“Quem São Eles (a Bahia é boa terra)” – “Já Te Digo”

Quem São Eles  (“Samba Carnavalesco gravado pelo Bahiano e o corpo de coro para Casa Edison – Rio de Janeiro!”) – 1918

___

A Bahia é boa terra// Bahia is a good land
Ela lá e eu aqui – Iaiá // Her up there and me down here, iaiá
Ai, ai, ai // Ai ai ai
Não era assim que meu bem chorava  (2x) // That’s not how my darling cried
(repeat)

Não precisa pedir, que eu vou dar // You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
Dinheiro não tenho mas vou roubar (sambar) // I don’t have money but I’ll steal it
(repeat)

Carreiro olha a canga do boi //  Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Carreiro olha a canga do boi // Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Toma cuidado que o luar já se foi // Be careful, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone

__(extra verses added for the recording) __

O castelo é coisa a toa // The castle is nothing
Entretanto isso não tira, Iaiá // But that doesn’t matter(?), iaiá
Ai, ai, ai
É lá que a brisa respira (2x) // It’s up there that the breeze breathes
(repeat)

Não precisa pedir, que eu vou dar // You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
Dinheiro não tenho mas vou roubar (sambar) // I don’t have money but I’ll steal it
(repeat)

Carreiro olha a canga do boi //  Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Carreiro olha a canga do boi // Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Toma cuidado que o luar já se foi // Be careful, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone

Quem são eles? // Who are they?
Quem são eles? // Who are they?
Diga lá e não se avexe – Iayá // Go ahead and say it, and don’t get flustered, iaiá
Ai, ai, ai
São peixinhos de escabeche (2x)// They’re little pickled fish
(repeat)

Não precisa pedir que eu vou dar //You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
O resto do caso pra que cantar (2x) // The rest of the case – why sing it?
O melhor do luar já se foi // The best of the moonlight’s gone
O melhor do luar já se foi // The best of the moonlight’s gone
Entre menina que aqui estão de horror // Come in girl, cause they’re in a frenzy here (?)
Ai, que aqui estão de horror // Ai, they’re in a frenzy
Ai, que aqui estão de horror // Ai, they’re in a frenzy

— Commentary —

Sinhô rei do samba
In 1920, José Barbosa da Silva — known by his nickname “Sinhô” — was dubbed the “King of Samba” by the newspaper Correio da Manhã. And the title stuck.
Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.07.19 AM
February 1920 – Correio da Manhã crowns Sinhô the “king of carioca samba”. Sinhô had three major Carnival hits that year.

In 1917, Sinhô (José Barbosa da Silva, 8 September 1888 – 4 August 1930) learned a rather bitter lesson about the money that could be made with Carnival songs when he witnessed the unprecedented commercial success of Donga’s “Pelo Telefone.” The song is widely and erroneously cited as being Brazil’s “first recorded samba.” It’s actually a maxixe, and there were at least 23 recorded  “sambas” released prior to 1916; nevertheless, it was the first recorded “samba” to achieve such resounding commercial success, and to demonstrate to composers that composing songs for Carnival could be a lucrative business. The release of “Pelo Telefone” hence opened the era of Carnival compositions.

The success of “Pelo Telefone” didn’t sit well with Sinhô because the song had in fact been a collaborative effort, based on a popular folk song, in which he had played a significant role, along with others who frequented the famed home of Tia Ciata, the most legendary of the tias baianas (Bahian aunties) who opened their homes around Praça Onze to this gaggle of pioneering composers. But when Donga registered the song, he listed only himself and Mauro de Almeida as the songwriters.

Sinhô’s frustration at being erased from the official history and rights to royalties of “Pelo Telefone” helped spark the inspiration for his first major success, “Quem são eles (a Bahia é boa terra),” first recorded by Bahiano and back-up singers at Casa Edison in Rio de Janeiro.  And this song set off the first major duel in the annals of Brazilian popular music.

carro-alegorico-antigo-fenianos-1923
Fenianos float, Carnival 1923.

Sinhô had initially named the song “A Bahia é Boa Terra,” but the samba ended up taking the name of a Carnival bloco (street parade group) that he was helping to lead that year, Quem são eles, which was associated with one of the city’s three major Carnival societies, Os Fenianos. The provocation “quem são eles” (who are they), then, originally referred to that club’s two principal rivals in Rio,  Democráticos and Tenentes do Diabo. The “castle” mentioned in the song was the name for the Democráticos headquarters, and their members were called carapicus, a kind of fish, hence the “pickled fish” reference. (The Fenianos were called cats, which presumably devour pickled fish.) I assume the observation “it’s up there that the breeze breathes” must be some veiled insult against the rival Carnival club.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 9.38.53 AM
19 January 1921 – Jornal “O Imparcial” announcing the presence of Rio’s three most popular Carnival clubs at a great “battle of confetti” in Vila Isabel

On its surface, in its references to Bahia, the song lampooned an ongoing political skirmish between Bahian politicians Rui Barbosa and J.J. Seabra.  But Sinhô took advantage of the theme to incorporate what were easily interpreted as digs at Bahia and Bahians in general, honing his storied knack for double entendre. His teasing wasn’t taken lightly: tias baianas like Tia Ciata were essential to the emergence of Rio’s samba. They provided the space for musical creation mixed with Afro-Brazilian religious practices that incubated carioca samba in its earliest manifestations. And many of the composers who hung out there – most notably João da Baiana and Donga – were sons of Bahian migrants. Bahia was deeply woven into their upbringing and musical influences. Sinhô  wasn’t born to Bahians, but he was still a musical progeny of this group, having spent a good chunk of his early days as a musician at the homes of tias baianas. So when he released this samba that started out “Bahia is a good land/ her up there, me down here,” that clan not only took offense, but also considered it something of a betrayal by a composer who’d suddenly gotten a bit too big for his britches.

Pixinguinha_João da Baiana_DongaThey were affronted by “I don’t have money/ but I’ll steal it,” interpreting it as a message that Bahians couldn’t be trusted. (Sinhô’s biographer Edgar de Alencar published “sambar” in the place of “roubar,” steal, as the original lyrics. I’m not sure about that.) And they were likely extra galled by the smashing success of the song, which drowned out their 1918 release “O Malhador,” (registered to Donga and Pixinguinha, and also recorded by Bahiano), which had been Donga’s attempt to repeat the success of the prior year’s “Pelo Telefone.”

Funnily enough, in spite of its light mockery, the samba ultimately fit nicely into the style of sambas written by the “Bahian wing” of composers, with its syncopation; the “ai ai ai” that recalls the second part of “Pelo Telefone” (ai, ai, ai, deixa as mágoas para trás, o rapaz), and its evocation of rural scenes like the reference to the ox-cart driver.  Iaiá and ioiô were terms with origins among slaves referring to masters’ sons (ioiô) and daughters (iaiá); the terms eventually evolved into terms of endearment used among slaves or freed slaves, or their offspring. As noted above, the original lyrics ended after the first “o luar já se foi.”  But as was common practice those days, someone — maybe Sinhô, maybe Bahiano, maybe both  — added the extra verses for the recording.

Sensitive to issues of rights and royalties after the case of “Pelo Telefone,” Sinhô ordered a custom stamp made to mark the authorized scores, thereby also marking the start of an era when royalties began to be taken more seriously – the advent of the professionalization of the popular composer.

“Quem são eles” quickly inspired four new compositions in retort: “Não és tão falado assim” (You’re not so widely spoken of), by Hilário Jovino Ferreira, a native of Pernambuco who had grown up and made his name in Bahia and moved at the end of the 19th century to Rio de Janeiro (more on him, an important Carnival booster, here); “Fica calmo que aparece,” by Donga; “Já te digo,” by Pixinguinha and his brother China; and “Entregue o samba aos seus donos,” also by Hilário Jovino, who asserted in the lyrics that Bahians were the true owners of sambas, while Sinhô was just a lame sell-out. What’s more, this song also decried Sinhô’s plagiarism, in this case specifically regarding Sinhô’s latest hit, another rib aimed at Bahian politician Rui Barbosa, “Fala meu louro” (aka “Papagaio louro”). Hilário published the lyrics together with a note denouncing Sinhô for “the most brazen plagiarism in the history of sambistas” and calling on all “sambistas” (with sambistas still published in quotation marks in 1920) to write sambas on this theme:

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 10.42.38 AM.pngEntregue o samba a seus donos // Turn samba over to its owners
É chegada a ocasião // The time has come
Lá no Norte não fizemos // Up north we didn’t make
Do pandeiro profissão // A profession of the pandeiro
Falsos filhos da Bahia // Phony sons of Bahia
Que nunca passaram lá // Who’ve never even been there
Que não comeram pimenta // Never eaten chili sauce
Na moqueca e vatapá // In moqueca and vatapá
Mandioca mais se presta //Manioc is the good stuff
Muito mais que a tapioca //Much more than tapioca
Na Bahia não tem mais coco? //There’s no more coconut in Bahia?
É plágio de um carioca //That’s plagiarism by a carioca

Neither of Hilário Jovino’s responses were recorded, and today there’s unfortunately no record of “Não és tão falado assim” – lyrics or melody. Pixinguinha recorded an instrumental version of Donga’s “Fica calmo que aparece,” and the banal lyrics on the score make no apparent reference to the spat (“Keep calm, love will appear/ Passion is something that’s never forgotten”), suggesting these were merely the “official” lyrics, and that the song likely had an alternative set of spicier lyrics that have since been lost.

The most beautiful (by my judgment) and enduring of these four responses — “Já te digo” (also recorded by the fixture Bahiano for Casa Edison) — was also the most pointed roast of Sinhô, taking aim at his looks (“he’s tall/skinny/ugly, missing teeth”); his extravagant manner of dressing (“he suffered to use a stiff standing collar”); his short-lived flute-playing days (“When he used to play flute/ What agony!”), and his general  dandy persona (“today he’s all dapper / on the dime of the suckers of Rio de Janeiro”):

“Já te digo” by Pixinguinha and China (1919)

__

Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é // One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é // One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé // He suffered to use a stiff standing collar (?)
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé// He suffered to use a stiff standing collar

Vocês não sabem quem é ele, pois eu vos digo // You all don’t know who he is, well I’ll tell you
Vocês não sabem quem é ele, pois eu vos digo // You all don’t know who he is, well I’ll tell you
Ele é um cabra muito feio, que fala sem receio // He’s a real ugly guy, who says whatever he wants
Não tem medo de perigo // Has no fear of danger
Ele é um cabra muito feio, que fala sem receio // He’s a real ugly guy who says whatever he wants
Não tem medo de perigo // Has no fear of danger

Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é //One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é //One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé // He suffered to use a stiff standing collar
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé// He suffered to use a stiff standing collar

Ele é alto, magro e feio // He’s tall, skinny and ugly
É desdentado // He’s missing teeth
Ele é alto, magro e feio // He’s tall, skinny and ugly
É desdentado // He’s missing teeth
Ele fala do mundo inteiro // He bad-mouths everyone
E já está avacalhado no Rio de Janeiro // And is already scorned around Rio
Ele fala do mundo inteiro // He bad-mouths everyone
E já está avacalhado no Rio de Janeiro // And is already scorned around Rio

To the dismay of Sinhô’s detractors, the public really didn’t care about the feud or the accusations of plagiarism; they loved Sinhô’s songs, and he quickly established his place as Brazil’s most successful popular music composer of the 1920s,”teaching Brazil to like samba,” as Jairo Severiano has put it.

Just in 1920 he had three major hits, which all hid digs at his rivals: “Vou me benzer” (I’m going to get blessed/ to rid myself / of those evil eyes / they cast on me”);  the marchinha “Pé de Anjo,” a blatant copy of the French waltz “C’est pas difficile,” which took aim at Pixinguinha’s brother China, who was known for having huge feet (and which also launched Francisco Alves‘s career as a recording artist); and “Fala meu louro,” mentioned above, about Bahian Rui Barbosa’s loss in the 1919 presidential elections.

Likewise, the success of “Já te digo” propelled Pixinguinha’s career, which of course was so paramount and prolific that historian and musicologist Ary Vasconcellos famously wrote in his classic Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira, “If you have 15 volumes to talk about all Brazilian popular music, you can be sure that it’s too little.  But if you have only enough space for one word, not everything is lost; write quickly: Pixinguinha.”
_____

Main sources for this post: Uma História do Samba, vol. I, by Lira Neto; Nosso Sinhô do Samba by Edgar de Alencar; Feitiço Decente by Carlos Sandroni; and conversations with Jairo Severiano

 

 

“Além da Razão”

“Além da razão” by Luiz Carlos da Vila, Sombra & Sombrinha (1988)


Por te amar eu pintei //For loving you, I painted
Um azul pro céu se admirar// A blue for the sky to bask in
Até o mar adocei // I even turned the sea sweet
e das pedras leite eu fiz brotar // And made milk spring from stones
De um vulgar fiz um rei // Of a popper, I made a king
e do nada um império pra te dar // And of nothing, an empire to give to you
E a cantar eu direi o que eu acho então o que é amar // And singing, I’ll explain what I believe is to love
É uma fonte lá pro longe do horizonte // It’s a fountain way off beyond the horizon
Jardim sem espinho // A garden with no thorns
Vinho que vai bem em qualquer canção // Pine (guitar) that goes well in any song
Roupa de vestir em qualquer estação // Clothes to wear in any season
É uma dança, paz de criança que só se alcança // It’s a dance, the peace of a child
Que só se alcança se houver carinho // That can only be achieved if there’s tenderness
É estar além da simples razão // It’s beyond simple reason
Basta não mentir pro seu coração // It’s enough not to lie to your heart
Laia laialá…

– Commentary –

Luiz Carlos da Vila
Luiz Carlos da Vila

I love the exercise of discovering in a melody what the author of that melody was saying. So for example take a tune by Moacyr Luz, Arlindo [Cruz], Sombrinha, Sombra, Wilson das Neves – all tremendous composers – and I think that when they whistle or hum that tune, there’s a great story hidden inside there. – Luiz Carlos da Vila

Luiz Carlos da Vila would be turning 66 today (July 21, 2015 – the date messed up on WordPress!). He was one of the most fundamental figures of the younger generation of sambistas who congregated at Cacique de Ramos and formed the tremendously influential group Fundo de Quintal in the end of the 1970s, and he’s my favorite. A poet who exuded peace and tenderness in his lyrics and performances, even nearly seven years after his death, Luiz Carlos da Vila remains a constant presence in most rodas de samba in Rio de Janeiro. Old friends and fans sing his songs impassionedly, and he is still constantly cited as an inspiration by his contemporaries and the generation of samba composers that came after him.

Luiz Carlos da Vila performing with Moacyr Luz.
Luiz Carlos da Vila performing with Moacyr Luz.
luiz carlos da vila 005
Luiz Carlos da Vila performing.

Luiz Carlos da Vila was born Luiz Carlos Batista in the Ramos neighborhood (of Cacique de Ramos fame) of Rio de Janeiro. He recalled that his grandmother was quite the merrymaker in the neighborhood and took advantage of any excuse possible to have a party. His aunt played accordions at these parties, and he picked up the accordion quickly when he was around ten years old. By a few years later he’d learned guitar. His father kept a job in air transport but was a sambista in his free time, and wanted Luiz Carlos to follow a more straight-edge path, but that didn’t work out.

Luiz Carlos earned the nickname “da Vila” when he moved to Vila da Penha, Rio de Janeiro; later he went on to live in Vila Kennedy and Vila Isabel, and Nei Lops promoted him to Luiz Carlos “das Vilas.”

Dom Pandeiro & Luiz Carlos da Vila
Dom Pandeiro & Luiz Carlos da Vila

In spite of his strong affection for Império Serrano, which he never missed a chance to declare, Luiz Carlos da Vila became a composer for Unidos da Vila Isabel, and composed two winning samba-enredos for the school, including the widely celebrated samba “Kizomba, Festa da Raça,” which brought Vila Isabel its first Carnival victory in 1988. The Carnival theme that year was the 100-year anniversary of the abolition of slavery.

Wilson Moreira, Aldir Blanc, Luiz Carlos da Vila and Moacyr Luz celebrating the completion of
Wilson Moreira, Aldir Blanc, Luiz Carlos da Vila and Moacyr Luz celebrating the completion of “Cabô meu pai” (Luiz Carlos da Vila, Aldir Blanc & Moacyr Luz).

Luiz Carlos da Vila died on October 20, 2008. He had checked into the hospital the month before for a hernia operation but suffered complications from recurring stomach cancer. He was 59.

The day that he died, Nei Lopes wrote, “We’ve lost a poet of the finest cloth, a great among the greatest. We’ve lost a human being who was gigantic, in spite of his material fragility. We’ve lost a musician who was complete, even though he had little instruction in the rules of his art. We’ve lost a sambista of the absolute highest level.”

“Inteligência” & “És partideiro”

Lyrics from “Inteligência” by Aniceto do Império (1976)

Se os bichos são inteligentes // If animals are intelligent
por que não as criaturas? (2x) // Why not creatures? [i.e. people]
qual é a pedra mais doce? é rapadura // What’s the sweetest rock? It’s rapadura
qual é a defesa do banguela? é dentadura // What’s the defense of the toothless?  It’s dentures
cite uma cidade do oriente: Cingapura // Cite a city in the Orient: Singapore
Quando o malandro perde o conceito: quando dedura // When a malandro ruins his rep: when he snitches
qual é a ave de perna mais fina? é saracura // What’s the bird with the thinnest legs? It’s saracura

(refrain)

o nome do miúdo do porco: é frissura // The name of pork innards: is fissura
um arranhão inflamado: sutura // An inflamed scratch: stitches
a residência do falecido: é sepultura // The residency of the deceased: is the sepulture
o arco d’pua sobre a madeira: rodando fura // A hand-drill on wood: rotating, drills
o Aniceto com uma Loira e você com uma escura // Aniceto with a blonde – and you with a darker woman

(refrain)

mulher muito ciumenta: ninguém atura // A really jealous woman: no one can stand
qual a formiga de cabeça grande: é tanajura // What’s the ant with a big head: it’s tanajura
quando a mulher engana o homem? é quando jura // When a woman fools a man? is when she swears [takes vows]
A nossa mãe jurou ao nosso pai // Our mother made vows to our father
– Entretanto é uma boa criatura // But still, she’s a good creature
uma escrita rabiscada: rasura // A scratched-out bit of writing: erasure
e se é certo e sem rabisco: lisura (2x) // And if it’s true and has no scratches: it’s candor (2x)

a pretinha abrindo o’ óculos: é ter cultura // A black girl getting out glasses: that’s to be cultured
vou construir meu barraco: em Cascadura // I’m gonna build my shack: in Cascadura
qual o indispensável: licença da prefeitura // What’s essential: a license from city hall

(refrain)

o casado que namora: é cara dura // The married man who dates around: is brazen-faced
quando a mulher engana o homem: quando ela jura // When a woman fools a man? is when she swears [makes vows]
será que vocês adoraram ou gostaram da minha censura // Could it be you all adored or liked my commentary?
Não me fale mal das mulheres // Don’t badmouth women to me
– Fico invocado – E ninguém me segura // I get angry and nobody can hold me back
apesar de que passaram bem no teste – boa investidura (2x) // Even though you passed the test well – good investiture (2x)
Por isso então bate palmas para ela, a moçada de Cascadura // So clap your hands for this young crowd from Cascadura…
é só chegar na jogada, segura na palma .. ninguem atura // you just come into the game, keep it going with your hands, nobody can bear it…

__________

“És partideiro”
Aniceto do Império, 1984

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnykMWep5i0

Se você é partideiro, saberá me informar // If you’re a partideiro [someone who sings partido alto style of improvised samba]
do partido para a chula, a diferença que há (x2) // You’ll be able to tell me, between partido and chula, what’s the difference
me responda bem direitinho // Answer me carefully
não pise na bola, não vá vacilar // Don’t blow this, don’t go messing up
Se de fato és partideiro // If you’re in fact a partideiro
Por que tanto imaginar // Why so much reflection
(refrain)
versos decorados não aceito // I won’t accept memorized verses
quero é ver você improvisar // What I want is to see you improvise
dentro do contexto // Within the context
não rima “damá” com maricá // Don’t rhyme “damá” with Maricá [i.e. don’t make up words or change the emphasis — dama to “damá” to force a rhyme]
(refrain)
chula raiada é cantada // Chula raiada is sung
é preciso estribilhar // It’s necessary to sing a refrain
assim disse o que te conhece // That’s what the one who knows you says
o partido alto em qualquer lugar // Partido alto, all over

(refrain)

eu quero deixar um substituto // I want to leave a substitute
para me apresentar // to represent me
recordando as minhas memórias // recalling my memories
quando Jesus me levar// when Jesus takes me
(refrain)

— Commentary —

After work at the port, Aniceto (standing, left corner) used to get together with other longshoremen to sing and compose sambas.
After work at the port, Aniceto (standing, left corner) used to get together with other longshoremen to sing and compose sambas.

Aniceto de Menezes e Silva Júnior — who became known and revered in the samba world as Aniceto do Império — was born on March 11, 1912, in the Estácio neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.  Today he would be 103 years old.

Aniceto was a leader among sambistas in Rio, still considered the best ever at improvised verses in partido-alto style samba and an ingenious innovator in the question-and-answer style like in “Inteligência” above. Aniceto was a leader at the port, too, where he worked most of his life as a stevadore and headed the dockworkers’ union.

Aniceto was one of the founders of the Império Serrano samba school in March 1947.
Aniceto was one of the founders of the Império Serrano samba school in March 1947.

Alongside Silas de Oliveira, Mano Décio da Viola (an inspiration for Paulinho da Viola’s artistic name), and several others, Aniceto founded one of Rio de Janeiro’s most beloved samba schools, Império Serrano, just around his birthday in 1947. He was quickly named the school’s official orator.

In this very brief documentary with footage from the early 1980s, Brazil’s legendary music critic Sérgio Cabral calls Aniceto Brazil’s greatest improvisor of all time; the reporter, in turn, asks Aniceto how he does it — does he think of what he’s going to say as he’s singing? How does he achieve such brilliant rhymes?  Aniceto responds, “I’m a partideiroto be a partideiro, you have to have the gift. I was lucky enough to be born with the gift. A gift isn’t something you learn at school — you have it with you from the cradle.” Aniceto passed away on July 19, 1993.

After work at the port, Aniceto gathered fellow longshoremen to sing and compose sambas.
After worked all his life as a longshoreman at Rio’s port.
Aniceto_Port1
Aniceto working at Rio’s docks.