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.

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Sinal Fechado

Lyrics from “Sinal Fechado” by Paulinho da Viola
Albums: 45 with “Ruas que sonhei” (1969);  Sinal FechadoChico Buarque (1974)

— Hello, how are you doing?

— I’m getting along, and you, all is well?

— All is well, I’m getting along running, to secure my place in the future, and you?

— All is well, I’m getting along, in search of peaceful slumber, who knows?

— It’s been so long!

— That’s right, It’s been so long!

— Pardon my rush. It’s the soul of our affairs!

— Oh, no need to ask pardon. I, too, am always in a hurry.

— When will you give a call?  We need to see each other sometime.

— During the week, I promise, maybe we’ll see each other, who knows?

— It’s been so long!

— That’s right, it’s been so long!

— I had so much to say, but I disappeared in the dust of the streets.

— I also had something to say, but it escapes me now.

— Please, call, I need to drink something, quickly.

–During the week…

–The light…

–… I’ll look for you

–…is going to change, is going to change….

— I promise, I won’t forget.

— Please, don’t forget, don’t forget!

–Goodbye.

— Interpretation–

“Sinal Fechado” was the winner of the V Festival da Música Popular Brasileira in 1969,  the year recognized as the start of the most brutal period of Brazil’s military dictatorship. (More on this period in the posts on “Ruas que sonhei” and “Valsinha.”) The song seeks to capture the urgent sense of despair that cloaked Brazil during these years, as the military regime espoused a doctrine of economic growth and national development — citing Brazil’s destiny as a future great power, and pursuing massive, misguided projects like the TransAmazonian Highway — at the expense of human rights and civil liberties.

Paulinho da Viola wrote this “protest samba” as a dialogue between two friends who happen to stop side by side at a red light.  But he recorded the song alone and sang alone at the festival, adding to the song’s desperate tone by making the dialogue sound like two isolated, solitary monologues.

Critics seeking a more traditional samba griped that the song just “wasn’t samba – not here, not even over there in China,” and in the video below from the MPB festival you can see the crowd’s mixed response.  Paulinho da Viola recognized that the song wasn’t a samba, though he based the song on a samba: “I made use of simple melodies and simple harmonies, and then added to all of the chords a minor second, seeking the atmosphere of anguish of the characters…”  Many of the chords came from the Villa-Lobos guitar exercises he used to practice with. (Heitor Villa-Lobos, d. 1959, is widely regarded as the most influential Brazilian and Latin American composer; he wove traces of Brazilian folk music into his erudite compositions.)

In 1974, Chico Buarque — banned from releasing new albums of his own songs — resolved to release an album with meticulously chosen songs by other songwriters, including Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, and Julinho da Adelaide (the pseudonym Chico adopted to release 3 songs: “Acorda Amor,” on Sinal Fechado, “Jorge Maravilha” and “Milagre Basileiro”). Chico chose Paulinho da Viola’s “Sinal Fechado” as the tital track. The song became one of the most emblematic protest songs against the military dictatorship.

Main source for this post: Paulinho da Viola by João Máximo from Perfis do Rio series and Sinal Fechado: a música brasileira sob censura by Alberto Ribeiro da Silva, 1994.