“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.

“Véspera de Natal” & “Trem das Onze”

Lyrics from “Véspera de Natal” by Adoniran Barbosa (1974)

Eu me lembro muito bem// I remember quite well
Foi numa véspera de natal// It was on a Christmas Eve
Cheguei em casa// I got home
Encontrei minha nega zangada, a criançada chorando// And found my nega (wife) angry, the children crying
Mesa vazia, não tinha nada.// An empty table, nothing on it

Saí, fui comprar bala mistura // I went out, I went to buy candy mix
Comprei também um pãozinho de mel// I also bought a little honey bread
E cumprindo a minha jura // And keeping my promise
Me fantasiei de papai noel//I dressed up as Santa Claus

Falei com minha nega de lado// I told my wife quietly
Eu vou subir no telhado//”I’m going to climb up on the roof
E descer na chaminé// And come down through the chimney
Enquanto isso você //And meanwhile you
Pega a criançada e ensaia o dingo-bel//Get the kids and teach them ‘dingo-bel'” (Jingle Bells written phonetically in Portuguese)

Ai meu deus que sacrifício// Oh my god, what a sacrifice
O orifíciu da chaminé era pequeno// The orifice of the chimney was small!
Pra me tirar de lá //To get me out of there
Foi preciso chamar// We needed to call
Os bombeiros// The fire department!

Lyrics from “Trem das onze”  (1965)

Quais, quais, quais, quais, quais, quais
Quaiscalingudum// (All this is just sounds but varies a bit by recording)

Não posso ficar // I can’t stay
Nem mais um minuto com você // Even another minute with you
Sinto muito, amor // I’m so sorry, dear
Mas não pode ser // But it just can’t be
Moro em Jaçanã // I live in Jacanã
Se eu perder esse trem // If I miss the train
Que sai agora às onze horas// That leaves now at 11 pm
Só amanhã de manhã// The next is only tomorrow morning

E além disso, mulher// And what’s more, woman
Tem outra coisa // There’s something else
Minha mãe não dorme // My mom doesn’t go to sleep
Enquanto eu não chegar // Until I get home

Sou filho único // I’m an only child
Tenho minha casa pra olhar // I have to guard our home!

Bam zam zam zam zam zam
Quaiscalingudum (x2)

Quaisgudum, tchau!

— Interpretation —

Adoniran Barbosa in São Paulo.
Adoniran Barbosa in São Paulo.

This began as a post just about a favorite Brazilian Christmas samba — “Véspera de Natal” — but then I realized it is the first post about Adoniran Barbosa, so I’ve included one of his classics, too: “Trem das Onze.” Alongside Paulo Vanzolini, Barbosa is the best known and loved São Paulo samba composer of all time. His songs “Trem das Onze” and “Saudosa Maloca” achieved widespread and timeless popularity even in Rio – like Vanzolini’s “Volta por cima” – which is a great feat for otherwise oft-snubbed samba paulista.

Barbosa (born João Rubinato, August 6, 1912 – November 23, 1982) was the son of Italian immigrants who settled in the interior of São Paulo. He composed sambas in a humorous mix of Italian-Portuguese dialect and the caipira accent (like hillbilly or country bumpkin) that he grew up surrounded by.

Barbosa was born in 1912, but his birth was registered as 1910 so he could begin working two years before reaching the required age of twelve.  He did a lot of odd jobs in Jundiaí and Santo André, São Paulo, including boxed meal (marmita) delivery and sweeping at a factory. When his family moved to the capital, São Paulo, he became an ironworker until the iron dust caused too much lung damage, and he went back to other odd jobs. In this documentary he said he was “always composing” while performing these other duties — “I was born wanting to make sambas,” he says.

Adoniran playing the matchbox.
Adoniran playing the matchbox.

Adoniran is probably the most iconic representative of São Paulo’s samba style that had its roots among the interior of the state and eventually, largely through Adoniran, became most closely associated with the poorer immigrant communities in the city’s Bixiga and Brás neighborhoods. Concerned that he wouldn’t be taken seriously as a sambista with an Italian last name,  he took his nickname: Adoniran was a friend of his, and Barbosa came from the sambista Luiz Barbosa, who was a pioneer in the “samba de breque” style  — sambas with breaks for humorous interjections and storytelling, or a storytelling style of accompanying the music — that came to characterize São Paulo samba. (More on that sub-genre in a later post that doesn’t coincide with the holidays.)

Incidentally, Adoniran never lived in Jaçanã, on the northern outskirts of São Paulo – though he did work there briefly. He just used the name to rhyme with “amanhã de manhã” (tomorrow morning).