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.
**Update: In August 2017 I moved from Rio back to Washington, D.C., to start a PhD in History at Georgetown. I haven't been able to post as frequently because of that, but will be back to writing more soon!**
I wanted to include a short post to explain why I haven’t been posting as much! I have started a PhD program that will eventually be focused on Brazilian music & history. With the reading and writing for school, I haven’t had the time I’d like to dedicate to this blog. I hope you will continue sending requests and I will do my best to answer them, and will be back to posting more songs and stories soon!
Lyrics from “Rosa de Hiroshima” by Vinicius de Moraes, music by Gérson Conrad; released by Secos & Molhados (1973)
Pensem nas criancas // Think of the children
Mudas, Telepáticas // Mute, telepathic
Pensem nas meninas // Think of the girls
Cegas, inexatas // Blind, inexact (amiss)
Pensem nas mulheres // Think of the women
Rotas, alteradas // Torn, altered
Pensem nas feridas // Think of the wounds
Como rosas cálidas // Like burning roses
Mas oh! Nao se esqueçam // But oh! Don’t forget
Da rosa da rosa // The rose of roses
Da rosa de Hiroshima // The rose of Hiroshima
A rosa hereditária // The hereditary rose
A rosa radioativa // The radioactive rose
Estúpida e inválida // Senseless and invalid
A rosa com cirrose // The rose with cirrhosis
A anti-rosa atomica // The atomic anti-rose
Sem cor, sem perfume // Without color, without fragrance
Sem rosa, sem nada // Without rose, without anything
— Commentary —
In the early morning of 6 August 1945, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, lifted off a runway on Tinian Island in the Pacific. Piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, who had named the giant Superfortress after his mother, the Enola Gay carried a ten-thousand-pound atomic bomb known as “Little Boy.” At 8:15 A.M., the crew of the Enola Gay covered their eyes with dark glasses and the bombardier, Thomas Ferebee, released the huge orange and black bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, a city of 250,000 people, many of whom were starting their last day on earth. The bomb exploded over the city with a brilliant flash of purple light, followed by a deafening blast and a powerful shock wave that heated the air as if expanded. A searing fireball eventually enveloped the area around ground zero, temperatures rose to approximate those on the surface of the sun, and a giant mushroom cloud roiled up from the city like an angry gray ghost. Within seconds Hiroshima was destroyed and half of its population was dead or dying. Three days later, a second atomic bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing more than 60,000 people. –Michael Hogan: Hiroshima in History and Memory
Vinicius de Moraes composed this poem in 1954. Nearly twenty years later, Gérson Conrad of Secos & Molhados set the poem to music. Secos & Molhados released “Rosa de Hiroshima” on their self-titled debut album,and Ney Matogrosso’s piercing rendition seared the song into popular memory across Brazil.
The horror of the atomic bomb was incomprehensible in Japan and around the world. The scale of the attack was so unfathomable that the Japanese reacted almost as if they’d been struck by a natural disaster, rather than a man-made atrocity released by bombardier Thomas Ferebee at 8:15 that morning. No prior conceptions or language existed to grapple with the scale of the attack, so reckoning largely came, when it came, through the arts.
The mushroom cloud of the bomb spread as a rose bud blooms and expands, and Vinicius de Moraes treated the bomb as the “anti-rose” in this poem.
The first verses focus on the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of the bomb: Rollicking children were rendered mute, killed or surviving without words to express or come to terms with the experience. Girls were blinded by the searing flash; “inexact” evokes incompleteness, or something amiss. (I didn’t want to post too gruesome images here, but some of these seem representative of what Vinicius mentions.)
“Rotas, alteradas” can also be interpreted as “rotas alteradas,” or paths altered.
The second part of the lyrics discuss the “senseless” bomb. “Hereditary” rose may refer to the fact that survivors were “presumed to carry the curse of the bombs in their blood,” and were shunned in Japan. Invalid can be interpreted as not valid — out of bounds, unwarranted — or “invalid” in the sense of disabled, as the survivors were left both psychologically and physically. The Japanese government essentially ignored the bomb survivors until November 1953, when it established a research council to conduct surveys of survivors. The news surrounding this movement may have inspired the poem, written shortly thereafter. This rose is fatally flawed, sick with cirrhosis like the survivors who developed cirrhosis of the liver from radiation poisoning.
If the rose represents beauty, passion, and vigor, the bomb was the “anti-rose,” like an anti-christ.
Main source for this post: Hiroshima in History and Memory, ed. Mark Hogan
Lyrics from “Saci” by Guinga and Paulo César Pinheiro (1993)
Quem vem vindo ali // Who’s on his way here
É um preto retinto e anda nu // Is a jet-black boy, and he’s naked
Boné cobrindo o pixaim // Cap covering his ‘fro
E pitando um cachimbo de bambu // And puffing on a bamboo pipe
Vem me acudir // He’s coming to see me
Acho que ouvi seu assovio // I think I heard his whistle
Fiquei até com cabelo em pé // My hairs even stood on end
Me deu arrepio, frio // I got the goosebumps, chills
Quem vem vindo ali // Who’s on his way here
Tá capengando numa perna só // Is hobbling on just one leg
Só pode ser coisa ruim // This can’t be good
Como bem dizia minha vó // Just like my grandma used to say
Diz que ele vem // They say he’s coming
Montado num roda-moinho // Riding a whirlwind
Já sei quem é, já vi seu boné // I know who it is, I’ve caught a glimpse of his cap
Surgir no caminho // On the way
Quando ele vê que eu´me benzi // When he sees that I’ve crossed myself
E que eu me arredo, cruz credo // And that I’m moving away, goodness be
Solta uma gargalhada // He’ll let out a cackle
Some na estrada // Vanish down the road
É o Saci // It’s Saci
— Commentary —
Dear Readers: Ever since I started a PhD program (in Brazilian history!), I’ve barely had time to post. But I’m going to keep trying! Please send requests. I wanted to do a quick post in honor of “Dia do Saci,” and it’s hard to go wrong with a song by Guinga and Paulo César Pinheiro.
Dia do Saci: Halloween keeps getting bigger in Brazil. But since 2003, October 31 has officially been “Dia do Saci,” in honor of the little one-legged rascal from Brazilian folklore. He emerged from Tupi-Guarani folklore in the south of Brazil, and was incorporated into slave fables. Saci is never without his magic red sock hat and pipe, and can’t stop getting into mischief. Legend has it that he lives in whirlwinds and can be caught with a net; upon capture, his hat must be removed to ensure his obedience. Sacis are born in bamboo shoots, where they live for seven years before emerging to wreak playful havoc for the next seventy-seven years. When they die, they turn into mushrooms.
Saci Day was declared in Brazil’s Federal Law 2.762, in 2003. It was part of a bill presented by Rio de Janeiro’s deputy Chico Alencar (PSOL) in an effort to celebrate Brazilian folklore rather than traditions imported from abroad – in this case, the celtic celebration of Halloween, imported from the United States.
Three years ago for this occasion I posted “Sasaci-Pererê” (Jorge Ben).
There is some debate in Brazil regarding racial stereotypes in depictions of Saci, particularly regarding those of the tremendously popular children’s author Monteiro Lobato.
Here’s Monica Salmaso’s beautiful version of the song: