Homenagem ao Malandro & Homenagem à Velha Guarda

Lyrics from “Homenagem ao Malandro” by Chico Buarque (1978)

I went to write a samba in honor of the cream of the malandragem
That I know from Carnivals of years gone by
I went to Lapa and the trip was wasted
‘Cause that kind of malandragem doesn’t exist anymore

Now it’s just not normal
The amount of orderly, professional malandros around
Malandro with the trappings of an official malandro
Malandro with a profile in the Society column
Malandro with a contract, a tie,  and capital
Who never gets into trouble

But the malandro that counts — don’t spread it — retired his razor
Has a wife and kid and the whole kit and bit
Word on the street is that he even has work
He lives far away, and rattles in on a train on the Central Line

Now it’s just not normal
The amount of orderly, professional malandros around
Malandro with the trappings of an official malandro
Malandro candidate for Federal Malandro
Malandro with a profile in the Society column
Malandro with a contract, a tie and capital
Who never gets into trouble

Lyrics from “Homenagem à Velha Guarda” by Monarco (1980)

One day, you went to Lapa to see the malandragem
You wasted your time and the trip, as your samba explains
I went to Portela to see my sambistas
But consulting my list, I, too, wasn’t pleased!
There, I was told of a terreiro where they spend the entire day
In some nondescript nook in Oswaldo Cruz
It’s out there near Bento Ribeiro
Where Paulo and his consort made sambas that still seduce to this day
Looking around the locale, I found Mano Alvaiade
Our old harmony director, who gave me a valuable tip:
It’s a beautiful home, that brings together peace, love, and joy
There I saw the true sambistas
Manacéia and Lonato, and others too!
I swear my jaw dropped, I’d never felt so close
To the Portela of days of yore.

— Interpretation —

Scene from Ópera do Malandro. Pictured (L-R): Elba Ramalho, Tony Ferreira, Ari Fontoura, Marieta Severo, Otávio Augusto, and Maria Alice Vergueiro.
Scene from Ópera do Malandro. Pictured (L-R): Elba Ramalho, Tony Ferreira, Ari Fontoura, Marieta Severo, Otávio Augusto, and Maria Alice Vergueiro.

In 1978, Chico Buarque’s musical play Ópera do Malandro opened in Rio de Janeiro to rave reviews from critics and crowds. Set in Lapa in the early 1940s, the musical portrays a seedy, sensual, samba-suffused side of Rio’s bohemian redoubt that was at its height in the 1920s-40s and had died out, as Chico describes here, by the 1970s: “Lapa, brothels, loan sharks, smugglers, corrupt police, unscrupulous businessmen. (…) When this side of Lapa began to die, it was a harbinger of other deaths: malandragem [for a description of malandros and malandragem, the shady life on the edge of the law that has become an iconic part of Rio de Janeiro’s identity, see this post], Madame Satã [legendary drag queen and capoeirista], Geraldo Pereira, Wilson Batista [sambistas who most represent the samba malandro sub-genre]; it was the end of the golden age of Rio’s urban samba.”

The song “Homenagem ao Malandro” is a nostalgic nod to old-time Lapa malandros, poking fun at the “orderly, professional” malandros that had come to replace the real thing.

Album cover for the 1979 soundtrack to Ópera do Malandro.
Album cover for the 1979 soundtrack to Ópera do Malandro.

The musical was based on the satirical Beggar’s Opera (1728, John Gay) and the Three Penny Opera (1928, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill), another adaptation of Gay’s Beggar’s Opera.  Chico composed fourteen new songs for the musical and the soundtrack was released the following year. A film adaptation was also released in 1986. The musical revealed a star, Elba Ramalho, and showcased Chico’s then-wife Marieta‘s singing talent.

Legendary Portela sambista Monarco, now 81.
Legendary Portela sambista Monarco, now 81.

Alongside “Geni e o Zepelim” and “O Meu Amor,” “Homenagem ao Malandro” was one of the most beautiful and beloved songs from the musical, and the lyrics struck a chord with the composer Monarco (Hildemar Diniz, b. August 17, 1932 in Cavalcante, Rio de Janeiro, RJ). Monarco is among the most celebrated velha guarda (“old guard”) sambistas from the Portela samba school still around today. He arrived at Portela in 1946, when he was 14 years old (he laments that he missed Paulo da Portela at the school by just a few years). As Carnival became more and more of a lucrative business in the 1960s and ’70s, old-school sambistas like Monarco felt shoved aside, as  head honchos at the samba schools brought in radio stars to compose and take the spotlight and rake in returns. Around this time many sambistas separated from their schools: In the mid-1970s, for instance, Paulinho da Viola and Candeia left Portela. (Paulinho would return later on, and never joined another school, as Portelenses like Monarco enjoy pointing out; Candeia founded Quilombo, his school until his death in 1978.)

Monarco, second from left, and Zeca Pagodinho, center, with Velha Guarda da Portela, c. late 80s. In 1987, Zeca Pagodinho released his first album, with Monarco's song "Coração em desalinho," a huge hit.
Monarco, second from left, and Zeca Pagodinho, center, with Velha Guarda da Portela, c. late 80s. In 1986, Zeca Pagodinho released his first album, with Monarco’s song “Coração em desalinho,” a huge hit.
Paulinho da Viola with Clara Nunes, Pagode da Tia Doca
Paulinho da Viola and Clara Nunes pictured at Pagode da Tia Doca, in Tia Doca’s yard.

Monarco recalls that one Sunday he went to Portela and found none of his old composer companions there — only newfangled radio composers. So he wrote this samba that responds to Chico’s song about Lapa, remarking that the samba schools suffered the same phenomenon.  He refers to celebrated old guard sambistas, and the house he mentions — that unites “peace, love, and harmony” — was Tia Doca’s. Tia Doca became a mainstay at Portela samba school in the 1950s after she married the composer Altaír Costa, son of Alvarenga, a founding member of Portela samba school.  She became part of the Velha Guarda in 1970, and during these rough years for the school, she began hosting the famous “pagode da Tia Doca” on Sundays at her home in Oswaldo Cruz. Several star sambistas — including Zeca Pagodinho, Dudu Nobre, and Jovelina Perola Negra — got their start there.

Monarco says Chico Buarque loved the song; he remembers Chico commenting that he thought the line “consulting my list…” was just great!

Monarco's "Portela of days of yore": Pictured, Lonato (standing with Pandeiro), Monarco (crouching), Casquinha, Manaceia, Alcides Malandro,and others.
Monarco’s “Portela of days of yore”: Pictured, Lonato (standing with what looks like a tamborím), Monarco (crouching), Casquinha, Manaceia, Alcides Malandro, and others.

Lyrics in Portuguese: “Homenagem ao Malandro”

Eu fui fazer um samba em homenagem
À nata da malandragem
Que conheço de outros carnavais
Eu fui à Lapa e perdi a viagem
Que aquela tal malandragem
Não existe mais

Agora já não é normal
O que dá de malandro regular, profissional
Malandro com aparato de malandro oficial
Malandro candidato a malandro federal
Malandro com retrato na coluna social
Malandro com contrato, com gravata e capital
Que nunca se dá mal

Mas o malandro pra valer
– Não espalha
Aposentou a navalha
Tem mulher e filho e tralha e tal
Dizem as más línguas que ele até trabalha
Mora lá longe e chacoalha
Num trem da Central

Agora já não é normal
O que dá de malandro regular, profissional
Malandro com aparato de malandro oficial
Malandro candidato a malandro federal
Malandro com retrato na coluna social
Malandro com contrato, com gravata e capital
Que nunca se dá mal

Mas o malandro pra valer
– Não espalha
Aposentou a navalha
Tem mulher e filho e tralha e tal
Dizem as más línguas que ele até trabalha
Mora lá longe e chacoalha
Num trem da Central

“Homenagem à Velha Guarda”
Um dia, tu fostes à Lapa ver a malandragem
Perdeste o tempo e a viagem
Como teu samba diz
Eu fui à Portela ver os meus sambistas
Mas consultando a minha lista
Também não fui feliz

Lá falaram-me sobre um terreiro
Onde eles passam o dia inteiro
Num lugar qualquer de Oswaldo Cruz
Fica lá perto de Bento Ribeiro
Aonde Paulo e seus companheiros
Faziam sambas que até hoje seduz

Procurando na localidade
Encontrei mano Alvaiade
Nosso antigo diretor de harmonia
Deu-me a sua dica valiosa
É uma casa formosa
Que reúne paz, amor e alegria

Daí, vi os sambistas de fato
Manacéia e Lonato e outros mais
Juro que fiquei boquiaberto
Nunca me senti tão perto
Da Portela dos tempos atrás

Main sources for this post:  Stories told by Monarco and A Canção no Tempo: Vol. 2, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello, and Batuque na cozinha: as receitas e as histórias das tias da Portela, by Alexandre Medeiros

Beatriz

“Beatriz” by Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque (1983)

Look
I wonder if she’s a maiden
I wonder if she’s sad
I wonder if it’s just the contrary
I wonder if it’s painting
The face of the actress

If she dances in the seventh heaven
If she believes it’s another country
And if she just learns her part by heart
And if I were able to become part of her life

Look
I wonder if she’s made of china
I wonder if she’s made of ether
I wonder if it’s madness
I wonder if it’s a stage set
The home of the actress

If she lives in a skyscraper
And if the walls are made of chalk
And if she cries in a hotel room
And if I were able to become part of her life

Yes, take me for forever, Beatriz
Teach me not to walk with my feet on the ground
Forever is always just barely
So tell me how many disasters are in my hand
Tell me if it’s dangerous for us to be happy

Look
I wonder if it’s a star
I wonder if it’s a lie
I wonder if it’s a comedy
I wonder if it’s divine
The life of the actress
If one day she falls from the sky
And the paying crowd demands an encore
And if the archangel passes around a hat
And if I were able to become part of her life

— Interpretation —

OGrandeCircoMistico01
Original show bill for O Grande Circo Místico
Edu Lobo (L) and Chico Buarque
Edu Lobo (L) and Chico Buarque

Edu Lobo composed the music for this waltz quickly, “certain it would turn out well”; Chico Buarque, on the other hand, labored over the lyrics, and “Beatriz” ended up being one of the last songs the pair completed for the soundtrack for the 1983 musical “O Grande Circo Místico,” a production by the dance company Balé Guaíra, from Paraná state. The show was based on the 1938 surrealist poem by the same name by Jorge de Lima; Lima’s poem had been inspired by the story of the Knie family circus, born of an unlikely love story in Austria in the 19th century.

Each song on the "Grande Circo Místico" album came with its own illustration by Naum Alves de Souza
Each song on the “Grande Circo Místico” album came with its own illustration by Naum Alves de Souza

Lima’s poem is about Agnes, an acrobat an Austrian aristocrat falls in love with. In Chico’s lyrics, Agnes becomes Beatriz, an actress, drawing inspiration from Dante’s Beatrice in the Divine Comedy, with whom Dante ascends to the seventh heaven.  In a 1989 interview Chico commented that these kinds of commissioned projects are only worthwhile when “you can be unfaithful to what was requested”: In this case, Chico just wasn’t able to come up with lyrics about Agnes the acrobat – even though he observed that Agnes is a “beautiful name.”

So the song became “Beatriz,” and Chico and Edu were certain “Beatriz” should be sung by Milton Nascimento because of the facility with which Nascimento can hit a wide range of notes and jump into falsetto, as the song demands.  Milton recorded in the studio alone with the pianist Cristóvão Bastos, and the third take was the one they kept.  Long after the recording was completed, Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque realized that by beautiful coincidence, the lowest note in the song falls on the word “chão” (ground) and the highest note, on “céu” (sky).

Lyrics in Portuguese

Olha
circo3Será que ela é moça
Será que ela é triste
Será que é o contrário
Será que é pintura
O rosto da atriz

Se ela dança no sétimo céu
Se ela acredita que é outro país
E se ela só decora o seu papel
E se eu pudesse entrar na sua vida

Olha
Será que é de louça
Será que é de éter
Será que é loucura
Será que é cenário
A casa da atriz
Se ela mora num arranha-céu
E se as paredes são feitas de giz
E se ela chora num quarto de hotel
E se eu pudesse entrar na sua vida

Sim, me leva pra sempre, Beatriz
Me ensina a não andar com os pés no chão
Para sempre é sempre por um triz
Aí, diz quantos desastres tem na minha mão
Diz se é perigoso a gente ser feliz

Olha
Será que é uma estrela
Será que é mentira
Será que é comédia
Será que é divina
A vida da atriz
Se ela um dia despencar do céu
E se os pagantes exigirem bis
E se o arcanjo passar o chapéu
E se eu pudesse entrar na sua vida

Grande Circo - Aecio o circo

Futuros Amantes

Lyrics from “Futuros Amantes” by Chico Buarque (1993)

(After the song in this video Chico comments on Brazilian songs about love and heartbreak, mentioning some of his favorites.)

Don’t get flustered, nothing needs to happen right now
Love’s in no hurry, it can wait in silence
Buried deep in a bureau
In the poste-restante
Millennia, millennia up in the air
And who knows maybe then Rio will be some submerged city
The deep sea divers will come to explore your home
Your room, your things, your soul, your garrets
Wise men in vain will try to decode the echo of ancient words
Fragments of letters, poems, lies, portraits
Vestiges of an unknown civilization
Don’t get flustered, nothing needs to happen right now
Loves will always be lovable
Future lovers, perhaps, will love one another
Without realizing it
With the love that one day I left for you

— Interpretation —

"Futuros Amantes" was released on the 1993 album Paratodos. His mug shot is from when he was arrested in 1961, at age 17, for allegedly trying - together with a friend - to take a car that wasn't theirs for a joyride in São Paulo.
“Futuros Amantes” was released on the 1993 album Paratodos. Chico’s mug shot on the album cover is from when he was arrested together with a friend in 1961, at age 17; the two were allegedly trying to take a car that wasn’t theirs for a joyride in São Paulo.

In this clip, Chico Buarque explains how he composed this song:

Chico with his wife Marieta in the 1980s. They were married for over thirty years and have three daughters.
Chico with his wife Marieta in the 1980s. They were married for over thirty years and have three daughters together.

“I was playing around on the guitar and started to compose the melody, and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘submerged city’ – totally isolated from everything else. As I hummed along to what I was playing, it seemed like the song should say that, so then I had to follow that idea and explain the submerged city — create a story around it. Then I came up with the divers, and this love delayed, or put on hold — this idea that love stays around forever, and is something someone can take advantage of much later. It never goes to waste. Time passes, millennia go by, and that love sticks around — even under water — for other people to use it.” (Hence, “Loves will always be lovable.”) “It’s love that was never put to use, right, because it’s love that wasn’t reciprocated. It’s love that was left on its own, unpaired, just kind of floating around waiting for someone to grasp it and put it to good use – to carry out its purpose.”

 

Lyrics in Portuguese

Não se afobe, não
Que nada é pra já
O amor não tem pressa
Ele pode esperar em silêncio
Num fundo de armário
Na posta-restante
Milênios, milênios no ar

E quem sabe, então
O Rio será
Alguma cidade submersa
Os escafandristas virão
Explorar sua casa
Seu quarto, suas coisas
Sua alma, desvãos

Sábios em vão
Tentarão decifrar
O eco de antigas palavras
Fragmentos de cartas, poemas
Mentiras, retratos
Vestígios de estranha civilização

Não se afobe, não
Que nada é pra já
Amores serão sempre amáveis
Futuros amantes, quiçá
Se amarão sem saber
Com o amor que eu um dia
Deixei pra você