Samba de Orly

Lyrics from “Samba de Orly” (1970)
Music by Toquinho; lyrics by Chico Buarque and Vinicius de Moraes

Chico Buarque and Toquinho sing the version banned by censors:

Good Audio Version (censor-approved)

Go on, my brother, catch that plane
You’re right for running away like this
From this cold, but kiss
My Rio de Janeiro
Before some opportunist makes a grab
Beg pardon for the duration of my sojourn
But don’t say anything about seeing me crying
And tell the tough ones that I’m carrying on
Go see how that idle life is going
And if you can, send me back some good news

— Interpretation —

Toquinho (L), Chico Buarque, and Vinicius de Moraes.

On December 13, 1968, Brazil’s military government –  in power since 1964 – issued Institutional Act 5 (AI-5), which shut down the National Congress, cut off all channels for criticism of the government and gave unbounded power to the president to rule by decree.  AI-5 ushered in the darkest years of Brazil’s military dictatorship, known as the Anos de Chumbo (Years of Lead), which lasted until the weakened government restored habeas corpus in 1978. The country’s official transition to democracy was in 1985.

Before AI-5 the military already had a close eye on Chico Buarque. Earlier that year he had released his first play, Roda Vivawhose language and content were an affront to military morals. In July, 1968, the paramilitary group Comando de Caça aos Comunistas (Command for Communist Hunting) stormed the set and beat the actors; soon after, the play was banned when a government censor deemed it “subversive” material by a “retarded” author wherein the actors disrespected “everyone and everything – even their own mothers.”

Chico Buarque (foreground) and Vinicius de Moraes (background) in the Passeata dos Cem Mil, a massive protest against the dictatorship on June 26, 1968. Photo via

A few days after AI-5 was issued, government agents arrested Chico in his home and brought him to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, where he was detained for interrogation about his play and his participation in the Passeata dos Cem Mil (March of the Hundred Thousand),  the largest and most threatening demonstration against the dictatorship to date.

The following month Chico went into exile in Rome, where he was already known for his 1966 hit “A Banda.” By May of that year he had booked a tour in Italy, and he sent for his friend and musical partner Toquinho to play with him. The pair ended up playing 35 shows together over the next six months.

Near the end of his stay in Italy, Toquinho wrote home about what an incredible friend and partner Chico had been: “I know a lot of great people who want the best for us, but people like Chico – I really think they’re hard to find.”  Toquinho was eager to go home, but sad to leave his friend behind in Italy. In November, 1969, one day before departing for Brazil  (from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, not Paris’s Orly, of the title), he left the music for this song with Chico as a parting gift. Chico penned the song’s final verse right away, but did not finish the lyrics until after his return to Brazil in March, 1970.

Chico Buarque and Toquinho in exile in Italy in 1969. Photo via Correio Braziliense.

When Toquinho and Chico were reviewing the final version, they were with Vinicius de Moraes, who said they should make the lyrics harsher to reflect the pain of life in exile. Vinicius changed the line “Pede perdão pela duração dessa temporada” (Beg pardon for the duration of my sojourn) to “Pede perdão pela omissão um tanto forçado” (Beg pardon for this negligence, rather forced). Chico and Toquinho accepted the change, but the censors did not, so the samba was released with the original, “blander” lines, as Vinicius called them.

The line about an opportunist making a grab for Rio de Janeiro is likely a reference to the military officers who were awarded top political positions around the country, including in Rio de Janeiro. And “the tough ones” most likely refers to the militants who stayed in Brazil to fight the dictatorship. (Alternatively, this could be interpreted as a message to the military itself. But the phrase in Portuguese – “pros da pesada” – generally reflects a certain respect or reverence, which would not be directed toward the dictatorship.)  Paris’s Orly Airport was chosen for the song because it was much better known to Brazilians in Brazil and in exile than Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Vai, meu irmão
Pega esse avião
Você tem razão de correr assim
Desse frio, mas beija
O meu Rio de Janeiro
Antes que um aventureiro
Lance mão

Pede perdão
Pela duração dessa temporada
Mas não diga nada
Que me viu chorando
E pros da pesada
Diz que vou levando
Vê como é que anda
Aquela vida à toa
E se puder me manda
Uma notícia boa

Pede perdão
Pela omissão um tanto forçada
Mas não diga nada
Que me viu chorando
E pros da pesada
Diz que vou levando
Vê como é que anda
Aquela vida à toa
Se puder me manda
Uma notícia boa

Main sources for this post: Chico Buarque: Histórias de Canções by Wagner Homem (2009); Toquinho: 30 Anos de Músicas  by João Carlos Pecci (1996); and commentary from Wagner Homem and Roberto Biela.

Pau de Arara

Lyrics from “Pau de Arara” by Carlos Lyra and Vinicius de Moraes (1965) from musical Pobre Menina Rica

Good Audio Version (without spoken sections)


I was growing tired of how hungry I was, of the hunger I had
I had nothing, what hunger I had…
What a cursed drought in my Ceará
I went and got together what little I had
Two old pairs of pants and a little guitar
And in a pau-de-arara I set off for here
And at night I would stay on the beach of Copacabana
Roaming on the beach of Copacabana
Dancing the Xaxado for the girls to watch
Virgin saint, the hunger was such that I didn’t even have a voice
My God, so many girls, … what hunger I had
More hunger than I had in my Ceará


That’s when I decided to swaller razors
There was a buddy of mine from up there in Quizeramubim that made a lot of money swallowing razors on Copacabana beach. By day, he’d go door to door asking for ol’ razors, and by night he’d swaller them all for everyone to see. I don’t know, but I think he swallowed so many that by the time I got there on the beach, those people watching already had indigestion from seeing that comrade swaller razors. One time, I was so hungry that I went like this to a boy that was passing by: “Decent fellow!  You let me swaller one little razor for you?” “Get outta here, pau-de-arara, you got it?” “Oh, distinguished one! Just one, cause I haven’t eaten anything yet today.” “You really insist, don’t you, pau-de-arara!”  That left me so annoyed, that if it weren’t for the love that I had for my little guitar, I would have smashed it over the head of that father of a mare…


Son of a gun, no life was worse than mine
What a cursed life, what hunger I had
Roaming on the beach, from here to there
When I saw all those people just eatin’ and eatin’,
I swear I felt longing for the hunger,
The hunger that I had in my Ceará
And so I would go on and sing and dance the Xaxado
And I only managed because in the Xaxado, you can really only drag yourself along
Virgin saint, the hunger was such that it even seemed
That even dancing,  my body rose up
Just as if it were trying to fly


Sometimes the hunger was such that a lotta times we stirred up a little fight to go eat some grub in the slammer. Ah, good meal in the stomach… But, forgive my language, we gave it all back afterwards, cause the grub was already spoilt. But, while it was still in our stomachs… calm… what joy!  Nah, but now things is gettin’ better, ya know?  There’s a really nice lady, over there in Leblon, who really likes to see me swaller shards of glass. That’s some real kindness! With that, I already saved some five hundred thousand réis. When I get a little more, I’m getting gone.  I’m going back to my Ceará.


I gonna leave for my Ceará because there I have a name
And here I’m nothing, I’m just a Joe-Hungry
I’m just a “pau-de-arara,” I don’t even know how to sing anymore
I’m going to prod my mule, I’m leaving before everything blows up
Because I’m thinkin’ the weather’s hot
And it can’t get any worse than this

–Interpretation —

The pau de arara truck, which migrants traveled on for days to reach cities like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

Pau-de-arara — literally “parrot’s perch” — is a rustic truck (pictured above) that millions of migrants from Brazil’s poorest northeastern states traveled on to cities in the southeast, most notably Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.  In turn, in these cities “pau-de-arara” also turned into a pejorative term for migrants from the northeast, as the singer alludes to at the end of the song: “Here… I’m just a pau-de-arara.”

The Xaxado is a traditional northeastern dance in which dancers shuffle, or “drag,” their feet to the rhythm (see this YouTube video). The name Xaxado – pronounced “sha-shado” –  is an onomatopoeia for the sound the dancers’ feet make dragging on the ground. I translated literally, “…What hunger I had” – even though it’s not something we would say in English – mostly to keep the first line as true to the original Portuguese as possible:  “…I had nothing, what hunger I had.”  Some of the northeastern accent/dialect in the song — “para as moças oiá,”  “não pode ficá”  — is lost in the English translation, though I’ve tried to keep it where I could.

As  migration from northeastern Brazil became increasingly intense in the 1950s and 1960s (see this post), and political and social engagement in Brazilian popular music became more popular, songs about the migrants’ condition – both in the drought-plagued northeast and in the southeastern cities – grew more common.  The pau-de-arara itself became a recurrent theme in such songs, perhaps the most well-known being “Pau-de-Arara” by Luiz Gonzaga and Guio de Moraes (1952) and “Ultimo Pau-de-arara” by Venâncio, Corumbá, and José Palmeira Guimarães (1973). (In this 1973 video, Maria Bethânia sings both.)

This song was written during the years of closest collaboration between Carlos Lyra and Vinicius de Moraes. In 1962, Carlos presented Vinicius with a set of melodies in need of lyrics.  To Carlos’s surprise, Vinicius declared that the songs went perfectly together, and should be turned into a musical.  During a summer stay in Vinicius’s home in Petrópolis, a mountain resort town in Rio de Janeiro where Vinicius had also written the lyrics for “Garota de Ipanema,” the two worked on the songs together. Vinicius wrote lyrics for Lyra’s melodies and wove them into a story called Pobre Menina Rica, Poor Rich Girl. The musical play was written with Nara Leão in mind as the protagonist, a lonely rich girl who falls in love with a disabled beggar living outside of her home.

Carlos Lyra wasn’t convinced by the plot, and asked Vinicius, “Don’t you think it’s a bit unlikely that this beautiful rich girl would fall in love with a beggar?”  Vinicius, ever the romantic, responded, “It so happens that this beggar is charming, advanced, and put-together… and what’s more, it was Spring, my dear partner, Spring, understand?” Ultimately, the perhaps implausible plot was overshadowed by the lovely songs in the play, including “Primavera,” “Sabe você,” “Maria Moita,” and “Samba do Carioca,” along with “Pau de Arara.”

The play was put on first at Teatro Maison de France, then moved to Teatro de Bolsa, at which point some of the actors were replaced. That’s when the comedian Ary Toledo (singing in the video above) began playing the role of the migrant from Ceará, who was based on a poor northeasterner, familiar to Vinicius, who lived on Copacabana and got by dancing Xaxado and swallowing razors. Toledo asked Carlos Lyra for permission to record the song for the soundtrack, in 1964, and went on to record a live version at Teatro Record during the program O Fino da Bossahosted by Elis Regina and Jair Rodrigues. The audience laughed heartily at Toledo’s comic performance, as you can hear in the recording.

Tom Jobim was meant to provide musical arrangement for the album Pobre Menina Rica, and Elis Regina, just 19 years old at the time, was considered to sing the rich girl’s songs on the soundtrack.  Tom nixed Elis for the role, though, saying her disheveled appearance made her look more like a country bumpkin than a patrician (even though no one would actually have seen her). Ultimately, Tom didn’t end up handing in musical arrangements, either. Carlos Lyra said this was because the 1964 military coup left Tom worried about dictatorship’s reaction to the musical’s “social theme”; Tom said he just didn’t have time. Thus, for the soundtrack, the part of the rich girl ended up going to Dulce Nunes, and Radamés Gnatalli took over the musical arrangement. And so, as Ruy Castro mentions in Chega de Saudade: A História e as Histórias da Bossa Nova, Pobre Menina Rica “missed the chance to bring together Tom Jobim and Elis Regina ten years earlier than they finally ended up working together,” on the legendary 1974 album Elis & Tom.

Carlos Lyra (left), Aloysio de Oliveira, Nara Leão and Vinicius de Moraes preparing the musical “Pobre Menina Rica”

Lyrics in Portuguese

Eu vinha cansado da fome que tava, da fome que eu tinha
Eu não tinha nada, que fome que eu tinha
Que seca danada no meu Ceará
Eu peguei e juntei um restinho de coisa que eu tinha
Duas calça velha, uma violinha
E num pau-de-arara toquei para cá
E de noite ficava na praia de Copacabana
Zanzando na praia de Copacabana
Dançando o xaxado pras moças oiá
Virgem Santa, que a fome era tanta que nem voz eu tinha
Meu Deus, tanta moça… que fome que eu tinha
Mais fome que eu tinha no meu Ceará


Foi aí que eu resolvi comê gilete.
Tinha um compadre meu lá de Quixeramubim que ganhou um dinheirão comendo gilete na praia de Copacabana. De dia ele ia de casa em casa pedindo gilete véia, e de noite ele comia aquilo tudinho pro pessoal vê. Eu não sei não, mas acho que ele comeu tanto, que quando eu cheguei lá na praia aquele pessoá já tava até com indigestão de tanto vê o camarada comê gilete. Uma vez, eu tava com tanta fome que falei assim prum moço que ia passando: “Decente! Voismecê deixa eu comê uma giletezinha pra voismecê vê?” “Sai pra lá, pau-de-arara. Tu não te manca, não?” “Oh, distinto! Só uma, que eu não comi nadinha ainda hoje.” “Tu enche, hein, pau-de-arara!” Aquilo me deixou tão aperriado, que se não fosse o amor que eu tinha na minha violinha, eu tinha arrebentado ela na cabeça daquele pai-d’égua.


Puxa vida, não tinha uma vida pior do que a minha
Que vida danada, que fome que eu tinha
Zanzando na praia, pra lá e pra cá
Quando eu via toda aquela gente no come-que-come
Eu juro que tinha saudade da fome
Da fome que eu tinha no meu Ceará
E daí eu pegava e cantava e dançava o xaxado
E só conseguia porque no xaxado
Agente só pode mesmo se arrastar
Virgem Santa, que a fome era tanta que até parecia
Que mesmo xaxando meu corpo subia
Igual se tivesse querendo voar


Às vezes a fome era tanta que volta e meia a gente arrumava uma briguinha pra ir comê uma bóia no xadrez. Eta quentinho bom na barriga… Mas, com perdão da palavra, a gente devolvia tudo depois, que a bóia já vinha estragada. Mas, enquanto ela tava ali dentro da barriga… Quietinha… Que felicidade! Não… Mas agora as coisas tão meiorando, sabe? Tem uma senhora muito bondosa, lá no Leblon, que gosta muito de vê eu comê caco de vrido. Isso é que é bondade da boa. Com isso, já juntei assim uns quinhento mil réis. Quando tivé mais um pouquinho, eu vou-se embora. Volto pro meu Ceará.


Vou-se embora pro meu Ceará porque lá tenho um nome
E aqui não sou nada, sou só Zé-com-fome
Sou só pau-de-arara, nem sei mais cantar
Vou picar minha mula, vou antes que tudo rebente
Porque tô achando que o tempo tá quente
Pior do que anda não pode ficá

Main sources for this post:  A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol 2: 1958-1985, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello;  Chega de Saudade: A História e as Histórias da Bossa Nova by Ruy Castro; and the documentary Vinícius (2005).


Lyrics from Arrastão (Trawl) by Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes, 1965

Good Audio Version (Grooveshark)

Eh! There are dinghies in the sea
Hey! hey! hey!
They’re trawling today
Eh! Everyone fishing
Enough of the shade, João
Jovi, look at the trawl
Going into the endless sea
Eh! My brother, bring me
Yemanjá for me
My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína

Eh! Pull real slowly
Hey! hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea
Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína…

Eh! pull real slowly
Hey! Hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea

Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

— Interpretation —

Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes‘ “Arrastão,” intepreted by Elis Regina, took first place in Brazil’s I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira, staged by Excelsior TV in 1965. The performance marked a breakthrough in both Edu Lobo’s and Elis Regina’s musical careers: the young artists became household names and came to represent the emerging genre called “música popular moderna” (modern popular music, MPM), which soon began being labeled as MPB —  música popular brasileira. “Arrastão” is considered to mark a watershed moment, when erudite bossa novistas began to explore other styles and incorporate social messages in their music. Edu Lobo mixed social protest with regional influences from northeast Brazil. (In his book Verdades Tropicais, Caetano Veloso recognizes Edu Lobo’s role in incorporating northeastern elements into popular music, remarking, “Actually, the northeastern modalism came through to us more from Edu Lobo, from Rio, than from the border between [northeastern states]Bahia and Pernambuco.”)

“Arrastão” powerfully recalls Dorival Caymmi‘s lyrics about fishing, the sea, and the goddess of the sea Yemanjá.  Fittingly, Edu began composing the song during a music session at Dorival Caymmi’s house. Dorival was singing “História de Pescadores,” and during the third part, “Temporal,” Edu began composing a response, which became the base of the song.

Vinicius de Moraes’ lyrics reveal his involvement at the time with Afro-Brazilian mystical themes; the following year, he released the album Afro-Sambas with Baden Powell.  Yemanjá and Janaína are names for the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian sycretic religion Candomblé.  Catholicism’s Santa Barbara is represented in Candomblé by Yansã, the goddess of wind and storms. Our Lord of Bonfim is the syncretic counterpart of Jesus.

Although “Arrastão” is not explicit in its protest, it is identified as a protest song because of its regionalist and populist undertones. The song evokes a scene from a poor, remote northeastern fishing village, yet was written and performed by young, upper middle class, urban and well-educated Brazilian artists. The element of protest, then, lies in the attempt to draw the urban masses’ attention to social realities in Brazil during the early years of military dictatorship in the country. These kinds of messages were absent from the classic bossa nova songs from a few years earlier, which reflected an optimism that didn’t really consider what was going on outside of Ipanema.

Edu Lobo, identified among a “second wave” of bossa novistas, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1943, son of the composer Fernando Lobo.  He began playing accordion as a child before switching to guitar.  He was profoundly influenced by Dorival Caymmi, and in the early 1960s began playing with Caymmi’s eldest son, Dori. He composed his first song with Vinicius de Moraes in 1962,  “Só me fez bem,” and went on to collaborate frequently with Vinicius, Tom Jobim, and Chico Buarque.

The I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira was such a hit that TV Record, a competitor of Excelsior, immediately appropriated the show, staging a competition by the same name the following year. The military dictatorship shut down TV Excelsior in 1970.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985,  Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (Editora 34, São Paulo), 1998