Lyrics from “Lupicínica” by Aldir Blanc and Jayme Vignoli (2005)


Amei // I loved
uma enfermeira do Salgado Filho // A nurse from Salgado Filho
paixão passageira, sem charme nem brilho // A short-lived passion, without charm or splendor
roteiro batido, romance na tarde // A time-worn script, afternoon romance

E aí, numa seresta na Dois de Dezembro // And then, in a seresta on Dois de Dezembro
me perguntaram por ela: “-Nem lembro…” // They asked me about her, “I don’t even remember,”
eu respondi com um sorriso covarde// I replied with a sheepish grin

Ouvi – que bofetada! – “Morreu duas vezes // Then I heard – what a blow! –  “She died two times –
Uma aqui e agora, a outra há seis meses” // One here and now, the other six months ago”
Balbuciei: “-Morrida ou matada?” // I stammered, “Died or was killed?”

“-Depende do seu conceito de assassinato // “Depends on your understanding of murder
Um pobre amor não é amor barato // A poor love isn’t cheap love
Quem fala de tudo não sabe de nada.”// He who who talks about everything doesn’t know anything”

Na rua do Tijolo, bloco 5, aquele de esquina // On the rua do Tijolo, block 5, that one on the corner
morou uma enfermeira com a chama vital de Ana Karenina // Died a nurse with the vital flame of Ana Karenina

Dirá um dodói que Tolstói era chuva demais pra tão pouca planta // Some nut will say that Tolstoy is ‘too much rain for such little plant’
Ô trouxa, heroínas sem par podem brotar na Rússia ou lá em Água Santa…// Oh fool, heroines beyond compare can sprout up in Russia or out in Água Santa

Aquela mulher que dosava o soro nas veias dos agonizantes // That woman who administered serum into the veins of those in agony
não teve sequer um calmante pra dor sem remédio que aflige os amantes // Had not a single sedative for that pain without remedy that afflicts lovers

Por mais que a literatura celebre figuras em vã fantasia // As much as literature might celebrate figures in empty fantasy
ninguém foi mais nobre que a Pobre da Enfermaria // None was nobler than that Poor lady of the Infirmary

— Commentary —


Aldir Blanc at his home in Tijuca.

Today, September 2, 2017, is Aldir Blanc‘s 71st birthday, and for the occasion I decided to translate this beautiful song he composed with Jayme Vignoli and released on Vida Noturna (2005). “Lupicínica” serves as yet another testament to Aldir’s exquisite talent for perfectly portraying the grace and grit of life in Rio in his lyrics. In “Lupicínica,” he characteristically weaves together elements of high culture (Tolstoy in this case) and vignettes that depict crude minutia of a working-class existence in Rio’s north zone and exalt its obscure protagonists. There’s plenty on Aldir’s poetic style in previous posts on Aldir, though, so here I’ll just explain a little about this song. Salgado Filho, as you can guess, is a hospital in Méier, a middle/lower-middle-class suburb of Rio de Janeiro; the neighborhood Água Santa is poorer and farther out. Dois de Dezembro is a road in Rio’s more upscale Flamengo neighborhood, and with “Rua do Tijolo” Aldir could be referring to the street by this name in the suburb of Piedade, or to the street where a big condominium complex – Tijolinho – is located in Vila Isabel.  The tale of passion, scorn and death in this song recalls themes common to Lupicínio Rodrigues’s songs; I’m guessing that may be the inspiration for the name.

Jayme Vignoli, who composed the music, is a cavaquinho player, composer and arranger from Rio de Janeiro, a professor at Rio’s Escola Portátil de Música and cavaquinista with several choro groups including Água de Moringa.

“Viena fica na 28 de Setembro” & “Tempos do onça e da fera (Quarador)”

Lyrics from “Viena fica na 28 de Setembro” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco (1982)

Morre a luz da noite // The evening’s light dies
O porre acende pra me iluminar // The liquor lights up to illuminate me
Numa outra cena…// In another scene…
Zune o vento e valsam os oitis // The wind howls and the oiti trees waltz
No velho boulevard // On the old boulevard
Bosques de viena! // The Vienna Woods!
Escrevo carta a uma desconhecida // I write a letter to some unknown woman
Com quem tive um flerte, um anjo azul…// With whom I had a little dalliance, a blue angel
Pobres balconistas de paquete // Poor saleswomen on the rag
de ar infeliz // with an air of discontentment
São novas Bovarys…// Are new Bovarys
Já perdi o expresso do oriente // I’ve missed the Orient Express
Onde sempre sou // Where I’m always
Vítima e assassino… // Victim and assassin
Tomo a carruagem e o cocheiro // I take a coach and the coachman
De tabela dois // On Table 2 (late-night fare)
Diz que é vascaíno… // Says he’s vascaíno
Ah, triste figura, don quixote // Ah, sorry character, Don Quixote
Quer mais um traçado // After another quest
– cadê o sancho? // — Where’s Sancho?
Dá pro santo, bebe, e o passado // He gives a little to the saint, drinks, and the past
Volta a desfilar // comes marching back
Pierrô de marcha-rancho: // Pierrot of a marcha-rancho:
Com as bronca do Ary Barroso, sem elas… // With Ary Barroso’s rebukes, without them
Com a bossa do Ciro Monteiro, sem ela… // With Ciro Monteiro’s bossa , without it
Com o copo cheio de Vinícius, sem ele…// With Vinicius’s full glass, without it
Com nervos de aço Lupicinio, sem eles…// With Lupicínio’s “nervos de aço,” without them
Com as mãos do Antonio Maria, sem elas…// With Antonio Maria’s hands, without them
Com a voz do Lamartine Babo, sem ela… // With Lamartine Babo’s voice, without it
Com a rosa Dolores Duran, sem ela…// With the rose Dolores Duran, without her
Com a majestade da Elis, sem ela…// With the majesty of Elis, without her

Lyrics from “Tempos do Onça e da Fera (Quarador)” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco (1977)

Saindo pro trabalho de manhã // Leaving for work in the morning
o avô vestia o sol do quarador // The grandfather wore the sun of the quarador (bleaching ground)
tecido em goiabeiras, sabiás // woven in guava trees, song-thrushes
cigarras, vira-latas e um amor // cicadas, mutts, and a love
E o amor ia ao portão pra dar adeus // And the love would go to the gate to say goodbye
de pano na cabeça, espanador… // With a headscarf on, a feather duster…
Os netos.. o quintal… Vila Isabel // The grandchildren… the yard.. Vila Isabel
Todo o Brasil era sol, quarador // All of Brazil was sun, quarador
Hoje, acordei depois do meio-dia // Today I woke up after noon
chovia, passei mal no elevador // It was raining; I felt sick in the elevator
ouvi na rua as garras do Metrô // I heard the metro’s talons on the street below
O avô morreu // The grandfather died
Mudou Vila Isabel ou mudei eu? // Did Vila Isabel change or did I?
Tá em falta o honesto sol do quarador // We’re missing that honest sun of the quarador 

— Commentary —

Todo mundo é carioca. Mas Aldir Blanc é carioca mesmo.
Dorival Caymmi

Aldir Blanc at age seven in Vila Isabel.

rua-dos-artistas-e-arredores-de-aldir-blanc-557101-mlb20271391652_032015-fAldir Blanc was born in Estácio — one of Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhoods known as the “cradle of samba” — in 1946. When he was six*, his family moved to Vila Isabel (another “cradle of samba”) to a house on Rua dos Artistas. The yard of the new home provided a perfect natural playground for a young child, with its guava, orange and banana trees. These trees, and the sounds associated with them – like cicadas and song-thrushes (sabiás, the Brazilian national bird) – became an indelible part of the imagery of mid-19th-century Vila Isabel that Aldir passes on through his songs, poetry, and stories (crônicas).  Aldir weaves together the scenery, sounds, and slang from the era, elegantly recreating Rio’s Zona Norte of his childhood.

Vila Isabel was one of Rio de Janeiro’s first planned neighborhoods, laid out by the abolitionist Barão de Drummond in the early 1870s. (Drummond is better known for having created Brazil’s widely popular, albeit illegal, animal-based gambling game, Jogo do Bicho, to promote his new zoo in Vila Isabel.) The thoroughfare, named for the date in 1871 that Princesa Isabel decreed the Law of Free Birth,  earned the distinguished designation of “boulevard” because it was most painstakingly modeled after Parisian boulevards. In the song, the store clerks on the boulevard, like their French forebear Madame Bovary,  exude disappointment with their monotonous lives; nearby, oiti trees waltz, as if to Strauss’s famous “Tales from the Vienna Woods.” While Boulevard 28 de Setembro was lined with pau-ferro (“iron wood trees”) in 1910, oiti is another favorite native tree for urban arborization that was planted around Vila Isabel and surrounding Zona Norte neighborhoods in the beginning of the 20th century.

Aldir Blanc in a Vasco jersey.

Agatha Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express was first released in 1934, and the “victim and assassin” line makes reference to this mystery. I imagine that with Orient Express, Aldir is referring to the tram that ran in Vila Isabel until the mid-1960s, or the bus line.  Blanc, like the late-night coachman of the song, is vascaíno – a die-hard fan of Rio’s Vasco da Gama football team. To “give some to the saint” is a practice of pouring a little bit of alcohol on the ground before drinking. In this line, though in the translation it sounds as though he’s still talking about the coachman, here he actually seems (to me) to be back to talking about himself.

Closely associated with the melancholy pierrotthe marcha-rancho is a slower, more richly melodious style of Carnaval marcha that was most popular from the 1930s – 1950s. Aldir’s mention of the pierrot of a marcha-rancho sets the stage for the reminiscence that follows,  a wistful tribute to a series of beloved masters of Brazilian popular music of the 20th century who had passed away over the preceding 25 years, and who were known for the characteristics he mentions: Lupicínio’s famous song “Nervos de aço,” for instance, Vinicius’s full glass of spirits, and ultimately, Elis’s overwhelming majesty. The song was composed shortly after Elis Regina’s untimely death in January 1982, which had left Aldir stunned. The two had been devoted musical partners, but they’d recently had a falling out, of sorts. Aldir laments that he hadn’t properly gotten the chance to reconcile.

“Tempos do Onça e da Fera”

Example of a “quarador”, or bleaching ground. Sometimes clothes were laid on wire drying racks.

“Nos tempos do Onça” (in the days of the Jaguar) is an old-fashioned carioca way of saying a long, long time ago. The saying derived from references to the Portuguese administrator of Rio de Janeiro from 1725 – 1732, Luís Vaia Monteiro. Monteiro’s harsh, irascible nature earned him the nickname of the “onça,” or jaguar.

The quarador — also known as quaradouro or cuarador — was an especially sunny plot in the yard or courtyard where clothes were laid out to dry, and is usually referred to as a drying ground or bleaching ground in English.  Here Aldir recalls the quarador in his childhood home, where his dear grandfather’s shirts soaked up the “honest sun” of the olden days together with elements of the natural surroundings.

Aldir has said that by and large his lyrics and writings are built of the recollections of the little boy who lived in Vila Isabel, where he could hear Benedito Lacerda’s flute floating in from nearby, and where he was likely first enchanted by the sambas of his predecessor in the Vila, the “poet of the Vila” Noel Rosa. To this day, when asked to choose “the most beautiful song,” he gives a few responses – all by Noel Rosa.

These two songs clearly express Aldir’s love and pining for the neighborhood as it was in his early childhood, or even before. Aldir’s grandparents helped raise him — in part because his mother suffered from debilitating depression — and his close relationship with them may have helped him develop his rich repertoire of old-time sayings and manners of speaking, along with his robust sense of nostalgia.

For more on the Aldir Blanc – João Bosco partnership, see these posts.

* The ages that he lived in Vila Isabel change slightly in different accounts. In this recent interview with O Globo, he recalls that it was from ages 3 – 11. In A poesia de Aldir Blanc, Melodias e Letras Cifradas… he recalls that it was from ages 6 – 13.

Resposta ao tempo

Lyrics from “Resposta ao tempo” by Aldir Blanc and Cristóvão Bastos (1998)

Batidas na porta da frente // Knocks on the front door
É o tempo // It’s time
Eu bebo um pouquinho // I drink a little
Pra ter argumento // To have something to say
Mas fico sem jeito // But I get flustered,
Calado, e ele ri // Silent, and he laughs
Ele zomba // He scoffs at
Do quanto eu chorei // How much I’ve cried
Porque sabe passar // Because he knows how to go by
E eu não sei // And I don’t

Num dia azul de verão // On a blue summer day
Sinto o vento // I feel the wind
Há folhas no meu coração // There are leaves in my heart
É o tempo // It’s time
Recordo um amor que perdi // I recall a love I lost
Ele ri // He laughs
Diz que somos iguais // He says we’re the same
Se eu notei // Have I noticed?
Pois não sabe ficar // Because he doesn’t know how to stay put
E eu também não sei // And neither do I

E gira em volta de mim // And he turns around me
Sussurra que apaga os caminhos // Whispers that he darkens the way
Que amores terminam no escuro // That loves end in the dark
Sozinhos // Alone

Respondo que ele aprisiona // I respond that he imprisons
Eu liberto // – I set free
Que ele adormece as paixões // He puts passions to sleep
Eu desperto //- I awaken them

E o tempo se rói // And time gnaws away at himself
com inveja de mim // With envy of me
Me vigia querendo aprender // He observes me closely, trying to learn
Como eu morro de amor // How I die of love
Pra tentar reviver // In an attempt to revive

No fundo é uma eterna criança // Deep down, he’s an eternal child
Que não soube amadurecer // Who didn’t know how to grow up
Eu posso, ele não vai poder // I’m able – he won’t be able to
Me esquecer // Forget me

Respondo que ele aprisiona // I respond that he imprisons
Eu liberto // -I set free
Que ele adormece as paixões // He puts passions to sleep
Eu desperto // -I awaken them

E o tempo se rói // And time gnaws away at himself
Com inveja de mim // With envy of me
Me vigia querendo aprender // He observes me, wishing to learn
Como eu morro de amor // How I can die of love
Pra tentar reviver // To try to revive

No fundo é uma eterna criança // Deep down, he’s an eternal child
Que não soube amadurecer // Who didn’t know how to grow up
Eu posso, e ele não vai poder // I’m able, he won’t be able to
Me esquecer (2x) // Forget me

— Commentary —

Aldir Blanc é compositor carioca. É o poeta da vida, do amor, da cidade. É aquele que sabe retratar como ninguém o fato e o sonho. … Todo mundo é carioca, mas Aldir Blanc é carioca mesmo. [Aldir Blanc is a carioca composer. He’s a poet of life, love, and the city. He knows how to portray its reality and dreams like no other. … Everyone is carioca, but Aldir Blanc is truly carioca.]

– Dorival Caymmi, 30 August 1996

Cristovão e Nana Caymmi
Cristóvão Bastos with Nana Caymmi in 2015, during rehearsals for Prêmio da Música Brasileira 2015.
aldir blanc_magro
Aldir Blanc, c. 1980

In 1997, the year before this song’s release, Aldir Blanc and Cristóvão Bastos offered Nana Caymmi the song “Dores Dolores,” but Nana – who was getting ready to record her 1998 album – wasn’t moved by the song, and Clarisse Grova ended up recording it. Hurriedly, Cristóvão, a brilliant composer and pianist who accompanied Caymmi for years on piano, composed the melody for “Resposta ao tempo,” and Aldir Blanc wrote the lyrics. Caymmi loved the song so much that it became the title track of her 1998 album.  Meanwhile, Mariozinho Rocha, musical director for media giant Globo TV, heard “Resposta ao tempo” and immediately chose it for Globo’s upcoming soap opera. But because of a problem with another song, the station ended up using “Resposta ao tempo” even sooner, as the opening track for the 1998 mini-series Hilda Furacão

“Resposta ao tempo” became one of Nana Caymmi’s most beloved songs, the most applauded of her repertory to this day, according to Cristóvão. And Cristóvão, Aldir and Nana were called back to compose and record the opening song for Globo’s soap opera Suave venenowhich ran in 1999.

Aldir recorded “Resposta ao tempo” on his 2005 album Vida noturna (video below).

Among Cristóvão Bastos’s other best-loved compositions is “Todo o sentimento” (1987), composed with Chico Buarque, and also recorded by Nana Caymmi, in 1997.

Main source for this post: Aldir Blanc: Resposta ao tempo by Luiz Fernando Vianna