“Além da Razão”

“Além da razão” by Luiz Carlos da Vila, Sombra & Sombrinha (1988)

Por te amar eu pintei //For loving you, I painted
Um azul pro céu se admirar// A blue for the sky to bask in
Até o mar adocei // I even turned the sea sweet
e das pedras leite eu fiz brotar // And made milk spring from stones
De um vulgar fiz um rei // Of a popper, I made a king
e do nada um império pra te dar // And of nothing, an empire to give to you
E a cantar eu direi o que eu acho então o que é amar // And singing, I’ll explain what I believe is to love
É uma fonte lá pro longe do horizonte // It’s a fountain way off beyond the horizon
Jardim sem espinho // A garden with no thorns
Vinho que vai bem em qualquer canção // Pine (guitar) that goes well in any song
Roupa de vestir em qualquer estação // Clothes to wear in any season
É uma dança, paz de criança que só se alcança // It’s a dance, the peace of a child
Que só se alcança se houver carinho // That can only be achieved if there’s tenderness
É estar além da simples razão // It’s beyond simple reason
Basta não mentir pro seu coração // It’s enough not to lie to your heart
Laia laialá…

– Commentary –

Luiz Carlos da Vila

I love the exercise of discovering in a melody what the author of that melody was saying. So for example take a tune by Moacyr Luz, Arlindo [Cruz], Sombrinha, Sombra, Wilson das Neves – all tremendous composers – and I think that when they whistle or hum that tune, there’s a great story hidden inside there. – Luiz Carlos da Vila

Luiz Carlos da Vila would be turning 66 today — July 21, 2015. He was one of the most fundamental figures of the younger generation of sambistas who congregated at Cacique de Ramos and formed the tremendously influential group Fundo de Quintal at the end of the 1970s, and of them, he’s my favorite. He exuded peace and tenderness in his lyrics and performances, even nearly seven years after his death, Luiz Carlos da Vila remains a constant presence in most rodas de samba in Rio de Janeiro. Old friends and fans sing his songs impassionedly, and he is still constantly cited as an inspiration by his contemporaries and the generation of samba composers that came after him.

Luiz Carlos da Vila performing with Moacyr Luz.
Luiz Carlos da Vila performing with Moacyr Luz.
luiz carlos da vila 005
Luiz Carlos da Vila performing.

Luiz Carlos da Vila was born Luiz Carlos Batista in the Ramos neighborhood (of Cacique de Ramos fame) of Rio de Janeiro. He recalled that his grandmother was quite the merrymaker in the neighborhood and took advantage of any excuse possible to have a party. His aunt played accordions at these parties, and he picked up the accordion quickly when he was around ten years old.

By a few years later he’d learned guitar. His father kept a job in air transport but was a sambista in his free time, and wanted Luiz Carlos to follow a more straight-edge path, but that didn’t work out.

Luiz Carlos earned the nickname “da Vila” when he moved to Vila da Penha, Rio de Janeiro; later he went on to live in Vila Kennedy and Vila Isabel, and Nei Lops promoted him to Luiz Carlos “das Vilas.”

Dom Pandeiro & Luiz Carlos da Vila
Dom Pandeiro & Luiz Carlos da Vila

In spite of his deep affection for Império Serrano, which he never missed a chance to declare, Luiz Carlos da Vila became a composer for Unidos da Vila Isabel, and composed two winning samba-enredos for the school, including the widely celebrated samba “Kizomba, Festa da Raça,” which brought Vila Isabel its first Carnival victory in 1988. The Carnival theme that year was the 100-year anniversary of the abolition of slavery.


Wilson Moreira, Aldir Blanc, Luiz Carlos da Vila and Moacyr Luz celebrating the completion of
Wilson Moreira, Aldir Blanc, Luiz Carlos da Vila and Moacyr Luz celebrating the completion of “Cabô meu pai” (Luiz Carlos da Vila, Aldir Blanc & Moacyr Luz).

Luiz Carlos da Vila died on October 20, 2008. He had checked into the hospital the month before for a hernia operation but suffered complications from recurring stomach cancer. He was 59.

The day that he died, Nei Lopes wrote, “We’ve lost a poet of the finest cloth, a great among the greatest. We’ve lost a human being who was gigantic, in spite of his material fragility. We’ve lost a musician who was complete, even though he had little instruction in the rules of his art. We’ve lost a sambista of the absolute highest level.”

“Pra Quem Quiser Me Visitar” & “Rio Orleans”

“Pra quem quiser me visitar” (Guinga & Aldir Blanc, 1996 – tribute to Tom Jobim)

Fiz o meu rancho lá nas nuvens // I made my home up there in the clouds
Onde se pode conversar // Where we can talk freely
onde os anjinhos são cor de chope… // Where the little angels are the color of draft beer
Tomo cuidado só em debruçar // I’m just careful when I lean over
Vendo o mar, aí…// Looking at the sea,…
Toco piano e a virgem canta // I play piano and the virgin sings
Diz pro menino: tio tom // She says to the little boy: Uncle Tom
Senta à vontade, e a coxa santa // She sits casually, and that holy thigh
Me dá saudade de Leblon // Makes me miss Leblon
Sei das manhãs // I know about those mornings
Que só nascem de tarde // That only begin in the afternoon
Entre silêncios de alardes // Between silences of fanfare
Vi que o sol sente inveja das asas do urubu…// I saw that the sun envies the wings of the vulture
Aos meus amigos que ficaram // To my friends who stayed behind
Um portador há de levar //A carrier is sure to bring you
Um par de asas // A pair of wings
E um pára-quedas pra quem quiser me visitar // And a parachute for those who wish to visit me

“Rio Orleans” (Guinga & Aldir Blanc, 1991)

Tonto de gin // Drunk on gin
Vejo a Cinelândia piscar pra mim, sim // I see Cinelândia wink at me, yes
Bebo ao meu fim // I drink to my end
No Amarelinho outra dose de ódio // At Amarelinho, another shot of hatred
Eu sou assim // That’s who I am
Um mocinho triste, de um mau cinema // A sad boy from a bad theater
‘I need’ um sax // I need a sax
Que me conte um tema // That’ll spin a theme for me
‘I want you, I want you…’// “I want you, I want you”
Versos, maio // Verses, May
E essa dor não cede // And this pain that doesn’t give way
Eu vejo, no Rex // I see, at the Rex
O amor que se perde // Love that’s lost
Na beira-mar mais gins // On the seaside avenue, more gins
E o Rio é New Orleans // And Rio is New Orleans
A alma canta um blues // My soul sings a blues
”cause I love you’ // Cause I love you
”cause I love you’ // Cause I love you
Longe um radio // From afar, a radio
Vem no vento // Drifts in on the wind
Diz que ‘I remember you’ // It says I remember you

— Commentary —


“Eu fui e sou um fruto do rádio. Minha paixão é o radio. Meu professor de música que tem sido até hoje meu maior professor é o rádio.”

Today, June 10, is Guinga’s 65th birthday. Guinga is one of Brazil’s greatest composers and guitar players, and his two greatest musical partnerships have been with two of MPB’s most extraordinary lyricists of all time: Paulo César Pinheiro and Aldir Blanc.  And just as Guinga says he uses tributes to his many musical idols as an excuse to write songs — like the tribute to Tom Jobim above, which he composed with Aldir Blanc shortly after Jobim’s death — I like to use composers’ birthdays as an excuse to write posts about them.

Born in the samba stronghold of Madureira, Rio de Janeiro, Guinga — born Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar — went directly to Jacarepagua, where he grew up. The neighborhood, he likes to mention, was home to “Pixinguinha, Jacob do Bandolim, and Candeia,” three of the greatest names in the history of Brazilian popular music.

Shortly after he was born, an aunt gave him the nickname Guinga. She died a few months later, and he says he says her role in his life was to give him his nickname, which apparently is a corruption of the word “gringo” because of his pale skin.  His father was a sergeant in the air force and his mother was a “woman of the home, as they used to say.”  Guinga spent his childhood listening to serestas and modas – genres closely related to choro – on the radio with his parents. He calls himself “a fruit of the radio … my music professor, to this day my greatest teacher, is the radio.”

Guinga learned guitar through observation. When he was a boy his parents separated and he went to live with a great aunt, whose son – ten years older than Guinga – played guitar late into the night, irritating Guinga, who wanted to sleep. He recounts that one day he picked up the guitar and right off the bat was able to play a bit of samba: “I snatched up the [guitar] that day and have never let go of it since.”

Guinga c. 2001 at his dental practice.
Guinga c. 2001 at his dental practice.

Guinga was never one for studying music or reading much of anything, saying he only read what he needed to to become a professional dentist. (Throughout his musical career he has continued to see dental patients twice a week.) He says he feels he gets the same pleasure and spiritual liberation from music that he thinks many people find through reading. He entered formal music studies briefly as a teenager, but they only lasted about two months; he didn’t have the discipline or motivation to learn to play other composers’ music, he claims. From that point on he focused on developing his compositions.

Cartola, Roberto Nascimento, Cláudio Jorge, Milton Manhães, Joel Nascimento, Guinga & João Nogueira (clockwise from left)
Cartola, Roberto Nascimento, Cláudio Jorge,Milton Manhães,
Joel Nascimento,  Guinga  & João Nogueira (clockwise from left)

His first chance to compose came when he was 14. A local composer and dentist, Paulo Faia, wanted to get revenge on another neighborhood musician who had refused to write music for his lyrics. So Guinga composed the music for the song called “Pescador” (Fisherman), and found it surprisingly easy. Upon meeting Paulo César Pinheiro a few years later, around age 18, Guinga says he realized that what he wanted to do – and what he was best at – was compose music first and then have a lyricist write the words; he says working with a lyricist as brilliant as Paulo César Pinheiro, he grew “addicted” to this songwriting process.

Guinga quickly became friends with and played with some of the world’s best-known sambistas, like Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho, having played guitar on Cartola’s first recording of “O mundo é um moinho.”

Guinga-10menorGuinga cites many musical idols, including Villa-Lobos (“The epitome of everything; a phenomenon, not a composer”); Tom Jobim (“the epitome of 20th century popular composition”); Ary Barroso (“Tom Jobim’s ‘musical father'”); Pixinguinha; Ernesto Nazareth; Jacob do Bandolim; Garoto; Moacyr Santos; Baden Powell, Chico Buarque, etc: “Brazilian music is full of geniuses.” And Duke Ellington is another favorite: Guinga jokes that Duke Ellington would have been the greatest popular composer of the 20th century if a boy named Tom Jobim hadn’t been born in Brazil.

He recalls his first recorded composition was “Conversa com o coração,” which he composed with Paulo César Pinheiro and which MPB-4 recorded and released in 1974.  Clara Nunes, the tremendous portelense singer who was married to Paulo César Pinheiro, also recorded several of Guinga’s songs shortly after MPB-4, and he credits MPB-4 and Clara Nunes with having launched him as a professional composer.

Guinga released his first solo album only in 1991, after Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins opened Velas recording studio in part to give Guinga the chance to record his compositions. Singers Leila Pinheiro and Fatima Guedes have recorded several albums of Guinga’s compositions, including Leila’s Catavento e Girassol, which Guinga says he counts as his and Aldir Blanc’s, too.

Chico Buarque declared Guinga’s  “O Silêncio de Iara” (2003, with Luis Felipe Gama) to be “the song of the century”; many have said about the same of “Senhorinha” (1995, with Paulo César Pinheiro).

Accustomed to the songwriting process that he began with Paulo César Pinheiro, Guinga has fewer instrumental compositions,  and he says most of them were either “inspired by or written in tribute to” his musical idols; they include this homage to Duke Ellington:

Here is Guinga at Berklee School of Music a couple years ago playing “Catavento e Girassol