Minha Viola

Lyrics from “Minha Viola” by Noel Rosa (1930)

Minha viola / My guitar
Tá chorando com razão / Is crying with reason
Por causa duma marvada / On account of a no-good woman
Que roubou meu coração/ Who stole my heart (2x)

Eu não respeito cantadô / I don’t respect a cantador (popular street singer)
que é respeitado/ Who’s respected
Que no samba improvisado/Who in an improvised samba
me quiser desafiar/ Should wish to challenge me
Inda outro dia / Jus’ the other day
Fui cantar no galinheiro/ I went to sing at the chicken pen
O galo andou o mês inteiro/ And the rooster went a whole month
sem vontade de cantar/ Without any desire to sing
Nesta cidade / In this city
todo mundo se acautela/ Everyone takes precautions
Com a tal de febre amarela/ With that yellow fever
que não cansa de matá/ That doesn’t tire of killing
E a dona Chica / And dona Chica
que anda atrás de mal conselho/ Who goes following bad advice
Pinta o corpo de vermelho/ Paints her body red
pro amarelo não pegar/ So the yellow won’t get her

Minha viola/ My guitar
Tá chorando com razão/ Is crying with reason
Por causa duma marvada/ On account of a no-good woman
Que roubou meu coração/ Who stole my heart (2x)

Eu já jurei/ I already swore
não jogar com seu Saldanha/ Not to play with seu Saldanha
Que diz sempre que me ganha/ Who always says he beats me
No tal jogo do bilhar/ In that game of billiards
Sapeca o taco nas bola de tal maneira/ He hits the cue in such a way
Que eu espero a noite inteira/ That I wait the entire night
pras bola carambolar/ For the balls to carom
Conheço um véio/ I know an old man
que tem a grande mania/ Who has this obsession
De fazê economia /With practicing economy
pra modelo de seus filho/ As a model for his sons
Não usa prato/ He doesn’t use plate
nem moringa, nem caneca/ Nor moringa (clay water cooler), nor cup
E quando senta é de cueca / And when he sits it’s in briefs
Pra não gastar dos fundilho/ To spare his trouser seat

Minha viola/ My guitar
Tá chorando com razão/Is crying with reason
Por causa duma marvada/ On account of a no-good woman
Que roubou meu coração/Who stole my heart

Eu tive um sogro/ I had a father-in-law
Cansado dos regabofe/ Tired of the whoopla
Que procurou o Voronoff/ Who sought out Voronoff
doutô muito creditado/ A well credentialed doctor
E andam dizendo/ And people are saying
que o enxerto foi de gato/ That the graft came from a cat
Pois ele pula de quatro /Cause now he jumps on all fours
miando pelos telhado/ Meowing over rooftops.
Adonde eu moro / Where I live
tem o bloco dos filante/ There’s the bloco of the bummers
Que quase que a todo instante/ Who at almost every moment
um cigarro vem filar/ Come to bum a cigarette
E os danado vem bancando inteligente/ And the weasels even play the wise guy
Diz que tão com dô de dente/ Say they’ve got a toothache
que o cigarro faz passea/ That the cigarette relieves

Minha viola/ My guitar
Tá chorando com razão/ Is crying with reason
Por causa duma marvada/ On account of a no-good woman
Que roubou meu coração/ Who stole my heart

–Commentary —

Bando de Tangarás | immub.org
Noel Rosa and the Bando de Tangarás dressed in ersatz northeastern country-style outfits as was the fashion among many performers in Rio in the 1920s.

In an effort to not let this site go dormant too long as I struggle through research and dissertation-writing, I’m going to try to try to keep posts briefer (or at least translate and write more quickly!) for the next year or two. I just heard this fun early composition by Noel Rosa on the amazing Radio Batuta app and thought it would be a good place to start. The composition is in the style of a northeastern embolada, a word that can literally be translated as “tangled” and refers to the quick tongue-tying declamation of improvised verses that characterizes the style (generally much faster than in this song); the rapid-fire poetic delivery in fact made its way into much of Rosa’s samba repertoire and is a key part of its enduring charm.

Pixinguinha (top left) with Os Oito Batutas dressed in their northeastern-inspired garb. Image via Biblioteca Nacional.

Northeastern folk music was a sort of exoticized fashion in Rio in the 1920s as Noel Rosa was getting his start. As João Máximo and Carlos Didier write in Noel Rosa: Uma biografia, northeastern popular street singers — cantadores, like the cantadô(r) referenced in the song — had emerged as a popular presence on Rio’s streets from the 1910s. João Pernambuco (João Teixeira Guimarães) became perhaps the best known, forming the Grupo de Caxangá with the likes of Pixinguinha and Donga. The group began parading in Carnival in 1914, fully decked out in northeastern-style garb and performing emboladas, côco and modinha sertaneja along with the samba and choro Pixinguinha and Donga are better known for. Later, when Pixinguinha and Donga formed the famous Os Oito Batutas band in 1919, they similarly adopted ersatz northeastern fashions. That band is best known for its role in popularizing samba and choro both abroad and at home, especially through their approximately seven-month stay in Paris in 1922, at the height of that city’s “negrophilia.” It was there that they scrapped their folksy northeastern act and shifted closer to jazz presentation style, differentiating themselves from their North American counterparts through their samba and choro performances.

Rosa composed the song in the early days of Bando de Tangarás — the group he joined with Almirante, Henrique Brito, Braguinha, and Alvinho de Miranda Ribeiro, which lasted from 1929-34 and whose story you can find in this previous post — and the song, like the group, took inspiration from the northeastern fad. The lyrics adopt a folksy style of speech of Brazil’s rural popular classes, switching out the “l” for “r” (in marvada, for instance), cutting off final “r”s in words like “cantadô,” and using the singular subject with a plural article, as in “pras bola.”

The song of course nonetheless represents an early example of Noel Rosa’s characteristic tongue-in-cheek style, with themes and turns of phrase that make it distinctly urban and carioca. These include the reference to Serge Voronoff: Voronoff was a Russian-French surgeon who was much the talk of the town in Rio in the 1920s and 30s. He was famous or notorious for grafting animal skins — often primate testicles — onto men as a purported rejuvenation technique. The doctor was in fact also lampooned in another popular song of the time, Lamartine Babo’s and João Rossi’s 1928 Carnaval marcha Seu Voronoff“: “These days anyone/ Can be real strong, be a toughie/ Be agile like a goat/And have the soul of a monkey,” starts that song.

Main source for this post: Noel Rosa: uma biografia by João Máximo and Carlos Didier

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