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

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

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

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 —

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

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

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

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


Lyrics from Arrastão (Trawl) by Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes, 1965

Good Audio Version (Grooveshark)

Eh! There are dinghies in the sea
Hey! hey! hey!
They’re trawling today
Eh! Everyone fishing
Enough of the shade, João
Jovi, look at the trawl
Going into the endless sea
Eh! My brother, bring me
Yemanjá for me
My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína

Eh! Pull real slowly
Hey! hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea
Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína…

Eh! pull real slowly
Hey! Hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea

Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

— Interpretation —

Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes‘ “Arrastão,” intepreted by Elis Regina, took first place in Brazil’s I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira, staged by Excelsior TV in 1965. The performance marked a breakthrough in both Edu Lobo’s and Elis Regina’s musical careers: the young artists became household names and came to represent the emerging genre called “música popular moderna” (modern popular music, MPM), which soon began being labeled as MPB —  música popular brasileira. “Arrastão” is considered to mark a watershed moment, when erudite bossa novistas began to explore other styles and incorporate social messages in their music. Edu Lobo mixed social protest with regional influences from northeast Brazil. (In his book Verdades Tropicais, Caetano Veloso recognizes Edu Lobo’s role in incorporating northeastern elements into popular music, remarking, “Actually, the northeastern modalism came through to us more from Edu Lobo, from Rio, than from the border between [northeastern states]Bahia and Pernambuco.”)

“Arrastão” powerfully recalls Dorival Caymmi‘s lyrics about fishing, the sea, and the goddess of the sea Yemanjá.  Fittingly, Edu began composing the song during a music session at Dorival Caymmi’s house. Dorival was singing “História de Pescadores,” and during the third part, “Temporal,” Edu began composing a response, which became the base of the song.

Vinicius de Moraes’ lyrics reveal his involvement at the time with Afro-Brazilian mystical themes; the following year, he released the album Afro-Sambas with Baden Powell.  Yemanjá and Janaína are names for the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian sycretic religion Candomblé.  Catholicism’s Santa Barbara is represented in Candomblé by Yansã, the goddess of wind and storms. Our Lord of Bonfim is the syncretic counterpart of Jesus.

Although “Arrastão” is not explicit in its protest, it is identified as a protest song because of its regionalist and populist undertones. The song evokes a scene from a poor, remote northeastern fishing village, yet was written and performed by young, upper middle class, urban and well-educated Brazilian artists. The element of protest, then, lies in the attempt to draw the urban masses’ attention to social realities in Brazil during the early years of military dictatorship in the country. These kinds of messages were absent from the classic bossa nova songs from a few years earlier, which reflected an optimism that didn’t really consider what was going on outside of Ipanema.

Edu Lobo, identified among a “second wave” of bossa novistas, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1943, son of the composer Fernando Lobo.  He began playing accordion as a child before switching to guitar.  He was profoundly influenced by Dorival Caymmi, and in the early 1960s began playing with Caymmi’s eldest son, Dori. He composed his first song with Vinicius de Moraes in 1962,  “Só me fez bem,” and went on to collaborate frequently with Vinicius, Tom Jobim, and Chico Buarque.

The I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira was such a hit that TV Record, a competitor of Excelsior, immediately appropriated the show, staging a competition by the same name the following year. The military dictatorship shut down TV Excelsior in 1970.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985,  Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (Editora 34, São Paulo), 1998