“Chorando Baixinho” and “Winger theme” (Stripes)

Today I’m departing from the usual format of this blog to tell a little story I found funny about a lyric-less choro song.  If any of you, my dear readers, are fans of the 1981 comedy Stripes, and happen to have watched it enough to have the soundtrack fully fixed in your memory, then maybe you’ll remember the scene backed by this tune (as my super-impressive mega-mooning friend Geoff did, calling my attention to this whole matter):

 

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Billboard story on the 1968 Song Fest.

If you don’t remember the scene, it’s a pretty gloomy one: Bill Murray’s car has just been repossessed and, as he protests, his fresh, warm pizza slides onto the street on a dreary New York day.  It’s a  moment when just about anyone might start crying softly.  And as it happens, Elmer Bernstein’s tune to match the moment is astonishingly similar to a Brazilian choro by just that name – “Crying softly” – from 1963.  The similarity is so striking that I decided to have a look around for Bernstein-Brazil connections, and found that five years after “Chorando baixinho” was released, Bernstein came to Rio de Janeiro to be a judge for the III International Song Festival of October 1968. Perhaps the world-renowned composer heard “Chorando baixinho” and saved it for a dreary day?

Here’s “Chorando baixinho” (Abel Ferreira, 1963)

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Correio da Manhã (RJ) – 8 October 1968 – lists Elmer Bernstein as the judge from the United States

Arrastão

Lyrics from Arrastão (Trawl) by Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes, 1965

Good Audio Version (Grooveshark)

Eh! There are dinghies in the sea
Hey! hey! hey!
They’re trawling today
Eh! Everyone fishing
Enough of the shade, João
Jovi, look at the trawl
Going into the endless sea
Eh! My brother, bring me
Yemanjá for me
My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína

Eh! Pull real slowly
Hey! hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea
Come
Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína…

Eh! pull real slowly
Hey! Hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea
Come!

Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

— Interpretation —

Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes‘ “Arrastão,” intepreted by Elis Regina, took first place in Brazil’s I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira, staged by Excelsior TV in 1965. The performance marked a breakthrough in both Edu Lobo’s and Elis Regina’s musical careers: the young artists became household names and came to represent the emerging genre called “música popular moderna” (modern popular music, MPM), which soon began being labeled as MPB —  música popular brasileira. “Arrastão” is considered to mark a watershed moment, when erudite bossa novistas began to explore other styles and incorporate social messages in their music. Edu Lobo mixed social protest with regional influences from northeast Brazil. (In his book Verdades Tropicais, Caetano Veloso recognizes Edu Lobo’s role in incorporating northeastern elements into popular music, remarking, “Actually, the northeastern modalism came through to us more from Edu Lobo, from Rio, than from the border between [northeastern states]Bahia and Pernambuco.”)

“Arrastão” powerfully recalls Dorival Caymmi‘s lyrics about fishing, the sea, and the goddess of the sea Yemanjá.  Fittingly, Edu began composing the song during a music session at Dorival Caymmi’s house. Dorival was singing “História de Pescadores,” and during the third part, “Temporal,” Edu began composing a response, which became the base of the song.

Vinicius de Moraes’ lyrics reveal his involvement at the time with Afro-Brazilian mystical themes; the following year, he released the album Afro-Sambas with Baden Powell.  Yemanjá and Janaína are names for the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian sycretic religion Candomblé.  Catholicism’s Santa Barbara is represented in Candomblé by Yansã, the goddess of wind and storms. Our Lord of Bonfim is the syncretic counterpart of Jesus.

Although “Arrastão” is not explicit in its protest, it is identified as a protest song because of its regionalist and populist undertones. The song evokes a scene from a poor, remote northeastern fishing village, yet was written and performed by young, upper middle class, urban and well-educated Brazilian artists. The element of protest, then, lies in the attempt to draw the urban masses’ attention to social realities in Brazil during the early years of military dictatorship in the country. These kinds of messages were absent from the classic bossa nova songs from a few years earlier, which reflected an optimism that didn’t really consider what was going on outside of Ipanema.

Edu Lobo, identified among a “second wave” of bossa novistas, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1943, son of the composer Fernando Lobo.  He began playing accordion as a child before switching to guitar.  He was profoundly influenced by Dorival Caymmi, and in the early 1960s began playing with Caymmi’s eldest son, Dori. He composed his first song with Vinicius de Moraes in 1962,  “Só me fez bem,” and went on to collaborate frequently with Vinicius, Tom Jobim, and Chico Buarque.

The I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira was such a hit that TV Record, a competitor of Excelsior, immediately appropriated the show, staging a competition by the same name the following year. The military dictatorship shut down TV Excelsior in 1970.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985,  Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (Editora 34, São Paulo), 1998

Domingo no Parque

Lyrics to “Domingo no Parque” (Sunday in the park) by Gilberto Gil (1967)
Recorded  with Os Mutantes for the LP Philips III Festival of Brazilian Popular Music (1967)

The king of play — hey, José
The king of trouble — hey, João
One worked at the market — hey José
The other in construction — hey, João

Last week, on the weekend
João decided not to fight
On Sunday afternoon, he went out in a hurry
And he didn’t go to Ribeira to play
Capoeira
He didn’t go over there, to Ribeira
He went to court [a girl]

José as always on the weekend
Took down his stall and vanished
He went to take, on Sunday, a stroll in the park

Over there, near Boca do Rio
In the park was where he first caught sight of
Juliana
There he saw

Juliana on the wheel with João
A rose and an ice cream in her hand
Juliana, his dream, an illusion
Juliana and the friend João
The thorn on the rose wounded Zé [José]
And the ice cream froze his heart

The ice cream and the rose — oh, José
The rose and the ice cream — oh, José
Hi, dancing on the chest — oh, José
Of  the playful José — oh, José

The ice cream and the rose — oh, José
The rose and the ice cream — oh, José
Hi, turning over in the mind — oh, José
Of the playful José — oh, José

Juliana turning –hi, turning
Hi, on the ferris wheel — hi, turning
The friend João — hi, João

The ice cream is strawberry — it’s red
Hi, turning, and the rose — it’s red
Hi, turning, turning — it’s red
Hi, turning, turning — look at the knife!

Look at the blood on his hand — hey, José
Juliana on the ground — hey,  José
Another body down — hey, José
His friend João — hey, José

Tomorrow there’s no market — hey, José
There’s no more construction — hey, João
There’s no more playing — hey, José
There’s no more trouble — hey, João

— Interpretation —

Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes mix berimbau and electric guitar in their performance of “Domingo no Parque” at the Third Festival of Brazilian Popular Music in Rio in 1967.

Gilberto Gil began this song with the intention of writing something innovative — with a strong regional influence from his native Bahia — for the III Festival de Música Popular Brasileira with TV Record.

The song uses berimbau —  the single-string percussion instrument of African origin used in the capoeira circles so characteristic of Bahia — and the music, pattern of singing (call and response), and lyrics follow a folkloric form that recalls the songs sung in capoeira circles.  Gil explains, “The song was born, then, from the desire to replicate the folk song, and represent the archetypes of capoeira music, but with exclusive, specific facts: with such a romance, like a Mexican story.”

To begin, Gil introduces his characters– the market worker and the capoeira player. Much of the story that follows came about through the rhymes that Gil discovered as he wrote:  to rhyme with the Portuguese word for vanished, sumiu, he thought of Boca do Rio, a beachside neighborhood in Salvador that was a popular hang-out among Gil and his friends in the 1960s and 1970s; when he thought of Boca do Rio, he thought of a ferris wheel he had seen there, and jotted down “ferris wheel” as a note to himself to work the word into the song.

At that point, he explains, it was necessary to bring João and José together. João hadn’t gone “over there” () to Ribeira (another neighborhood in Salvador), but had gone instead to “to court” (namorar = flirt, court, make love, etc. ), to rhyme namorar (pronounced namorá) with “.”  Here the two characters come together. One is audacious and open, the other timid and withdrawn. The latter is in love with Juliana but doesn’t have the courage to tell her, and could only dream of talking to her; he finds the bold friend João flirting with her in the park after meeting her for the first time, and the sense of disappointment and injustice is too much for José to bear.

To conclude, Gil begins making allusions to blood: the ice cream becomes red strawberry ice cream, and the rose is a red rose, and then the cut of the knife — “a sudden impulse, a sudden manifestation of a power within José that he didn’t know he had,” explains Gil.

Gil wrote “Domingo no Parque” in the Hotel Danúbio in São Paulo, where he lived for a year. At the time, he was married to the singer Nana Caymmi  — daughter of Dorival Caymmi — and, after a day spent with a friend of Dorival’s, Gil was thinking a lot about Bahia, and was inspired to write the song. He says he and Nana got to the hotel around 2 a.m.; he stayed up all night writing, and recorded “Domingo no Parque” the next day.

The song came in second place at the III Festival of Música Popular Brasileira, but was definitely the most innovative, and together with Caetano Veloso‘s contribution “Alegria, Alegria,”  represented the beginning of what Gil and Caetano Veloso referred to as their “universal sound.” Universal sound defied norms for Brazilian popular music,  incorporating influences from many genres and from all over the world — a revolutionary experiment in Brazilian popular music at the time, when many artists and critics were fighting to defend the purity of Brazilian music. The universal sound came to represent the nascent Tropicália movement.

Main sources for this post: Gilberto Gil’s commentary on the song in Carlos Rennó’s Gilberto Gil: Todas as Letras (2003, Gilberto Gil) and Christopher Dunn’s Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counter-Culture. 

Post by Victoria Broadus