Rosa de Hiroshima

Lyrics from “Rosa de Hiroshima” by Vinicius de Moraes, music by  Gérson Conrad; released by Secos & Molhados (1973)

Pensem nas criancas // Think of the children
Mudas, Telepáticas // Mute, telepathic
Pensem nas meninas // Think of the girls
Cegas, inexatas // Blind, inexact (amiss)
Pensem nas mulheres // Think of the women
Rotas, alteradas // Torn, altered
Pensem nas feridas // Think of the wounds
Como rosas cálidas // Like burning roses
Mas oh! Nao se esqueçam // But oh! Don’t forget
Da rosa da rosa // The rose of roses
Da rosa de Hiroshima // The rose of Hiroshima
A rosa hereditária // The hereditary rose
A rosa radioativa // The radioactive rose
Estúpida e inválida // Senseless and invalid
A rosa com cirrose // The rose with cirrhosis
A anti-rosa atomica // The atomic anti-rose
Sem cor, sem perfume // Without color, without fragrance
Sem rosa, sem nada // Without rose, without anything

— Commentary —

hiroshima_After via Atlantic via U.S. National Archives
Hiroshima in the aftermath of the attack. Image via The Atlantic .

In the early morning of 6 August 1945, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, lifted off a runway on Tinian Island in the Pacific. Piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, who had named the giant Superfortress after his mother, the Enola Gay carried a ten-thousand-pound atomic bomb known as “Little Boy.” At 8:15 A.M., the crew of the Enola Gay covered their eyes with dark glasses and the bombardier, Thomas Ferebee, released the huge orange and black bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, a city of 250,000 people, many of whom were starting their last day on earth. The bomb exploded over the city with a brilliant flash of purple light, followed by a deafening blast and a powerful shock wave that heated the air as if expanded. A searing fireball eventually enveloped the area around ground zero, temperatures rose to approximate those on the surface of the sun, and a giant mushroom cloud roiled up from the city like an angry gray ghost. Within seconds Hiroshima was destroyed and half of its population was dead or dying. Three days later, a second atomic bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing more than 60,000 people. –Michael Hogan: Hiroshima in History and Memory

Vinicius de Moraes composed this poem in 1954. Nearly twenty years later, Gérson Conrad of Secos & Molhados set the poem to music. Secos & Molhados released “Rosa de Hiroshima” on their self-titled debut album, and Ney Matogrosso’s piercing rendition seared the song into popular memory across Brazil.

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Rio de Janeiro’s Diário da Noite from 7 August 1945 announced “Revolution in Methods of War!” A front-page article on the attack described the atomic bomb as “the most terrifying discovery of recent times,” and Hiroshima as “the Japanese city that had the bad luck of being the first to vanish from the map as a consequence of the effects of the atomic bomb.” Image via Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional.

The horror of the atomic bomb was incomprehensible in Japan and around the world.  The scale of the attack was so unfathomable that the Japanese reacted almost as if they’d been struck by a natural disaster, rather than a man-made atrocity released by bombardier Thomas Ferebee at 8:15 that morning.  No prior conceptions or language existed to grapple with the scale of the attack, so reckoning largely came, when it came, through the arts.

The mushroom cloud of the bomb spread as a rose bud blooms and expands, and Vinicius de Moraes treated the bomb as the “anti-rose” in this poem.

Floor of Damaged Bank Building_Oct 6 1945
A woman lies with her child on the floor of a ruined bank building in Hiroshima, 6 October 1945. Image via The Atlantic.

The first verses focus on the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of the bomb: Rollicking children were rendered mute, killed or surviving without words to express or come to terms with the experience. Girls were blinded by the searing flash;  “inexact” evokes incompleteness, or something amiss.  (I didn’t want to post too gruesome images here, but some of these seem representative of what Vinicius mentions.)

“Rotas, alteradas” can also be interpreted as “rotas alteradas,” or paths altered.

The second part of the lyrics discuss the “senseless” bomb. “Hereditary” rose may refer to the fact that survivors were “presumed to carry the curse of the bombs in their blood,” and were shunned in Japan. Invalid can be interpreted as not valid — out of bounds, unwarranted — or “invalid” in the sense of disabled, as the survivors were left both psychologically and physically. The Japanese government essentially ignored the bomb survivors until November 1953, when it established a research council to conduct surveys of survivors. The news surrounding this movement may have inspired the poem, written shortly thereafter. This rose is fatally flawed, sick with cirrhosis like the survivors who developed cirrhosis of the liver from radiation poisoning.

If the rose represents beauty, passion, and vigor, the bomb was the “anti-rose,” like an anti-christ.




Main source for this post: Hiroshima in History and Memory, ed. Mark Hogan

“Chega de Saudade” — “Garota de Ipanema” — “O amor em paz”

Chega de Saudade (1958, Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes)

Vai minha tristeza // Get along, my sorrow
E diz a ela que sem ela não pode ser // And tell her it’s just impossible without her
Diz-lhe numa prece // Urge her in an entreaty
Que ela regresse // To come back to me
Porque eu não posso mais sofrer // Because I can’t suffer any longer

Chega de saudade // That’s enough of saudade
A realidade é que sem ela não há paz // The truth is that without her there’s no peace
Não há beleza  // There’s no beauty
É só tristeza e a melancolia // Only sadness and melancholy
Que não sai de mim, não sai de mim, não sai // That won’t leave me be, won’t leave me, won’t leave…

Mas se ela voltar, se ela voltar // But if she comes back – if she comes back
Que coisa linda, que coisa louca // What a beautiful thing, what a crazy thing
Pois há menos peixinhos a nadar no mar // Cause there’re fewer fishies swimming in the sea
Do que os beijinhos que eu darei na sua boca // Than the kissies I’ll plant on her mouth

Dentro dos meus braços // In my arms
Os abraços hão de ser milhões de abraços // The hugs will become millions of hugs
Apertado assim, colado assim, calado assim // Tight like so; entwined like so; hushed, like so
Abraços e beijinhos, e carinhos sem ter fim // Hugs and kisses and caresses without end
Que é pra acabar com esse negócio de você viver sem mim // Which is to put an end to this nonsense of you living without me!


“Garota de Ipanema”(1962, Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes)

Olha que coisa mais linda // Look, what a most beautiful thing
Mais cheia de graça // Most full of grace
É ela a menina // It’s her, the girl
Que vem e que passa // That appears and passes by
Num doce balanço // In a sweet sway
A caminho do mar // On her way to the sea

Moça do corpo dourado // The girl with that body of gold
Do sol de Ipanema // From the sun of Ipanema
O seu balançado é mais que um poema // Her sashay is more than a poem
É a coisa mais linda que eu já vi passar // It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen go by

Ah, por que estou tão sozinho? // Oh, why am I so lonely?
Ah, por que tudo é tão triste? // Oh, why is everything so sad?
Ah, a beleza que existe // Oh, this beauty that exists
A beleza que não é só minha // Beauty that’s not mine alone
Que também passa sozinha // That also passes by on her own

Ah, se ela soubesse // Oh, if she only knew
Que quando ela passa /That when she passes by
O mundo inteirinho se enche de graça // The whole wide world swells up with grace
E fica mais lindo // And grows more beautiful
Por causa do amor // On account of love

“O amor em paz” (1961, Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes)

Eu amei // I loved
E amei, ai de mim, muito mais // I loved, woe to me, much more
Do que devia amar // Than I ought to have loved
E chorei // And I cried
Ao sentir que iria sofrer // Sensing that I would suffer
E me desesperar // And grow desperate

Foi então // That was when
Que da minha infinita tristeza // Out of my infinite sadness
Aconteceu você // You came along
Encontrei em você // I found in you
A razão de viver // My reason for living
E de amar em paz // And for loving in peace
E não sofrer mais // And never suffering again
Nunca mais // Never again
Porque o amor // Because love
É a coisa mais triste // Is the saddest thing
Quando se desfaz // When it falls apart
O amor é a coisa mais triste // Love is the saddest thing
Quando se desfaz // When it falls apart

— Commentary —

Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes at Tom’s home on R. Barão da Torre, Ipanema. 1960s.

Bossa nova classics are some of the songs curious listeners search for the most, so here are a few of the standards.  And as you can see, the Portuguese lyrics differ significantly from their respective English versions (“No more blues“; “Girl from Ipanema“; “Once I loved“).

So much has been written about bossa nova that I think my posts on bossa nova songs are probably more valuable just for the literal translation of the lyrics, in part because there are so many different stories out there – even in generally reliable sources – that it’s hard to feel confident about the veracity of many of them. But below I provide a little commentary on each of these songs.

A “lavadeira” like the ones João Gilberto says he was inspired by.

João Gilberto liked to say he developed his innovative bossa-nova rhythm on the guitar in imitation of the rhythmic sway of the hips of the lavadeiras (laundry women) in Juazeiro, his home town in Bahia. He has also always insisted that bossa nova isn’t a genre; it’s just sambas performed with a little added twist – the new bossa of his guitar and voice. As you know, that bossa — whether it was the result of an epiphany he had while watching the lavadeiras of Juazeiro, or the culmination of a trend in Brazilian music that he managed to capture and express — turned the Brazilian music scene on its head in 1958, and in turn, quickly swept the United States off its feet.

“Chega de Saudade” was the title track on João Gilberto’s seminal 1958 album that is considered the cornerstone of bossa nova. Tom Jobim summed up the importance of the album and João Gilberto’s influence on the Brazilian music scene in his clear-sighted text in the liner notes. At the time, his affirmations seemed exaggerated to many consumers who had barely heard of 27-year-old Gilberto:  “In almost no time, he [João Gilberto] has influenced an entire generation of arrangers, guitarists, musicians and singers,” Tom wrote.

Funnily enough, according to Tom, quoted in A Canção no Tempo, this song — which casts off saudade in its lyrics — is nostalgic in its very construction, and not really the best representative of anything “nova”: “Its introduction recalls those traditional introductions of ensembles of guitar and cavaquinho … It has all of the classic modulations of old music… It’s a nostalgic song that’s rejecting saudade!”

But the version released on João Gilberto’s album was indeed bossa nova, with João Gilberto’s rhythmically innovative guitar strokes woven together with his soft style of singing and the simplicity of the lyrics — including the rhyme of peixinhos (fishies) with beijinhos (kissies), which raised more than a few critical eyebrows.

“Chega de Saudade” was first released on Elizeth Cardoso’s landmark album Canção do amor demais, six months prior to Gilberto’s Chega de Saudade, and on that album already represents a strong precursor to bossa nova, with João Gilberto playing his signature guitar accompaniment. Cardoso’s album is considered a “bridge” to the bossa-nova period that came into swing with Chega de Saudade.

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22 September 1963: Lyrics published in Jornal do Brasil column “Sing along with Radio JB”

Tom and Vinicius said that “Garota de Ipanema” was inspired by a teenage girl who they often admired as she passed by Bar Veloso, a bar on the street where she lived where the two were devoted patrons in the early ’60s. The bar has since taken the name of the song. In a 1965 interview with the magazine Manchete, Vinicius identified the girl as Heloísa (Helô) Menezes Pais Pinto (Helô Pinheiro, after marriage), saying: “For her we composed, with the utmost respect and speechless enchantment, the samba that put her in headlines around the world and turned our dear ‘Ipanema’ into a magical word for foreign listeners.”

The song wasn’t thrown together on a napkin in Bar Veloso, though. Both Tom and Vinicius labored carefully over their respective parts and, together with João, presented the version they were pleased with during the show Encontro, which debuted its forty-five day run at the boîte Au Bon Gourmet on 2 August 1962.  During the show, the trio included a playful intro to “Garota de Ipanema” that could actually serve as an introduction to much of bossa nova:

Vinicius de Moraes with Helô Pinheiro (1960s)

João Gilberto: “Tom e se você fizesse agora uma canção que possa nos dizer, contar o que é o amor…” (Tom, how about if you were to make a song right now that might tell us, explain what love is…)

Tom Jobim: “Olha Joãozinho, eu não saberia, sem Vinicius para fazer a poesia…” (Look, dear João, I wouldn’t know how, without Vinicius to write the poetry…)

Vinicius de Moraes: “Para essa canção se realizar, quem dera o João para cantar” (For this song to come to be, if only we could have João to sing…)

João Gilberto: “Ah, mas quem sou eu? Eu sou mais vocês. Melhor se nós cantássemos os três” (Ah, but who am I? I prefer the two of you. Best for all three of us to sing!)

…Olha que coisa mais linda, mais cheia de graça…

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21 August 1964: “Brazil seen from afar” column in Rio’s Diário das Noticias newspaper features news of “Garota de Ipanema,” the “latest champion of album sales in the United States, beating out the Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night.'”

“Garota de Ipanema” was released in early 1963 on the Phillips LP A Bossa dos Cariocas, and six months later Tom introduced it to American listeners on the Verve LP The Composer of Desafinado PlaysAt the end of ’63, Verve released the Astrud Gilberto/Stan Getz single “Girl from Ipanema” (with the title taken from the new English-language version, by Norman Gimbel), and then in 1964, the tremendously influential album Getz/Gilbertowhich changed the musical landscape around much of the world, became the first Grammy-Award-winning album from non-American artists and propelled “Garota de Ipanema” and the amateur Astrud Gilberto to enduring international stardom.

Finally, I don’t have much to say about “O amor em paz,” except that the harmony and lyrics are brilliantly complementary in this song, shifting between minor and major modes as the lyrics shift between notes of sadness and joy. João Gilberto released the song on his self-titled LP in 1961.

For more bossa nova songs, see: Insensatez; Corcovado; LigiaRosa Morena; Se todos fossem iguais a você and Samba do Avião.

Main sources for this post: A Canção no Tempo by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello and Bim Bom by Walter Garcia

Carta ao Tom/Berimbau

-begins min. 1:14-

Translation Below
Carta de Vinícius de Moraes a Tom Jobim (“Carta ao Tom”):

Porto do Havre, 7 de setembro de 1964

Tomzinho querido,

Estou aqui num quarto de hotel, que dá para uma praça, que dá para toda solidão do mundo.

São 10 horas da noite, e não se vê vivalma.

Meu navio só sai amanhã à tarde e é impossível alguém estar mais triste do que eu.

E como sempre, nestas horas, escrevo para você cartas que nunca mando.

Deixei Paris para trás com a saudade de um ano de amor, e pela frente, tem o Brasil, que é uma paixão permanente em minha vida de constante exilado.

A coisa ruim é que hoje é 7 de setembro, a data nacional, e eu sei que em nossa embaixada há uma festa, que me cairia muito bem, com o Baden mandando brasa no violão.

Há pouco telefonei para lá para cumprimentar o embaixador, e veio todo mundo ao telefone.
Estão queimando um óleo firme!

Você já passou um 7 de setembro Tomzinho, sozinho, num porto estrangeiro, numa noite sem qualquer perspectiva? É fogo maestro!

Estou doido para ver você e Carlinhos e recomeçar a trabalhar. Imagine que este ano foi praticamente dedicado ao Baden, pois Paris não é brincadeira! Mas agora o Tremendão aconteceu mesmo! A Europa teve que curvar-se! Mas ainda assim, fizemos umas músiquinhas, como “Formosa“. Você vai ver! Tudo sambão! Parece até que a saudade do Brasil quando a gente está longe, procura mais a forma do samba tradicional do que a Bossa Nova; não é engraçado? São como diria o Lucio Rangel: “as raízes!”.

Vou agora escrever para casa, pedindo dois menus diferentes para minha chegada. Para o almoço, um tutuzinho com torresmo, um lombinho de porco bem tostadinho, uma couvinha mineira e, doce de coco. Para o jantar, uma galinha ao molho pardo, com arroz bem soltinho e, papos de anjo. Mas daqueles que só a mãe da gente sabe fazer! Daqueles, que se a pessoa fosse honrada mesmo, só devia comer, metida em banho morno, em trevas totais, pensando no máximo, na mulher amada. Por aí, você vê como estou me sentindo; nem cá, nem lá!

Fiquei muito contente com o sucesso de “Garota de Ipanema“, nos Estados Unidos. E Astrudinha, hein? Que negocio tão direito. Vamos ver se desta vez, os intermediários deixam “algum” para nós!

Fiquei muito contente também, com a noticia do sucesso de “Berimbau” aí no Brasil. Dizem que estão tocando a músiquinha “pra valer”! Isso me alegra muito pelo Baden. E pra que mentir? Por mim também! É bom saber que a gente não foi esquecido, que o povo continua cantando as nossas coisas; pois no fundo mesmo, é pra ele que a gente compõe! Lembro-me tão bem, quando fizemos o samba, uma madrugada, há uns 3 anos atrás, por aí. Eu disse ao Baden: isso tem pinta de sucesso. E ficamos cantando e cantando o samba até o sol raiar.
Letter from Vinícius de Moraes to Tom Jobim:

Port of Le Havre, September 7, 1964

Dearest Tom,

I’m here in a hotel room, which looks out over a plaza, which looks out over all of the lonesomeness in the world.

It’s 10 p.m. and not a soul to be seen.

My ship leaves only tomorrow afternoon and it’s impossible that anyone’s sadder than I am.

And as always at these times, I write you letters that I never send.

I left Paris behind with the longing of a year of love, and ahead of me, there’s Brazil, which is a permanent passion in my life as a constant exile.

The bad part is that today is September 7th – the national holiday – and I know that in our embassy there’s a party that would do me good, with Baden [Powell] tearing it up on the guitar.

A little while ago I called over there to greet the ambassador, and everyone came to the phone. They’re really burning the midnight oil!

Have you ever spent September 7, my dear Tom, alone, in a foreign port, on a night without any prospects? It’s rough, maestro!

I can’t wait to see you and Carlinhos [Lyra] and get back to work. Think that this year was practically dedicated to Baden, because Paris is no joke! But now the shit really went down; Europe had to bend over! But even so, we made some songs, like “Formosa,” – you’ll see! All sambão! It almost seems like when we miss Brazil, when we’re far away, we seek out the more traditional sort of samba rather than bossa nova; isn’t it funny? As Lucio Rangel would say, ‘roots!'”

I’m going to write home now requesting two different menus for my arrival. For lunch, a “tutuzinho” [dish of beans, bacon and manioc meal] with crackling, a toasty little pork loin, collard greens, and coconut sweets. For dinner, chicken with brown gravy, with rice that’s really loose just so, and “papos de anjo” (like Angels’ double chin – traditional Portuguese dessert). But the kind that only mom makes best! The kind that, if the person were truly honorable, should only be eaten while tucked into a warm bath, in total darkness, thinking at most about the woman he loves. You can see how I am: neither here nor there!

I was really pleased by the success of ‘Girl from Ipanema’ in the United States. And lil’ Astrud!? What a perfect deal. Let’s see if this time the intermediaries leave ‘some’ for us!

I was also really pleased by the news of the success of ‘Berimbau’ there in Brazil. I hear they’re playing the song ‘for real!’ That makes me really happy for Baden. And why lie? For myself too. It’s good to know that we haven’t been forgotten, that the people continue singing our songs; after all, deep down, that’s why we compose! I remember so well when we wrote the samba, one late late night, about three years ago. I told Baden: ‘this looks like a hit.’ And we sang and sang the samba until the sun came up.
Quem é homem de bem não trai o amor que lhe quer seu bem// A good man doesn’t betray the love that wants the best for him

Quem diz muito que vai não vai, assim como não vai, não vem // A man who says too much that he goes, doesn’t go, and just as he doesn’t go, he doesn’t come

Quem de dentro de si não sai, vai morrer sem amar ninguém // A man who doesn’t come out from within himself will die without loving anyone

O dinheiro de quem não dá, é o trabalho de quem não tem. // The money of the man who doesn’t give is the work of the man who doesn’t have it

Capoeira que é bom, não cai, e se um dia ele cai, cai bem. // Capoeira who’s good doesn’t fall, and if he falls one day, he falls right.

Capoeira me mandou, dizer que já chegou, chegou para lutar. // Capoeira sent me, sent me to announce he’s come to fight

Berimbau me confirmou, vai ter briga de amor, tristeza, camará // The berimbau confirmed for me, there’s going to be a duel of passion, sadness, my friend

— Commentary —


In 1963, Vinicius de Moraes assumed a post with the Brazilian delegation for UNESCO in Paris. He had worked as a diplomat since 1946, when he took his first post as Brazilian Vice-Consul in Los Angeles, beginning a life of “constant exile,” which he makes reference to in the letter. Lúcio Rangel, whom he quotes in the letter, was the music critic who introduced Vinicius and Tom in 1956.  September 7th is Brazil’s independence day.

In early 1962 Vinicius met Baden Powell, and the two began an intense period of musical collaboration. Baden joined Vinicius in Paris in November, 1963.

Tom & Vinicius became close friends and partners after working together on Vinicius’s musical “Orfeu Negro” (Black Orpheus) in 1956.

When the military overthrew João Goulart’s government on March 31, 1964, Vinicius de Moraes returned to Brazil, where he resumed work as a cronista for Fatos e Fotos and writing pieces on MPB for Diário Carioca. As the country sank into the darkest years of the military dictatorship, Vinicius turned his attention more and more to his music. In 1964 he had a five-month run in a famous show with Dorival Caymmi, Oscar Castro Neves and Quarteto em Cy at Copacabana’s  Zum Zum nightclub; the show’s 1965 album included this recording of the letter to Tom, and “Berimbau.”  In 1966, Vinicius and Baden released their groundbreaking album Afrosambas, with sambas composed between 1962 and 1965, including “Berimbau.”