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.

O Meu Guri

Lyrics from “O Meu Guri” by Chico Buarque
Album: Almanaque (1981)

Good Audio Version

When, young man, my child was born
It wasn’t the moment for him to come out
He came out looking hungry
And I didn’t even have a name to give him
How I carried on, I don’t know how to explain to you
I carried on like this – with him carrying me
And in his boyhood, one day he said to me
That he was getting there

Look there! Look there! Look there! Look at my boy, look there!
Look there, it’s my boy and he’s getting there!

He arrives sweaty and swift from his hard work
He always brings a present, making me ashamed
So many gold chains, my boy! Let there be neck to string them on
He brought me a purse with everything in it!
Keys, address book, rosary beads and amulet
A kerchief and a bunch of documents,
For me to finally be able to identify myself,
Look there!

Look there! Look there! Look there! Look at my boy, look there!
Look there, it’s my boy and he’s getting there!

He arrives on the hillside with a load
Bracelets, cement, watch, tire, tape recorder
I pray until he arrives up here on the hilltop,
This wave of assaults is a horror
I console him, he consoles me
I put him on my lap for him to rock me to sleep
Suddenly I wake up, I look to my side
And the little brute’s already left for work
Look there!

Look there! Look there! Look there! Look at my boy, look there!
Look there, it’s my boy and he’s getting there!

He arrives in print, headline, portrait
With a blindfold over his eyes– caption and initials
I don’t understand these people, my boy!
Making such an uproar
The boy in the woods, I think he’s laughing, I think he’s beautiful
Just lazing about
From the beginning, didn’t I say so, young man!
He said he was getting there!

Look there! Look there!

Look there! Look there! Look there! Look at my boy, look there!
Look there, it’s my boy and he’s getting there!

— Interpretation —

Boys in a favela, Rio de Janeiro, 1980. Photo by Bruno Barbey.

“Getting there” in this song is used to mean “making it” – becoming successful, coming out on top.  The first line uses a play on the word rebento (offspring, offshoot) and rebentar, which can be used for birth (bloom, blossom, open up), but also for a criminal (break out), and can also mean to blow up, break, or explode.

Chico Buarque is renowned for his uncanny talent for writing lyrics from the female point of view — e.g., Com Açucar, com Afeto; Olhos nos Olhos; Tatuagem; A Violeira — and for capturing the sentiments and suffering of the most marginalized members of society, including the poor, prostitutes, transvestites and crooks. Some of the most well-known songs of the latter genre are Geni e o Zepelim, Pedro Pedreiro, Assentamento, Não Sonho Mais, and Pivete.  “O meu guri” is representative of both of these tendencies in Chico’s songs.

Released in 1981, the song was also remarkable because it was written in the voice of a mother, rather than a wife or prostitute. The story begins with an undesired pregnancy. The mother, a poor favelada, or slum-dweller, speaking to a third party – “young man” – recognizes that she wasn’t prepared to have a son. But she ends up finding her only solace in her son, blind to his life of delinquency. Throughout the song, the role of mother and son are inverted: she carries on by letting him “carry” her; he rocks her to sleep.  She sees his stolen “gifts” not as loot, but as tokens of his hard work, and is ashamed she wasn’t able to provide the same for him. She is excited to use the ID in a stolen purse, apparently never having had an ID of her own, and lists “cement” as one of the items he brings home, indicating the precariousness of her home in the favela.  Meanwhile, she prays for the boy when he’s not home, worried by the “wave of assaults” that he’s most likely taking part in.  Even when he “arrives” as a picture and headline in the newspaper – an announcement of his death –  she sees a boy who is laughing and beautiful.

Boy bathing in a public faucet in the Complexo do Alemão favela in Rio de Janeiro, c. 2008. Photo via

“O meu guri” was released after a decade of urban explosion in Brazil. The 1970s were the peak years of Brazil’s rural exodus, a phenomenon that began in the 1930s. In 1940, only around 31% of Brazil’s population lived in cities; by 1970, urban residents accounted for more than 50% of the population, and in 1980, nearly 70%.

Most of the poor rural migrants arriving in Brazil’s large cities settled in slums in the periphery, where they were able to set up flimsy shacks cheaply, and tap into services like water and electricity for free. By 1980, nearly 15% of Rio de Janeiro’s population lived in these favelas. And that decade didn’t bring improvements for the favelados: hyperinflation and economic instability that began in the late 1970s continued throughout the 1980s, and inequality and poverty both increased. Anything more than an elementary school education was a privilege reserved for middle- and upper-class Brazilians, and most migrants had no land titles or official documents.

Favela in Rio de Janeiro and view of city below. c. 1980. Photo by Bruno Barbey

Police brutality quickly became a major problem in favelas (as it continues to be). In the 1960s, newspapers began publishing pictures of young bandits who had been murdered by police forces, with notes next to them saying “I robbed” or “I raped.” To counter state-sponsored repression,  organized crime networks began to emerge in the 1960s and consolidated in the 1970s, in part because of collaboration in prison between common criminals and political prisoners of Brazil’s military dictatorship. To complicate matters for favela residents in Rio de Janeiro, by the early 1980s their neighborhoods were becoming an important international hub for the cocaine trade.

The public grew accustomed to the violent power struggles taking place in the favelas. Young victims of the wars garnered little or no attention in the media, and were usually written off as criminals, anyway; their family members had no resources to seek any sort of justice. In “O meu guri,” Chico Buarque paints a different picture, speaking from the perspective of the mother of one of these victims. The boy is portrayed as loving and dedicated, and is everything to his mother, to an extent that she’s unable or unwilling to recognize what he has turned to in order to achieve some sort of success in life.

Recently, Luiz Tatit, a Brazilian musician, musicologist, professor and linguist, said if he had to choose seven Brazilian songs to replace those that were chosen for the English book 1,001 Songs you Must Hear Before you Die, “o Meu Guri” would be on the list.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Quando, seu moço
Nasceu meu rebento
Não era o momento
Dele rebentar
Já foi nascendo
Com cara de fome
E eu não tinha nem nome
Prá lhe dar
Como fui levando
Não sei lhe explicar
Fui assim levando
Ele a me levar
E na sua meninice
Ele um dia me disse
Que chegava lá
Olha aí! Olha aí!

Olha aí!
Ai o meu guri, olha aí!
Olha aí!
É o meu guri e ele chega!

Chega suado
E veloz do batente
Traz sempre um presente
Prá me encabular
Tanta corrente de ouro
Seu moço!
Que haja pescoço
Prá enfiar
Me trouxe uma bolsa
Já com tudo dentro
Chave, caderneta
Terço e patuá
Um lenço e uma penca
De documentos
Prá finalmente
Eu me identificar
Olha aí!

Olha aí!
Ai o meu guri, olha aí!
Olha aí!
É o meu guri e ele chega!

Chega no morro
Com carregamento
Pulseira, cimento
Relógio, pneu, gravador
Rezo até ele chegar
Cá no alto
Essa onda de assaltos
Tá um horror
Eu consolo ele
Ele me consola
Boto ele no colo
Prá ele me ninar
De repente acordo
Olho pro lado
E o danado já foi trabalhar
Olha aí!

Olha aí!
Ai o meu guri, olha aí!
Olha aí!
É o meu guri e ele chega!

Chega estampado
Manchete, retrato
Com venda nos olhos
Legenda e as iniciais
Eu não entendo essa gente
Seu moço!
Fazendo alvoroço demais
O guri no mato
Acho que tá rindo
Acho que tá lindo
De papo pro ar
Desde o começo eu não disse
Seu moço!
Ele disse que chegava lá
Olha aí! Olha aí!

Olha aí!
Ai o meu guri, olha aí
Olha aí!
E o meu guri!…(3x)

Sources:  “Crise urbana e favelização no Rio de Janeiro: para uma crítica da ‘questão urbana’ contemporánea,” by Marcos Rodrigues Alves Barreira and Maurilio Lima Botelha;  The Throes of Democracy: Brazil since 1989by Bryan McCann (2008); Chico Buarque: Análise poético-musical, by Gilberto de Carvalho (1982).


Camisa Amarela

Lyrics from “Camisa Amarela” by Ary Barroso (1939)

Original Recording by Araci de Almeida:

1956 Recording by Ary Barroso:

I found my man in the avenue
In a yellow shirt
Singing Florisbela, ah, Florisbela
I invited him to come home in my company
He showed me an ironic smile
And disappeared in the tumult of the gallery

He wasn’t well at all, my man, in truth
He was rather tipsy, loaded, wasted
He went staggering around
Finishing himself off on the rope
With the reco-reco in his hand
Later on I found him in a cheap café in Largo da Lapa
A full-blooded reveler, drinking his fourth cup of cachaça
And this is no joke

He came back at 7 a.m.
But just on Wednesday
Singing Jardineira, ohh, Jardineira
He asked me, still reeling, for a cup of water with baking soda

My man was really bad, cause he fell into bed
And didn’t even take off his shoes

And he snored a week, woke up in a bad mood
And tried to fight with me
What trouble, but I don’t mind!
My man conquers me, he captivates me – he’s the one

That’s why I let it slide
He took the shirt, the yellow shirt
And set fire to it
That’s how I like him
Once playtime’s over and he’s just for me
My Senhor de Bomfim

— Interpretation —

The female protagonist in this song tells a tale about finding her man — in the Portuguese lyrics, literally her “piece” (pedaço) — drunk in the avenue during Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.  The song was released in 1939, and the protagonist mentions two Carnaval hits from that year, “Florisbela” and “Jardineira.” The mention of those songs — along with Rio’s Carnaval landmarks: Largo da Lapa, the Avenue (Rio Branco) and the Gallery (Cruzeiro) —  bring the story to life.  The reco-reco is a noisemaker, played by scraping a stick over notches in the hollow instrument (pictured below). The rope mentioned in the song is the rope used to cordon off Carnaval parades.

A young Brazilian boy playing the reco-reco during a Carnaval festival

Araci de Almeida released the song in 1939, and in 1956, Ary Barroso recorded it himself, unfazed by its feminine voice.

Eleven years later, Chico Buarque released his first song written from a female point of view, “Com Açucar e com Afeto,” on the LP Chico Buarque de Hollanda 2. Chico, who was just 23 at the time, said he was worried everyone would think he was gay if he sang the song himself, so it was recorded by a woman. Later on, Chico heard Ary Barroso’s recording of “Camisa Amarela” and decided it was fine for him to sing in a female voice.  He quickly became renowned for his lyrics written from a female point of view, including “Olhos nos Olhos,” “Folhetim,” “Tatuagem,” and “Anna de Amsterdam.” (He has attributed his talent for writing songs from a feminine perspective to the number of women in his life: his former wife Marieta, his three daughters, their friends, and the household’s maids.)

“Camisa amarela” speaks to the hardships suffered by women in Brazil’s mid-20th century machista society.  The protagonist in the song resigns herself to being happy with her husband’s attention whenever he’s not out partying; he returns home on Wednesday – the end of Carnaval –  and she takes care of him in his drunken state, pleased just to have him around again.  (Chico’s songs with female protagonists, or those written about women, frequently address the same issues – often ironically.)

Ary Barroso (1903 – 1964) is widely considered the greatest master of Brazilian popular music, alongside Pixinguinha. Born in Ubá, Minas Gerais, his mother and father both died when he was just eight years old, and he went into his maternal grandmother’s care. He began playing piano and first appeared in public at age 12, in Ubá’s cinema Ideal. When he was seventeen, an uncle died and left him an inheritance, which he used to go to Rio de Janeiro.  He began law school, but ran out of money after the first two years, and started playing piano around Rio de Janeiro to support himself.

Carmen Miranda incorporated many of Barroso’s songs into her repertoire.

Ary had written his first song, “De longe,” at age 15, and shortly after, “Ubaenses Carnavalescos,” and he began to write more during his years in Rio. He was hired by the maestro Sebastião Cirino to play in Cirino’s orchestra, and made enough money to go back to law school in 1926. In 1929, Ary finished law school and had his first hit song: “Vamos deixar de intimidade,”  recorded by his friend and classmate Mário Reis. The same year, he entered and won first place in Casa Edison‘s contest for Carnaval songs with “Dá Nela,” and used the prize money to marry Ivone Belforte de Arantes.

Ary Barroso at Radio Tupi

Renato Murce invited Ary to work at Radio Philips in 1932, and throughout the 1930s, Ary worked as a commentator, comedian, and musician on a number of radio stations. In 1938, he composed the hit “Na baixa do sapateiro,” which Carmen Miranda recorded; in 1939, he released “Aquarela do Brasil,” sung by Francisco Alves, which was a hit in Brazil and abroad, recorded by the most esteemed singers around the world. “Aquarela do Brasil” was considered the first song in an entirely new genre, called  samba de exaltação — samba songs that sang praise of Brazil, which were popular with Getulio Vargas. (For more on this, see this post on “Aquarela brasileira.“)

Ary’s international fame grew with his soundtrack for Walt Disney’s movie The Three Caballeros (in Brazil, entitled Você já foi a Bahia?), and he spent much of 1944 in the United States, where he composed the theme song to Three Little Girls in Blue

Preoccupied with keeping samba “authentic,” Ary was a vocal critic of bossa nova and its “American chords.” Nonetheless, João Gilberto made a hit – a second time around – of Ary’s song “É luxo só” when he sang it bossa-nova style on his debut album, Chega de saudade. 

Ary Barroso died of liver cirrhosis in February, 1964, during the Carnaval in which Império Serrano paid tribute to him with the samba “Aquarela brasileira.” Since his death, his songs have been rerecorded by many of Brazil’s best-loved voices, including Gal Costa, Elis Regina, Paulinho da Viola, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, and Tom Jobim.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Encontrei o meu pedaço na avenida
De camisa amarela
Cantando a Florisbela, oi, a Florisbela
Convidei-o a voltar pra casa
Em minha companhia
Exibiu-me um sorriso de ironia
Desapareceu no turbilhão da galeria

Não estava nada bom
O meu pedaço na verdade
Estava bem mamado
Bem chumbado, atravessado
Foi por aí cambaleando
Se acabando num cordão
Com o reco-reco na mão
Mais tarde o encontrei
Num café zurrapa
Do Largo da Lapa
Folião de raça
Tomando o quarto copo de cachaça
Isto não é chalaça

Voltou às sete horas da manhã
Mas só na quarta feira
Cantando A Jardineira, oi, A Jardineira
Me pediu ainda zonzo
Um copo d’água com bicarbonato

O meu pedaço estava ruim de fato
Pois caiu na cama
E não tirou nem o sapato

E roncou uma semana
Despertou mal humorado
Quis brigar comigo
Que perigo, mas não ligo!
O meu pedaço me domina
Me fascina, ele é o tal

Por isso não levo a mal
Pegou a camisa, a camisa amarela
E botou fogo nela
Gosto dele assim
Passada a brincadeira
E ele é pra mim
Meu Sinhô do Bonfim

Main sources for this post: Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira, by Ary Vasconcelos (1964); Chico Buarque: Análise poético-musical by Gilberto de Carvalho (1982); and A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 1, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (1997)