“Tocando em Frente” and “Amora”

Lyrics from “Tocando em Frente” by Renato Teixeira and Almir Sater, released by Maria Bethânia (1990)



Good Audio Version (Renato Teixeira)

I go slowly because I’ve already been in a rush
And I wear this smile because I’ve already cried too much
Today I feel stronger, happier – who knows
I carry with me only the certainty that I know very little, or I know nothing

Getting to know mannerisms and mornings
The flavor of  almonds and apples
A lot of love is necessary to push forward
Peace is necessary to be able to go on
And rain is necessary for blooming

I think that to make good on life may be simply
To understand the march, and go playing ahead
Like an old cattleman driving the oxen, I go on driving the days
Down the long road, I go, I’m a road

Each one of us composes our own story
And each carries within the gift of being able to be happy
Everyone loves one day, everyone cries, one day we arrive, and the next we leave.

— Interpretation —

In 1992, Renato Teixeira recorded with Pena Branca and Xavantinho, perhaps Brazil's best loved caipira duo.
In 1992, Renato Teixeira, center, recorded with Pena Branca and Xavantinho, perhaps Brazil’s best-loved caipira duo.

In spite of having been born in the city of Santos, São Paulo, Renato Teixeira is one of Brazil’s most prolific singer-songwriters in the caipira genre — a country-folk style of music from (or about) the hinterlands of the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais,  Goias, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.  This rural genre is closely and often indistinguishably related to classic country music in Brazil, known as sertanejo. (Sertanejo has taken on a different meaning in recent years, with the boom in popularity of pop sertanejo duos). Teixeira’s song “Romaria,” a sensation when sung by Elis Regina in 1977, is credited with having changed the connotations of the word caipira and cut away at prejudices against caipiras in Brazil. TV Globo used the song in its miniseries Carga Pesada, and the revered poet Haroldo de Campos told Veja that he regarded the song as one of the best of the decade.

“Tocando em Frente” became another of Teixeira’s greatest hits. He wrote it with Almir Sater, a singer-songwriter and actor with deeper caipira roots, from Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. The song has been recorded by a long list of popular Brazilian singers.

Teixeira, born May 20, 1945, spent much of his childhood in Ubatuba, on the northern coast of São Paulo state, before moving at age fourteen to Taubaté, São Paulo.  In his early twenties he began working in radio in Taubaté and was introduced to sertanejo music.  He entered his first MPB Festival in 1967, with “Dadá Maria,” sung by Gal Costa, which qualified for the finals and is an example of his more classic MPB compositions from the late 1960s. In 1972, after participating in an album on Brazilian music from the West, Midwest and Southwest, he began to incorporate more caipira themes and musical elements into his songs.  The success of “Romaria” solidified his mastery of the genre.

In 1985 Teixeira played on the album Grandes Cantores Sertanejos (Great Country Singers), and in 1992, he recorded a live album, Ao Vivo em Tatuí, with one of Brazil’s most beloved caipira duos, the brothers Pena Branca and Xavantinho, for which they received the prestigious Sharp Award for best regional album of the year. The album features songs like “Tocando em Frente,” “Amora” (below),  Caetano Veloso’s “Canto do povo de um lugar,” and “O Cio da Terra,” by Chico Buarque and Milton Nascimento.

A few notes about the translation:  In an attempt to keep some of the alliteration from the original Portuguese in the second stanza (in English), I stretched the translation a bit, using “almonds” instead of “doughs,” which would be a literal translation of “massas,” and “mannerisms” for “manhas,” which would be closer to something like “quirks,” “caprices,” or “cunning.”  In the Portuguese version, all four words begin with “m” and are much more similar phonetically. “Tocar” in Portuguese means both to play (an instrument) and to drive (cattle), so in the second to last stanza it is used throughout in the Portuguese version, while the verb changes in English. “Tocar” can also mean simply “to go on,” which allows for another possible interpretation of “ir tocando em frente” more along the lines of “keep on keepin’ on.” Finally, in some versions, like the audio version provided above, the lyrics differ slightly, saying, “I feel that to carry on in life may be simply…”

Lyrics from “Amora” by Renato Teixeira (1979)

Good Audio Version

After the curve in the road, there’s a guava tree
I feel my eyes water every time I pass by
I feel my heart wounded, wrapped in solitude
I think the fruit of the heart must be sweet

I’m going to tell your father that you date…
I’m going to tell your mother that you ignore me
I’m going to paint my lips the red of the blackberries
That grow over yonder, in the yard of the house where you live

Lyrics in Portuguese: “Tocando em Frente”

Ando devagar
Porque já tive pressa
E levo esse sorriso
Porque já chorei demais

Hoje me sinto mais forte,
Mais feliz, quem sabe
Só levo a certeza
De que muito pouco sei,
Ou nada sei

Conhecer as manhas
E as manhãs
O sabor das massas
E das maçãs

É preciso amor
Pra poder pulsar
É preciso paz pra poder sorrir
É preciso a chuva para florir

Penso que cumprir a vida
Seja simplesmente
Compreender a marcha
E ir tocando em frente

Como um velho boiadeiro
Levando a boiada
Eu vou tocando os dias
Pela longa estrada, eu vou
Estrada eu sou

Conhecer as manhas
E as manhãs
O sabor das massas
E das maçãs

É preciso amor
Pra poder pulsar
É preciso paz pra poder sorrir
É preciso a chuva para florir

Todo mundo ama um dia,
Todo mundo chora
Um dia a gente chega
E no outro vai embora

Cada um de nós compõe a sua história
Cada ser em si
Carrega o dom de ser capaz
E ser feliz

Lyrics in Portuguese: “Amora”

Depois da curva da estrada
Tem um pé de araçá
Sinto vir água nos olhos
Toda vez que passo lá

Sinto o coração flechado
Cercado de solidão
Penso que deve ser doce
A fruta do coração

Vou contar para o seu pai
Que você namora
Vou contar pra sua mãe
Que você me ignora

Vou pintar a minha boca
Do vermelho da amora
Que nasce lá no quintal
Da casa onde você mora

Romaria

Lyrics from “Romaria” (1977)
Sung by Elis Regina
Composed by Renato Teixeira

It’s of dream and dust
The destiny of one alone
Like me lost
In thought
On my horse

It’s of lasso and knot
Of holster and jiló  
Of this life carried out alone

I’m caipira, Pirapora
Our Lady of Aparecida
Illuminate the dark mine and guide
The train of my life (2x)

My father was a peon
My mother, loneliness
My brothers lost themselves in life – the price of adventures
I unmarried, I played
I invested, I gave up
If there’s luck, I don’t know
I never saw it

I’m caipira, Pirapora
Our Lady of Aparecida
Illuminate the dark mine and guide
The train of my life (2x)

They told me, nonetheless
That I should come here
To request, through pilgrimage and prayer
Peace in hardships (desaventos)

Since I don’t know how to pray
I just wanted to show
My gaze, my gaze, my gaze
I’m caipira, Pirapora
Our Lady of Aparecida
Illuminate the dark mine and guide
The train of my life (2x)

— Interpretation —

A caipira in Brazil is someone from the country, most commonly in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro (other regions use different words, e.g. matuto in the Northeast).   This song speaks of the rough and solitary life of a caipira. Its forlorn, fatalistic tone is typical of caipira music, as is the theme of the loneliness and hardships of life on the range or in the mine.

“Pirapora” – which comes from the words for “fish” and “jump” in the indigenous Tupi language – likely refers to Pirapora do Bom Jesús, in São Paulo state, which is known as the “City of Miracles” and receives thousands of religious pilgrims every year.  Our Lady of Aparecida is the patroness (or patron saint) of Brazil. The composer, Renato Teixeira, wrote the song after observing pilgrims on their way to the basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Aparecida do Norte.

Jiló is a fruit — solanum gilo, known as “scarlet eggplant” in English, though I’ve never come across the fruit in the United States. I’ve translated “desaventos,” a caipira word, as hardships, but  it most literally translates to an enemy or event that has caused a disturbance or problem. Finally, I’ve translated gibeira (a corruption of the portuguese word algibeira) as holster because it is a small leather sack for carrying an object that needs particular care; however, the word in Portuguese does not have the same automatic association with a firearm as the word “holster” in English — the jiló, for instance, may be in the holster.

Elis Regina recorded the song in 1977 and it became an instant national sensation, even helping to reduce stereotypes and reclaim the word “caipira” as something to be proud of.  Elis Regina was renowned for her ability to draw such deep emotional reactions from the Brazilian public with her singing. She was one of the most beloved voices of Brazil’s MPB movement before dying at in 1982, at 36, from a drug overdose.

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)