illuminates for us to sing
One day the morena, decked out in roses and lace
Broke into her girlish smile and asked to dance
The night lent the stars, stitched with silver
And the waters of Amaralina were drops of moonlight
It was one sole breast full of promise, it was only…
It was one sole breast  full of promise (2x)
Who told your love to become a canoeman
The wind that rolls through the palms drags the sailboat
And takes it to the high waters of Iemanjá
And the valiant master drifts around
Looking at the sand without being able to reach it
Goodbye, love

Goodbye, my love, don’t wait for me
Because I’m already going away
To the kingdom that hides the treasures of my Lady
Unravel shell necklaces to pass life by
And stop looking out to the sailboats
Goodbye my love, I’m not going to come back

It was the seaside, it was the seaside that called…

— Interpretation —

Clara Nunes was known as the Queen of Samba and became popular for her recordings of Afro-Brazilian songs focused on seaside themes.
Clara Nunes was known as the Queen of Samba and became popular for her recordings of Afro-Brazilian songs with seaside themes.

Clara Nunes (August 12, 1943 – April 2, 1983), born Clara Francisca Gonçalves de Araújo, was known as the Queen of Samba in Brazil during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Early in her career she recorded many songs with only limited success before finding her groove and achieving unprecedented popularity with her recordings of Afro-Brazilian-style songs like Conto de Areia, and later O mar serenou and A deusa dos orixás.

Conto de Areia was her first major hit, and the album Alvorecer, released in June 1974, quickly becoming the first album by a female recording artist to sell more than 100,000 copies in Brazil, surpassing 312,000 copies sold.

clara nunes com caymmi
Clara Nunes with Dorival Caymmi.

The song begins with a ritualistic chant reminiscent of Afro-Brazilian macumba religious practices. The lyrics touch on the paradoxical enchantment and danger of the sea, and a fantastical story involving the goddess of the sea, Iemanjá —  recurrent themes in Afro-Brazilian songs from the northeast, particularly the state of Bahia. (Composer Romildo Bastos was from the northeastern state of Pernambuco, and Toninho is originally from Belém do Pará.) They recall classic songs by Dorival Caymmi like A jangada voltou só and É doce morrer no mar (“The handsome sailor was taken by the mermaid of the sea, it’s sweet to die at sea, in the green waves of the sea, he went out there to drown, he made his groom’s bed on the lap of Iemanjá”). 

The song’s composers and Clara Nunes were loyal to Rio’s Portela samba school, and Conto de Areia remains one of the most popular sambas performed at Portela.

Lyrics in Portuguese

É água no mar, é maré cheia ô
mareia ô, mareia
É água no mar…

Contam que toda tristeza
Que tem na Bahia
Nasceu de uns olhos morenos
Molhados de mar.

Não sei se é conto de areia
Ou se é fantasia
Que a luz da candeia alumia
Pra gente contar.

Um dia morena enfeitada
De rosas e rendas
Abriu seu sorriso moça
E pediu pra dançar.

A noite emprestou as estrelas
Bordadas de prata
E as águas de Amaralina
Eram gotas de luar.

Era um peito só
Cheio de promessa era só
Era um peito só cheio de promessa (2x)

Quem foi que mandou
O seu amor
Se fazer de canoeiro
O vento que rola das palmas
Arrasta o veleiro
E leva pro meio das águas
de Iemanjá
E o mestre valente vagueia
Olhando pra areia sem poder chegar
Adeus, amor

Adeus, meu amor
Não me espera
Porque eu já vou me embora
Pro reino que esconde os tesouros
De minha senhora

Desfia colares de conchas
Pra vida passar
E deixa de olhar pros veleiros
Adeus meu amor eu não vou mais voltar

Foi beira mar, foi beira mar que chamou
Foi beira mar ê, foi beira

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello