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

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

Sinal Fechado

Lyrics from “Sinal Fechado” by Paulinho da Viola
Albums: 45 with “Ruas que sonhei” (1969);  Sinal FechadoChico Buarque (1974)

— Hello, how are you doing?

— I’m getting along, and you, all is well?

— All is well, I’m getting along running, to secure my place in the future, and you?

— All is well, I’m getting along, in search of peaceful slumber, who knows?

— It’s been so long!

— That’s right, It’s been so long!

— Pardon my rush. It’s the soul of our affairs!

— Oh, no need to ask pardon. I, too, am always in a hurry.

— When will you give a call?  We need to see each other sometime.

— During the week, I promise, maybe we’ll see each other, who knows?

— It’s been so long!

— That’s right, it’s been so long!

— I had so much to say, but I disappeared in the dust of the streets.

— I also had something to say, but it escapes me now.

— Please, call, I need to drink something, quickly.

–During the week…

–The light…

–… I’ll look for you

–…is going to change, is going to change….

— I promise, I won’t forget.

— Please, don’t forget, don’t forget!


— Interpretation–

“Sinal Fechado” was the winner of the V Festival da Música Popular Brasileira in 1969,  the year recognized as the start of the most brutal period of Brazil’s military dictatorship. (More on this period in the posts on “Ruas que sonhei” and “Valsinha.”) The song seeks to capture the urgent sense of despair that cloaked Brazil during these years, as the military regime espoused a doctrine of economic growth and national development — citing Brazil’s destiny as a future great power, and pursuing massive, misguided projects like the TransAmazonian Highway — at the expense of human rights and civil liberties.

Paulinho da Viola wrote this “protest samba” as a dialogue between two friends who happen to stop side by side at a red light.  But he recorded the song alone and sang alone at the festival, adding to the song’s desperate tone by making the dialogue sound like two isolated, solitary monologues.

Critics seeking a more traditional samba griped that the song just “wasn’t samba – not here, not even over there in China,” and in the video below from the MPB festival you can see the crowd’s mixed response.  Paulinho da Viola recognized that the song wasn’t a samba, though he based the song on a samba: “I made use of simple melodies and simple harmonies, and then added to all of the chords a minor second, seeking the atmosphere of anguish of the characters…”  Many of the chords came from the Villa-Lobos guitar exercises he used to practice with. (Heitor Villa-Lobos, d. 1959, is widely regarded as the most influential Brazilian and Latin American composer; he wove traces of Brazilian folk music into his erudite compositions.)

In 1974, Chico Buarque — banned from releasing new albums of his own songs — resolved to release an album with meticulously chosen songs by other songwriters, including Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, and Julinho da Adelaide (the pseudonym Chico adopted to release 3 songs: “Acorda Amor,” on Sinal Fechado, “Jorge Maravilha” and “Milagre Basileiro”). Chico chose Paulinho da Viola’s “Sinal Fechado” as the tital track. The song became one of the most emblematic protest songs against the military dictatorship.

Main source for this post: Paulinho da Viola by João Máximo from Perfis do Rio series and Sinal Fechado: a música brasileira sob censura by Alberto Ribeiro da Silva, 1994.