“Saudosa Maloca” & “Torresmo à Milanesa”

Lyrics from “Saudosa Maloca” by Adoniran Barbosa (1951), interpreted by Adoniran Barbosa & Conjunto do Nelson Miranda

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[intro:
Saudosa maloca // Dear old hut
Maloca querida // Beloved hut
Onde nóis passemos // Where we spent
Dias feliz de nossa vida // Happy days of our life
(2x)]

Se o sinhô não tá lembrado / If you are not recalling, sir
Dá licença de contá // Please do let me tell
Qui aqui onde agora está esse edifício artu // That here where this tall building stands
Era uma casa veia um palacete assobradadu // There was an old house, a two-storey’d palace
Foi aqui seu moço// It was here, my boy
Que eu, Mato Grosso e o Joca // That I, Mato Grosso and Joca
Construímos nossa maloca // Made our quarters
Mas um dia nem quero lembrar // But one day, I don’t even want to think of it
Chegô os homeis com as ferramenta // The men with the tools came
o dono mandô derrubá // The owner ordered it torn down
Peguemo’ tuda nossas coisas // We took all our things
E fumos pro meio da rua // And went out to the middle of the road
Ispiá [espiar] a demolição // To watch the demolition
Que tristeza que eu sentia // What sorrow I felt
Cada tauba [tábua] que caia // Every board that fell
Doía no coração // Hurt in my heart
Mato Grosso quis gritar // Mato Grosso wanted to scream
Mas em cima eu falei // But over him I said
O hômiis tá ‘cá razão // The men they got reason
Nós arranja outro lugar // We’ll find another place
se conformemos quando o Joca falou // We only accepted it when Joca said
“Deus dá o frio conforme o cobertor”// “God deals out cold based on the size of the blanket”
E hoje nóis pega páia nas grama do jardim // And today we collect straw in yards of the garden
E pra esquecê nóis cantemos assim // And to forget, we sing like this
Saudosa maloca, maloca querida // Good old hut, dear hut
Onde nóis passemos dias feliz da nossa vida // Where we spent happy days of our life (3x)

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Lyrics from “Torresmo à Milanesa” by Adoniran Barbosa and Carlinhos Vergueiro (1979)

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O enxadão da obra bateu onze hora // The hoe of the construction site just struck 11 o’clock
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João
(2x)

Que é que você troxe na marmita, Dito? // What’d you bring in your lunch box, Dito?
Troxe ovo frito, troxe ovo frito // I brought fried egg, I brought fried egg
E você beleza, o que é que você troxe? // And you, beauty, What’d you bring?
Arroz com feijão e um torresmo à milanesa // Rice with beans and a pork rind à milanesa
Da minha Tereza! // From my Tereza!

Vamos armoçar // Let’s have lunch
Sentados na calçada // Sitting on the sidewalk
Conversar sobre isso e aquilo // Talk about this and that
Coisas que nóis não entende nada // Things we don’t know nothing about
Depois, puxá uma páia // And afterwards hit the hay
Andar um pouco // Take a little stroll
Pra fazer o quilo // To aid digestion

É dureza João! // Ain’t it tough, João! (4x)

O mestre falou // The master said
Que hoje não tem vale não // That today there’s no lunch pass
Ele se esqueceu // He forgot
Que lá em casa não sou só eu // That it’s not just me at home!

— Commentary —

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Adoniran Barbosa with the vocal group Demônios da Garoa, who were the first to record and popularize many of his songs.

I translated “Saudosa Maloca” to show some of my students so decided to take advantage and make a post out of it!

Adoniran Barbosa’s “Trem das Onze” (translated in an old post here) is his song that has achieved the greatest success outside of São Paulo — specifically in the territorial samba circles of Rio — but “Saudosa Maloca” is probably his most iconic and beloved samba among his fellow paulistasThe version included above was the first recording, but the song only became a hit with this 1955 recording by the vocal group Demônios da Garoa:

That group’s role in popularizing Adoniran’s sambas has generated some controversy in recent years, as members of the present-day iteration of the group have claimed that Demônios was responsible for inventing the “‘narfabeto” (illiterate Italian-inflected) style of singing that Adoniran became famous for. The 1951 recording reveals there is little truth to that claim.

Both of these songs address the rapid expansion of urban Brazil — specifically São Paulo — in the early to mid-twentieth century, and the hard lives of those who built the city but had trouble finding a place in it.

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Italian immigrants at a shelter in São Paulo c. 1890. Most immigrants passed through these special shelters before continuing on to coffee plantations. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

As this earlier post explains, Barbosa was born João Rubinato in 1912 to Italian immigrant parents in the interior of São Paulo state. As millions of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 – 1930,  about 4 million more went to South America. Most went to Argentina, but approximately a hundred thousand (exact numbers are hard to come by) disembarked in Brazil. Most of these families, including Barbosa’s, first settled in rural areas to work on and around Brazil’s booming coffee plantations. But as the themes of Barbosa’s songs highlight, most soon ended up seeking better economic possibilities in growing cities.

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Italian immigrants selling fruit in the Mooca neighborhood of São Paulo, 1920. Image via Museu da imigração.

As mentioned, Barbosa was famous for composing and singing in the Italian-inflected rural style of speech he grew up with, which is still common all around São Paulo, especially in the rural interior of the state.  I’ve put those words/phrases in bold in the original Portuguese lyrics; it’s things like pronouncing an “r” in place of an “l” (e.g. “armoçar” instead of “almoçar,” to have lunch) and mis-conjugating verbs (e.g., “fumos” instead of “fomos,” we went; “se conformemos” instead of “nos conformamos,” and “nois pega” instead of “nós pegamos.”)  I hope that gives a picture. In a few places I’ve tried to translate into parallel English to add a little of that flavor.

“Maloca” is a pretty hard word to translate. The word originally referred to an indigenous communal dwelling, and can connote an improvised dwelling and the concept of “home.” In this song, I believe it refers to something like squatters’ quarters, set up in the old house that gets torn down.  I haven’t been able to come up with any word in English that would carry all of the same connotations without giving an idea of much greater luxury than “maloca,” so I’ve just left it translated as hut, and “quarters” in one place.

“Saudoso/a” is of course also a challenge: it comes from the notoriously untranslatable word “saudade.” Saudoso is one of my favorite derivatives of saudade. It is often used in the way we use “late” (as in dead) in English, but is much more elegant and appropriately sentimental. (For occasions when no sentiment is called for, the word “falecido/a” might be substituted.)

The phrase “fazer o quilo” is, according to the Internet, a popular corruption of “fazer o quimo,” which refers to chymotrypsin, a chemical responsible for digestion.

In the mid-twentieth century there was a tremendous amount of construction in the centrally located neighborhoods of São Paulo known as Jardins (Gardens): Jardim Paulista, Jardim Europa, Jardim America, etc. Those neighborhoods quickly became some of the city’s wealthiest. In the line “we collect straw in the yards of the garden” (i.e. work clearing yards), “garden” probably refers to that construction boom.

Barbosa and his friend Carlinhos Vergueiro composed “Torresmo à Milanesa” in a bar in 1979. The song apparently began as “Bife à Milanesa,” but Barbosa suggested last minute that they change it to “torresmo à milanesa” to make it more comical, since pork rinds à milanesa doesn’t exist. He then suggested they also change it to “um torresmo à milanesa” — a single pork rind — because that’s “sadder.”

A final note on that song: an enxadão is a hoe. Here it might be referring to some other similar tool from a construction site, but I’m assuming the lyrics mean that a boss struck the time using a hoe (or similar instrument) so that the sound would reverberate across the construction site.

Sujeito de Sorte

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

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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.”

“Lábios Que Beijei” – “Nada Além” – “Enquanto Houver Saudade”

Lyrics for “Lábios que beijei” by J. Cascata and Leonel Azevedo, recorded by Orlando Silva (1937)

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Lábios que beijei / Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei / Hands that I clutched
Numa noite de luar, assim, / On a moonlit night like this
O mar na solidão bramia/ The sea in its solitude bellowed
E o vento a soluçar, pedia / And the howling wind begged
Que fosses sincera para mim/ That you be true to me

Nada tu ouviste/ You listened to nothing
E logo que partiste / And after you left
Para os braços de outro amor/ For the arms of another love
Eu fiquei chorando/ I was left crying
Minha mágoa cantando/ My anguish singing out
Sou estátua perenal da dor / I’m a longstanding statue of pain

Passo os dias soluçando com meu pinho/ I spend my days sobbing with my guitar
Carpindo a minha dor, sozinho/ Wailing out my pain, all alone
Sem esperanças de vê-la jamais / Without any hopes of seeing you again
Deus tem compaixão deste infeliz/ God have mercy on this wretch
Porque sofrer assim/  Why such suffering
Compadecei-vos dos meus ais / Take pity on my pain
Tua imagem permanece imaculada / Your image remains immaculate
Em minha retina cansada/ In my retina grown weary
De chorar por teu amor/ From crying for your love

Lábios que beijei/ Lips that I kissed
Mãos que afaguei/ Hands that I clutched
Volta vem curar a minha dor/ Come back to cure my sorrow


Lyrics from “Nada Além” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)

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Nada além / Nothing more
Nada além de uma ilusão/ Nothing more than an illusion
Chega bem / That’s well enough
Que é demais para o meu coração / It’s too much for my heart
Acreditando / Believing
Em tudo que o amor mentindo sempre diz / In everything that love, lying, always says
Eu vou vivendo assim feliz / I go on living happily like this
Na ilusão de ser feliz/ Under the illusion of being happy
Se o amor só nos causa sofrimento e dor / If love only causes us suffering and pain
É melhor, bem melhor a ilusão do amor/ Better, much better, is the illusion of love
Eu não quero e não peço / I don’t wish for, nor do I ask
Para o meu coração/ for my heart
Nada além de uma linda ilusão / Anything more than a beautiful illusion


Lyrics from “Enquanto Houver Saudade” by Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago, recorded by Orlando Silva (1938)

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Não posso acreditar / I just can’t believe
Que algumas vezes/ That now and then
Não lembres com vontade de chorar/ You don’t think back with the urge to cry
Daqueles deliciosos quatro meses/ On those four heavenly months
Vividos sem sentir e sem pensar/ Lived without sensing and without thinking

Não posso acreditar/ I just can’t believe
Que hoje não sintas/ That today you don’t feel
Saudade dessa história singular/ Suadade for that singular story
Escrita com as mais suaves tintas/ Written in the tenderest shades
Que existem pra escrever o verbo amar/ That exist to write the verb ‘to love’

Enquanto houver saudade/ As long as saudade exists
Pensarás em mim/ You’ll think about me
Pois a felicidade/ Because happiness
Não se esquece assim/ Isn’t forgotten so easily
O amor passa mas deixa/ Love passes, but leaves
Sempre a recordação/ Forever the memory
De um beijo ou de uma queixa/ Of a kiss or a complaint
No coração/ In the heart

— Commentary —

pixinguinha_e_orlando_silva
Orlando Silva (L) and Pixinguinha. (Not quite sure of date – will insert when I find it!)
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“Lábios que beijei” was an anticipated release: In its April 25, 1936, edition, the magazine Carioca announced the Orlando Silva was preparing to record the song, which was released the following year.

I know most readers who end up here are more interested in the likes of Caetano Veloso and João Gilberto  than romantic valsas from the late 1930s. But as Caetano points out in his memoir Verdade Tropical (1997), João Gilberto called Orlando Silva (1915-1978) the “world’s greatest singer,” and in the few interviews Gilberto granted, he almost unfailingly mentioned Orlando Silva’s refined style as the inspiration for bossa nova.

In Verdade Tropical, Caetano (who turns 66 today — August 7, 2018 — parabéns, Caetano!) suggests that “any fan of Brazilian popular music, in any corner of the world, should try to listen to Orlando Silva’s recordings from the 1930s to better understand (and get more pleasure from) the mystery of the misty sound of the Portuguese language over the Afro-Amerindian rhythm-scape.”

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Custódio Mesquita (at piano), Mário Lago, and Orlando Silva. Image via Instituto Piano Brasileiro.

Caetano praises Silva’s “celestial suaveness,” his inventive phrasing, exquisite timing and overall “miraculous” musicality.  Silva had a powerful voice but always used it artfully; he softened, rather than exaggerated, the high notes he hit, for instance, and avoided the vocal “exhibitionism” of his counterparts, Caetano notes.

Silva was known as the cantor dos multidões —  the singer of the masses — and achieved an unparalleled kind of stardom after he released “Lábios que beijei” in 1937. Fans were known to tear at his clothes and faint in his presence in a manner that would only become more familiar with stars like Frank Sinatra years later. His extraordinary success was all the more impressive given his humble background: Silva was from a working-class family in Rio’s North Zone. His father, a choro guitar player and railway worker, died from the Spanish flu when Silva was three, and as a young boy, Silva began working as a meal deliverer. He held several jobs, including bus-fare collector, where his colleagues heard him singing and encouraged him to go to a radio test; once radio producers became aware of Silva, he quickly rose to stardom.

As Caetano points out, Silva created an entirely new style of Brazilian song with his brilliant manner of adjusting his interpretive style to the advent of the electric microphone. Bing Crosby was among the first to have successfully pioneered such changes in singing technique in the United States, where electric recording took off earlier. In turn, while Brazilian singers Dick Farney and Lúcio Alves — men “much richer and better educated than Orlando,” Caetano reminds — worked to incorporate Crosby’s techniques, “there’s more Bing Crosby in Orlando Silva (who possibly heard the American singer, but very little and without a chance to become very familiar with his work) than in those showy singers.”

Several accidents and sicknesses throughout his life left Silva susceptible to morphine dependence, and he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction from the 1940s until his death from a stroke on August 7, 1978 — Caetano’s thirty-sixth birthday.

“Lábios que beijei” was Orlando Silva’s first and greatest hit, according to music historian Jairo Severiano, who wrote that the “melancholy composition never found another interpreter as perfect as the young Orlando, who was 22 at the time,” and that Silva’s presence is so important to the song that one could “symbolically consider him a partner in the composition, alongside Cascata and Leonel Azevedo.” Radamés Gnattali orchestrated “Lábios que beijei” for the 1937 recording, giving an emphasis to the strings that, after the success of that recording, became standard for the Brazilian romantic repertoire.

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An announcement from the newspaper A Noite from July 10, 1937, describes the show “Rumo ao Cattete,” which had opened the night before at Teatro Recreio. 

“Nada Além” and  “Enquanto Houver Saudade” were both composed by one of the greatest duos in Brazilian popular music — Custódio Mesquita and Mário Lago — for the 1937 show Rumo ao Cattete (Headed to Catete’ [presidential palace]) — about the presidential elections that were set to take place in late 1937 but were cancelled by Getúlio Vargas’s November 1937 coup that installed his Estado Novo regime.  As Jairo Severiano recounts in A Canção no Tempo, “Nada Além” accompanied a comic-romantic scene in which a character played by Armando Nascimento watches as a shop salesman pitches several items to him; when the salesman sees that his would-be client can’t make up his mind, he asks him, “So what does the gentleman desire?,” to which the fellow responds in song: “Nada além, nada além de uma ilusão…”

In a 1984 interview with Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós, Mário Lago recalled that he and Custódio Mesquita composed “Enquanto houver saudade” at the last minute because they realized they needed a song for another scene in the show. As they composed the song, Armando Nascimento learned it line by line as it came together. Lago and Mesquita apparently worked quite well under pressure: The song became one of their best-loved compositions. Mesquita invited Orlando Silva to attend the show, and Lago recounted that when they asked Silva afterwards how he had liked it, he said with urgency, “I want to record those two songs – has anyone claimed them yet?” They were his.

Lago recalled that “Nada além” became a favorite of Dona Canô — Caetano and Maria Bethânia’s mother — and Bethânia went on to record the song.  Meanwhile, in the 1984 interview mentioned above, Lago called his friend Custódio Mesquita “one of the most ‘wronged’ (injustiçado) composers of all time,” with some of the most beautiful melodies in the Brazilian popular repertoire, who “didn’t deserve to be forgotten like he’d been forgotten.”

Caetano sings “Labios que beijei”:

Caetano sings “Nada Além”:

 

Sources for this post:  Verdade Tropical by Caetano Veloso; A Canção no Tempo by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello; conversation with Jairo Severiano on Aug. 7, 2018; and Mário Lago’s depoimento for the Projeto Memória Musical Carioca, recorded by Jairo Severiano and Paulo Tapajós at Rio’s Arquivo da Cidade on September 4, 1984.

Mario Lago, Orlando Silva, Custodio Mesquita
A different angle: Mesquita,Lato, and Silva.