Brazilian foxtrots: “Dor de recordar,” “Loura ou morena” & “Naná”

Lyrics from “Dor de recordar” by Joubert de Carvalho & Olegário Mariano, first recorded by Francisco Alves (1929)


Não sei por que // I don’t know why
Estás triste ao meu lado // You’re sad by my side
Sem nada dizer // And say nothing
Sinto em mim o coração amargurado // I feel my heart embittered
Na aflição de um velho sonho reviver…// Dying to revive an old dream
O silêncio é que fala do passado // The silence speaks of the past
Deixa que a boca em tua boca // Let this mouth on your mouth
Embriagado de loucura e de esplendor// Drunk on madness and splendor
Possa te dizer chorando quanto é pouca// Tell you, crying, how little
A vida para tanto amor // This life is for so much love

“Loura ou morena” by Vinicius de Moraes and Haroldo Tapajós (1932)

Se por acaso o amor me agarrar // If love happens to catch me
Quero uma loira pra namorar // I want a perfect blonde to be mine
Corpo bem feito, magro e perfeito // A well-made body, trim and perfect
E o azul do céu no olhar // And the blue of the sky in her eyes
Quero também que saiba dançar // I also want her to know how to dance
Que seja clara como o luar // And to be white as the moonlight
Se isso se der // If all this comes together
Posso dizer que amo uma mulher // I can say I love a woman

Mas se uma loura eu não encontrar // But if I don’t come across a blonde
Uma morena é o tom // A morena is the key
Uma pequena, linda morena // A pretty, petite morena
Meu Deus, que bom // My god, how good
Uma morena era o ideal // A morena would be ideal
Mas a loirinha não era mau // But the blonde wouldn’t be too bad
Cabelo louro vale um tesouro // Blonde hair is worth a fortune
É um tipo fenomenal // It’s a phenomenal type
Cabelos negros têm seu lugar // Black hairs have their place
Pele morena convida a amar // That darker skin invites one to love
Que vou fazer? // What shall I do?

Ah, eu não sei como é que vai ser // Ah, I don’t know what will happen
Olho as mulheres, que desespero // I look at these women, what desperation
Que desespero de amor // Desperation of love
É a loirinha, é a moreninha // It’s the blonde, it’s that morena
Meu Deus, que horror! // My god, the horror!
Se da morena vou me lembrar // If I come up with a morena, I’ll immediately remember –
Logo na loura fico a pensar // I’ll think straight away of the blonde
Louras, morenas // Blondes, morenas
Eu quero apenas a todas glorificar // All I really want is to exalt them all
Sou bem constante no amor leal // I’m truly constant in my loyal love
Louras, morenas, sois o ideal // Blondes, morenas, you’re all the ideal
Haja o que houver // Whatever may come
Eu amo em todas somente a mulher // I love just the woman in all of them

“Naná” by Custódio Mesquita & Geysa Bóscoli, first recorded by Orlando Silva (1940)

És sonho que se fez mulher // You’re a dream that became a woman
És dia em pleno amanhecer // You’re day just at daybreak
Naná, Naná // Naná, Naná
Igual aqui no mundo outra não há // Like you in this world there’s no other
Vem aos meus braços, vem, vem cá // Come into my arms, come, come here
Nasceste pra mim Naná // You were born for me, Naná
Téns da lua própria luz no olhar // You have the moon’s own light in your eyes
Quem te vê  deseja logo te beijar // Whoever sees you just wants to kiss you
Naná, primavera, sonho e flor // Naná, springtime, dream and flower
Nosso amor // Our love
Deslumbramento // Dazzling
Cheio de esplendor // Full of splendor
Teu, querida, serei por toda vida // I’ll be yours for all my life

— Commentary —


Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing in the 1935 musical “Top Hat,” released in Brazil as “O Picolino.” Irving Berlin’s foxtrot “Cheek to Cheek” from the movie was a hit in Brazil in 1936.

In the late 1920s and early ’30s, the influx of American talking pictures in Brazil and the boom of radio playing American tunes across the country popularized the foxtrot, the easy jazzy dance that was the rage in the United States at the time. Brazilian composers, in turn, had their hand at foxtrots, creating the genre known as fox-canção, with beautiful melodies and lyrics to rival some of the most popular American tunes like “My Blue Heaven” and “Cheek to Cheek.”  


Vinicius de Moraes as a law student in Rio de Janeiro (at Centro de Preparação de Oficiais da Reserva – Rua do Catete) c. 1929

As a young law student in Rio de Janeiro, Vinicius de Moraes – one of Brazil’s most renowned poets and lyricists of all time – composed romantic fox-canções with brothers Haroldo and Paulo Tapajós, his neighbors in Botafogo who went on to become popular singers and composers themselves. The fox “Loura ou morena” was Vinicius’s first recorded song as a lyricist and the first time the Tapajós brothers recorded vocals. The song’s lyrics sound a bit silly and amateur, but are nonetheless remarkable from an 18-year-old, and were a hit across Brazil.  After the resounding success of “Loura ou morena,” Vinicius took a twenty-year break from composing music, focusing on poetry and his career as a diplomat.

“Naná” was composed as a vaudeville (teatro de revista) tune in 1938 and Orlando Silva’s 1940 recording of the song was a tremendous success.

The fox-canção (sometimes Brazilianized as foxe) went out of style in the late 1940s and to the chagrin of its devotees, has been largely disregarded and forgotten in Brazil.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras by Jairo Severiano


About lyricalbrazil

My name is Victoria Broadus and in early 2012 I moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Brazil - first São Paulo, and now Rio de Janeiro. I began studying Portuguese while working toward a Master's degree in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University, and have since become fluent. I love Brazilian music and want to be able to share it with more people, so I'm working on translating songs to English and providing some contextual interpretation and stories about the songs and the musicians.
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