Viola Enluarada

Lyrics from “Viola Enluarada” by Marcos Valle and Paulo Sérgio Valle (1968)



Good Audio Version (Marcos Valle and Milton Nascimento)

The hand that plays a guitar, if necessary, makes war
Kills the world, wounds the earth.
The voice that sings a song, if necessary, sings a hymn
Exalts death.
Viola on a moonlit night in the backlands is like a sword
Hope for vengeance.
The same foot that dances a samba, if necessary, goes to combat
Capoeira
He who has a companion at night knows that peace is fleeting
To defend her he gets up and screams:  I’ll go!
Hand, guitar, song and sword
And moonlit viola
Through the countryside and city
Flag bearer, capoeira, marching they go on singing,
Liberty, liberty, liberty…

— Interpretation —

Album cover for Viola Enluarada (1968)
Album cover for Viola Enluarada (1968)

The viola referred to in this song is different from the violin-like instrument that most English speakers know as a viola. In Brazilian music, viola almost always refers to a plucked twelve-string acoustic  guitar that’s associated with the countryside.  “Companion” is used in the feminine, and “to defend her he gets up and screams…” could refer to both the companion and peace.

In 1967, Marcos Valle was in New York recording the album Samba 68. It was his longest stay yet in the United States, and he was looking on from afar during a particularly dark time in Brazil, as the military dictatorship that had seized power in 1964 tightened its grip over society in the months prior to the decree of AI-5. Yearning for home, Marcos composed this distinctly Brazilian melody. When he returned to Brazil, he brought the tune to his eldest brother and partner, Paulo Sérgio Valle, who wrote the lyrics.  Soon after, Marcos met Milton Nascimento at Tom Jobim‘s house in Leblon, and the two sang the song together. They made a perfect pair; the song suited Milton – it even seemed like it could be one of his own.

Among protest songs from the 1960s and 1970s, “Viola Enluarada” stands out for having not only a powerful political message but also a rich, intricate melody. (Many protest songs, perhaps most notoriously “Caminhando/Pra não dizer que não falei das flores” by Geraldo Vandré, were known for having rousing lyrics set to very simple melodies.)  Marcos and Milton released “Viola Enluarada” – with an arrangement by Dori Caymmi  – as a single in 1968.  By that time, stores already had long waiting lists for the single, which the tremendously popular group Quarteto em Cy had been singing in their shows. The song also became the title track for Marcos’s next album, and in the early 70s was adopted as a sort of hymn by the Araguaia guerrillas, who had taken up arms against the military dictatorship.

Lyrics in Portuguese

A mão que toca um violão
Se for preciso faz a guerra,
Mata o mundo, fere a terra.
A voz que canta uma canção
Se for preciso canta um hino,
Louva à morte.
Viola em noite enluarada
No sertão é como espada,
Esperança de vingança.
O mesmo pé que dança um samba
Se preciso vai à luta,
Capoeira.
Quem tem de noite a companheira
Sabe que a paz é passageira,
Prá defendê-la se levanta
E grita: Eu vou!
Mão, violão, canção e espada
E viola enluarada
Pelo campo e cidade,
Porta bandeira, capoeira,
Desfilando vão cantando
Liberdade.
Quem tem de noite a companheira
Sabe que a paz é passageira,
Prá defendê-la se levanta
E grita: Eu vou!
Porta bandeira, capoeira,
Desfilando vão cantando
Liberdade.
Liberdade, liberdade, liberdade…

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,  and Songbook: Marcos Valle, by Almir Chediak.

Quando o Carnaval Chegar

Lyrics from “Quando o Carnaval Chegar” by Chico Buarque (1972)



Good Audio Version (Chico Buarque)

For those who see me just standing there, distant
Who guarantee I don’t know how to samba
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes

I’m just watching, knowing, feeling, hearing – and I can’t speak
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
I see the china legs of the girl who passes – and I can’t touch
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
How long I’ve desired her kiss, wet with passionfruit
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes

And for those who offend me, humiliate me, step on me
Thinking I’ll put up with it
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
And for those who see me taking beatings in life
Who doubt I’ll reply in kind
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
I see the first beam of day emerging, asking us to sing
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes

I have so much joy postponed, suffocated
Oh what I’d give to scream

I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes
I’m saving myself for when Carnival comes…

— Interpretation —

Album cover for the soundtrack to the 1972 musical Quando o Carnaval Chegar
Album cover for the soundtrack to the 1972 musical Quando o Carnaval Chegar.

In 1972, Brazil was in the midst of the period known as the Anos de Chumbo (Years of Lead) following the decree of Institutional Act 5 (AI-5) at the end of 1968.  The president, military general Emílio Médici, was one of the most repressive of the military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 – 1985.  As Médici stepped up censorship, repression, persecution and torture in his ostensible effort to prepare Brazil for a return to democracy, he boasted of the “Brazilian Miracle” – consecutive years of annual GDP growth surpassing 10% – in spite of figures showing skyrocketing poverty and inequality in the country.

Meanwhile, by 1972 a number of artists who had left Brazil in fear or protest in the wake of AI-5  had returned from exile, and were doing their best to produce music and films (and thus make a living) despite these inauspicious conditions.  Chico Buarque had returned from exile in Italy in 1970; Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were back from London; and likewise,  Carlos “Cacá” Diegues, the celebrated Cinema Novo director, and his wife, singer Nara Leão (known as the “muse of bossa nova”) were  back in Brazil after over a year in Paris.

Maria Bethânia and Chico on the painted schoolbus.
Maria Bethânia and Chico on the painted schoolbus.

Diegues enlisted Buarque’s help to write the soundtrack for his experimental musical Quando o Carnaval Chegar , (full movie available here – but without subtitles) and this song was the title track.  Buarque starred in the musical alongside Caetano’s sister, Maria Bethânia, and Nara Leão. The three singers play a hapless trio of radio performers who spend much of their time riding a painted school bus around Brazil. They’re driven by Cuíca, a black cuíca player from the favela, and guided by the whims of their slick, flamboyant producer, Lourival, who has arranged for them to sing at a “party for a king” and struggles to keep the troupe together for the party in spite of new loves, jealousies and broken hearts. The movie portrays the extravagance and false hopes of the so-called Brazilian Miracle years and the anticipation of new beginnings with the arrival of Carnival. It is the only Cinema Novo musical, and a chanchada a campy musical comedy style that was popular in Brazil from the 1930s – 1950s.

Diegues was aligned politically and artistically with the  Centro Popular de Culturaa collective of artists who sought to create a “democratic national popular culture” by  educating the popular classes through revolutionary art. To that end,  he attempted to appeal to a wide audience with his movies, thus drawing criticism from factions of the political left who favored ideological purity at the expense of popular appeal in the arts. In 1978, Diegues stirred up controversy when he referred to such critics as “ideological patrols.”  Regardless, this film was not Diegues’s greatest success with critics or crowds. But the title track has become one of Chico Buarque’s best loved songs in Brazil, even more so in the weeks preceding Carnival.

The song begins by contrasting the singer’s subdued, somber, and highly restricted day-to-day existence with the liberty that Carnival will bring. The metaphors for censorship and repression – and the euphoria that will come when the offenders get their comeuppance and all of this “postponed joy” is released – grow clearer at the end of the song, and recall Chico’s most famous protest song (which he calls his only true protest song), Apesar de você.”

These days, outside of its original political context, the song represents a larger, universal human sentiment of yearning for a more carefree life where sensibility, sincerity and personal liberty are supreme.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Quem me vê sempre parado,
Distante garante que eu não sei sambar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu tô só vendo, sabendo,
Sentindo, escutando e não posso falar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu vejo as pernas de louça
Da moça que passa e não posso pegar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Há quanto tempo desejo seu beijo
Molhado de maracujá…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

E quem me ofende, humilhando, pisando,
Pensando que eu vou aturar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

E quem me vê apanhando da vida,
Duvida que eu vá revidar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu vejo a barra do dia surgindo,
Pedindo pra gente cantar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Eu tenho tanta alegria, adiada,
Abafada, quem dera gritar…
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar

Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar
Tô me guardando pra quando o carnaval chegar…

Main sources for this post: Revolução do Cinema Novo by Glauber Rocha; Chico Buarque do Brasil, ed. Rinaldo de Fernandes; Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization, ed. Charles Perrone and Christopher Dunn; and this blog post.

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 Buzznet.com.

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.