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.

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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


Lyrics from “Saci” by Guinga and Paulo César Pinheiro (1993)

Quem vem vindo ali // Who’s on his way here
É um preto retinto e anda nu // Is a jet-black boy, and he’s naked
Boné cobrindo o pixaim // Cap covering his ‘fro
E pitando um cachimbo de bambu // And puffing on a bamboo pipe

Vem me acudir // He’s coming to see me
Acho que ouvi seu assovio // I think I heard his whistle
Fiquei até com cabelo em pé // My hairs even stood on end
Me deu arrepio, frio // I got the goosebumps, chills

Quem vem vindo ali // Who’s on his way here
Tá capengando numa perna só // Is hobbling on just one leg
Só pode ser coisa ruim // This can’t be good
Como bem dizia minha vó // Just like my grandma used to say

Diz que ele vem // They say he’s coming
Montado num roda-moinho // Riding a whirlwind
Já sei quem é, já vi seu boné // I know who it is, I’ve caught a glimpse of his cap
Surgir no caminho // On the way

Quando ele vê que eu´me benzi // When he sees that I’ve crossed myself
E que eu me arredo, cruz credo // And that I’m moving away, goodness be
Solta uma gargalhada // He’ll let out a cackle
Some na estrada // Vanish down the road
É o Saci // It’s Saci

— Commentary —

Saci in Tico-Tico, 24 June 1931

Dear Readers: Ever since I started a PhD program (in Brazilian history!), I’ve barely had time to post. But I’m going to keep trying! Please send requests. I wanted to do a quick post in honor of “Dia do Saci,” and it’s hard to go wrong with a song by Guinga and Paulo César Pinheiro.

Dia do Saci: Halloween keeps getting bigger in Brazil. But since 2003, October 31 has officially been “Dia do Saci,” in honor of the little one-legged rascal from Brazilian folklore. He emerged from Tupi-Guarani folklore in the south of Brazil, and was incorporated into slave fables. Saci is never without his magic red sock hat and pipe, and can’t stop getting into mischief. Legend has it that he lives in whirlwinds and can be caught with a net; upon capture, his hat must be removed to ensure his obedience. Sacis are born in bamboo shoots, where they live for seven years before emerging to wreak playful havoc for the next seventy-seven years. When they die, they turn into mushrooms.

“Halloween? I want nothing to do with it!” — “Today’s our day! Hey Hey Hey!”

Saci Day was declared in Brazil’s Federal Law 2.762, in 2003. It was part of a bill presented by Rio de Janeiro’s deputy Chico Alencar (PSOL) in an effort to celebrate Brazilian folklore rather than traditions imported from abroad – in this case, the celtic celebration of Halloween, imported from the United States.

Three years ago for this occasion I posted “Sasaci-Pererê” (Jorge Ben).

There is some debate in Brazil regarding racial stereotypes in depictions of Saci, particularly regarding those of the tremendously popular children’s author Monteiro Lobato.

Here’s Monica Salmaso’s beautiful version of the song:


Lyrics from “Lupicínica” by Aldir Blanc and Jayme Vignoli (2005)


Amei // I loved
uma enfermeira do Salgado Filho // A nurse from Salgado Filho
paixão passageira, sem charme nem brilho // A short-lived passion, without charm or splendor
roteiro batido, romance na tarde // A time-worn script, afternoon romance

E aí, numa seresta na Dois de Dezembro // And then, in a seresta on Dois de Dezembro
me perguntaram por ela: “-Nem lembro…” // They asked me about her, “I don’t even remember,”
eu respondi com um sorriso covarde// I replied with a sheepish grin

Ouvi – que bofetada! – “Morreu duas vezes // Then I heard – what a blow! –  “She died two times –
Uma aqui e agora, a outra há seis meses” // One here and now, the other six months ago”
Balbuciei: “-Morrida ou matada?” // I stammered, “Died or was killed?”

“-Depende do seu conceito de assassinato // “Depends on your understanding of murder
Um pobre amor não é amor barato // A poor love isn’t cheap love
Quem fala de tudo não sabe de nada.”// He who who talks about everything doesn’t know anything”

Na rua do Tijolo, bloco 5, aquele de esquina // On the rua do Tijolo, block 5, that one on the corner
morou uma enfermeira com a chama vital de Ana Karenina // Died a nurse with the vital flame of Ana Karenina

Dirá um dodói que Tolstói era chuva demais pra tão pouca planta // Some nut will say that Tolstoy is ‘too much rain for such little plant’
Ô trouxa, heroínas sem par podem brotar na Rússia ou lá em Água Santa…// Oh fool, heroines beyond compare can sprout up in Russia or out in Água Santa

Aquela mulher que dosava o soro nas veias dos agonizantes // That woman who administered serum into the veins of those in agony
não teve sequer um calmante pra dor sem remédio que aflige os amantes // Had not a single sedative for that pain without remedy that afflicts lovers

Por mais que a literatura celebre figuras em vã fantasia // As much as literature might celebrate figures in empty fantasy
ninguém foi mais nobre que a Pobre da Enfermaria // None was nobler than that Poor lady of the Infirmary

— Commentary —


Aldir Blanc at his home in Tijuca.

Today, September 2, 2017, is Aldir Blanc‘s 71st birthday, and for the occasion I decided to translate this beautiful song he composed with Jayme Vignoli and released on Vida Noturna (2005). “Lupicínica” serves as yet another testament to Aldir’s exquisite talent for perfectly portraying the grace and grit of life in Rio in his lyrics. In “Lupicínica,” he characteristically weaves together elements of high culture (Tolstoy in this case) and vignettes that depict crude minutia of a working-class existence in Rio’s north zone and exalt its obscure protagonists. There’s plenty on Aldir’s poetic style in previous posts on Aldir, though, so here I’ll just explain a little about this song. Salgado Filho, as you can guess, is a hospital in Méier, a middle/lower-middle-class suburb of Rio de Janeiro; the neighborhood Água Santa is poorer and farther out. Dois de Dezembro is a road in Rio’s more upscale Flamengo neighborhood, and with “Rua do Tijolo” Aldir could be referring to the street by this name in the suburb of Piedade, or to the street where a big condominium complex – Tijolinho – is located in Vila Isabel.  The tale of passion, scorn and death in this song recalls themes common to Lupicínio Rodrigues’s songs; I’m guessing that may be the inspiration for the name.

Jayme Vignoli, who composed the music, is a cavaquinho player, composer and arranger from Rio de Janeiro, a professor at Rio’s Escola Portátil de Música and cavaquinista with several choro groups including Água de Moringa.