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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 7.11.56 PM
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

Vingança

Lyrics from “Vingança” by José Maria de Abreu and Francisco Matoso; recorded by Gastão Formenti (1935)

___
Lá na beira do roçado // Out at the farmland’s edge
Onde a tristeza não vem // Where sorrow doesn’t reach
Eu vivia sossegado // I lived so serenely
Com a viola do meu lado // With my viola by my side
Mais feliz do que ninguém // Happier than anyone

Numa festa no arra // At a party, at the fairgrounds
Vi dois óio (olhos) me o (olhar) // I saw two eyes gazing at me
Decidi no improviso // I made an improvised move
Ela me deu um sorriso // She gave me a smile
E comigo foi mo // And went to live with me

Nunca mais fui cantadô (cantador) // Nevermore was I a troubadour
E a viola descan (descansou) // And my viola reposed
Eu vivia pra caboca (cabocla) // I lived for the cabocla
Eu vivia pra caboca // I lived for the cabocla
Só pensava em meu a (amor) // I thought only of my love

Nunca fui feliz assim // I’ve never been so happy
Eu mesmo disse pra mim // I said to myself
Pensei que a felicidade // I thought this happiness
Pensei que a felicidade // I thought this happiness
Não pudesse   (ter) um fim // Could never end

Mas um dia a marvada (malvada) // But one day the shrew
Foi-se embora e me esqueceu // Ran off and forgot me
Com um caboco decidido // With a determined caboclo
Juca Antônio, um conhecido // Juca Antônio, a well-known
cantadô mais do que eu // Troubadour, more than I

Já cansado de cho  // Already tired of crying
Eu saí a procu // I went out in search of
A caboca que um dia // The cabocla that one day
Le (levou) minha alegria // Took my joy away
E eu jurei de me vin // And I swore I’d take revenge

Numa festa fui can// I went to sing at a fair
E a mulata tava lá // And the mulata was there
Juro por Nossa Senhora // I swear by Our Lady
Juro por Nossa Senhora // I swear by Our Lady
Que a caboca e quis ma // That I wanted to kill the cabocla

Mas fiquei sem respi// But I was left breathless
Quando vi ela dançá// When I saw her dancing
Ela tava tão bonita // She was so splendid
Ela tava tão bonita // She was so splendid
Que esqueci de me vin // That I forgot to take revenge

— Commentary —

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.30.47 PM
Gastão Formenti featured in a Carioca magazine piece on the “double lives of several figures from the ‘radiophonic’ world” (23/11/1935). Also featured: a driver for city services, sambista Moreira da Silva.

In 1930, Gastão Formenti, alongside Carmen Miranda, became the first Brazilian singer to sign a radio contract.  Electrical recording technology was introduced in Brazil in 1927, and at the dawn of the 1930s the national radio and recording industries were poised for a boom. Formenti became one of the early stars of that boom. He was a tremendously popular romantic singer that decade, specializing in “melancholy waltzes and nostalgic songs,”  according to a short profile in the review Phono-Arte, the first Brazilian publication focused on music and the recording industry, in print from 1928-’31.

Formenti was born to Italian immigrants in 1894 in the interior of São Paulo, and in this song he employs the caipira (hillbilly) accent associated with that region and the countryside in general. This style, smattered with more Italian-immigrant dialect, became famous a few decades later in sambas by another rural-São-Paulo-born son of Italians, Adoniran Barbosa. I’ve italicized the words/word endings that are sung this way: “oiá” instead of “olhar”; marvadainstead of “malvada,” for instance. Cabocla technically means someone of mixed-blood, with indigenous heritage, but also came to be used just to refer to country folk, as seems to be the case in this song.

Formenti was also an accomplished painter (as the photo above highlights), and after 1941 he began painting more and singing less, exhibiting some of his works in museums in Brazil and abroad.

José Maria Abreu and Francisco Matoso together composed dozens of tremendously popular romantic songs in the 1930s, including one of Brazil’s — and Francisco Alves‘s — all-time favorites, “Boa Noite Amor.”  Such slow waltzes and romantic ballads reigned in Brazil in the 1930s; in the ’40s, they were displaced by the more easily danced samba-canção.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.32.09 PM
Insert from Diário A Noite, 1 July 1931.                 L-R: Francisco Alves, Gastão Formenti, Carmen Miranda, and Brenno Ferreira. Seated: Lamartine Babo.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.23.36 PM
An Odeon advertisement, under the headline “Have you heard the new releases this month?” — January 1930

 

Adeus, América

Lyrics from “Adeus, América” by Geraldo Jacques and Haroldo Barbosa (1948)

__

__

Não posso mais, ai que saudade do Brasil // I can’t take it anymore, ai, what saudade of Brazil
Ai que vontade que eu tenho de voltar // Oh how I long to return
Adeus América, essa terra é muito boa // Farewell, America, this land is very good
Mas não posso ficar porque // But I can’t stay because
O samba mandou me chamar // Samba’s sent for me
O samba mandou me chamar // Samba’s sent for me
Eu digo adeus ao boogie woogie, ao woogie boogie // I bid adieu to boogie woogie, woogie boogie
E ao swing também // And the swing too
Chega de hots [rocks], fox-trotes e pinotes // Enough of hots [rocks], fox-trots, and hops
Que isso não me convém // That’s not what I need
Eu voltar pra cuíca, bater na barrica // I’m going back to the cuíca, to beat on the barrel
Tocar tamborim // To play tamborim
Chega de lights e all rights, e de fights, good nights // Enough of lights, all rights, and fights and goodnights
Isso não dá mais pra mim // This just isn’t working for me
Eu quero um samba feito só pra mim // I want a samba made just for me

Oooô, ooooooô

— Commentary —

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 2.00.48 PM
Image of “Os Cariocas” printed in “A Cena Muda” – 24 August 1948
Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 2.00.07 PM
Best-selling albums listed in Diário da Noite, 8 July 1948.

A long line of fervid fans forming in Cinelândia for a show by Spanish-born bandleader Xavier Cugat — largely credited with popularizing rumba and other Latin rhythms in mid-century North America — inspired Geraldo Jacques to write a samba with a nationalist tilt.  Then and there, at a news stand in the square, he wrote the first verses for “Adeus, América,” which Haroldo Barbosa later helped to complete.  The song pays homage to the supreme beauty and allure of Brazilian music, rebuffing such veneration of foreign music — and all things foreign.

With its 1948 release, “Adeus, América” was one of the first hits of the tremendously important vocal group Os Cariocas, which, to add a touch of irony, had been modeled after the American group the Hi-Los.  With their sophisticated vocal harmonization, Os Cariocas represented a dramatic advance in the quality of vocal groups in Brazil.  Several later recordings changed the original “hots” in the lyrics to “rocks”; the internet, unsurprisingly, adopted these as the official lyrics.  However, at the time the song was composed, rock and roll hadn’t even truly congealed as a genre; that would only be around 1955, with Buck Ram’s “The Great Pretender” and the first hits by Chuck Berry. “Hots” in this case refers to a fast swingy style of fox-trot.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de música brasileira by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello, and conversation with Jairo Severiano.