A Briga do Edifício Itália e do Hilton Hotel

Lyrics from “A Briga do Edifício Itália e do Hilton Hotel” by Tom Zé (1972)

Good Audio Version (Tom Zé)

The Itália building was the king of Ipiranga Avenue
Tall, majestic and handsome, no one came close to its greatness
But now the Hilton Hotel building showed up
Elegant, modern and charming, stealing attention with its beauty

The Itália building got jealous
And spread the word among friends
That to get so white, the Hilton drinks rice-flour tea
Only wears the latest fashion, dresses up right,
And if he goes up Consolação wearing white
Will cause terror even in the cemetery

The Hilton immediately responded in turn:
This obsession with greatness gets you nowhere
Just look: Sure, I may be affected, but I don’t give people any reason to talk
With you it’s different
Cause in the neighborhood, in spite of your peacockish aplomb,
They’re already calling you Dumb Joe from the corner.

(The Itália building was the king of Ipiranga Avenue
Tall, majestic and handsome, no one came close to its greatness
But now the Hilton Hotel building showed up
Elegant, modern and charming, stealing attention with its beauty)

And the Hilton, grinning, said that the Itália building
Acts like an overblown Samson
And what’s more, he only thinks about money
He doesn’t know what love is, he has a body of steel, a robot’s soul
Because he doesn’t have a heart to speak of
Since what beats in his chest is an adding machine

The Itália building stomped with rage, willed a plague upon Hilton
And even insinuated that the Hilton had been born round to call attention
Flaunted those curves to cause a sensation
And even seemed like a crazy girl, or the Tower of Pisa dressed up as a bride

The Itália building was the king of Ipiranga Avenue
Was the king of Ipiranga Avenue, was the king…


Edificio Itália in São Paulo. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Edificio Itália in São Paulo. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The Edifício Itália, on the corner of Avenida Ipiranga and Rua São Luiz in São Paulo, was the center of attention in São Paulo’s center in the late 1960s. It was the tallest building in Latin America when it was inaugurated with plenty of pomp in September, 1965. The Italian immigrant association Círcolo Itáliano had constructed the building to house its new headquarters. Swank and luxurious, Edifício Itália symbolized the progress the Italian community had made since the founding of Círcolo Itáliano in São Paulo in 1911.

But in October, 1971, just down the way, the white, sleek, cylindrical Hilton Hotel was inaugurated — the first international chain hotel to open in Brazil. The pop-rock icon Roberto Carlos sang at its inauguration.

And in Tom Zé’s eyes, the Edifício Itália felt threatened by this fair and modernistic newcomer. Continue reading “A Briga do Edifício Itália e do Hilton Hotel”

Alegria, Alegria

Lyrics from “Alegria, Alegria” by Caetano Veloso (1967)

Original video from Festival Record (1967), apologies for quality

Good Audio Version

Walking against the wind, no kerchief, no ID
Under the near-December sun
I go…
The Sun is divided among crimes
Spaceships, guerillas
And beautiful Cardinales
I go…
In presidents’ faces, in passionate kisses, in teeth, legs, and flags
Bombs and Brigitte Bardot

The sun on the newsstands fills me with joy and laziness
Who reads that much news?
I go…

Among photos and names
Eyes full of color
And breast full of vain loves
I go…
Why not, why not?

She thinks about marriage
I never went back to school
No kerchief, no ID,
I go…

I drink coca-cola, she thinks about marriage
And a song consoles me
I go…

Among photos and names
No books, no rifle
No hunger, no telephone
In the heart of Brazil…

She doesn’t even know that I even thought about singing on TV
The sun is so lovely
I go…

No kerchief, no ID
Nothing in my pockets or hands
I want to go on living love
I will…
Why not, why not…
Why not, why not…  why not, why not…

— Interpretation —

Caetano singing “Alegria, Alegria” with the Argentine rock group the Beat Boys, 1967

“Alegria, Alegria” (“Joy, joy”) is one of the signature songs that launched Caetano Veloso and the nascent Tropicália movement into the spotlight of the Brazilian music scene in 1967. Caetano performed the song  at the legendary 1967 3rd Record Festival of Música Popular Brasileira (inspiration for the film “A Night in ’67”) with the Argentine rock group the Beat Boys, eliciting jeers from purists who rejected any foreign elements in Brazilian music.  At the same festival, Gil sang “Domingo no Parque.” Together, the two songs introduced Brazil to Caetano and Gil’s “universal sound,” which controversially mixed influences from around the globe – most notably, rock and roll – with regional styles and themes,  especially from their home state of Bahia.

Gil and Caetano came in second and fourth place in the festival, respectively, behind Edu Lobo’s “Ponteio” (first place) and Chico Buarque‘s “Roda Viva” (third place), entries that appealed more to the standards of the festival, which generally valued a song’s message over its musical arrangement. But by the end of 1967, “Alegria, Alegria” was at the top of the IBOPE singles chart for record sales, while the winner “Ponteio” was in tenth place.

The metaphor behind the lyrics of “Alegria Alegria” has been likened to a manifesto for the Tropicália movement:

The song follows a transient walking through city streets (presumably Rio de Janeiro, where Caetano was inspired to write the song on a walk through Copacabana).  The wandering narrator takes in the “confusing, fragmented reality of a modern Brazilian city,” full of imported symbols of  modernity. He browses a newsstand selling the counter-culture newspaper O Sol (The Sun). Headlines and images of crimes, bombs, spaceships and leftist guerrilla uprisings – in this case, Che Guevara’s campaign in Bolivia – compete with photos of foreign actresses and sex symbols (Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale) for the narrator’s attention.

As the list of images goes on, it becomes more fragmented –presidents’ faces, teeth, legs, etc; the narrator, in the meantime, drinks his coca-cola and doesn’t think too much of any of it.  He says the sun fills him with joy and laziness — characteristics typically associated with backward Brazilians (carnavalesque exuberance mixed with laziness), which the military government was ostensibly fighting with its modernization project.  The military regime aimed to bring modernization to the “heart of Brazil” that Caetano refers to, with wildly misguided projects like the Transamazonian Highway; in the meantime, modernization for most people meant this confused influx of mostly superficial symbols and images.

Still, rather than dwelling on bombs or politics, the narrator ponders a potential singing career and how good the summer sun feels. Spurning laws and societal conventions – no ID, little education and ambivalent about marriage – he just wants to go on living and loving freely, without limitations, why not?

The mixture of all of these images in “Alegria, Alegria” – true to life – neutralizes any social message or criticism in the song. Caetano’s “insubordinate juxtaposition” of national and international politics, triumphs and tragedies with completely quotidian concerns, all sung to a simple marchinha tune, are what made the song revolutionary.  In 1967, the public was accustomed to songs with clearer social messages about poverty, violence and political repression; by contrast, “Alegria, Alegria” was scattered and ambiguous. Embracing contradictions and exposing hypocrisies in society, the arts and the artistic process itself became a defining element of Tropicália.

Written in what’s been called a “descriptive-cinematographic style,” the song reflects the influence of Brazilian Cinema Novo and French New Wave cinema on Caetano’s work. Caetano has remarked that after seeing the 1967 Cinema Novo film Terra em Transe, directed by Glauber Rocher, he set out to create the same effect with his music. The style won the  praise and solidarity of concretistas  like the poet Augusto de Campos and the composer Gilberto Mendes, and from the rock music scene — Caetano appeared in the first edition of Rolling Stone magazine in November 1967.

Helio Oiticica’s 1967 mixed-media installation “Tropicália,” the inspiration for the name of Tropicália movement. Source: IG Blog

In 1968, Caetano released his first solo LP, Caetano Veloso (Tropicália), which served to officially baptize the movement,  named after artist Hélio Oiticica’s 1967 mixed-media installation at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo. Though the movement is often  referred to as tropicalismo, Caetano, Gil, et al. preferred Tropicalia because they didn’t want to become just another “ism.”

In this video, Caetano says he considers the song “unsatisfactory,” but is pleased that people like it so much and that it’s had such a strong response.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Caminhando contra o vento
Sem lenço e sem documento
No sol de quase dezembro
Eu vou…

O sol se reparte em crimes
Espaçonaves, guerrilhas
Em cardinales bonitas
Eu vou…

Em caras de presidentes
Em grandes beijos de amor
Em dentes, pernas, bandeiras
Bomba e Brigitte Bardot…

O sol nas bancas de revista
Me enche de alegria e preguiça
Quem lê tanta notícia
Eu vou…

Por entre fotos e nomes
Os olhos cheios de cores
O peito cheio de amores vãos
Eu vou
Por que não, por que não…

Ela pensa em casamento
E eu nunca mais fui à escola
Sem lenço e sem documento,
Eu vou…

Eu tomo uma coca-cola
Ela pensa em casamento
E uma canção me consola
Eu vou…

Por entre fotos e nomes
Sem livros e sem fuzil
Sem fome, sem telefone
No coração do Brasil…

Ela nem sabe até pensei
Em cantar na televisão
O sol é tão bonito
Eu vou…

Sem lenço, sem documento
Nada no bolso ou nas mãos
Eu quero seguir vivendo, amor
Eu vou…

Por que não, por que não…
Por que não, por que não…
Por que não, por que não…
Por que não, por que não…

Main sources for this post include: Tropicália Alegoria Alegria by Celso Favaretto; Brutality Garden by Christopher Dunn; “The Tropes of Tropicality and Tropicalism” by Charles Perrone; and A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2 by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello, and Verdade Tropical by Caetano Veloso.

Domingo no Parque

Lyrics to “Domingo no Parque” (Sunday in the park) by Gilberto Gil (1967)
Recorded  with Os Mutantes for the LP Philips III Festival of Brazilian Popular Music (1967)

The king of play — hey, José
The king of trouble — hey, João
One worked at the market — hey José
The other in construction — hey, João

Last week, on the weekend
João decided not to fight
On Sunday afternoon, he went out in a hurry
And he didn’t go to Ribeira to play
He didn’t go over there, to Ribeira
He went to court [a girl]

José as always on the weekend
Took down his stall and vanished
He went to take, on Sunday, a stroll in the park

Over there, near Boca do Rio
In the park was where he first caught sight of
There he saw

Juliana on the wheel with João
A rose and an ice cream in her hand
Juliana, his dream, an illusion
Juliana and the friend João
The thorn on the rose wounded Zé [José]
And the ice cream froze his heart

The ice cream and the rose — oh, José
The rose and the ice cream — oh, José
Hi, dancing on the chest — oh, José
Of  the playful José — oh, José

The ice cream and the rose — oh, José
The rose and the ice cream — oh, José
Hi, turning over in the mind — oh, José
Of the playful José — oh, José

Juliana turning –hi, turning
Hi, on the ferris wheel — hi, turning
The friend João — hi, João

The ice cream is strawberry — it’s red
Hi, turning, and the rose — it’s red
Hi, turning, turning — it’s red
Hi, turning, turning — look at the knife!

Look at the blood on his hand — hey, José
Juliana on the ground — hey,  José
Another body down — hey, José
His friend João — hey, José

Tomorrow there’s no market — hey, José
There’s no more construction — hey, João
There’s no more playing — hey, José
There’s no more trouble — hey, João

— Interpretation —

Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes mix berimbau and electric guitar in their performance of “Domingo no Parque” at the Third Festival of Brazilian Popular Music in Rio in 1967.

Gilberto Gil began this song with the intention of writing something innovative — with a strong regional influence from his native Bahia — for the III Festival de Música Popular Brasileira with TV Record.

The song uses berimbau —  the single-string percussion instrument of African origin used in the capoeira circles so characteristic of Bahia — and the music, pattern of singing (call and response), and lyrics follow a folkloric form that recalls the songs sung in capoeira circles.  Gil explains, “The song was born, then, from the desire to replicate the folk song, and represent the archetypes of capoeira music, but with exclusive, specific facts: with such a romance, like a Mexican story.”

To begin, Gil introduces his characters– the market worker and the capoeira player. Much of the story that follows came about through the rhymes that Gil discovered as he wrote:  to rhyme with the Portuguese word for vanished, sumiu, he thought of Boca do Rio, a beachside neighborhood in Salvador that was a popular hang-out among Gil and his friends in the 1960s and 1970s; when he thought of Boca do Rio, he thought of a ferris wheel he had seen there, and jotted down “ferris wheel” as a note to himself to work the word into the song.

At that point, he explains, it was necessary to bring João and José together. João hadn’t gone “over there” () to Ribeira (another neighborhood in Salvador), but had gone instead to “to court” (namorar = flirt, court, make love, etc. ), to rhyme namorar (pronounced namorá) with “.”  Here the two characters come together. One is audacious and open, the other timid and withdrawn. The latter is in love with Juliana but doesn’t have the courage to tell her, and could only dream of talking to her; he finds the bold friend João flirting with her in the park after meeting her for the first time, and the sense of disappointment and injustice is too much for José to bear.

To conclude, Gil begins making allusions to blood: the ice cream becomes red strawberry ice cream, and the rose is a red rose, and then the cut of the knife — “a sudden impulse, a sudden manifestation of a power within José that he didn’t know he had,” explains Gil.

Gil wrote “Domingo no Parque” in the Hotel Danúbio in São Paulo, where he lived for a year. At the time, he was married to the singer Nana Caymmi  — daughter of Dorival Caymmi — and, after a day spent with a friend of Dorival’s, Gil was thinking a lot about Bahia, and was inspired to write the song. He says he and Nana got to the hotel around 2 a.m.; he stayed up all night writing, and recorded “Domingo no Parque” the next day.

The song came in second place at the III Festival of Música Popular Brasileira, but was definitely the most innovative, and together with Caetano Veloso‘s contribution “Alegria, Alegria,”  represented the beginning of what Gil and Caetano Veloso referred to as their “universal sound.” Universal sound defied norms for Brazilian popular music,  incorporating influences from many genres and from all over the world — a revolutionary experiment in Brazilian popular music at the time, when many artists and critics were fighting to defend the purity of Brazilian music. The universal sound came to represent the nascent Tropicália movement.

Main sources for this post: Gilberto Gil’s commentary on the song in Carlos Rennó’s Gilberto Gil: Todas as Letras (2003, Gilberto Gil) and Christopher Dunn’s Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counter-Culture. 

Post by Victoria Broadus