“Lábios Que Beijei” – “Nada Além” – “Enquanto Houver Saudade”

Lyrics for “Lábios que beijei” by J. Cascata and Leonel Azevedo, recorded by Orlando Silva (1937)


Lábios que beijei / Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei / Hands that I clutched
Numa noite de luar, assim, / On a moonlit night like this
O mar na solidão bramia/ The sea in its solitude bellowed
E o vento a soluçar, pedia / And the howling wind begged
Que fosses sincera para mim/ That you be true to me

Nada tu ouviste/ You listened to nothing
E logo que partiste / And after you left
Para os braços de outro amor/ For the arms of another love
Eu fiquei chorando/ I was left crying
Minha mágoa cantando/ My anguish singing out
Sou estátua perenal da dor / I’m a longstanding statue of pain

Passo os dias soluçando com meu pinho/ I spend my days sobbing with my guitar
Carpindo a minha dor, sozinho/ Wailing out my pain, all alone
Sem esperanças de vê-la jamais / Without any hopes of seeing you again
Deus tem compaixão deste infeliz/ God have mercy on this wretch
Porque sofrer assim/  Why such suffering
Compadecei-vos dos meus ais / Take pity on my pain
Tua imagem permanece imaculada / Your image remains immaculate
Em minha retina cansada/ In my retina grown weary
De chorar por teu amor/ From crying for your love

Lábios que beijei/ Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei/ Hands that I clutched
Volta vem curar a minha dor/ Come back to cure my sorrow

Lyrics from “Nada Além” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)

Nada além / Nothing more
Nada além de uma ilusão/ Nothing more than an illusion
Chega bem / That’s well enough
Que é demais para o meu coração / It’s too much for my heart
Acreditando / Believing
Em tudo que o amor mentindo sempre diz / In everything that love, lying, always says
Eu vou vivendo assim feliz / I go on living happily like this
Na ilusão de ser feliz/ Under the illusion of being happy
Se o amor só nos causa sofrimento e dor / If love only causes us suffering and pain
É melhor, bem melhor a ilusão do amor/ Better, much better, is the illusion of love
Eu não quero e não peço / I don’t wish for, nor do I ask
Para o meu coração/ for my heart
Nada além de uma linda ilusão / Anything more than a beautiful illusion

Lyrics from “Enquanto Houver Saudade” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)


Não posso acreditar / I just can’t believe
Que algumas vezes/ That now and then
Não lembres com vontade de chorar/ You don’t think back with the urge to cry
Daqueles deliciosos quatro meses/ On those four heavenly months
Vividos sem sentir e sem pensar/ Lived without sensing and without thinking

Não posso acreditar/ I just can’t believe
Que hoje não sintas/ That today you don’t feel
Saudade dessa história singular/ Suadade for that singular story
Escrita com as mais suaves tintas/ Written in the tenderest shades
Que existem pra escrever o verbo amar/ That exist to write the verb ‘to love’

Enquanto houver saudade/ As long as saudade exists
Pensarás em mim/ You’ll think about me
Pois a felicidade/ Because happiness
Não se esquece assim/ Isn’t forgotten so easily
O amor passa mas deixa/ Love passes, but leaves
Sempre a recordação/ Forever the memory
De um beijo ou de uma queixa/ Of a kiss or a complaint
No coração/ In the heart

— Commentary —

Orlando Silva (L) and Pixinguinha. (Not quite sure of date – will insert when I find it!)
“Lábios que beijei” was an anticipated release: In its April 25, 1936, edition, the magazine Carioca announced the Orlando Silva was preparing to record the song, which was released the following year.

I know most readers who end up here are more interested in the likes of Caetano Veloso and João Gilberto  than romantic valsas from the late 1930s. But as Caetano points out in his memoir Verdade Tropical (1997), João Gilberto called Orlando Silva (1915-1978) the “world’s greatest singer,” and in the few interviews Gilberto granted, he almost unfailingly mentioned Orlando Silva’s refined style as the inspiration for bossa nova.

In Verdade Tropical, Caetano (who turns 66 today — August 7, 2018 — parabéns, Caetano!) suggests that “any fan of Brazilian popular music, in any corner of the world, should try to listen to Orlando Silva’s recordings from the 1930s to better understand (and get more pleasure from) the mystery of the misty sound of the Portuguese language over the Afro-Amerindian rhythm-scape.”

Custódio Mesquita (at piano), Mário Lago, and Orlando Silva. Image via Instituto Piano Brasileiro.

Caetano praises Silva’s “celestial suaveness,” his inventive phrasing, exquisite timing and overall “miraculous” musicality.  Silva had a powerful voice but always used it artfully; he softened, rather than exaggerated, the high notes he hit, for instance, and avoided the vocal “exhibitionism” of his counterparts, Caetano notes.

Silva was known as the cantor dos multidões —  the singer of the masses — and achieved an unparalleled kind of stardom after he released “Lábios que beijei” in 1937. Fans were known to tear at his clothes and faint in his presence in a manner that would only become more familiar with stars like Frank Sinatra years later. His extraordinary success was all the more impressive given his humble background: Silva was from a working-class family in Rio’s North Zone. His father, a choro guitar player and railway worker, died from the Spanish flu when Silva was three, and as a young boy, Silva began working as a meal deliverer. He held several jobs, including bus-fare collector, where his colleagues heard him singing and encouraged him to go to a radio test; once radio producers became aware of Silva, he quickly rose to stardom.

As Caetano points out, Silva created an entirely new style of Brazilian song with his brilliant manner of adjusting his interpretive style to the advent of the electric microphone. Bing Crosby was among the first to have successfully pioneered such changes in singing technique in the United States, where electric recording took off earlier. In turn, while Brazilian singers Dick Farney and Lúcio Alves — men “much richer and better educated than Orlando,” Caetano reminds — worked to incorporate Crosby’s techniques, “there’s more Bing Crosby in Orlando Silva (who possibly heard the American singer, but very little and without a chance to become very familiar with his work) than in those showy singers.”

Several accidents and sicknesses throughout his life left Silva susceptible to morphine dependence, and he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction from the 1940s until his death from a stroke on August 7, 1978 — Caetano’s thirty-sixth birthday.

“Lábios que beijei” was Orlando Silva’s first and greatest hit, according to music historian Jairo Severiano, who wrote that the “melancholy composition never found another interpreter as perfect as the young Orlando, who was 22 at the time,” and that Silva’s presence is so important to the song that one could “symbolically consider him a partner in the composition, alongside Cascata and Leonel Azevedo.” Radamés Gnattali orchestrated “Lábios que beijei” for the 1937 recording, giving an emphasis to the strings that, after the success of that recording, became standard for the Brazilian romantic repertoire.

Screenshot 2018-08-07 at 12.12.45 PM
An announcement from the newspaper A Noite from July 10, 1937, describes the show “Rumo ao Cattete,” which had opened the night before at Teatro Recreio. 

“Nada Além” and  “Enquanto Houver Saudade” were both composed by one of the greatest duos in Brazilian popular music — Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago — for the 1937 show Rumo ao Cattete (Headed to Catete’ [presidential palace]) — about the presidential elections that were set to take place in late 1937 but were cancelled by Getúlio Vargas’s November 1937 coup that installed his Estado Novo regime.  As Jairo Severiano recounts in A Canção no Tempo, “Nada Além” accompanied a comic-romantic scene in which a character played by Armando Nascimento watches as a shop salesman pitches several items to him; when the salesman sees that his would-be client can’t make up his mind, he asks him, “So what does the gentleman desire?,” to which the fellow responds in song: “Nada além, nada além de uma ilusão…”

In a 1984 interview with Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós, Mário Lago recalled that he and Custódio Mesquita composed “Enquanto houver saudade” at the last minute because they realized they needed a song for another scene in the show. As they composed the song, Armando Nascimento learned it line by line as it came together. Lago and Mesquita apparently worked quite well under pressure: The song became one of their best-loved compositions. Mesquita invited Orlando Silva to attend the show, and Lago recounted that when they asked Silva afterwards how he had liked it, he said with urgency, “I want to record those two songs – has anyone claimed them yet?” They were his.

Lago recalled that “Nada além” became a favorite of Dona Canô — Caetano and Maria Bethânia’s mother — and Bethânia went on to record the song.  Meanwhile, in the 1984 interview mentioned above, Lago called his friend Custódio Mesquita “one of the most ‘wronged’ (injustiçado) composers of all time,” with some of the most beautiful melodies in the Brazilian popular repertoire, who “didn’t deserve to be forgotten like he’d been forgotten.”

Caetano sings “Labios que beijei”:

Caetano sings “Nada Além”:


Sources for this post:  Verdade Tropical by Caetano Veloso; A Canção no Tempo by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello; conversation with Jairo Severiano on Aug. 7, 2018; and Mário Lago’s depoimento for the Projeto Memória Musical Carioca, recorded by Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós at Rio’s Arquivo da Cidade on September 4, 1984.

Mario Lago, Orlando Silva, Custodio Mesquita
A different angle: Mesquita,Lato, and Silva. 


Canto do povo de um lugar

Lyrics from “Canto do povo de um lugar” by Caetano Veloso (1975)

Good Audio Version (Pena Branca and Xavantinho with Renato Teixeira)

Every day the sun rises
And we sing to the sun of each day

Late afternoon, the land blushes
And we weep because the afternoon is gone

When it’s night, the gentle moon
And we dance, worshiping the night

Late at night, sky of stars
And we sleep, dreaming of them

— Interpretation —

The album cover for Caetano Veloso's 1975 album Jóia features the sun and moon,birds, and Caetano looking primitive.
The album cover for Caetano Veloso’s 1975 album Jóia features the sun, moon, birds, and Caetano looking primitive.

Caetano Veloso recorded “Canto do povo de um lugar” – which translates to “Song of a people from a place” – for his 1975 album Jóia.  The song’s folkloric style and lyrics evoke, or even exalt, a simple rural way of life that revolves around the sun, moon and stars. In this way, the song combines Caetano’s nostalgic style and his tendency at the time to focus on metaphysical wonders and people’s veneration of nature.

The song’s style and theme also held an element of protest.  In 1975, the country’s military leaders were consumed with a pursuit of economic growth and full industrialization at whatever cost, and the lives of well-to-do urbanites seemed governed by stiff conventions and material acquisitions. Between 1968 and 1973 – some of the most repressive years of military rule – Brazil’s economy grew at an average rate of over 10 percent. Leaders and the press called it the “Brazilian miracle.” Meanwhile, the country’s wealth became more highly concentrated, and rural populations suffered from both destitution and discrimination. Popular singers including Caetano Veloso, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil and Geraldo Vandré  incorporated themes of regional, backcountry life in their music, and performed and praised the music of Luiz Gonzaga – whom Gil called the first spokesperson for the marginalized culture of the northeast – in large measure to draw attention to the plight of rural populations.

Still, “Canto do povo de um lugar” tends more toward nostalgia and wonder than protest, and since its release it has become a treasured folk song in Brazil.

The album Jóia comprises mostly serene acoustic recordings like this one, which, along with others on the LP – “Na asa do vento” (On the wind’s wing), “Asa, asa” (Wing, wing), and “Lua, lua lua” (Moon, moon, moon) – express a reverence for nature and its relationship with music, rhythm and song.  The latter two also illustrate Caetano’s affinity with the concrete poetry movement. In “Asa, asa,” the word “passaro” (bird) serves as the song’s foundation; it is repeated over and over paired with different words or split in different ways so as to make the narrative flow over the backdrop of an unvarying beat. “Lua, lua, lua” recalls the poem “branco…” by one of the leaders of the movement, Haroldo de Campos.

In the versions of “Canto do povo de um lugar” linked above the final verse is left out.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Todo dia o sol levanta
E a gente canta
Ao sol de todo dia

Fim da tarde a terra cora
E a gente chora
Porque finda a tarde

Quando a noite a lua mansa
E a gente dança
Venerando a noite

Madrugada, céu de estrelas
E a gente dorme
sonhando com elas.

Main sources for this post:  Balanço da Bossa e outras bossas by Augusto de Campos and Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: 1965 – 1985 by Charles Perrone

Alegria, Alegria

Lyrics from “Alegria, Alegria” by Caetano Veloso (1967)

Original video from Festival Record (1967), apologies for quality

Good Audio Version

Walking against the wind, no kerchief, no ID
Under the near-December sun
I go…
The Sun is divided among crimes
Spaceships, guerillas
And beautiful Cardinales
I go…
In presidents’ faces, in passionate kisses, in teeth, legs, and flags
Bombs and Brigitte Bardot

The sun on the newsstands fills me with joy and laziness
Who reads that much news?
I go…

Among photos and names
Eyes full of color
And breast full of vain loves
I go…
Why not, why not?

She thinks about marriage
I never went back to school
No kerchief, no ID,
I go…

I drink coca-cola, she thinks about marriage
And a song consoles me
I go…

Among photos and names
No books, no rifle
No hunger, no telephone
In the heart of Brazil…

She doesn’t even know that I even thought about singing on TV
The sun is so lovely
I go…

No kerchief, no ID
Nothing in my pockets or hands
I want to go on living love
I will…
Why not, why not…
Why not, why not…  why not, why not…

— Interpretation —

Caetano singing “Alegria, Alegria” with the Argentine rock group the Beat Boys, 1967

“Alegria, Alegria” (“Joy, joy”) is one of the signature songs that launched Caetano Veloso and the nascent Tropicália movement into the spotlight of the Brazilian music scene in 1967. Caetano performed the song  at the legendary 1967 3rd Record Festival of Música Popular Brasileira (inspiration for the film “A Night in ’67”) with the Argentine rock group the Beat Boys, eliciting jeers from purists who rejected any foreign elements in Brazilian music.  At the same festival, Gil sang “Domingo no Parque.” Together, the two songs introduced Brazil to Caetano and Gil’s “universal sound,” which controversially mixed influences from around the globe – most notably, rock and roll – with regional styles and themes,  especially from their home state of Bahia.

Gil and Caetano came in second and fourth place in the festival, respectively, behind Edu Lobo’s “Ponteio” (first place) and Chico Buarque‘s “Roda Viva” (third place), entries that appealed more to the standards of the festival, which generally valued a song’s message over its musical arrangement. But by the end of 1967, “Alegria, Alegria” was at the top of the IBOPE singles chart for record sales, while the winner “Ponteio” was in tenth place.

The metaphor behind the lyrics of “Alegria Alegria” has been likened to a manifesto for the Tropicália movement:

The song follows a transient walking through city streets (presumably Rio de Janeiro, where Caetano was inspired to write the song on a walk through Copacabana).  The wandering narrator takes in the “confusing, fragmented reality of a modern Brazilian city,” full of imported symbols of  modernity. He browses a newsstand selling the counter-culture newspaper O Sol (The Sun). Headlines and images of crimes, bombs, spaceships and leftist guerrilla uprisings – in this case, Che Guevara’s campaign in Bolivia – compete with photos of foreign actresses and sex symbols (Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale) for the narrator’s attention.

As the list of images goes on, it becomes more fragmented –presidents’ faces, teeth, legs, etc; the narrator, in the meantime, drinks his coca-cola and doesn’t think too much of any of it.  He says the sun fills him with joy and laziness — characteristics typically associated with backward Brazilians (carnavalesque exuberance mixed with laziness), which the military government was ostensibly fighting with its modernization project.  The military regime aimed to bring modernization to the “heart of Brazil” that Caetano refers to, with wildly misguided projects like the Transamazonian Highway; in the meantime, modernization for most people meant this confused influx of mostly superficial symbols and images.

Still, rather than dwelling on bombs or politics, the narrator ponders a potential singing career and how good the summer sun feels. Spurning laws and societal conventions – no ID, little education and ambivalent about marriage – he just wants to go on living and loving freely, without limitations, why not?

The mixture of all of these images in “Alegria, Alegria” – true to life – neutralizes any social message or criticism in the song. Caetano’s “insubordinate juxtaposition” of national and international politics, triumphs and tragedies with completely quotidian concerns, all sung to a simple marchinha tune, are what made the song revolutionary.  In 1967, the public was accustomed to songs with clearer social messages about poverty, violence and political repression; by contrast, “Alegria, Alegria” was scattered and ambiguous. Embracing contradictions and exposing hypocrisies in society, the arts and the artistic process itself became a defining element of Tropicália.

Written in what’s been called a “descriptive-cinematographic style,” the song reflects the influence of Brazilian Cinema Novo and French New Wave cinema on Caetano’s work. Caetano has remarked that after seeing the 1967 Cinema Novo film Terra em Transe, directed by Glauber Rocher, he set out to create the same effect with his music. The style won the  praise and solidarity of concretistas  like the poet Augusto de Campos and the composer Gilberto Mendes, and from the rock music scene — Caetano appeared in the first edition of Rolling Stone magazine in November 1967.

Helio Oiticica’s 1967 mixed-media installation “Tropicália,” the inspiration for the name of Tropicália movement. Source: IG Blog

In 1968, Caetano released his first solo LP, Caetano Veloso (Tropicália), which served to officially baptize the movement,  named after artist Hélio Oiticica’s 1967 mixed-media installation at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo. Though the movement is often  referred to as tropicalismo, Caetano, Gil, et al. preferred Tropicalia because they didn’t want to become just another “ism.”

In this video, Caetano says he considers the song “unsatisfactory,” but is pleased that people like it so much and that it’s had such a strong response.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Caminhando contra o vento
Sem lenço e sem documento
No sol de quase dezembro
Eu vou…

O sol se reparte em crimes
Espaçonaves, guerrilhas
Em cardinales bonitas
Eu vou…

Em caras de presidentes
Em grandes beijos de amor
Em dentes, pernas, bandeiras
Bomba e Brigitte Bardot…

O sol nas bancas de revista
Me enche de alegria e preguiça
Quem lê tanta notícia
Eu vou…

Por entre fotos e nomes
Os olhos cheios de cores
O peito cheio de amores vãos
Eu vou
Por que não, por que não…

Ela pensa em casamento
E eu nunca mais fui à escola
Sem lenço e sem documento,
Eu vou…

Eu tomo uma coca-cola
Ela pensa em casamento
E uma canção me consola
Eu vou…

Por entre fotos e nomes
Sem livros e sem fuzil
Sem fome, sem telefone
No coração do Brasil…

Ela nem sabe até pensei
Em cantar na televisão
O sol é tão bonito
Eu vou…

Sem lenço, sem documento
Nada no bolso ou nas mãos
Eu quero seguir vivendo, amor
Eu vou…

Por que não, por que não…
Por que não, por que não…
Por que não, por que não…
Por que não, por que não…

Main sources for this post include: Tropicália Alegoria Alegria by Celso Favaretto; Brutality Garden by Christopher Dunn; “The Tropes of Tropicality and Tropicalism” by Charles Perrone; and A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2 by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello, and Verdade Tropical by Caetano Veloso.