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

2 thoughts on “Conto de Areia”

  1. Thanks a lot for your initiative and for giving the context to the song which I find pretty interesting.

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