Foi um rio que passou em minha vida

Lyrics from “Foi um rio que passou em minha vida” by Paulinho da Viola (1969)

If some day my heart is consulted
To find out if it ever went astray
It will be tough to deny
My heart has a compulsion for love; love isn’t easy to find
The mark of my dashed dreams is deep, is deep
Only a love can erase it…
And yet, aiii, and yet, there’s a special story
That in just a short time left an everlasting imprint on my heart
It was one day during Carnival
I was weighed down with a certain sorrow, not thinking of new love
When someone I don’t remember announced: Portela, Portela
And the samba that brought daybreak captured my heart
Ah, my Portela, when I saw you go by
I felt my heart race — my whole body enraptured
My joy return
I can’t define that blue
It wasn’t of the sky
It wasn’t of the sea
It was a river that passed through my life
And my heart let itself be carried away
It was a river that passed through my life
And my heart let itself be carried away

— Interpretation —

Odeon EP, 1969
Odeon EP, 1969
Paulinho da Viola saw the title "Por onde andou meu coração" (Where my heart has gone, roughly) and was inspired to compose this samba, which begins with musings about his heart having gone astray.
Paulinho da Viola saw the title “Por onde andou meu coração” (Where my heart has gone, roughly) and was inspired to compose this samba, which begins with musings about his heart having gone astray.

Walking down Rua México in downtown Rio one day in 1969, Paulinho da Viola looked in the window of a book shop and a title jumped out at him: “Por Onde Andou Meu Coração” (Where My Heart Has Gone, roughly). He liked something about the phrase, and it stuck in with him.

Paulinho had recently composed the lyrics for a tremendous hit for his rival samba school Mangueira, “Sei lá, Mangueira,” and he was feeling a bit guilty about the success of this samba. So as he recounts, when he got home that day, he started playing around with his guitar and composed this samba, using the book’s title as inspiration for this beautiful song dedicated to his beloved samba school Portela.  Portelenses fell in love with the song immediately, and it has become his best known and loved composition of all time. (For more on the story behind the song, see this post on “Sei lá, Mangueira.”)

Paulinho recalls that he initially wrote the samba with a different melody, which he explains and sings for what he says is the first time in this recent video of his show in Circo Voador.  Paulinho da Viola started singing “la-iá, la-iá, la-iá la-iá” at the end of the song after hearing Jair Rodrigues’s recording, and he recalls Jair always joked that this meant he was Paulinho’s partner in the composition.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Se um dia
Meu coração for consultado
Para saber se andou errado
Será difícil negar
Meu coração
Tem mania de amor
Amor não é fácil de achar
A marca dos meus desenganos
Ficou, ficou
Só um amor pode apagar
A marca dos meus desenganos
Ficou, ficou
Só um amor pode apagar…

Porém! Ai porém!
Há um caso diferente
Que marcou num breve tempo
Meu coração para sempre
Era dia de Carnaval
Carregava uma tristeza
Não pensava em novo amor
Quando alguém
Que não me lembro anunciou
Portela, Portela
O samba trazendo alvorada
Meu coração conquistou…
Ah! Minha Portela!
Quando vi você passar
Senti meu coração apressado
Todo o meu corpo tomado
Minha alegria voltar
Não posso definir
Aquele azul
Não era do céu
Nem era do mar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar!

“Véspera de Natal” & “Trem das Onze”

Lyrics from “Véspera de Natal” by Adoniran Barbosa (1974)

Eu me lembro muito bem// I remember quite well
Foi numa véspera de natal// It was on a Christmas Eve
Cheguei em casa// I got home
Encontrei minha nega zangada, a criançada chorando// And found my nega (wife) angry, the children crying
Mesa vazia, não tinha nada.// An empty table, nothing on it

Saí, fui comprar bala mistura // I went out, I went to buy candy mix
Comprei também um pãozinho de mel// I also bought a little honey bread
E cumprindo a minha jura // And keeping my promise
Me fantasiei de papai noel//I dressed up as Santa Claus

Falei com minha nega de lado// I told my wife quietly
Eu vou subir no telhado//”I’m going to climb up on the roof
E descer na chaminé// And come down through the chimney
Enquanto isso você //And meanwhile you
Pega a criançada e ensaia o dingo-bel//Get the kids and teach them ‘dingo-bel'” (Jingle Bells written phonetically in Portuguese)

Ai meu deus que sacrifício// Oh my god, what a sacrifice
O orifíciu da chaminé era pequeno// The orifice of the chimney was small!
Pra me tirar de lá //To get me out of there
Foi preciso chamar// We needed to call
Os bombeiros// The fire department!

Lyrics from “Trem das onze”  (1965)

Quais, quais, quais, quais, quais, quais
Quaiscalingudum
Quaiscalingudum
Quaiscalingudum// (All this is just sounds but varies a bit by recording)

Não posso ficar // I can’t stay
Nem mais um minuto com você // Even another minute with you
Sinto muito, amor // I’m so sorry, dear
Mas não pode ser // But it just can’t be
Moro em Jaçanã // I live in Jacanã
Se eu perder esse trem // If I miss the train
Que sai agora às onze horas// That leaves now at 11 pm
Só amanhã de manhã// The next is only tomorrow morning
(x2)

E além disso, mulher// And what’s more, woman
Tem outra coisa // There’s something else
Minha mãe não dorme // My mom doesn’t go to sleep
Enquanto eu não chegar // Until I get home

Sou filho único // I’m an only child
Tenho minha casa pra olhar // I have to guard our home!

Bam zam zam zam zam zam
Quaiscalingudum
Quaiscalingudum
Quaiscalingudum (x2)

Quaisgudum, tchau!

— Interpretation —

Adoniran Barbosa in São Paulo.
Adoniran Barbosa in São Paulo.

This began as a post just about a favorite Brazilian Christmas samba — “Véspera de Natal” — but then I realized it is the first post about Adoniran Barbosa, so I’ve included one of his classics, too: “Trem das Onze.” Alongside Paulo Vanzolini, Barbosa is the best known and loved São Paulo samba composer of all time. His songs “Trem das Onze” and “Saudosa Maloca” achieved widespread and timeless popularity even in Rio – like Vanzolini’s “Volta por cima” – which is a great feat for otherwise oft-snubbed samba paulista.

Barbosa (born João Rubinato, August 6, 1912 – November 23, 1982) was the son of Italian immigrants who settled in the interior of São Paulo. He composed sambas in a humorous mix of Italian-Portuguese dialect and the caipira accent (like hillbilly or country bumpkin) that he grew up surrounded by.

Barbosa was born in 1912, but his birth was registered as 1910 so he could begin working two years before reaching the required age of twelve.  He did a lot of odd jobs in Jundiaí and Santo André, São Paulo, including boxed meal (marmita) delivery and sweeping at a factory. When his family moved to the capital, São Paulo, he became an ironworker until the iron dust caused too much lung damage, and he went back to other odd jobs. In this documentary he said he was “always composing” while performing these other duties — “I was born wanting to make sambas,” he says.

Adoniran playing the matchbox.
Adoniran playing the matchbox.

Adoniran is probably the most iconic representative of São Paulo’s samba style that had its roots among the interior of the state and eventually, largely through Adoniran, became most closely associated with the poorer immigrant communities in the city’s Bixiga and Brás neighborhoods. Concerned that he wouldn’t be taken seriously as a sambista with an Italian last name,  he took his nickname: Adoniran was a friend of his, and Barbosa came from the sambista Luiz Barbosa, who was a pioneer in the “samba de breque” style  — sambas with breaks for humorous interjections and storytelling, or a storytelling style of accompanying the music — that came to characterize São Paulo samba. (More on that sub-genre in a later post that doesn’t coincide with the holidays.)

Incidentally, Adoniran never lived in Jaçanã, on the northern outskirts of São Paulo – though he did work there briefly. He just used the name to rhyme with “amanhã de manhã” (tomorrow morning).

Homenagem ao Malandro & Homenagem à Velha Guarda

Lyrics from “Homenagem ao Malandro” by Chico Buarque (1978)

I went to write a samba in honor of the cream of the malandragem
That I know from Carnivals of years gone by
I went to Lapa and the trip was wasted
‘Cause that kind of malandragem doesn’t exist anymore

Now it’s just not normal
The amount of orderly, professional malandros around
Malandro with the trappings of an official malandro
Malandro with a profile in the Society column
Malandro with a contract, a tie,  and capital
Who never gets into trouble

But the malandro that counts — don’t spread it — retired his razor
Has a wife and kid and the whole kit and bit
Word on the street is that he even has work
He lives far away, and rattles in on a train on the Central Line

Now it’s just not normal
The amount of orderly, professional malandros around
Malandro with the trappings of an official malandro
Malandro candidate for Federal Malandro
Malandro with a profile in the Society column
Malandro with a contract, a tie and capital
Who never gets into trouble

Lyrics from “Homenagem à Velha Guarda” by Monarco (1980)

One day, you went to Lapa to see the malandragem
You wasted your time and the trip, as your samba explains
I went to Portela to see my sambistas
But consulting my list, I, too, wasn’t pleased!
There, I was told of a terreiro where they spend the entire day
In some nondescript nook in Oswaldo Cruz
It’s out there near Bento Ribeiro
Where Paulo and his consort made sambas that still seduce to this day
Looking around the locale, I found Mano Alvaiade
Our old harmony director, who gave me a valuable tip:
It’s a beautiful home, that brings together peace, love, and joy
There I saw the true sambistas
Manacéia and Lonato, and others too!
I swear my jaw dropped, I’d never felt so close
To the Portela of days of yore.

— Interpretation —

Scene from Ópera do Malandro. Pictured (L-R): Elba Ramalho, Tony Ferreira, Ari Fontoura, Marieta Severo, Otávio Augusto, and Maria Alice Vergueiro.
Scene from Ópera do Malandro. Pictured (L-R): Elba Ramalho, Tony Ferreira, Ari Fontoura, Marieta Severo, Otávio Augusto, and Maria Alice Vergueiro.

In 1978, Chico Buarque’s musical play Ópera do Malandro opened in Rio de Janeiro to rave reviews from critics and crowds. Set in Lapa in the early 1940s, the musical portrays a seedy, sensual, samba-suffused side of Rio’s bohemian redoubt that was at its height in the 1920s-40s and had died out, as Chico describes here, by the 1970s: “Lapa, brothels, loan sharks, smugglers, corrupt police, unscrupulous businessmen. (…) When this side of Lapa began to die, it was a harbinger of other deaths: malandragem [for a description of malandros and malandragem, the shady life on the edge of the law that has become an iconic part of Rio de Janeiro’s identity, see this post], Madame Satã [legendary drag queen and capoeirista], Geraldo Pereira, Wilson Batista [sambistas who most represent the samba malandro sub-genre]; it was the end of the golden age of Rio’s urban samba.”

The song “Homenagem ao Malandro” is a nostalgic nod to old-time Lapa malandros, poking fun at the “orderly, professional” malandros that had come to replace the real thing.

Album cover for the 1979 soundtrack to Ópera do Malandro.
Album cover for the 1979 soundtrack to Ópera do Malandro.

The musical was based on the satirical Beggar’s Opera (1728, John Gay) and the Three Penny Opera (1928, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill), another adaptation of Gay’s Beggar’s Opera.  Chico composed fourteen new songs for the musical and the soundtrack was released the following year. A film adaptation was also released in 1986. The musical revealed a star, Elba Ramalho, and showcased Chico’s then-wife Marieta‘s singing talent.

Legendary Portela sambista Monarco, now 81.
Legendary Portela sambista Monarco, now 81.

Alongside “Geni e o Zepelim” and “O Meu Amor,” “Homenagem ao Malandro” was one of the most beautiful and beloved songs from the musical, and the lyrics struck a chord with the composer Monarco (Hildemar Diniz, b. August 17, 1932 in Cavalcante, Rio de Janeiro, RJ). Monarco is among the most celebrated velha guarda (“old guard”) sambistas from the Portela samba school still around today. He arrived at Portela in 1946, when he was 14 years old (he laments that he missed Paulo da Portela at the school by just a few years). As Carnival became more and more of a lucrative business in the 1960s and ’70s, old-school sambistas like Monarco felt shoved aside, as  head honchos at the samba schools brought in radio stars to compose and take the spotlight and rake in returns. Around this time many sambistas separated from their schools: In the mid-1970s, for instance, Paulinho da Viola and Candeia left Portela. (Paulinho would return later on, and never joined another school, as Portelenses like Monarco enjoy pointing out; Candeia founded Quilombo, his school until his death in 1978.)

Monarco, second from left, and Zeca Pagodinho, center, with Velha Guarda da Portela, c. late 80s. In 1987, Zeca Pagodinho released his first album, with Monarco's song "Coração em desalinho," a huge hit.
Monarco, second from left, and Zeca Pagodinho, center, with Velha Guarda da Portela, c. late 80s. In 1986, Zeca Pagodinho released his first album, with Monarco’s song “Coração em desalinho,” a huge hit.
Paulinho da Viola with Clara Nunes, Pagode da Tia Doca
Paulinho da Viola and Clara Nunes pictured at Pagode da Tia Doca, in Tia Doca’s yard.

Monarco recalls that one Sunday he went to Portela and found none of his old composer companions there — only newfangled radio composers. So he wrote this samba that responds to Chico’s song about Lapa, remarking that the samba schools suffered the same phenomenon.  He refers to celebrated old guard sambistas, and the house he mentions — that unites “peace, love, and harmony” — was Tia Doca’s. Tia Doca became a mainstay at Portela samba school in the 1950s after she married the composer Altaír Costa, son of Alvarenga, a founding member of Portela samba school.  She became part of the Velha Guarda in 1970, and during these rough years for the school, she began hosting the famous “pagode da Tia Doca” on Sundays at her home in Oswaldo Cruz. Several star sambistas — including Zeca Pagodinho, Dudu Nobre, and Jovelina Perola Negra — got their start there.

Monarco says Chico Buarque loved the song; he remembers Chico commenting that he thought the line “consulting my list…” was just great!

Monarco's "Portela of days of yore": Pictured, Lonato (standing with Pandeiro), Monarco (crouching), Casquinha, Manaceia, Alcides Malandro,and others.
Monarco’s “Portela of days of yore”: Pictured, Lonato (standing with what looks like a tamborím), Monarco (crouching), Casquinha, Manaceia, Alcides Malandro, and others.

Lyrics in Portuguese: “Homenagem ao Malandro”

Eu fui fazer um samba em homenagem
À nata da malandragem
Que conheço de outros carnavais
Eu fui à Lapa e perdi a viagem
Que aquela tal malandragem
Não existe mais

Agora já não é normal
O que dá de malandro regular, profissional
Malandro com aparato de malandro oficial
Malandro candidato a malandro federal
Malandro com retrato na coluna social
Malandro com contrato, com gravata e capital
Que nunca se dá mal

Mas o malandro pra valer
– Não espalha
Aposentou a navalha
Tem mulher e filho e tralha e tal
Dizem as más línguas que ele até trabalha
Mora lá longe e chacoalha
Num trem da Central

Agora já não é normal
O que dá de malandro regular, profissional
Malandro com aparato de malandro oficial
Malandro candidato a malandro federal
Malandro com retrato na coluna social
Malandro com contrato, com gravata e capital
Que nunca se dá mal

Mas o malandro pra valer
– Não espalha
Aposentou a navalha
Tem mulher e filho e tralha e tal
Dizem as más línguas que ele até trabalha
Mora lá longe e chacoalha
Num trem da Central

“Homenagem à Velha Guarda”
Um dia, tu fostes à Lapa ver a malandragem
Perdeste o tempo e a viagem
Como teu samba diz
Eu fui à Portela ver os meus sambistas
Mas consultando a minha lista
Também não fui feliz

Lá falaram-me sobre um terreiro
Onde eles passam o dia inteiro
Num lugar qualquer de Oswaldo Cruz
Fica lá perto de Bento Ribeiro
Aonde Paulo e seus companheiros
Faziam sambas que até hoje seduz

Procurando na localidade
Encontrei mano Alvaiade
Nosso antigo diretor de harmonia
Deu-me a sua dica valiosa
É uma casa formosa
Que reúne paz, amor e alegria

Daí, vi os sambistas de fato
Manacéia e Lonato e outros mais
Juro que fiquei boquiaberto
Nunca me senti tão perto
Da Portela dos tempos atrás

Main sources for this post:  Stories told by Monarco and A Canção no Tempo: Vol. 2, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello, and Batuque na cozinha: as receitas e as histórias das tias da Portela, by Alexandre Medeiros