Bandalhismo

“Bandalhismo” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco, 1980

Meu coração tem butiquins imundos // My heart has squalid taverns
Antros de ronda, vinte-e-um, purrinha // Dives of ronda, blackjack, purrinha [pub games]
Onde trêmulas mãos de vagabundo // Where the trembling hands of vagabonds
Batucam samba-enredo na caixinha // Beat samba-enredos on matchboxes

Perdigoto, cascata, tosse, escarro // Splutter, swagger, cough, phlegm [also can mean a low-down person]
Um choro soluçante que não pára // A sobbing cry that doesn’t stop
Piada suja, bofetão na cara // Dirty joke, a blow to the face
E essa vontade de soltar um barro… // And that urge to take a dump

Como os pobres otários da Central // Like the poor suckers at Central Station
Já vomitei sem lenço e sonrisal // I’ve vomited without a handkerchief and antacid
o P.F. de rabada com agrião… // The P.F. (prato feito) of oxtail with watercress…

Mais amarelo do que arroz-de-forno // Paler than baked rice
Voltei pro lar, e em plena dor-de-corno // I went home, and in the heat of jealous passion
Quebrei o vídeo da televisão // I broke the television screen

— Interpretation —

João Bosco and Aldir Blanc
João Bosco and Aldir Blanc

“Bandalhismo” showcases poet-lyricist Aldir Blanc‘s refined literary side – and how it meshes with vulgarity and humor in his lyrics – and his exquisite portrayals of Rio de Janeiro’s carousing lower classes. The song is a revision of Augusto dos Anjos’ 1902 poem “Vandalismo” (Vandalism, translated below). The symbolist poem begins with “My heart has immense cathedrals” — which Blanc turned into “squalid taverns” — and ends with “I broke the image of my own dreams,” which Blanc twisted into “I broke the television screen.” Blanc deftly adapted Anjos’ sonnet – set in a bygone aristocratic Brazil – into a present-day, hair-raising depiction of a bum’s life at a bar, ending with a comment on the vulgar centrality of the television.

Bandalhismo comes from the word bandalho, which means screw-up or good-for-nothing; bandalhismo essentially refers to the goings-about of a bum.  The soft samba is the title track of João Bosco’s 1980 album, and includes a guest appearance by Paulinho da Viola.

prato feito – referred to in the song by its abbreviation, P.F. – is a generally cheap plate served at lower end restaurants and bars, with rice, beans, meat, salad and fries (with variations of course).

The poem:

“Vandalismo” by Augusto dos Anjos (1902)

Meu coração tem catedrais imensas // My heart has immense cathedrals
Templos de priscas e longínquas datas // Temples of Priscas and far-off dates
Onde um nume de amor, em serenatas // Where a numen of love, in serenades
Canta a aleluia virginal das crenças // Sings the virginal aleluya of beliefs

Na ogiva fúlgida e nas colunatas // In the shining ogive and in the collonade
Vertem lustrais irradiações intensas // Rush intense purificatory radiations
Cintilações de lâmpadas suspensas // The sparkling of hanging lamps
E as ametistas e os florões e as pratas // And the amethysts and finials and silvers

Como os velhos Templários medievais // Like the ancient medieval Templars
Entrei um dia nessas catedrais // I entered one of these cathedrals
E nesses templos claros e risonhos … // And in these temples bright and cheerful…

E erguendo os gládios e brandindo as hastas // And raising the swords and branding the spears
No desespero dos iconoclastas // In the desperation of the iconoclasts
Quebrei a imagem dos meus próprios sonhos! // I broke the image of my own dreams

Main source for this post: Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song MPB 1965 – 1985, by Charles A. Perrone

“Fantasia” and “Catavento e Girassol”

Lyrics from “Fantasia” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco

Olhando na quarta-feira as ruas vazias// On Wednesday, looking out on the empty streets
Com os garis dando um jeito em nossa moral// With the street-sweepers tidying up our dignity
Custei a compreender que fantasia//It took me a long time to understand that a costume [mask]
É um troço que o cara tira no carnaval//Is something a guy takes off during Carnival
E usa nos outros dias por toda a vida// And wears every other day in his life
Dizendo: “Olá! Como vai?” e coisas assim// Saying, “Hello! How are you?” and things like that
O nó da gravata apertando o pescoço// The knot of the tie choking his neck
Olhando o fundo do poço e rindo de mim//Gazing into the bottom of the barrel and laughing at myself
Ria, rasguei a fantasia, ria// I laughed, I tore up my mask, I laughed
Queimei a garantia, ria// I burned my throat, I laughed
Tô solto por aí// I’m on the loose
Doido, eu danço de Pierrot, triste// Mad, I dance as Pierrot, sad
Morrendo em meu amor, ria// Dying in my love, I laughed
Vendo você morrer de rir// Watching you die laughing

“Catavento e Girassol” by Aldir Blanc and Guinga (1993)

Meu catavento tem dentro // My pinwheel has inside it
o que há do lado de fora do teu girassol // What’s on the outside of your sunflower
Entre o escancaro e o contido // Between the boundless and the restrained
eu te pedi sustenido // I asked you for sharp
e você riu bemol // And you laughed flat
Você só pensa no espaço // You only think of the ether
eu exigi duração // I demanded duration
Eu sou um gato de subúrbio // I’m a cat from the outskirts
você é litorânea // You’re a coastal girl
Quando eu respeito os sinais // While I obey traffic lights
vejo você de patins vindo na contramão // I see you coming on skates, against traffic
mas quando ataco de macho // But when I come on as a tough guy
você se faz de capacho // You play the doormat
e não quer confusão // And don’t want any trouble.
Nenhum dos dois se entrega // Neither of us gives in
Nós não ouvimos conselho // We don’t listen to advice
eu sou você que se vai // I’m the you that’s sucked through
no sumidouro do espelho // The drain in the mirror

Eu sou do Engenho de Dentro // I’m from Engenho de Dentro [neighborhood]
e você vive no vento do Arpoador // And you live in the wind of Arpoador
Eu tenho um jeito arredio // I’m withdrawn by nature
e você é expansiva // And you’re expansive
(o inseto e a flor) // (The insect and the flower)
Um torce pra Mia Farrow // One sides with Mia Farrow
o outro é Woody Allen… // The other with Woody Allen
Quando assovio uma seresta // When I whistle a seresta
você dança, havaiana // You dance the Hawaiian hula

Eu vou de tênis e jeans // I go in sneakers and jeans
encontro você demais // And find you overdressed
scarpin, soirée… // Stilettos, evening gown
Quando o pau quebra na esquina // When we fight on the street corner
você ataca de fina // You put on airs
e me ofende em inglês // And insult me in English
é fuck you, bate-bronha // It’s ‘fuck you, screw off’
e ninguém mete o bedelho // And no one dares interfere
você sou eu que me vou // You’re the me that’s sucked through
no sumidouro do espelho // The drain in the mirror

A paz é feita no motel // We make peace in a motel
de alma lavada e passada // Souls washed and pressed
pra descobrir logo depois // Just to realize right after
que não serviu pra nada // That it was all for naught
Nos dias de carnaval // During Carnival
aumentam os desenganos // The disillusion grows deeper
você vai pra Parati // You go to Parati
e eu pro Cacique de Ramos // And I go to Cacique de Ramos (2x)

Meu catavento tem dentro // My pinwheel has inside it
o vento escancarado do Arpoador // The boundless wind of the Arpoador
Teu girassol tem de fora // Your sunflower has on the outside
o escondido do Engenho de Dentro // what’s hidden from the “Engenho de Dentro” [mill within]
da flor // the flower
Eu sinto muita saudade // I ache with saudade
você é contemporânea // You’re modern
eu penso em tudo quanto faço // I think carefully about everything I do
você é tão espontânea! // You’re so spontaneous!

Sei que um depende do outro // I know each depends on the other
só pra ser diferente // Just to be different
pra se completar // To complete one another
Sei que um se afasta do outro // I know we distance ourselves from one another
no sufoco somente pra se aproximar // During hard times, only to grow closer
Cê tem um jeito verde de ser // You have a green way of being
e eu sou meio vermelho // And I’m more red
mas os dois juntos se vão // But together we go
no sumidouro no espelho // Through the drain in the mirror

Aldir Blanc (L) with João Bosco, 1976.
Aldir Blanc (L) with João Bosco, 1976.
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Aldir Blanc during Carnival at age 9, dressed in Chinese costume.
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Aldir Blanc, Carnival, age 5: dressed as a bullfighter.

Aldir Blanc was born in Estácio neighborhood,  a samba hotbed in Rio de Janeiro named after the city’s founder, Estácio de Sá. In the same neighborhood just about 20 years before Aldir’s birth,  sambistas came up with the name “samba school” for their group, and the rhythm Ismael Silva defined as “bum bum paticumbum prugurundum” (samba that can be marched/danced along with in a Carnival bloco). Blanc grew up in another samba stronghold, on Rua dos Artistas in Vila Isabel – Tijuca, and became not only one of the most renowned lyricists in the history of Brazilian popular music, but also perhaps the city’s favorite cronista (a writer of short newspaper narratives about day-to-day life). His humorous tales portray Rio de Janeiro’s precious peculiarities  through characters he swears were exclusively based upon people he knew growing up– except Penteado, the character who makes the final joke at the end of the crônicas, weaving separate story lines together. One of Rio de Janeiro’s most traditional Carnival blocos took its name from Aldir’s character Esmeraldo Simpatia-é-Quase-Amor. Blanc is most well known for his songs written together with João Bosco, who was studying engineering in Ouro Preto in 1969 when Aldir’s friend Pedro Lourenço Gomes saw him play some of his compositions and suggested he partner with Aldir.

Aldir was surrounded by fragility growing up. He says his birth after 10 months of gestation and 24 hours of labor left his mother, Helena — known in his crônicas as “a formosa Helena” (the beautiful Helena) — with “permanent post-partum depression”: “She had pre-menstrual depression, menstrual depression, and post-menstrual depression. Not many days were left over.” Meanwhile, Aldir’s father, Alceu — called Ceceu Rico in Aldir’s literature — suffered from severe asthma, and Aldir too often found himself holding his father’s hand as they hoped for an ambulance to arrive in time. Likely largely in response to these circumstances, Aldir studied medicine and became a psychiatrist.

But these circumstances growing up also contributed to Aldir’s keen sense of observation and singular sense of humor, and he was always writing and composing. In his early 20s he started out as a percussionist; he cites the influence of bossa nova as an inspiration to learn more about harmony. In 1970 — just around the time he met João Bosco, who would become his inseparable musical partner for over ten years — Aldir Blanc and Sílvio da Silva Junior decided to give a chance to a two-year-old samba they’d written while on vacation in Paquetá, “Amigo é pra essas coisas.” They submitted the song to the Festival Internacional da Canção; it didn’t make the cut for the national phase of that festival, but it made it into the Festival Universitário, and was a sensation with the crowd, becoming Aldir Blanc’s first big hit.

João Bosco, L, and Aldir Blanc, late 1970s.
João Bosco, L, and Aldir Blanc, late 1970s.

In 1971, Elis Regina recorded a beautiful rendition of Aldir’s song “Ela” — composed with César Costa Filho — on her album by the same name. Meanwhile, Aldir was becoming a closer partner of João Bosco, and Elis Regina began to get first dibs on the pair’s songs; she released whichever songs she chose, and later on, in some cases, João Bosco released his rendition. Elis recorded 20 songs by the pair, including some of her (and their) biggest hits, like “Dois pra lá, dois pra cá,” “Mestre-Sala dos Mares,” and “O Bêbado e o Equilibrista.” (More on these songs in upcoming posts.)

Through 1973, Aldir was still a practicing psychiatrist, but in 1974, after the death of his newborn twins, Aldir abandoned medicine; he said if he couldn’t save his first-born children, he no longer wished to try to save anyone. Since then he has dedicated himself fully to writing and composing.

Moacyr Luz and Aldir Blanc discovered they lived in the same building on Rua Garibaldi, in Tijuca, in 1984. This made it very easy for them to compose together!
Moacyr Luz and Aldir Blanc discovered they lived in the same building on Rua Garibaldi, in Tijuca, in 1984; their physical proximity made it very easy for them to compose together.

Around 1980, Aldir and João Bosco had a falling out, though neither likes to comment on the matter. During the 1980s and 1990s, Aldir grew closer to Moacyr Luz, with whom he composed Saudades da Guanabara,  a gorgeous anthem to Rio de Janeiro, together with Paulo César Pinheiro, and the popular anthem to bohemian life, “Pra que pedir perdão?,” with the refrain, “Why ask for your forgiveness if I don’t even forgive myself?” He also began composing with the songwriter and virtuoso guitarist Guinga, with whom he composed the second song in this post, one of the most beautiful from the pair: “Catavento e Girassol.”

Main source for this post: Aldir Blanc: Resposta ao Tempo by Luiz Fernando Vianna, and the documentary Aldir Blanc: Dois pra lá, Dois pra cá.

Sem Ilusão

Lyrics from “Sem Ilusão” by Elton Medeiros and Antonio Valente (1977)

No carnaval não vou querer me fantasiar// This Carnival, I don’t want to put on a costume
Não vou querer me vestir de rei// I don’t want to dress up as a king
Não quero mais colorir a dor// I no longer wish to gloss over the pain
E se alguém quiser me aplaudir// And if anyone wants to applaud me
Vai ter que ser assim como eu sou// It’s gonna have to be for me, as I am
Não quer dizer que não vou nem brincar// I don’t mean to say that I’m not going to revel
Só não quero é enganar o meu coração// I just don’t want to fool my heart
No Carnaval, não vou mais sair fingindo//During Carnival, I’ll no longer go out pretending
Que passo a minha vida inteira a cantar// That I spend my whole life singing
Eu vou me divertir, na certa eu vou sambar// I’ll have fun, sure, I’ll samba, no doubt
Mas dessa vez a ilusão não vai me pegar// But this time, illusion won’t get the best of me
No Carnaval eu sempre sai sorrindo// During Carnival, I’ve always gone out smiling
Me divertindo só pra desabafar// Having fun just to lighten my heart
Três dias pra sorrir, um ano pra chorar// Three days to smile, a year to cry
Mas dessa vez a ilusão não vai me pegar// But this time, illusion won’t get the best of me

— Interpretation —

1966: Paulinho da Viola and Elton Medeiros practice with Clementina de Jesus for their show in Dakar, Senegal, at the first World Festival of Black Arts. Paulinho recalls he and Elton only played atabaque - no guitar or cavaquinho - and that the show was a huge success.
1966: Paulinho da Viola and Elton Medeiros practice with Clementina de Jesus for their show in Dakar, Senegal, at the first World Festival of Black Arts. Paulinho recalls he and Elton only played atabaque – no guitar or cavaquinho – and that the show was a huge success.
Elton Medeiros on the matchbox and Paulinho da Viola on the guitar, cover of their 1968 album Samba na Madrugada
Elton Medeiros on the matchbox and Paulinho da Viola on the guitar, cover of their 1968 album Samba na Madrugada

Elton Medeiros (born 22 July 1930, Glória, Rio de Janeiro) has never been keen on playing the role people expect of him. He’s been known since the 1960s as a master of rhythm on the matchbox, for instance, but never liked posing with the diminutive instrument, saying those kinds of pictures and the like contributed to the “folklorization” of samba: “A lot of people think that to make samba you have to be a bar fly. I know how to beat a rhythm on a matchbox, but I don’t play up that role just to live up to what people expect of a sambista.” This song takes a similarly rebellious tone: Why do I have to pretend I have no cares in the world, and fool even myself, just because it’s Carnival? And it came at a time when a lot of sambistas were particularly down on Carnival, as Elton hints at in the introduction to the song on the 1977 album Os Quatro Grandes do Samba.

On the album,  Guilherme de Brito asks Elton Medeiros  why he, who had founded three samba schools, wasn’t parading with any. Medeiros responds, “It’s true, Guilherme, lately I’ve really lamented what’s been happening with Carnival.”

The three samba schools he founded were: GRES Tupi de Brás de Pina [late 1940s], GRES Unidos de Lucas [1967] and GRANES Quilombo [1976], which was founded essentially out of protest of the direction samba schools had taken. In 1977, Elton indeed marched — or maybe danced is more appropriate — in Quilombo’s first Carnival parade.

The sentiment expressed in this song reflects the widespread feeling of dejection that had taken hold among most “old-guard” samba composers by the mid to late 1970s: Most sambistas in Rio thought leadership at samba schools had become too autocratic and profit-driven, contributing to the commoditization of samba by seeking only sambas that would sell well. And any profits stayed in the pockets of outsiders who had taken power at the schools, or was used to pay for expensive artists to produce ever more extravagant Carnival floats and costumes.

Paulinho da Viola in the first Quilombo Carnival parade.  I wasn't able to find images of Elton Medeiros in the parade.
Paulinho da Viola in the first Quilombo Carnival parade. I wasn’t able to find images of Elton Medeiros in the parade.

In protest — particularly of the situation at Portela — in 1975-1976, together with Candeia and Wilson Moreira (both Portela), and Nei Lopes (Salgueiro) — Elton Madeiros founded Grêmio Recreativo de Arte Negra e Samba Quilombo.  Candeia had come up with the idea for the new samba school after growing totally fed up with Portela, as this post explains.

Elton Medeiros was never a member of Rio’s biggest schools like Portela  and Mangueira; in the 1970s he was a composer with GRES Unidos de Lucas. But Elton felt close to Portela because the school had chosen him and his line of composers at Unidos de Lucas to be their “patrons.” Medeiros also worked closely with several of Portela’s most revered composers, including Zé Kéti, Paulinho da Viola, and Candeia, along with Mangueirenses like Cartola — with whom he composed one of the best-loved samba classics of all time (and one of the first entries on this blog), “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir),” Nelson Cavaquinho, and Nelson Sargento.

Conjunto Voz do Morro was one of the groups formed at Zicartola, in an effort to give more publicity to the greatest talents in samba do morro.
Conjunto Voz do Morro was one of the groups formed at Zicartola, in an effort to give more publicity to the greatest talents in samba do morro. L-R: Paulinho da Viola; Anescarzinho do Salgueiro; (???); Zé Cruz do Chapéu de Palha; Elton Medeiros; Zé Keti; Jair do Cavaquinho.

Medeiros was born in the Glória neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, where he lived until the family moved to Brás de Pina when he was seven. Just a year later he reportedly began composing sambas with neighborhood friends, and as a teenager he learned to play trombone and saxophone at school.  When he was about 20 he met Zé Kéti,  and in the early 1960s he became a regular at Zicartola — the restaurant Cartola ran with his wife Zica from 1963 – 1965 —  where he sang and “swapped ideas” (from the Portuguese trocar ideia) with Rio’s samba and cultural elite.

In 1965, Élton Medeiros began singing with the groups Voz do Morro and Rosa de Ouro, with Zé Kéti (Voz do Morro), Paulinho da Viola, Nelson Sargento, Anescarzinho do Salgueiro, Jair do Cavaquinho, Zé Cruz (Voz do Morro) and Oscar Bigode (Voz do Morro). Both shows aimed to introduce the most promising "sambistas de morro" to a wider audience and give them the opportunity to record their songs.
In 1965, Élton Medeiros began singing with the groups Voz do Morro and Rosa de Ouro

Two groups that propelled the  Zicartola set to samba stardom were born from the encontros at the restaurant:  In 1965, Elton joined Herminio Bello de Carvalho’s musical show Rosa de Ouro. Soon after, upon request from the record label MusiDisc, Zé Kéti formed the group Conjunto A Voz do Morro with performers from Rosa de Ouro:  Jair Costa (Jair do Cavaquinho), Paulinho da Viola, Elton Medeiros, Anescarzinho do Salgueiro, Oscar Bigode, Zé Cruz – who played percussion on a straw hat, Nelson Sargento (for the second album), and of course, Zé Kéti. Rosa de Ouro recorded two albums (“Rosa de Ouro” and “Rosa de Ouro II“), and Voz do Morro recorded three, “Roda de Samba,” “Roda de Samba II,” and “Os Sambistas.”

Zicartola, with Nelson Cavaquinho on the guitar and Zé Kéti standing.
Zicartola, with Nelson Cavaquinho on the guitar and Zé Kéti standing.

In 1968, Elton and Paulinho da Viola recorded the beautiful album “Samba na Madrugada,” with sambas composed with Cartola, Mauro Duarte, Zé Keti, Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, and Paulinho and Elton together.  1973, Elton recorded his first self-titled solo album, with his classics “Pressentimento” (with Herminio Bello de Carvalho), “Mascarada” (with Zé Kéti), and “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir).” Four years later, with Candeia, Nelson Cavaquinho, and Guilherme de Brito, he recorded the historic album that included “Sem Ilusão.”

(The date is wrong on the YouTube video):

Here is footage of a Rosa de Ouro reunion in 1980, with each sambista contributing to a pot-pourri with a samba he composed:

Elton Medeiros with friend and partner Paulinho da Viola. Medeiros was a master of the matchbox but said he didn't like posing with the "instrument" because he thought those kinds of pictures contributed to the folklorization of samba.
Elton Medeiros with friend and partner Paulinho da Viola. Medeiros was a master of the matchbox but said he didn’t like posing with the “instrument” because he thought those kinds of pictures contributed to the folklorization of samba.