“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

Viola Enluarada

Lyrics from “Viola Enluarada” by Marcos Valle and Paulo Sérgio Valle (1968)

Good Audio Version (Marcos Valle and Milton Nascimento)

The hand that plays a guitar, if necessary, makes war
Kills the world, wounds the earth.
The voice that sings a song, if necessary, sings a hymn
Exalts death.
Viola on a moonlit night in the backlands is like a sword
Hope for vengeance.
The same foot that dances a samba, if necessary, goes to combat
He who has a companion at night knows that peace is fleeting
To defend her he gets up and screams:  I’ll go!
Hand, guitar, song and sword
And moonlit viola
Through the countryside and city
Flag bearer, capoeira, marching they go on singing,
Liberty, liberty, liberty…

— Interpretation —

Album cover for Viola Enluarada (1968)
Album cover for Viola Enluarada (1968)

The viola referred to in this song is different from the violin-like instrument that most English speakers know as a viola. In Brazilian music, viola almost always refers to a plucked twelve-string acoustic  guitar that’s associated with the countryside.  “Companion” is used in the feminine, and “to defend her he gets up and screams…” could refer to both the companion and peace.

In 1967, Marcos Valle was in New York recording the album Samba 68. It was his longest stay yet in the United States, and he was looking on from afar during a particularly dark time in Brazil, as the military dictatorship that had seized power in 1964 tightened its grip over society in the months prior to the decree of AI-5. Yearning for home, Marcos composed this distinctly Brazilian melody. When he returned to Brazil, he brought the tune to his eldest brother and partner, Paulo Sérgio Valle, who wrote the lyrics.  Soon after, Marcos met Milton Nascimento at Tom Jobim‘s house in Leblon, and the two sang the song together. They made a perfect pair; the song suited Milton – it even seemed like it could be one of his own.

Among protest songs from the 1960s and 1970s, “Viola Enluarada” stands out for having not only a powerful political message but also a rich, intricate melody. (Many protest songs, perhaps most notoriously “Caminhando/Pra não dizer que não falei das flores” by Geraldo Vandré, were known for having rousing lyrics set to very simple melodies.)  Marcos and Milton released “Viola Enluarada” – with an arrangement by Dori Caymmi  – as a single in 1968.  By that time, stores already had long waiting lists for the single, which the tremendously popular group Quarteto em Cy had been singing in their shows. The song also became the title track for Marcos’s next album, and in the early 70s was adopted as a sort of hymn by the Araguaia guerrillas, who had taken up arms against the military dictatorship.

Lyrics in Portuguese

A mão que toca um violão
Se for preciso faz a guerra,
Mata o mundo, fere a terra.
A voz que canta uma canção
Se for preciso canta um hino,
Louva à morte.
Viola em noite enluarada
No sertão é como espada,
Esperança de vingança.
O mesmo pé que dança um samba
Se preciso vai à luta,
Quem tem de noite a companheira
Sabe que a paz é passageira,
Prá defendê-la se levanta
E grita: Eu vou!
Mão, violão, canção e espada
E viola enluarada
Pelo campo e cidade,
Porta bandeira, capoeira,
Desfilando vão cantando
Quem tem de noite a companheira
Sabe que a paz é passageira,
Prá defendê-la se levanta
E grita: Eu vou!
Porta bandeira, capoeira,
Desfilando vão cantando
Liberdade, liberdade, liberdade…

Main sources for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985 by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello,  and Songbook: Marcos Valle, by Almir Chediak.

Beijo Partido

Lyrics from “Beijo Partido” (1975) by Toninho Horta (Antônio Mauricio Horta de Melo)
Album: Nana Caymmi (Nana Caymmi,1975) and Minas (Milton Nascimento, 1975)

Good Audio Version

You know, I don’t have faith in this madness of mine
And I say I don’t like someone who ruins me, in pieces
And God only knows about you
And I don’t deserve a broken kiss
Today’s nothing more than a day lost in time
And I’m far from all that I know
That’s not spoken of anymore
I know I’ll be for you what I don’t care to know
Today I’m nothing more than a shattered vessel in my chest
And I scream look at the broken kiss
Where must the queen be, lucidity hid her away…

— Interpretation —

Regine Méllac, Wagner Tiso, Toninho Horta, Milton Nascimento, an unnamed French journalist and Fernando Brant, on a radio interview during European tour. Paris, 1980.

In Portuguese, the phrase for “broken heart” is coração partido.  In 1973, the recently heartbroken Toninho Horta, 24 at the time, composed the music for “Beijo Partido” — Broken Kiss.  For two years, the song had no lyrics, until  Toninho sat down at the piano one day in 1975 and quickly penned the heavyhearted verses.

The music showcases Toninho’s signature style of a simple melodic line backed by an exquisite, intricate harmony. The line “E Deus é quem sabe de ti” (translated as “God only knows about you”) – with its ascending melody and delicately descending harmony – captures this style, which captivated and influenced musicians around the world.

Nana Caymmi recorded “Beijo Partido” for her 1975 album Nana Caymmi; shortly thereafter, Milton Nascimento, a fellow Mineiro and member of the Clube da Esquina, recorded it on his album Minas.  Toninho plays guitar and piano on Milton’s recording, and provides back-up vocals that he says were meant to “reinforce the mysterious atmosphere in the musical setting demanded by the arrangement.”

Toninho Horta was born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, on December 2, 1948. His father played guitar and his mother played guitar and mandolin. As a boy, he accompanied his older brother, the bass player Paulo Horta, to Belo Horizonte’s famed Ponto dos Músicos (Musicians’ Point), where the city’s most talented and dedicated musicians came together daily to talk about music and play. There, many of the members of Clube da Esquina met and began playing together. (Marilton Borges points out that today, “who’d have guessed it,” a church stands where the Musicians’ Point used to be, on Rua Alfonso Pena between Tupinambás and Curitiba.) Toninho went to Ponto dos Músicos to listen to and learn from one of the most revered guitarists playing there in the early 1960s, Chiquito Braga. By age 13, Toninho had begun composing.

In Os sonhos não envelhecem, Márcio Borges – Milton Nascimento’s first partner – credits Toninho with getting him accepted to his first MPB festival.  In 1967, Márcio submitted a number of songs written with Milton for Globo’s Festival Internacional da Canção.  He was frustrated and jealous when he found out  that none of these songs had qualified, though three of Milton’s other songs had made the cut: “Morro Velho,” “Travessia” with Fernando Brant, and “Maria, Minha Fé.” But shortly after Márcio received this disappointing news,  the young Toninho brought him a song and asked for lyrics. Márcio wrote hurriedly, eager for another chance to qualify for the festival; the song became “Nem é Carnaval,” and passed.*

Left to Right: Fernando Brant, Márcio Borges, and Toninho Horta in 2011, at the opening of Belo Horizonte’s SESC Palladium.

“Nem é Carnaval” was cut in the first round of the festival; nonetheless, it provided Márcio with a convenient opportunity to introduce Fernando Brant to Toninho. In preparation for the festival, Márcio and Toninho had to have photos taken to send to the organizers, and so did Fernando Brant. Márcio worked it out so that all of them had their pictures taken together. He introduced the two, and the musicians moved closer to consolidating the original Clube da Esquina.

Toninho achieved international recognition when the first Clube da Esquina album was released, in 1972. By 1977 he was placed among the top ten guitarists in the world by the British journal Melody MakerHe continued working with Milton and other musicians from Clube da Esquina throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He moved to New York City in 1990, released a number of albums in the United States and Japan, and returned to Brazil in 1999. These days, he continues to play; manages a record label — Minas Records; and is working on publishing the Livrão da Música Brasileira, a compilation of over 700 scores inspired by the American Real Book.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Sabe, eu não faço fé nessa minha loucura
E digo eu não gosto de quem me arruína em pedaços
E Deus é quem sabe de ti
E eu não mereço um beijo partido
Hoje não passa de um dia perdido no tempo
E fico longe de tudo o que sei
Não se fala mais nisso
Eu sei, eu serei pra você o que não me importa saber
Hoje não passo de um vaso quebrado no peito
E grito olha o beijo partido
Onde estará a rainha
Que a lucidez escondeu, escondeu …

Main sources for this post:  A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello; Os sonhos não envelhecem: Historias do Clube da Esquina, by Márcio Borges; and the website, Museu do Clube da Esquina

*In Os sonhos não envelhecem, Márcio says the song they wrote together in 1967 was “Correntes,” but that was actually their submission to the 1969 festival.