Lyrics from “Rara” by Luiz Carlos da Vila and Nelson Sargento (on Benza, Deus; 2004)
Lara, o seu laraiá é lindo // Lara, your lara-iá is beautiful
Rara ao bailar sorrindo // Exquisite, dancing with a smile
são canções de quem tanto, tantos // They’re the songs of she who so many
corações retém com o seu canto. //hearts keeps so close with her song.
Baila e baila o ar // [She/ it] dances, and the air begins to dance
que ouvindo, vai lá, vem cá // and listening, goes hither and thither
e o mar ao ouvir // and the sea, upon hearing
traz o luar mais pra si // draws the moonlight closer in
faz o jardim beija-flor // makes the hummingbird garden
e o sol se põe a aplaudir // and the sun sets to applauding
o samba que a terra criou // the samba that the earth created
em Lara a mais clara versão do amor // in Lara, the most luminous version of love.
— Commentary —
Since today, April 13, 2015, is Dona Ivone Lara’s 94th birthday, I wanted to post the song that I think is the most beautiful tribute to her, by her friends and fellow sambistas Nelson Sargento (b. July 25, 1924) and the late, deeply cherished Luiz Carlos da Vila (July 21, 1949 – October 20, 2008). Sargento composed the melody and Luiz Carlos da Vila wrote the lyrics, which reveal his singular knack for beautifully humanizing elements of nature in his sambas. My impression is that lara-iá is just a mixture of Lara’s name and the common samba chorus “lá-iá-iá.” The line that says “[she/it] dances” is because it could be referring to Lara herself, but seems to be referring to her song — either way, essentially the same message.
Dona Ivone Lara is one of Rio de Janeiro’s most revered female samba singers and composers — the most venerated still alive today. She’s been a member of Império Serrano samba school since its founding in 1947, and prior to that, was part of the school Império Serrano broke off from, Prazer da Serrinha. She composed some of the genre’s all-time greatest successes, such as “Acreditar” (1976, with Délcio Carvalho, released initially by fellow imperiano Roberto Ribeiro); “Alguém me avisou” (1980); “Sorriso Negro” (1981); “Enredo do meu samba” (1981, with Jorge Aragão); “Mas quem disse que te esqueço” (1981, with Hermínio Bello de Carvalho); “Sonho Meu” (1978, with Délcio Carvalho); and the samba-enredo “Os Cinco Bailes da História do Rio” (1965, with Silas de Oliveira — the unrivaled master of samba-enredo –for Império Serrano). Here are images from the 1965 Carnaval parade:
Since Carnaval 1965, Lara has been erroneously credited with being the first female composer to have one of her compositions played on the avenue during Carnaval. That particular honor actually goes to Carmelita Brasil, founder, president and composer for Unidos da Ponte, which paraded to her samba in 1958. In the 1930s, Amélia Pires was already composing for the samba school Unidos da Tijuca, although there’s no record of her having composed a samba-enredo for the school.
But that’s not to diminish the importance of her treasured samba compositions, her moving performances and her powerful presence in the male-dominated samba world since the 1960s. Parabéns pra Dona Ivone Lara!