“Saudosa Maloca” & “Torresmo à Milanesa”

Lyrics from “Saudosa Maloca” by Adoniran Barbosa (1951), interpreted by Adoniran Barbosa & Conjunto do Nelson Miranda


Saudosa maloca // Dear old hut
Maloca querida // Beloved hut
Onde nóis passemos // Where we spent
Dias feliz de nossa vida // Happy days of our life

Se o sinhô não tá lembrado / If you are not recalling, sir
Dá licença de contá // Please do let me tell
Qui aqui onde agora está esse edifício artu // That here where this tall building stands
Era uma casa veia um palacete assobradadu // There was an old house, a two-storey’d palace
Foi aqui seu moço// It was here, my boy
Que eu, Mato Grosso e o Joca // That I, Mato Grosso and Joca
Construímos nossa maloca // Made our quarters
Mas um dia nem quero lembrar // But one day, I don’t even want to think of it
Chegô os homeis com as ferramenta // The men with the tools came
o dono mandô derrubá // The owner ordered it torn down
Peguemo’ tuda nossas coisas // We took all our things
E fumos pro meio da rua // And went out to the middle of the road
Ispiá [espiar] a demolição // To watch the demolition
Que tristeza que eu sentia // What sorrow I felt
Cada tauba [tábua] que caia // Every board that fell
Doía no coração // Hurt in my heart
Mato Grosso quis gritar // Mato Grosso wanted to scream
Mas em cima eu falei // But over him I said
O hômiis tá ‘cá razão // The men they got reason
Nós arranja outro lugar // We’ll find another place
se conformemos quando o Joca falou // We only accepted it when Joca said
“Deus dá o frio conforme o cobertor”// “God deals out cold based on the size of the blanket”
E hoje nóis pega páia nas grama do jardim // And today we collect straw in yards of the garden
E pra esquecê nóis cantemos assim // And to forget, we sing like this
Saudosa maloca, maloca querida // Good old hut, dear hut
Onde nóis passemos dias feliz da nossa vida // Where we spent happy days of our life (3x)


Lyrics from “Torresmo à Milanesa” by Adoniran Barbosa and Carlinhos Vergueiro (1979)


O enxadão da obra bateu onze hora // The hoe of the construction site just struck 11 o’clock
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João

Que é que você troxe na marmita, Dito? // What’d you bring in your lunch box, Dito?
Troxe ovo frito, troxe ovo frito // I brought fried egg, I brought fried egg
E você beleza, o que é que você troxe? // And you, beauty, What’d you bring?
Arroz com feijão e um torresmo à milanesa // Rice with beans and a pork rind à milanesa
Da minha Tereza! // From my Tereza!

Vamos armoçar // Let’s have lunch
Sentados na calçada // Sitting on the sidewalk
Conversar sobre isso e aquilo // Talk about this and that
Coisas que nóis não entende nada // Things we don’t know nothing about
Depois, puxá uma páia // And afterwards hit the hay
Andar um pouco // Take a little stroll
Pra fazer o quilo // To aid digestion

É dureza João! // Ain’t it tough, João! (4x)

O mestre falou // The master said
Que hoje não tem vale não // That today there’s no lunch pass
Ele se esqueceu // He forgot
Que lá em casa não sou só eu // That it’s not just me at home!

— Commentary —

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 1.40.17 PM
Adoniran Barbosa with the vocal group Demônios da Garoa, who were the first to record and popularize many of his songs.

I translated “Saudosa Maloca” to show some of my students so decided to take advantage and make a post out of it!

Adoniran Barbosa’s “Trem das Onze” (translated in an old post here) is his song that has achieved the greatest success outside of São Paulo — specifically in the territorial samba circles of Rio — but “Saudosa Maloca” is probably his most iconic and beloved samba among his fellow paulistasThe version included above was the first recording, but the song only became a hit with this 1955 recording by the vocal group Demônios da Garoa:

That group’s role in popularizing Adoniran’s sambas has generated some controversy in recent years, as members of the present-day iteration of the group have claimed that Demônios was responsible for inventing the “‘narfabeto” (illiterate Italian-inflected) style of singing that Adoniran became famous for. The 1951 recording reveals there is little truth to that claim.

Both of these songs address the rapid expansion of urban Brazil — specifically São Paulo — in the early to mid-twentieth century, and the hard lives of those who built the city but had trouble finding a place in it.

Italian immigrants at a shelter in São Paulo c. 1890. Most immigrants passed through these special shelters before continuing on to coffee plantations. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

As this earlier post explains, Barbosa was born João Rubinato in 1912 to Italian immigrant parents in the interior of São Paulo state. As millions of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 – 1930,  about 4 million more went to South America. Most went to Argentina, but approximately a hundred thousand (exact numbers are hard to come by) disembarked in Brazil. Most of these families, including Barbosa’s, first settled in rural areas to work on and around Brazil’s booming coffee plantations. But as the themes of Barbosa’s songs highlight, most soon ended up seeking better economic possibilities in growing cities.

Italian immigrants selling fruit in the Mooca neighborhood of São Paulo, 1920. Image via Museu da imigração.

As mentioned, Barbosa was famous for composing and singing in the Italian-inflected rural style of speech he grew up with, which is still common all around São Paulo, especially in the rural interior of the state.  I’ve put those words/phrases in bold in the original Portuguese lyrics; it’s things like pronouncing an “r” in place of an “l” (e.g. “armoçar” instead of “almoçar,” to have lunch) and mis-conjugating verbs (e.g., “fumos” instead of “fomos,” we went; “se conformemos” instead of “nos conformamos,” and “nois pega” instead of “nós pegamos.”)  I hope that gives a picture. In a few places I’ve tried to translate into parallel English to add a little of that flavor.

“Maloca” is a pretty hard word to translate. The word originally referred to an indigenous communal dwelling, and can connote an improvised dwelling and the concept of “home.” In this song, I believe it refers to something like squatters’ quarters, set up in the old house that gets torn down.  I haven’t been able to come up with any word in English that would carry all of the same connotations without giving an idea of much greater luxury than “maloca,” so I’ve just left it translated as hut, and “quarters” in one place.

“Saudoso/a” is of course also a challenge: it comes from the notoriously untranslatable word “saudade.” Saudoso is one of my favorite derivatives of saudade. It is often used in the way we use “late” (as in dead) in English, but is much more elegant and appropriately sentimental. (For occasions when no sentiment is called for, the word “falecido/a” might be substituted.)

The phrase “fazer o quilo” is, according to the Internet, a popular corruption of “fazer o quimo,” which refers to chymotrypsin, a chemical responsible for digestion.

In the mid-twentieth century there was a tremendous amount of construction in the centrally located neighborhoods of São Paulo known as Jardins (Gardens): Jardim Paulista, Jardim Europa, Jardim America, etc. Those neighborhoods quickly became some of the city’s wealthiest. In the line “we collect straw in the yards of the garden” (i.e. work clearing yards), “garden” probably refers to that construction boom.

Barbosa and his friend Carlinhos Vergueiro composed “Torresmo à Milanesa” in a bar in 1979. The song apparently began as “Bife à Milanesa,” but Barbosa suggested last minute that they change it to “torresmo à milanesa” to make it more comical, since pork rinds à milanesa doesn’t exist. He then suggested they also change it to “um torresmo à milanesa” — a single pork rind — because that’s “sadder.”

A final note on that song: an enxadão is a hoe. Here it might be referring to some other similar tool from a construction site, but I’m assuming the lyrics mean that a boss struck the time using a hoe (or similar instrument) so that the sound would reverberate across the construction site.

7 thoughts on ““Saudosa Maloca” & “Torresmo à Milanesa””

  1. thanks so much for this. i’d never heard “Torresmo à Milanesa” before….a great samba and the backstory/explanatory notes you supplied are excellent. muito obrigado outra vez!!!!

  2. Victoria, good stuff, as always. Even without your translated lyrics, the historical context itself is always great. Still waiting for a piece about Chocolate da Bahia.

  3. Another insightful posting to this wonderful blog. The commentary on “Saudosa Maloca” brought to mind a song of the mid-80s, “Paulista” ( lyrics by José Carlos Costa Netto, music by Eduardo Gudin, performed by Leila Pinheiro) which also was spawned by urban renewal in São Paulo. Here’s a link to an interview with Costa Netto in which he talks about “Paulista”: http://daniellathompson.com/Texts/Brazzil/Filling_the_VVoid.htm

  4. Bom dia Ms. Broadus,

    Thank you so much for continuing your wonderful blog (I just posted a comment on your most recent post). I’ve been following Lyrical Brazil for the past few years; I’ve learned so much from it and (not being fluent in Portuguese) treasure your translations of lyrics.

    I first became a fan of Brazilian music, and Antônio Carlos Jobim in particular, when the Charlie Byrd/Stan Getz “Jazz Samba” album hit the airwaves during my freshman year in college in 1962. Having been retired for several years, I’ve been able to spend time learning more about Jobim but also “discovering” lots of performers, current and old, I previously knew nothing about. Friends often as me if I would like to go to Brazil, and my usual reply is “I would love to go to Brazil in 1960.” Which brings me to the reason I’m writing this to you:

    I’m planning to take a tour of Patagonia, probably next January, and have been mulling over whether to arrange a stopover in Rio on the way home. If I did go, what would I do? It would basically be a “pilgrimage” of sorts: maybe hire a cab for a day and try to visit various places (those that still exist) where Jobim lived and hung out, Nara Leão’s apartment building on Avenida Atlântica, and also visit the Jardim Botânico and take the cablecar to Cristo Redentor. Part of me thinks not — 2020 isn’t 1960, so much has changed since then and even in the quarter-century since Jobim’s death, and “my kind of music” is probably performed (if at all) in places that cater to foreign tourists. It would be another matter if I could have coffee with Roberto Menescal or Leila Pinheiro, but that’s not in the cards. So would I just wind up feeling I’ve proven Yogi Berra right when he observed that “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be”?

    I realize your time is very limited these days, and my dilemma is obviously a highly subjective and personal question for me to resolve, but if you have any thoughts you’d like to share, I’d greatly appreciate them. And if (like me) you can talk faster than you can type, my home phone number is listed below. Also, I live in Arlington, and would be glad to treat you to coffee or a glass of wine if you’d want to take the time. But if you care not to weigh in at all, that’s fine, too.

    Keep up your good work!

    Richard Juhnke 703-527-0840

    It’s remarkable: when Trump speaks, you can hardly see Sean Hannity’s lips move!


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