“Coisas banais” and “Preciso me encontrar”

Lyrics from “Coisas banais” by Candeia and Paulinho da Viola (1970)


Look here, that’s not how we treat what we have
If our love is true, pride, vanity and disaffection are mundane things
That only serve to hurt our love
If you wish to leave, take the longing, take the pain
And leave peace
When love is true, it’s not implored, nor held back by mundane things
Look here…


Lyrics from “Preciso me encontrar” by Candeia (1976)



Let me go, I need to wander
I’ll go around, seeking
To laugh, so as not to cry (repeat)
I want to watch the sun rise, to see the rivers’ waters flow
To hear the birds sing
I want to be born, I want to live
Let me go, I need to wander
I’ll go around, seeking
To laugh, so as not to cry
If anyone asks after me, tell them I’ll only come back after I find myself
I want to watch the sun rise, to see the rivers’ waters flow
To hear the birds sing
I want to be born, I want to live… (repeat)

— Interpretation —

Candeia singing with Martinho da Vila.
Candeia singing with Martinho da Vila.

Antônio Candeia Filho, known popularly as Candeia, lived a short and rough life: He died suddenly at age 43 after having spent the last 13 years of his life in a wheelchair.  But just as the hardship of paralyzation made his music richer, his tragic early death makes his lyrics all the more poignant to listeners today. His moving poetic verses about life, race, social justice, love, samba and beer are some of Brazil’s most beloved, although — in part because of his short life —  people often don’t know they were written by Candeia.

Candeia was born on August 17, 1935, in the Oswaldo Cruz neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. His father, Jairo, was a flautist, and from a very young age Candeia was surrounded by musicians. He learned to play guitar and cavaquinho and began to frequent the neighborhood samba school Portela. He played capoeira and participated in Candomblé rituals, developing an interest in Afro-Brazilian culture and social awareness that deepened later in his life.

Candeia, Waldir 59, e Darcy in the "Ala dos Impossíveis"
Candeia, Waldir 59, e Darcy in the “Ala dos Impossíveis.” Photo via Portela Archives.

At 22, Candeia passed the test to enter the police force, where he earned a reputation for being harsh and unforgiving. Bars in Lapa reportedly closed up when he came around because everyone left in fear; his close friend and musical partner Waldir 59 recounts that mutual friends warned him to stop hanging around Candeia so much: “He pardoned no one. He even put his adoptive brother Ronaldo in jail.”

The run-in that left Candeia in a wheelchair happened on December 13, 1965. He left a party at Portela to bring a girl home (his wife, dona Leonilda, said the accident would never have happened if he’d brought her to the party instead of fooling around). Waldir 59 went with him — mostly because he was worried about Candeia leaving in such a drunken state.  As they drove down the final stretch of Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue – the avenue that hosts  Rio’s Carnival parades – nearing Av. Presidente Vargas, Candeia crashed into a fish truck. He pulled around, got out, and saw that his fender was bent;  then he drew his gun and shot the truck’s tires. He threatened the men in the front of the truck, and as Waldir 59 recounts in the biography Candeia: Luz da Inspiração, the “Italian in the back of the truck” shot Candeia down.

The five gunshot wounds left Candeia paralyzed from the waist down.  His friend and biographer João Baptista remarked, “I think Candeia began to rethink some things after he was paralyzed,”and writes that the vast majority of his interviewees agreed that Candeia’s music became much stronger – both lyrically and socially – after the accident.

For a while Candeia believed he might walk again. But nearly two years to the day after the shooting, he wrote that he and his family members were losing hope for recovery, continuing, “I’m gradually losing interest in the present and the future; I see myself tied up in a boat headed slowly toward the precipice. In spite of all these adversities, I will continue to fight, do my exercises and take my medicine. I will never give in to despondency or despair.”

CANDEIA-34 conversa de botequimOne way Candeia dealt with his isolation and fought off despondency was by hosting more and more lively samba parties, or pagodes, at his house. Friends remember his phone calls: “Come on over — I’ll pay for the taxi.”

He wrote touching verses about his situation, most famously in “Preciso me encontrar,” “De qualquer maneira” (“I’ll sing no matter what, no matter what, my enchantment, I’ll samba…seated in a king’s throne, or here in this chair…”) and “Pintura sem arte” (“I feel like a fallen leaf, I’m the goodbye of one who’s departing, for whom life is a painting without art…”)

He also dedicated himself to activism, defending Afro-Brazilian culture and fighting the prioritization of  outsiders’ — often rich, white outsiders — interests in samba schools:

Candeia was a fixture of Portela samba school, a close friend and partner of Waldir 59, Paulinho da Viola, and Monarco (who laments he only wrote one samba with Candeia, “Portela, uma familia reunida“).  He began composing sambas at a very young age, and became while he became best known for his partido alto-style sambas — with improvised verses mixed in with a refrain — his samba-enredos were tremendously popular as well, and brought Portela six Carnival titles, in 1953 (“Seis datas magnas” composed with Altair Marinho, won perfect scores in all categories), 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959 and 1965, the latter five all composed with Waldir 59.

Candeia at Quilombo samba school, c. 1977.
Candeia at Quilombo samba school, c. 1977.

But in the 1970s Candeia grew fed-up with grave problems he identified within the school. As Tantinho da Mangueira relates in this documentary clip, “people began to hang around the samba schools who had  nothing to do with samba, as far as we were concerned.”  Candeia felt samba was in danger of going from being a genuine popular manifestation to being a mere consumer product. He and other Portelenses wrote a letter to the president of Portela complaining that the leadership had grown too autocratic, and was pushing imitation rather than innovation — seeking to copy whatever was commercially popular at the time.  Candeia offered suggestions for how to take Portela back down the right path, but felt his concerns were not heard. So he founded a new samba school and cultural center, Grêmio Recreativo de Arte Negra e Samba Quilombo (Quilombos were runaway slave settlements, as described in this post), inaugurated in January 1976 in Coelho Neto, Rio de Janeiro. In December of that year the school received a US$20,000 grant from the Inter-American Foundation in the United States to fabricate Carnival costumes, school uniforms and educational materials about Afro-Brazilian history and culture. Almost every night Quilombo hosted debates and conferences about Afro-Brazilian contributions to Brazilian culture and national identity.  And in Carnival 1977, with the participation of stars like Paulinho da Viola, Martinho da Vila, Xangô, Clementina de Jesús, and others, the school’s parade was a hit.

Candeia’s untimely death from a heart attack on November 16, 1978, inspired a number of sambas in his honor, including “Silêncio de um bamba,” by his friends Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes, and “O sonho não acabou,” by Luiz Carlos da Vila.

Lyrics in Portuguese: Coisas banais
Repare bem, não é assim
Que a gente faz com o que tem
Se a gente ama de verdade
Orgulho, vaidade, desamor
São coisas banais que só têm utilidade
Pra machucar o nosso amor

Se quiseres ir embora, leve a saudade
Leve a dor e deixe a paz
Quando o amor é de verdade, não se implora
Nem se prende a coisas banais
Repare bem

Lyrics in Portuguese: Preciso me encontrar

Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar
Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar

Quero assistir ao sol nascer
Ver as águas dos rios correr
Ouvir os pássaros cantar
Eu quero nascer
Quero viver

Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar
Se alguém por mim perguntar
Diga que eu só vou voltar
Depois que me encontrar

Quero assistir ao sol nascer
Ver as águas dos rios correr
Ouvir os pássaros cantar
Eu quero nascer
Quero viver

Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar

Deixe-me ir preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar
Deixe-me ir preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar

Main source for this post: Candeia: Luz da Inspiração by João Baptista M. Vargens

Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega

Lyrics from Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega by Paulinho da Viola (1967)



Good Audio Version (Paulinho da Viola)

Today I came, my nega
As I come whenever I can
In my mouth, the same words; in my heart, the same remorse,
In my hands the same violin where I carved your name (repeat)

I left the samba a long time ago, nega
I kept stopping along the way
First I came upon Zé Fuleiro, who spoke to me of malady
Said luck never comes for him, he has no love and no money
He asked if I didn’t have any to spare
So I plucked on the guitar, I sang a samba for him
It was a syncopated samba that poked fun at his bad luck

Today I came, my nega, to walk around with you
To try in your arms to make a pure samba of love
With no melody or words so as not to lose virtue (repeat)

Later I came across Seu Bento, nega
Who’d been drinking all night
He stretched out on the sidewalk, without the will to do anything
He forgot about the agreement he’d made with his wife:
To never arrive in the middle of night and to stop drinking cachaça
She even made an oath, was punished and repented
I sang a samba for him, he smiled and fell asleep

Today I came, my nega, wanting that smile
That you give to the sky when I squeeze you in my arms
Take care with my guitar, my love and my weariness  (repeat)

Finally I came upon a body, nega, lit up around it
They said it was something silly — one guy wished to be better
Neither love nor money was the cause of the argument
It was just a pandeiro that ended up on the ground
I didn’t get out my guitar; I stopped, I looked, I left
No one would comprehend a samba at that time

Today I came, my nega, knowing nothing of life
Wishing to learn with you the way to live
These things are in the world, it’s just that I need to learn [them] (repeat)

— Interpretation —

Paulinho da Viola c. 1970. Image via Veja.
Paulinho da Viola c. 1970. Image via Veja.

“It is, of my sambas, the one I like the most,” Paulinho da Viola once said of Coisas do mundo minha nega. He lists it among the few compositions that he feels perfectly pleased with from start to finish.

Cervantes Bar in Copacabana, where Paulinho da Viola worked on the lyrics to "Coisas do mundo, minha nega". Photo via blogsemdestino.com.
Cervantes Bar in Copacabana, where Paulinho da Viola worked on the lyrics to “Coisas do mundo, minha nega”. Photo via blogsemdestino.com.

The song tells the story of a man who arrives home and tells his wife about the places he’s passed through. (Nega is his wife – nega, or nego, is a term of endearment in Portuguese which comes from the word negra/negro, but no longer indicates the person’s race.)  It was inspired after Paulinho da Viola walked through Morro do Salgueiro one night and passed by a wake, where a group of boys was playing with the corpse of a young man. The man had been killed by his girlfriend’s father, who didn’t approve of the relationship. Shaken by the scene, Paulinho da Viola couldn’t sleep that night, and he wrote these verses, in which he relates a number of vignettes and then concludes to his wife that he still needs to learn a thing or two about life with her.  At first he worried the song was too long, but he brought the lyrics to Cervantes Bar in Copacabana and edited them to perfection with the help of friends.

The song was Paulinho’s entry in the 1968 First Biannual Samba Festival (I Bienal do Samba).  Producers at TV Record, led by Solano Ribeiro, decided to host the samba festival in response to criticism that their annual MPB Festivals snubbed the genre. On the rare occasions when a samba made it into the final rounds of the contest, it was invariably among the lowest ranked. Continue reading “Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega”

Solução da Vida

Lyrics to “Solução da Vida” by Paulinho da Viola
Album: Bebadosamba (1996)


Good Audio Version

I believed in passion, and passion showed me that I’d lost my reason
I believed in reason, and reason turned out to be a great illusion
I believed in destiny, and let myself be carried along, and in the end
Everything’s a lost dream, mere folly, too many sorrows

Today with my disillusions I begin to think
That in life, passion and reason both have their place
And that’s why I tell you that it’s not necessary to seek a solution for life
It’s not an equation, it doesn’t have to be solved

Life, therefore, my friend, has no solution

— Interpretation —

Paulinho da Viola, one of Brazil’s most beloved sambistas.

Paulinho da Viola‘s lighthearted observations on life are one of the most charming parts of his music.  In this song, he encourages  listeners to stop trying to figure out their lives. In another, “Num Samba Curto” – which is often paired with this song in spoken word as “Molejo Dialético” (very roughly, “Dialectical Flair”)  – he concludes, “No one can explain life in a short samba song.”

In the documentary Paulinho da Viola: Meu Tempo é Hoje, he remarks that he doesn’t understand what it means to feel saudade, the Portuguese word that expresses feelings of yearning, longing, nostalgia, heartache, homesickness, and simply missing something — people, places, things, moments, etc.  Portuguese-speakers are almost universally proud to embrace the word saudade as one of the world’s most untranslatable and beautiful concepts. But Paulinho da Viola declares, “I think this thing of saudade, which is something I don’t feel, I’m unable to feel,  I’m not even talking about nostalgia, but saudade itself  – it annuls history, annuls life, places it in a separate time, something that we no longer have. And I don’t think like that.”

Later, he expands on this thought: “When I say I don’t feel saudade, it’s in a broader sense… it’s that thing of clinging to a given moment, as if you wanted to go back in time… My time is now. I don’t live in the past. The past lives in me.”

(But of course he has plenty of songs in which he sings quite convincingly about saudade.)

Lyrics in Portuguese

Acreditei na paixão
E a paixão me mostrou
Que eu não tinha razão

Acreditei na razão
E a razão se mostrou
Uma grande ilusão

Acreditei no destino
E deixei-me levar
E no fim
Tudo é sonho perdido
Só desatino, dores demais

Hoje com meus desenganos
Me ponho a pensar
Que na vida, paixão e razão,
Ambas têm seu lugar

E por isso eu lhe digo
Que não é preciso
Buscar solução para a vida
Ela não é uma equação
Não tem que ser resolvida

A vida, portanto, meu caro,
Não tem solução