A Rasteira do Presidente

Lyrics from “A Rasteira do Presidente” by Bicalho/Silvio Modesto, released by Bezerra da Silva (1986)

___
Alô, alô Dona de Casa // Hello, hello, Housewife
Fiscais do Presidente, se liga // President’s Inspectors, at attention
Tabela de preços na mão // Table of Prices in hand
E vamos lutar contra a inflação // And let’s fight inflation!

E não é mole não  // And it’s not easy, no
Vivendo dessa maneira // Living this way
Eles inventaram essa tal de inflação // They invented that thing called inflation
E o Presidente deu aquela rasteira // And the president turned the tables (“made that tackle”)
Não é mole não (tuburão) // It’s not easy, no, shark (predatory businessmen who profited from inflation)

(refrain)

O meu salário é o mínimo // My salary is the minimum
porém é o máximo que eu consigo vencer // And yet it’s the maximum I’m able to pull in
Desconto pro INPS// Withholdings for Social Security
e o maldito Leão// And that daggone Lion (income tax)
ainda quer me morder // Is still trying to bite me
ORTN e INPC // ORTN (national treasury bonds) and INPC (inflation index)
Eu escuto dizer, mas eu não sei o que é // I keep hearing talk – but I don’t know what it is
Eu só sei que recebi meu pagamento // I just know I received my payment
Que não deu pra comprar meu alimento // And it wasn’t enough to buy my aliment
Remarcaram os preços eu fiquei a pé // They marked up the prices and I was left behind!

(refrain)

O que não consigo entender // And what I just can’t understand
o meu nome é sujo no SPC // My name’s “dirty” in the SPC (credit protection service)
Meu crédito é cortado na praça // My credit’s cut off on the streets
não me vendem fiado nem o que comer //  They won’t even sell me food on the cuff
O banco não me empresta dinheiro // The bank won’t lend me money
porque não tenho bens para me garantir // Because I don’t have any assets as guarantees
Veja bem, não pedi nada emprestado // But look here, I didn’t ask for anything on loan
Dizem que devo dolar adoidado // Yet they say I owe mad dollars
Ao famigerado, FMI // To that infamous IMF

(refrain)

E agora é que eu quero ver // And now I want to see
Os ladrões de gravata o que vão fazer // What the crooks in ties are gonna do
O bicho vai pegar adoidado // The beast is gonna go crazy (things are gonna get ugly)
Em cima daquele que não obedecer // On anyone who doesn’t obey
O trabalhador já pode com a sua família // The worker can go ahead with his family
Fazer sua ceia // and make his supper
se os federais chegarem em um supermercado // if the feds get to a supermarket
Encontrem os preços remarcados // And find the prices marked up
Dão bolacha no gato e mete na cadeia // They’ll box the cat’s ears and throw him in jail
(refrain)

___
bezerra-da-silva
Bezerra da Silva said he didn’t sing about love because he could only sing about things he knew: “People talk about making love – where is love made, some factory in Bangu?”
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Cover of Bezerra’s 1988 album “Violência Gera Violência“, with headlines including: “Military police shoot into crowd and kill woman in Realengo”;  “Fraud of billions in INAMPS” (National Institute of Medical Aid and Social Security)

Bezerra became famous in the 1970s and ’80s for his hard-core but humorous sambas about the hustling malandro lifestyle and life on the morro (favela). He was revered for his deft denouncement of government corruption, most notably the crooked and brutal police force.

Bezerra’s acquaintances from the morro composed many of his best-love songs. They were bricklayers, carpenters, repairmen, and “22s” (crazies) who had by and large chosen to steer clear of crime, but respected and wrote about malandro precepts like the  “Lei de Murici” (Lei de Murici: Cada um cuida de si — Murici’s law: every man for himself; mind your own business) and especially excelled at writing witty smack about snitches and sogras (mothers-in-law) in thick slang.

“A rasteira do presidente” was composed and released in early 1986, during the fleeting moments of optimism that followed the launch of a new economic plan, the Plano Cruzado.

At the time, Brazil was in the midst of a bumpy transition from military dictatorship to democracy, and was meanwhile suffering the consequences of the military government’s brash fiscal and monetary policies (which were not much improved upon in the first years of the democracy). Hyperinflation topped 235% in 1985 and was on track to hit 500% in 1986. José Sarney had taken office as transitional president on March 15, 1985, and after a dismal first nine months, promised in January 1986 that he would not allow inflation to continue shooting up. In an ill-fated attempt to keep this promise, on February 28, 1986, Sarney declared a bank holiday and announced his Plano Cruzado –  “shock treatment” for the Brazilian economy, which was also meant to serve as a symbolic rupture from the legacy of the military dictatorship.

This “heterodox plan”replaced Brazil’s currency the Cruzeiro with the Cruzado (worth 1,000 cruzeiros), fixed at 13.84 to the dollar. Salaries were adjusted up by 8% (public servants) and 15% (minimum wage), and an “inflation insurance” mechanism was put in place to increase salaries automatically if inflation hit 20%.

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A “fiscal do presidente” checks her price table.

The plan also froze prices for food, gasoline, hygiene and cleaning products, and services. These fixed prices were published on a table (mentioned in the song) as a means of holding business-owners to account. In announcing the plan, Sarney called upon every Brazilian citizen to be “um fiscal do president” – a president’s inspector – making sure that shops were sticking strictly to the price table. And indeed, as the song makes reference to, the government shut down businesses that were caught cheating.

Not surprisingly, the plan led to basic supply-and-demand mismatches, empty shelves, dissatisfied producers and consumers… which as usual nurtured a flourishing black market. In November 1986, Sarney’s government was forced to abandon the plan and launch Plano Cruzado II. Cruzado II unfroze prices and signaled the return of staggering inflation, which would plague Brazil and Bezerra’s friends on the morro until 1994, when the Plano Real finally pulled the country out of this financial quagmire.

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21 March 1986: a supermarket in Salvador, Bahia, that was closed for “practicing prices above those that are authorized.” 

Another element of this quagmire that comes up in the song: In the 1980s, Brazil was drowning in billions of dollars of external debt, a dubious legacy of the military government’s over-borrowing to finance ill-advised national development projects. Over the course of the ’80s, Brazil signed eleven bail-out agreements with the “infamous IMF.”

Bezerrra, who was born in 1927 in Recife, Pernambuco, and arrived in Rio as a stowaway in the 1940s, died in January 2005 at the age of 77.

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Busy supermarket El Dorado in São Paulo in March 1986. The Cruzado plan led to a rush on supermarkets.

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Tarzan, o Filho do Alfaiate

Lyrics from “Tarzan, o Filho do Alfaiate” by Noel Rosa and Vadico (1936)

___

Quem foi que disse que eu era forte? // Who said I was strong?
Nunca pratiquei esporte // I’ve never played sports
nem conheço futebol…// I don’t follow football
O meu parceiro sempre foi o travesseiro // My partner has always been my pillow
E eu passo o ano inteiro // And I go the whole year
sem ver um raio de sol // without seeing one ray of sunlight
A minha força bruta reside // My brute force resides
Em um clássico cabide // On a classic coat-hanger
já cansado de sofrer // Already weary of suffering
Minha armadura é de casimira dura // My armor is made of stiff cashmere
Que me dá musculatura // Which gives me ‘musculature’
mas que pesa e faz doer // but which is heavy, and causes pain

Eu poso pros fotógrafos // I pose for photographers
e destribuo autógrafos // and give out autographs
A todas as pequenas lá da praia de manhã // To all the broads out on the morning beach
Um argentino disse, me vendo em Copacabana: // An Argentinian said, seeing me in Copacabana:
No hay fuerza sobre-humana que detenga este Tarzan‘// ‘There’s no super-human force that could stop this Tarzan’

De lutas não entendo abacate // Of bouts, I know squat
Pois o meu grande alfaiate // You see my masterful tailor
não faz roupa pra brigar // Doesn’t make clothes to fight in
Sou incapaz de machucar uma formiga // I’m incapable of hurting an ant
Não há homem que consiga nos meus músculos pegar//And there’s no man alive who could touch my muscles
Cheguei até a ser contratado // I had even been signed
Pra subir em um tablado // To go up in a ring
pra vencer um campeão // And beat a champion
Mas a empresa, pra evitar assassinato // But the company – to prevent homicide –
Rasgou logo o meu contrato // swiftly tore up my contract
quando me viu sem roupão // when they saw me sans robe

Eu poso pros fotógrafos // I pose for photographers
e destribuo autógrafos // and distribute autographs
A todas as pequenas lá da praia de manhã // To all the broads out on the morning beach
Um argentino disse, me vendo em Copacabana: // An Argentinian said, seeing me in Copacabana:
No hay fuerza sobre-humana que detenga este Tarzan‘// ‘There’s no super-human force that could stop this Tarzan’

Quem foi que disse que eu era forte? // Who said I was strong?
Nunca pratiquei esporte // I’ve never played sports
nem conheço futebol…// I don’t follow football
O meu parceiro sempre foi o travesseiro // My partner has always been my pillow
E eu passo o ano inteiro // And I go the whole year
sem ver um raio de sol // without seeing one ray of sunlight
A minha força bruta reside // My brute force resides
Em um clássico cabide // On a classic coat-hanger
já cansado de sofrer // Already weary of suffering
Minha armadura é de casimira dura // My armor is made of stiff cashmere
Que me dá musculatura // Which gives me ‘musculature’
mas que pesa e faz doer! // but which is heavy and causes pain!

— Commentary —

Ad for the 1936 movie Cidade Mulher

Ad for the 1936 movie Cidade Mulher

Noel Rosa in 1937

Noel Rosa in 1937. Noel is known for his brilliantly poetic and humorous observations of carioca society in the 1930s.

Noel Rosa composed six songs, including this humorous samba, for the 1936 film Cidade MulherRio is often referred to poetically as cidade-mulher (lady-city) in homage to its exquisite enchantments. (In popular music, along with Noel Rosa’s eponymous marcha composed for the movie, there’s Paulo da Portela’s beautiful samba “Cidade Mulher.”)

The movie in and about Rio provided the perfect opportunity for Noel Rosa to flex his critical poetic muscles. He is known for his witty lyrical commentary on carioca society, and this samba satirizing the scene on Rio’s beaches at the time is a perfect example of his humorous critique of one aspect of society in Rio in the 1930s.

Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan set a tough standard of beauty for boys in Rio to achieve.

Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan set a tough standard of beauty for boys in Rio to achieve.

In the early 1930s, Hollywood movies shattered previous standards for male beauty in Rio, establishing a new, much brawnier image of an attractive man. In the 1933 movie Tarzan the Ape Man, translated in Portuguese to Tarzan, Filho das Selvas (Tarzan, Son of the Jungle – hence the title of this song, “Tarzan, Son of the Tailor”),  Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller played the hero: broad shoulders and booming biceps became the ideal many carioca men strove to achieve.

But when so many of the wispy but well-heeled boys on the beaches of Noel Rosa’s Rio de Janeiro couldn’t live up to this standard of beauty, they turned to their trusty tailors, who gave them enough heavy shoulder padding to add plenty of “musculature.” Their strength therefore resided on a weary weighed-down coat-hanger.

Almirante recorded the song for the movie.

Source for this post: Noel Rosa: Uma biografia by João Máximo and Carlos Didier

 

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Quero voltar pra Bahia (I want to go back to Bahia)

Lyrics from “Quero Voltar Pra Bahia (I Want To Go Back To Bahia)” by Paulo Diniz/Odibar (1970)

I don’t want to stay here
I wanna to go back to Bahia

Eu tenho andado tão só // I’ve been so alone lately
Quem me olha nem me vê // People look at me and don’t even see me
Silêncio em meu violão // My guitar’s fallen silent
Nem eu mesmo sei por qu. // And I don’t even know why
De repente ficou frio // It suddenly grew cold
Eu não vim aqui para ser feliz // I didn’t come here to be happy
Cadê o meu sol dourado? // Where’s my golden sun?
Cadê as coisas do meu país? // Where are the things from my country?

I don’t want to stay here
I wanna to go back to Bahia.

Eu tenho andado tão só // I’ve been so alone lately
Quem me olha nem me vê// People look at me and don’t even see me
Silêncio em meu violão // My guitar’s fallen silent
Nem eu mesmo sei por que // And I don’t even know why
Via Intelsat eu mando // Via Intelsat, I send
Notícias minhas para “O Pasquim” // News of myself to “O Pasquim”
Beijos pra minha amada // Kisses to my love
Que tem saudades e pensa em mim // Who misses me and pines over me

I don’t want to stay here
I wanna to go back to Bahia.

— Commentary —

1970-paulo-diniz_quero-voltar-para-bahia

This 1970 soul sensation was inspired by Caetano Veloso, who was depressed in exile in London at the time. Legions of fans embraced it as an anthem pleading for Caetano’s return to Brazil.

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Caetano and Gil displayed the image 

As the song exploded, Brazil was living through the direct aftermath of decree Ato Institucional V (AI-5), issued on 13 December 1968, which shut down the national Congress, abolished habeas corpus, and essentially opened the path for Brazil’s military regime to expand its systematic repression, censorship, and persecution of anyone perceived as a leftist sympathizer or societal provocateur. That same month, Caetano and Gil were arrested, ostensibly for having featured tropicalist artist Helio Oiticica’s image of a marginal — representing 23-year-old Cara de Cavaloshot dead two months earlier by a Rio police death squad — with the caption “Be an outlaw, be a hero!” in a December 1968 show in Rio de Janeiro.

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Caetano in London, c. 1970.

The two were thrown in jail for two months, placed on house arrest for four more, and then forced into exile in 1969.  Caetano missed Brazil tremendously; he has called his 1971 album recorded in London “a document of depression.” (For more on this period, see “Back in Bahia” [Gilberto Gil, 1972]; “Panis et Circenses” [1968] and “Expresso 2222” [Gilberto Gil, 1972].)

As Brazil plunged into the AI-5-era known as the anos de chumbo (years of lead), Paulo Diniz released this song, infused with his strong northeastern accent and Caribbean sounds, providing a perfect example of the new twists that Brazilians brought to soul music, inspired by 60’s R&B, Motown and James Brown’s funk.

Pasquim, mentioned in the song, was a leftist magazine with a weekly circulation of about 200,000, established in 1969 as an outlet of resistance against the military dictatorship.

Main source for this post: Vale Tudo: Tim Maia, by Nelson Motta

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