Santo Amaro

Lyrics from “Santo Amaro” by Aldir Blanc, Luiz Claudio Ramos & Franklin da Flauta (1978)

Eu ia a pé lá da ladeira Santo Amaro // I’d stroll down Santo Amaro street
até a rua do Catete num sobrado onde você residia // to that house on Rua do Catete where you used to live
e te levava prum passeio em Paquetá // And take you out to Paquetá
onde nasceu num pic-nic o nosso rancho, o Ameno Resedá  // Where, during a picnic, our rancho Ameno Resedá was born
Verde, grená e amarelo nossas cores // Green, grenadine and yellow, our colors
Resedá, vocês são flores como flor era a Papoula do Japão // Resedá, you’re all flowers just as Papoula do Japão (Japanese poppy) was a flower
Tua rival saiu na Flor de Abacate // Your rival went out with Flor de Abacate (avocado flower)
de destaque no enredo da Rainha de Sabá // star of their parade about the Queen of Sheba (1924)
Os lampiões, os vagalumes // The lanterns, the lightning bugs*
você triste com ciúmes //  You, sad and jealous
eu charlando, resmungando que melhor era acabar // Me grumbling and griping that it would be better to just break up
Pobre farsante de teatro ambulante // Poor farceur of the street operetta
meu amor de estudante não soube representar // wasn’t able to portray my love
e o casamento aconteceu // And the marriage happened
vieram filhos, muitos netos // and children came, many grandchildren
muitas dores, muitos tetos // many griefs; many roofs
mas o amor a tudo isso ultrapassou // But love overcame all of that
Hoje, sozinho, eu voltei feito andorinha // Today, alone, like a swallow I returned
à Pedra da Moreninha onde tudo começou // to the Pedra da Moreninha* where everything began
Olhando o mar, pensei na vida ao teu lado // Gazing at the sea, I thought about life by your side
como um choro do Callado, um piano em Nazareth // Like a choro by Callado, a piano in Nazareth
Saudade grande o dia inteiro // Immense saudade the whole day through
mas com jeito de alegria // But with that cheerful charm
do pandeiro de Gilberto no Jacob // of Gilberto’s pandeiro in Jacob
Pra cada dó, um sol maior, um lá sereno // For every do, a major sol, a serene la
a harmonia do ameno // the harmony of the ameno (pleasant)
o amor do resedá // the love of the resedá
Eu funcionário aposentado, coração não conformado  // I, a retired civil servant, unreconciled heart
antigo e novo feito lua em Paquetá // Old and new, like the moon on Paquetá
Passou a vida com os ranchos, desfilando // Life passed by, with the ranchos, parading
União da Aliança, caprichosa em estrelas desenganos  // União da Aliança, capricious, disappointments in stars*
desci por ela //I ambled down it
como desço ainda hoje //  as I still amble down today
a ladeira Santo Amaro até o sobrado que o metrô matou // Santo Amaro street, to the house the metro destroyed
Bom era ir, batendo perna, tomar chope na Taberna // What a joy it was to stroll down to drink a chopp at the Taberna [da Glória]
é outra história, é uma glória, ser da Glória // It’s something else- it’s a glory to be from Glória
[o que é que há ? // you hear me?]
O rosto dela vela o Rio de Janeiro  // Her face holds vigil over Rio de Janeiro
como a virgem do outeiro // like the virgin of the Outeiro
guarda o Ameno Resedá // protects Ameno Resedá

— Commentary —

Ameno Resedá picnic in Paquetá, 1911. Image via  "Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola" by Jota Efegê.
Ameno Resedá picnic in Paquetá, 1911. Image via  “Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola” by Jota Efegê.
Rua Santo Amaro in 1956. The road links the Rio neighborhoods of Glória and Santa Teresa. This photo is around No. 124 on street.
Rua Santo Amaro in 1956. The road links the Rio neighborhoods of Glória and Santa Teresa. This photo is around No. 124 on street.

Ameno Resedá was arguably Rio de Janeiro’s most important rancho – the street Carnaval groups that predominated in Rio in the early twentieth century, before the emergence of samba schools. Ameno Resedá began a tradition of ranchos with especially operatic characteristics — elaborate costumes and characters and the performance of slow, serene marches that told stories; this led the press to call Ameno Resedá a teatro lírico ambulante (something like “street operetta”), which the song makes reference to. Because of the rancho’s innovations, which included the incorporation of an enredo – or theme for the march – and a wind section, Ameno Resedá also earned the designation rancho-escola, which is one of the possible explanations for the origin of the name escola de samba  – samba school. (More on ranchos at the bottom of this post, if you’re interested.)

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Announcement for the inaugural ball at the Ameno Resedá club on Rua do Cattete 206  Jornal do Brasil – 13 April 1907
Pastoras of Ameno Resedá, Carnaval 1911. Enredo Côrte de Belzebuth.
Pastoras of Ameno Resedá, Carnaval 1911, the year Ameno Resedá paraded for Brazil’s president at the Palácio de Guanabára with the enredo Court of Belzebuth.

 


In this song, Aldir Blanc retraces the history of Ameno Resedá, which was indeed founded during a picnic on Paquetá – a bucolic island borough of Rio de Janeiro – on February 17, 1907, with headquarters on Rua do Catete, and which paraded in Carnaval from 1908 til 1941. Blanc tells the story of the rancho through the story of a romance, blurring a love story with the story of his love for Ameno Resedá itself.

Vagalume – which also means “lightning bug,” a creature that makes an appearance in the song – was the nickname of the Carnaval chronicler and founding member of Ameno Resedá, Francisco Guimarães, who created the city’s first news column dedicated exclusively to Carnaval in Jornal do Brasil. (He is no. 13 in the picture above.) Ameno means “pleasant” and resedá refers to the reseda flower; as the group was deciding upon a name, they reportedly considered first the sabugueiro in bloom, but wanted a flower with a more pleasant scent, and arrived at “Ameno Resedá.”

Cover of Jota Efegê's 1965 book
Cover of Jota Efegê’s 1965 book “Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola”.

Flor de Abacate (avocado flower) and Papoula de Japão (Japanese poppy) were other important ranchos that followed Ameno Resedá’s model, along with União da Aliança, which is mentioned toward the end of the song. (*The line that follows União da Aliança – “caprichosa, em estrelas desenganos” – might be referring to that rancho or other ranchos; several ranchos had “estrelas” in their name.) The Queen of Sheba was the theme of Flor de Abacate’s carnaval parade – its enredo – in Carnaval 1924.

In this 1955 recording, Donga, Pixinguinha and João da Baiana play Álvaro Sandim’s 1913 polka (adapted to choro) “Flor de Abacate,” a tribute to Sandim’s rancho, another of Rio’s most important and beloved:

View from Pedra da Moreninha, Paquetá.
View from Pedra da Moreninha, Paquetá.

Pedra da Moreninha is a rock and look-out point on Paquetá that takes its name from Joaquim Manuel de Macedo’s classic 1844 novel A Moreninha; in the story, the moreninha gazes from a high rock in Paquetá out over the sea, anxiously awaiting the return of her beau, Augusto. As founders of Ameno Resedá recalled, the picnic where the rancho was founded took place under a mango tree right near Pedra da Moreninha.

Joaquim Callado (1848-1880) was a flautist and composer who formed what’s believed to have been Rio de Janeiro’s first choro group, Choro do Callado, in 1870, made up of two guitars, a cavaquinho, and Callado’s flute. The phrase “choro do Callado” could be referring to the group but more likely refers to any choro he composed.

Taberna da Glória in 1972. Taberna da Glória still exists today, across Rua do Catete from the beginning of Rua Santo Amaro. Photo via Rio de Janeiro Memoria&Fotos (Facebook).
Taberna da Glória in 1972. Taberna da Glória still exists today, across Rua do Catete from the beginning of Rua Santo Amaro. Photo via Rio de Janeiro Memoria&Fotos (Facebook).

Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) was a pianist who earned a living playing scores at music stores in Rio and who, over the course of the twentieth century, earned due recognition as one of Brazil’s greatest composers. Author of some of the most beautiful melodies in the Brazilian canon, Nazareth was affiliated with Ameno Resedá and composed the polka “Ameno Resedá” for the rancho in 1912; the song was recorded in 1914 by Grupo do Louro, and has since become one of Nazareth’s most recorded compositions:

Gilberto d’Avila played pandeiro with Jacob do Bandolim – the Gilberto and Jacob that the song makes reference to.

Many homes and buildings were destroyed during the construction of the metro in the 1970s. I’ve included photos below of Rua do Catete in 1906 and Rua do Catete during metro construction, around 1977.

Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro
Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro

“Outeiro” literally means small hill, but here is referring to the cathedral of Our Lady of Glory of Outeiro da Glória, which sits atop a small hill overlooking the neighborhood, and gave the neighborhood its name.

Ranchos

Ranchos emerged first in northeastern Brazil, particularly Bahia, inspired in Portuguese Christmas celebrations that culminated on January 6: Three Kings Day of the Catholic church, and in CandombléFestival de Oxalá, the day to worship Oxalá, the Candomblé deity syncretized with Jesus.  In groups known as ranchos — which can mean something like religious procession — singers called pastores and pastoras (shepherds) danced door-to-door in flashy clothes with small orchestras, asking for money. They always set out dancing toward a Nativity scene, the object of their worship. Ranchos maintained this largely Afro-Brazilian religious aspect until the founding of Ameno Resedá in 1907.

The Pernambucan Hilário Jovino Ferreira was a pivotal figure in popularizing ranchos for Carnaval in Rio. A son of freed slaves, Hilário made his name as a Carnival booster and rabble-rouser in Bahia. He moved from Salvador, Bahia, to the Saúde neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in 1872, and quickly became well-known, a regular at the homes of Carnaval fixtures like Tia Ciata, alongside such illustrious figures as Donga, Pixinguinha, and João da Baiana.

Rancho Caprichosos de Estopa, with the porta-estandarte Celia Afonso vaguely visible in the middle.
Rancho Caprichosos de Estopa, with the porta-estandarte Celia Afonso (vaguely) visible in the middle.

When Hilário moved to Rio he joined the already existing rancho Dois de Ouros, on Morró da Conceição. But he ended up arguing with the rancho’s organizers, and on January 6, 1894, founded the rancho Rei dos Ouros.  Rei dos Ouros set itself apart by parading during Carnaval, rather than January 6, and introducing greater female participation and the use of a  porta-estandarte — a woman parading with the rancho’s standard, a tradition that was passed on to samba schools.

Main float, Clube dos Fenianos, Carnaval 1934.
Main float, Clube dos Fenianos, Carnaval 1934.

Ranchos offered a more elaborate form of revelry for groups that had previously paraded in more tumultuous and clamorous street groups known as cordões, and quickly became the most popular form of Carnaval celebration among Rio’s less privileged classes. They were known as pequenas sociedades (small societies), sharing the Carnaval stage on Avenida Rio Branco in the 1920s and 1930s with the more well-to-do classes’ grandes sociedades: clubs of the white middle class and aristocracy that had emerged in the late 1860s and held European-style processions with floats. The most important of the grandes sociedades were Tenentes do Diabo; os Democráticos (still a popular club in Rio today, and the official “padrinho” [patron] of Ameno Resedá);  and os Fenianos.  Both pequenos and grandes sociedades lasted until the early 1940s, when samba schools overshadowed them for good.

The serene lyricism of ranchos’ music — particularly that of Ameno Resedá and ranchos that followed the rancho-escola’s lead, like Flor de Abacate and Lira de Ouro — led to the development of the marcha-rancho, the most poetic of Carnaval musical genres. Marcha-ranchos are nostalgic and sentimental, with a slower tempo than the marchinhas that were also gaining popularity at the time.  Some examples include “Pastorinhas” (João de Barro & Noel Rosa); “Os rouxinóis” (Lamartine Babo); “Rancho da Praça Onze” (João Roberto Kelly & Francisco Anísio); and “Bandeira branca” (Max Nunes & Laércio Alves).

Trolley tracks being laid on Rua do Catete in 1906. In the photo we see Palácio do Catete and next to it, Escola Rodrigues Alves, which was demolished during metro construction.

Trolley tracks being laid on Rua do Catete in 1906. In the photo we see Palácio do Catete and next to it, Escola Rodrigues Alves, which was demolished during metro construction. Photo: Augusto Malta.

Metro construction on R. do Catete, 1977.
Metro construction on R. do Catete, 1977. Photo via Rio de Janeiro Memoria&Fotos (Facebook).

Main sources for this post: Ameno Resedá: o rancho que foi escola by Jota Efegê; Escolas de Samba do Rio de Janeiro by Sérgio Cabral (2011); Uma história da música popular brasileira, by Jairo Severiano (2008);  100 anos de Carnaval no Rio de Janeiro, by Haroldo Costa; website of Universidade Federal Fluminense.

“Senhora Liberdade” (Nei Lopes/Wilson Moreira) and “Tô voltando” (Paulo César Pinheiro/Mauricio Tapajós)

Lyrics from “Senhora Liberdade” by Nei Lopes and Wilson Moreira (1979)

Abre as asas sobre mim // Spread your wings over me
Oh senhora liberdade // Oh, lady liberty
Eu fui condenado// I was condemned
Sem merecimento // Undeservedly
Por um sentimento, por uma paixão // On account of a sentiment, a passion
Violenta emoção // Violent emotion
Pois amar foi meu delito // For loving was my crime
Mas foi um sonho tão bonito // But it was such a beautiful dream
Hoje estou no fim // Today I’m at my end
Senhora liberdade abre as asas sobre mim (2x) // Lady liberty, spread your wings over me
Não vou passar por inocente // I’m not going to pass as innocent
Mas já sofri terrivelmente // But I’ve already suffered terribly
Por caridade, oh liberdade abre as asas sobre mim (2x) // Take mercy, oh liberty, spread your wings over me

“Tô voltando” by Mauricio Tapajós and Paulo César Pinheiro (1979)

Pode ir armando o coreto // You can go ahead and get the bandstand ready
E preparando aquele feijão preto // And start making those black beans
Eu tô voltando // I’m coming back
Põe meia dúzia de Brahma pra gelar // Put a half-dozen Brahmas on ice
Muda a roupa de cama // Change the bedding
Eu tô voltando // I’m coming back

Leva o chinelo pra sala de jantar // Bring my flipflops to the dining room
Que é lá mesmo que a mala eu vou largar // Cause that’s exactly where I’m gonna toss my suitcase
Quero te abraçar, pode se perfumar // I want to hold you, go ahead and put on perfume
Porque eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back

Dá uma geral, faz um bom defumador // Give the place a cleaning, a good cleanse
Enche a casa de flor // Fill the house with flowers
Que eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back
Pega uma praia, aproveita, tá calor // Hit the beach, enjoy – it’s hot
Vai pegando uma cor // Go on and get tan
Que eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back

Faz um cabelo bonito pra eu notar // Do your hair up pretty for me to notice
Que eu só quero mesmo é despentear // Cause all I want is to muss it up
Quero te agarrar // I want to clutch you
Pode se preparar porque eu tô voltando // You better get ready because I’m coming back
Põe pra tocar na vitrola aquele som // Put that one album on the record player
Estréia uma camisola // And put on new negligee
Eu tô voltando // Cause I’m coming back

Dá folga pra empregada // Give the maid a day off
Manda a criançada pra casa da avó // Send the kids to their grandmother’s
Que eu to voltando // Cause I’m coming back
Diz que eu só volto amanhã se alguém chamar // Say I’m only getting back tomorrow, if anyone asks
Telefone não deixa nem tocar // Telephone? don’t even let it even ring
Quero lá, lá, lá, ia, porque eu to voltando! // I want to la-la-la-ya, because I’m coming back

— Commentary —

Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes, whose musical partnership was one of the most important in the history of samba.
Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes, whose musical partnership was one of the most important in the history of samba.

On August 28, 1979, Brazil’s military government, led by President João Figueiredo, issued a sweeping amnesty law: Law 6.683 gave amnesty to all those who had been accused of committing or participating in what the military dictatorship (1964 – 1985) deemed political or electoral crimes, stripped of their most basic political and human rights, and imprisoned or forced into exile. (The Law also established full amnesty for the brutal military government, an aspect which continues to stir up controversy in Brazil and in international courts, where its validity is disputed.) A wave of exiles — including leftist political leaders, journalists, artists, and academics — returned to Brazil between September and December of that year, and political prisoners were set free.

Pernambucan leftist leader Miguel Arraes returns to Brazil on 15 September 1979 after 15 years in exile.
Pernambucan leftist leader Miguel Arraes returns to Brazil on 15 September 1979 after 15 years in exile.

As it happened, that same year, two songs were released that had nothing to do with politics but were passionately adopted as anthems of amnesty: “Senhora Liberdade” and “Tô voltando”.

Apolônio de Carvalho, former leader of the Brazilian Communist Party, returns from exile on 27 October 1979.
Apolônio de Carvalho, former leader of the Brazilian Communist Party, returns from exile on 27 October 1979.

“Senhora Liberdade”:  Nei Lopes — a samba composer, lawyer, historian and essayist — was moved by stories of prisoners who came up with sambas to alleviate the anguish of incarceration.

Political prisoner Inês Etienne Romeo is freed immediately through the amnesty law on 29 August 1979. The sign reads: "Amnesty: Broad; For everyone; unlimited. Free our prisoners."
Political prisoner Inês Etienne Romeo is freed immediately through the amnesty law on 29 August 1979. The sign reads: “Amnesty: Broad; general (for everyone); unrestricted. Free our prisoners.”

Wilson Moreira, Lopes’s celebrated musical partner, was a prison guard by profession, and told Lopes he’d indeed heard such songs. Together they composed this samba in the voice of a prisoner who was convicted for a crime of passion. It quickly ended up being hailed as one of the great anthems of the liberty that came with the Amnesty Law – surely a welcome surprise. The hit also propelled singer Zezé Motta to success.

“Tô voltando” by Maurício Tapajós and Paulo César Pinheiro was released the same year and met a similar fortuitous fate. Pinheiro recalls that Mauricio Tapajós called him one day, yearning to return home after an intense time on the road. Pinheiro recounts Tapajós was struck at the end of the tour by a tremendous longing for “for home, for his wife, for his children, for Leblon, for Rio.”

Paulo César Pinheiro
Paulo César Pinheiro

On the eve of his return to Rio, Tapajós began to repeat to himself, “I can’t believe I’m going back.” He called Pinheiro and began to hum the start of a melody along with that phrase. Pinheiro had a hunch that this samba could work: He went to meet up with Tapajós and they worked the rest of the day on the song, and the next day Pinheiro finished the lyrics, which he recalls flowed easily:

Maurício Tapajós
Maurício Tapajós

“I, who had already experienced the same situation so many times, with so many trips, tremendous longing for home — I know a lot about the issue I set out to write about. It was an issue that was common across our profession. The whole lot of artists felt this same profound anxiousness to get home after each season of touring. And all of them wanted the same things that I scribbled out in that samba. It ended up being beautiful, and full of empathy. We just needed to sing it once, and the second time, everyone joined in – it turned immediately into a chorus. I quickly sensed it would be a success.”

Pinheiro recounts that the singer Simone was picking out songs for her upcoming album at the time and she declared, “This one’s mine!”

When Simone released “Tô voltando” it was an instant sensation.

Shortly after its release, Pinheiro recalls he was watching reports on TV Globo about the exiles returning home; as scenes rolled live inside airplanes “filled with our comrades,” between interviews and tears, he heard someone begin singing “Tô voltando.” He calls the scene a “blow to [his] heart: “Emotion took hold of me and tears rolled down my cheeks (…) I had to take deep breaths and look away from the television to avoid a heart attack.”  The song had taken on a new meaning, to his delight — a meaning many believed, and still believe, it’d had from the start.

The whole phenomenon led Pinheiro to remark, “This shows that the future of our songs isn’t in our hands. They’re whatever they’re meant to be — beyond the motives that inspired them. How wonderful that this song became what it became.”

Main sources for this post: Conversation with Luiz Antônio Simas; Nei Lopes interview here; Histórias das Minhas Canções by Paulo César Pinheiro (2010).