Sujeito de Sorte

Lyrics from “Sujeito de Sorte” by Belchior (1976)

___
Presentemente eu posso me considerar um sujeito de sorte // Presently I can consider myself a lucky guy
Porque apesar de muito moço me sinto são e salvo e forte // Because in spite of being very young I feel safe and sound and strong
E tenho comigo pensado Deus é brasileiro e anda do meu lado // And I’ve been thinking to myself God is Brazilian and walks by my side
E assim já não posso sofrer no ano passado // And because of that I can’t suffer anymore in the year gone by

Tenho sangrado demais, tenho chorado pra cachorro // I’ve bled too much, I’ve cried like crazy
Ano passado eu morri mas esse ano eu não morro // Last year I died, but this year I won’t (3x)

— Commentary —

Musico Belchior em 1977.  FOTO DIVULGAÇÃO.
Belchior in 1977. 

Belchior’s 1976 album Alucinação was one of the most important albums of that decade — one of the richest in the history of Brazilian popular music — and remains tremendously popular and relevant today. It was Belchior’s second studio album (after A Palo Seco, 1974), and the Brazilian public devoured it; the album sold over 30,000 copies in the first three weeks after its release.

One Brazilian music critic has attributed the album’s appeal to its quality of “wringing out the anxiety of the Brazilian youth, caught between the violence of the state” — during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85) — “and the end of the dreams of liberation represented by the countercultural revolution.”

Belchior’s death in 2017 coincided with a parallel climate of anxiety. The end of Brazil’s optimistic socioeconomic boom years (~2005-12) culminated in the 2016 impeachment of left-leaning president Dilma Rousseff — Brazil’s first female president — and the rise of authoritarian politicians like the country’s president-elect (to be inaugurated tomorrow, at writing), the far-right retired army captain Jair Bolsonaro. Both the composer’s death and that political turn have brought renewed attention over the past couple years to the messages captured on Belchior’s best-loved album.

Belchior was born Antônio Carlos Gomes Belchior Fontanelle Fernandes in Sobral, Ceará, on October 26, 1946, the thirteenth of twenty-three children. He used to joke that his excessively long name was “one of the greatest in Brazilian popular music,” the kind of name that, in the northeastern backlands where he was born, people said you “crossed on horseback.” Belchior moved to the state capital of Fortaleza for school in 1962, and in the 60s he began performing his compositions for music festivals around the northeast. By the early 1970s he had moved on to the more popular festivals of Rio and São Paulo, taking first place in Rio’s 1971 IV Festival Universitário da Canção with “Hora do Almoço.”

In Rio, Belchior caught the attention of singer-songwriter Sérgio Ricardo, who, in 1972,  launched the short-lived series Disco de Bolso — Pocket Album — with the leftist satirical weekly O Pasquim. The 78rpm series, which unfortunately only lasted two editions, sought to feature a well-known singer-songwriter on one side and promote a relatively unknown composer on the other. The first edition featured Tom Jobim singing his recent composition “Águas de Março” on one side, and the still little-known João Bosco on the other singing “Agnus Sei.”  For the “unknown composer” side of the second edition, Ricardo selected Belchior’s composition “Mucuripe,” a collaboration with Fagner, another singer-songwriter from Ceará who was on his way to becoming tremendously popular. Caetano Veloso recorded the song alongside “A Volta da Asa Branca,” by the northeastern star Luiz Gonzaga.

Elis Regina, one of the greatest voices of Brazilian popular music and one of its most talented curators, took a liking to “Mucuripe,” and released it on her 1972 LP Elis (along with Jobim’s “Águas de Março”). Regina would go on to popularize two of Belchior’s compositions from Alucinação “Como Nossos Pais” and “Velha Roupa Colorida.” The latter song was a call for the counterculture crowd to shed its time-worn “peace-love” trappings and take a renewed and more powerful political stance against the authoritarian dictatorship. Raúl Seixas, perhaps the greatest icon of the counterculture, responded to that song with his 1976 “Eu Também Vou Reclamar” (translated on my Facebook page) which ironized the protest song as little more than a gimmick to sell records. Seixas invoked Belchior’s “Apenas Um Rapaz Latino-Americano” (Just a Latin American Guy) explicitly, singing “Agora sou apenas um latino-americano que não tem cheiro nem sabor (Now I’m just a Latin American guy without any scent or flavor). The little feud was in good fun, though, and Belchior went on to record Seixas’s countercultural anthem “Ouro de Tolo” (Fool’s Gold, translated here) in 1984.

Belchior was often compared to Bob Dylan for his nasal and rough-edged singing style; his lengthy poetic lyrics; and his tendency to speak, rather than sing, parts of those lyrics. Dylan was unquestionably an influence, but Belchior said his style of singing actually came from the Gregorian chants he grew up with in the Catholic school he attended in Ceará.

After the release of his final album in late 2002,  Belchior grew increasingly reclusive. He made his last public appearance in 2009, in a show with Tom Zé, and — facing tremendous fines for things like abandoning cars in parking lots — he vanished from the public eye.

Belchior died of a reported heart attack on April 30, 2017, prompting an outpouring of grief from his fans young and old in Brazil. The hashtag/movement #voltabelchior (Come Back, Belchior) swept the internet, and fans in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, established the Carnival bloco (parade group) “Volta Belchior.”

Mascarada/ Minhas Madrugadas/ Injúria/ Recado/ O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)/ Jurar com Lagrimas/ Rosa de Ouro

Lyrics from “Mascarada” by Zé Kéti and Élton Medeiros (1964)


Vejo agora esse teu lindo olhar/ I see your beautiful gaze
Olhar que eu sonhei/ A sight I dreamed of
E sonhei conquistar/ And dreamed of winning over
E que num dia afinal conquistei, enfim/ And that in the end one day I won over at last Findou-se o carnaval/ Carnival ended
E só nos carnavais/ And only during Carnivals
Encontrava-me sem/ I’d find myself unable
Encontrar este teu lindo olhar, porque/ To find your beautiful gaze, because
O poeta era eu/ I was the poet
Cujas rimas eram compostas/ Whose rhymes were composed
Na esperança de que/ Of the hope that
Tirasses essa máscara/ You’d remove that mask
Que sempre me fez mal/ That always caused me pain
Mal que findou só/ Pain that ended only
Depois do carnaval/ After Carnival

Lyrics from “Minhas Madrugadas” (Paulinho da Viola/ Candeia, 1965)

Vou pelas minhas madrugadas a cantar/ I go along through my late nights, singing
Esquecer o que passou/ To forget all that happened
Trago a face marcada/ I show wear and tear
Cada ruga no meu rosto/ Every wrinkle on my face
Simboliza um desgosto/ Represents a hardship

Quero encontrar em vão o que perdi/ I want to find in vain what I lost
Só resta saudade/ Only saudade remains
Não tenho paz/ I have no peace
E a mocidade/ And my youth
Que não volta mais/ That will never return

Quantos lábios beijei/ How many lips I kissed
Quantas mãos afaguei/ How many hands I caressed
Só restou saudade no meu coração/ Only saudade is left in my heart
Hoje fitando o espelho/ Looking in the mirror today
Eu vi meus olhos vermelhos/ I saw my bloodshot eyes
Compreendi que a vida/ And understood that the life
Que eu vivi foi ilusão/ I lived was an illusion

Lyrics from “Injúria” by Élton Medeiros and Cartola

Pois é/ That’s right
Tudo começou assim/ That’s how it all started
Alguém se vingou em mim/ Someone took revenge on me
Inventando o que eu não pratiquei/ Making up something I hadn’t done
Pois é/ That’s right
Só deus sabe o quanto amei/ Only god knows how much I loved
Por te amar tanto chorei/ For loving you how I cried
E chorando levo a coisa até o fim/ And crying I take the thing to its end
Não sei como foste acreditar/ I don’t know how you came to believe
Em mentira tão vulgar/ In such a vulgar lie
De um sujeito tão vulgar também/ From such a vulgar guy what’s more
Sofri a maior decepção/ I’ve suffered the greatest disillusion
Tentarei te esquecer/ I’ll try to forget you
Pois te amar foi ilusão/ Because loving you was an illusion
Não sei porque foste derrubar/ I don’t know why you went and knocked down
O castelo que eu fiz/ The castle I built
Em meu castelo era tão feliz/ In my castle I was (or you were) so happy


Lyrics from “Recado” by Paulinho da Viola and Casquinha (1965)

Leva um recado/Take a note
A quem me deu tanto dissabor/ To the one who caused me such bitterness
Diz que eu vivo bem melhor assim/ Say that I live much better like this
E que no passado fui um sofredor/ And that in the past I was a wretch
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
{bis}

Vai dizer à minha ex-amada/ Go and tell my ex-love
Que é feliz meu coração/ That my heart is happy
Mas que nas minhas madrugadas/ But that in my late nights
Eu não esqueço dela, não/ I haven’t forgotten her
Leva um recado!/ Take a note


Lyrics from “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” by Cartola and Élton Medeiros (1963)

A sorrir/ Smiling
Eu pretendo levar a vida/ I intend to lead my life
Pois chorando/ Because crying
Eu vi a mocidade/ I saw my boyhood
Perdida/ Lost

Finda a tempestade/ Once the storm’s over
O sol nascerá/ The sun will come out
Finda esta saudade/ Once this saudade is over
Hei de ter outro alguém para amar/ I’ll find someone else to love


Lyrics from “Jurar Com Lágrimas” by Paulinho da Viola (1965)

Jurar com lágrimas/ Swearing with tears
Que me ama/ That you love me
Não adianta nada/ Won’t get you anywhere
Eu não vou acreditar/ I won’t believe it
É melhor nos separar/ It’s better for us to split up

Não pode haver felicidade/ There can’t be bliss
Se não há sinceridade/ If there’s no sincerity
Dentro do nosso lar/ In our home
Se aquele amor não morreu/ If that love hasn’t died
Não precisa me enganar/ You don’t need to try to fool me
Que seu coração é meu/ That your heart is mine


Lyrics from “Rosa de Ouro” by Paulinho da Viola, Élton Medeiros and Hermínio Bello de Carvalho (1965)

Ela tem uma rosa de ouro nos cabelos/ She has a golden rose in her hair
E outras mais tão graciosas;/ And others too so lovely
Ela tem outras rosas que são os meus desvelos/ She has other roses that are my devotion
E seu olhar faz de mim um cravo ciumento/ And her gaze turns me into a jealous thorn
Em seu jardim de rosas/ In her garden of roses
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada em meu peito!/ To have this rose planted in my heart
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada no fundo do peito!…/ To have this rose planted deep in my heart…

 

— Commentary —

Screenshot 2018-08-09 at 1.10.29 PM
Paulinho da Viola and Élton MedeirosPhoto via Instituto Moreira Salles.

I translated all of these together because they’re all recorded as a single medley track on the album Samba na Madrugada (1966). In April 1966, just before leaving for the First Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros hurriedly recorded the albumwhich became an enduring samba classic.  (It was supposed to be called Na Madrugada, but the record company misprinted the name, and it stuck.)

According to Élton Medeiros, in an interview recorded in 1985 for the General Archive of the City of Rio de Janeiro, he and Paulinho recorded the album in a single night on the eve of their trip to Africa, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Medeiros laughed as he recalled the other musicians joking that “Benil [Santos, the album’s producer] thinks you’re going to die on that plane,” because Santos was in such a rush to record everything before they left.

Medeiros said that by the middle of the night he was exhausted, and the album included moments of him falling asleep, including at the beginning of the first song in this ‘potpourri,’ or medley, “Mascarada.” He said he could be heard nodding off as the song began but that they were in too much of a rush to do a retake.

In 1968, the renowned music critic Luiz Carlos Maciel wrote in the Rio daily Correio da Manhã that the album transmitted a “pleasant spontaneity,” with performances offering the “freshness of improvisation”; Medeiros’s description of the recording session helps to explain that vibe. Maciel praised Samba na Madrugada as a model samba album, beginning, “O samba carioca has its traditions. And almost all of them can be found on this LP by Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros.” He wrote that the collection of sambas revealed “roots on the morro” — the favela — “but a trunk nurtured by the asphalt,” or more refined city below.

Medeiros recalled that he and Paulinho were in a bit of a fight at the time with Zé Kéti, with whom they had been performing and recording as A Voz do Morro since they all began to frequent Cartola’s restaurant Zicartola together in 1964. So they abandoned A Voz do Morro and decided, upon Benil Santos’s urging, to record an album on their own.

The trombonist on the album is Raul de Barros, who also traveled with the Brazilian delegation to the festival in Senegal. Élton Medeiros played trombone as a teenager, and had always been a vocal admirer of the instrument. He stopped playing when the friend whose trombone he had borrowed asked for it back; after that, he said he went into a botequim and bought a matchbox — a cheaper and more portable instrument. He can be heard playing matchbox on this recording.

A couple notes on the other songs here: “Recado” was the first samba Paulinho da Viola played when he went in late 1964 to Portela Samba School. When the composers there asked him to show them one of his compositions, he played the first part of “Recado” twice and recalls that Casquinha jumped in with the second part on the spot.

Cartola and Élton Medeiros also composed “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” on the spot when challenged to compose a samba one night at the house on Rua das Andradas that prefigured Zicartola.

Main source for this post:  Élton Medeiros depoimento para o Projeto Memória Músical Carioca, Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 4 July 1985.

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 7.11.56 PM
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