Homenagem ao Malandro & Homenagem à Velha Guarda

Lyrics from “Homenagem ao Malandro” by Chico Buarque (1978)


I went to write a samba in honor of the cream of the malandragem
That I know from Carnivals of years gone by
I went to Lapa and the trip was wasted
‘Cause that kind of malandragem doesn’t exist anymore

Now it’s just not normal
The amount of orderly, professional malandros around
Malandro with the trappings of an official malandro
Malandro with a profile in the Society column
Malandro with a contract, a tie,  and capital
Who never gets into trouble

But the malandro that counts — don’t spread it — retired his razor
Has a wife and kid and the whole kit and bit
Word on the street is that he even has work
He lives far away, and rattles in on a train on the Central Line

Now it’s just not normal
The amount of orderly, professional malandros around
Malandro with the trappings of an official malandro
Malandro candidate for Federal Malandro
Malandro with a profile in the Society column
Malandro with a contract, a tie and capital
Who never gets into trouble

Lyrics from “Homenagem à Velha Guarda” by Monarco (1980)

One day, you went to Lapa to see the malandragem
You wasted your time and the trip, as your samba explains
I went to Portela to see my sambistas
But consulting my list, I, too, wasn’t pleased!
There, I was told of a terreiro where they spend the entire day
In some nondescript nook in Oswaldo Cruz
It’s out there near Bento Ribeiro
Where Paulo and his consort made sambas that still seduce to this day
Looking around the locale, I found Mano Alvaiade
Our old harmony director, who gave me a valuable tip:
It’s a beautiful home, that brings together peace, love, and joy
There I saw the true sambistas
Manacéia and Lonato, and others too!
I swear my jaw dropped, I’d never felt so close
To the Portela of days of yore.

— Interpretation —

Scene from Ópera do Malandro. Pictured (L-R): Elba Ramalho, Tony Ferreira, Ari Fontoura, Marieta Severo, Otávio Augusto, and Maria Alice Vergueiro.
Scene from Ópera do Malandro. Pictured (L-R): Elba Ramalho, Tony Ferreira, Ari Fontoura, Marieta Severo, Otávio Augusto, and Maria Alice Vergueiro.

In 1978, Chico Buarque’s musical play Ópera do Malandro opened in Rio de Janeiro to rave reviews from critics and crowds. Set in Lapa in the early 1940s, the musical portrays a seedy, sensual, samba-suffused side of Rio’s bohemian redoubt that was at its height in the 1920s-40s and had died out, as Chico describes here, by the 1970s: “Lapa, brothels, loan sharks, smugglers, corrupt police, unscrupulous businessmen. (…) When this side of Lapa began to die, it was a harbinger of other deaths: malandragem [for a description of malandros and malandragem, the shady life on the edge of the law that has become an iconic part of Rio de Janeiro’s identity, see this post], Madame Satã [legendary drag queen and capoeirista], Geraldo Pereira, Wilson Batista [sambistas who most represent the samba malandro sub-genre]; it was the end of the golden age of Rio’s urban samba.”

The song “Homenagem ao Malandro” is a nostalgic nod to old-time Lapa malandros, poking fun at the “orderly, professional” malandros that had come to replace the real thing.

Album cover for the 1979 soundtrack to Ópera do Malandro.
Album cover for the 1979 soundtrack to Ópera do Malandro.

The musical was based on the satirical Beggar’s Opera (1728, John Gay) and the Three Penny Opera (1928, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill), another adaptation of Gay’s Beggar’s Opera.  Chico composed fourteen new songs for the musical and the soundtrack was released the following year. A film adaptation was also released in 1986. The musical revealed a star, Elba Ramalho, and showcased Chico’s then-wife Marieta‘s singing talent.

Legendary Portela sambista Monarco, now 81.
Legendary Portela sambista Monarco, now 81.

Alongside “Geni e o Zepelim” and “O Meu Amor,” “Homenagem ao Malandro” was one of the most beautiful and beloved songs from the musical, and the lyrics struck a chord with the composer Monarco (Hildemar Diniz, b. August 17, 1932 in Cavalcante, Rio de Janeiro, RJ). Monarco is among the most celebrated velha guarda (“old guard”) sambistas from the Portela samba school still around today. He arrived at Portela in 1946, when he was 14 years old (he laments that he missed Paulo da Portela at the school by just a few years). As Carnival became more and more of a lucrative business in the 1960s and ’70s, old-school sambistas like Monarco felt shoved aside, as  head honchos at the samba schools brought in radio stars to compose and take the spotlight and rake in returns. Around this time many sambistas separated from their schools: In the mid-1970s, for instance, Paulinho da Viola and Candeia left Portela. (Paulinho would return later on, and never joined another school, as Portelenses like Monarco enjoy pointing out; Candeia founded Quilombo, his school until his death in 1978.)

Monarco, second from left, and Zeca Pagodinho, center, with Velha Guarda da Portela, c. late 80s. In 1987, Zeca Pagodinho released his first album, with Monarco's song "Coração em desalinho," a huge hit.
Monarco, second from left, and Zeca Pagodinho, center, with Velha Guarda da Portela, c. late 80s. In 1986, Zeca Pagodinho released his first album, with Monarco’s song “Coração em desalinho,” a huge hit.
Paulinho da Viola with Clara Nunes, Pagode da Tia Doca
Paulinho da Viola and Clara Nunes pictured at Pagode da Tia Doca, in Tia Doca’s yard.

Monarco recalls that one Sunday he went to Portela and found none of his old composer companions there — only newfangled radio composers. So he wrote this samba that responds to Chico’s song about Lapa, remarking that the samba schools suffered the same phenomenon.  He refers to celebrated old guard sambistas, and the house he mentions — that unites “peace, love, and harmony” — was Tia Doca’s. Tia Doca became a mainstay at Portela samba school in the 1950s after she married the composer Altaír Costa, son of Alvarenga, a founding member of Portela samba school.  She became part of the Velha Guarda in 1970, and during these rough years for the school, she began hosting the famous “pagode da Tia Doca” on Sundays at her home in Oswaldo Cruz. Several star sambistas — including Zeca Pagodinho, Dudu Nobre, and Jovelina Perola Negra — got their start there.

Monarco says Chico Buarque loved the song; he remembers Chico commenting that he thought the line “consulting my list…” was just great!

Monarco's "Portela of days of yore": Pictured, Lonato (standing with Pandeiro), Monarco (crouching), Casquinha, Manaceia, Alcides Malandro,and others.
Monarco’s “Portela of days of yore”: Pictured, Lonato (standing with what looks like a tamborím), Monarco (crouching), Casquinha, Manaceia, Alcides Malandro, and others.

Lyrics in Portuguese: “Homenagem ao Malandro”

Eu fui fazer um samba em homenagem
À nata da malandragem
Que conheço de outros carnavais
Eu fui à Lapa e perdi a viagem
Que aquela tal malandragem
Não existe mais

Agora já não é normal
O que dá de malandro regular, profissional
Malandro com aparato de malandro oficial
Malandro candidato a malandro federal
Malandro com retrato na coluna social
Malandro com contrato, com gravata e capital
Que nunca se dá mal

Mas o malandro pra valer
– Não espalha
Aposentou a navalha
Tem mulher e filho e tralha e tal
Dizem as más línguas que ele até trabalha
Mora lá longe e chacoalha
Num trem da Central

Agora já não é normal
O que dá de malandro regular, profissional
Malandro com aparato de malandro oficial
Malandro candidato a malandro federal
Malandro com retrato na coluna social
Malandro com contrato, com gravata e capital
Que nunca se dá mal

Mas o malandro pra valer
– Não espalha
Aposentou a navalha
Tem mulher e filho e tralha e tal
Dizem as más línguas que ele até trabalha
Mora lá longe e chacoalha
Num trem da Central

“Homenagem à Velha Guarda”
Um dia, tu fostes à Lapa ver a malandragem
Perdeste o tempo e a viagem
Como teu samba diz
Eu fui à Portela ver os meus sambistas
Mas consultando a minha lista
Também não fui feliz

Lá falaram-me sobre um terreiro
Onde eles passam o dia inteiro
Num lugar qualquer de Oswaldo Cruz
Fica lá perto de Bento Ribeiro
Aonde Paulo e seus companheiros
Faziam sambas que até hoje seduz

Procurando na localidade
Encontrei mano Alvaiade
Nosso antigo diretor de harmonia
Deu-me a sua dica valiosa
É uma casa formosa
Que reúne paz, amor e alegria

Daí, vi os sambistas de fato
Manacéia e Lonato e outros mais
Juro que fiquei boquiaberto
Nunca me senti tão perto
Da Portela dos tempos atrás

Main sources for this post:  Stories told by Monarco and A Canção no Tempo: Vol. 2, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello, and Batuque na cozinha: as receitas e as histórias das tias da Portela, by Alexandre Medeiros

“Coisas banais” and “Preciso me encontrar”

Lyrics from “Coisas banais” by Candeia and Paulinho da Viola (1970)


Look here, that’s not how we treat what we have
If our love is true, pride, vanity and disaffection are mundane things
That only serve to hurt our love
If you wish to leave, take the longing, take the pain
And leave peace
When love is true, it’s not implored, nor held back by mundane things
Look here…


Lyrics from “Preciso me encontrar” by Candeia (1976)



Let me go, I need to wander
I’ll go around, seeking
To laugh, so as not to cry (repeat)
I want to watch the sun rise, to see the rivers’ waters flow
To hear the birds sing
I want to be born, I want to live
Let me go, I need to wander
I’ll go around, seeking
To laugh, so as not to cry
If anyone asks after me, tell them I’ll only come back after I find myself
I want to watch the sun rise, to see the rivers’ waters flow
To hear the birds sing
I want to be born, I want to live… (repeat)

— Interpretation —

Candeia singing with Martinho da Vila.
Candeia singing with Martinho da Vila.

Antônio Candeia Filho, known popularly as Candeia, lived a short and rough life: He died suddenly at age 43 after having spent the last 13 years of his life in a wheelchair.  But just as the hardship of being bound to a wheelchair made his music richer, his tragic early death makes his lyrics all the more poignant to listeners today. His moving poetic verses about life, race, social justice, love, samba and beer are some of Brazil’s most beloved, although — in part because of his short life —  people often don’t know they were written by Candeia.

Candeia was born on August 17, 1935, in the Oswaldo Cruz neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. His father, Jairo, was a flautist, and from a very young age Candeia was surrounded by musicians. He learned to play guitar and cavaquinho and began to frequent the neighborhood samba school Portela. He played capoeira and participated in Candomblé rituals, developing an interest in Afro-Brazilian culture and social awareness that deepened later in his life.

Candeia, Waldir 59, e Darcy in the "Ala dos Impossíveis"
Candeia, Waldir 59, e Darcy in the “Ala dos Impossíveis.” Photo via Portela Archives.

At 22, Candeia passed the test to enter the police force, where he earned a reputation for being harsh and unforgiving. Bars in Lapa reportedly closed up when he came around because everyone left in fear; his close friend and musical partner Waldir 59 recounts that mutual friends warned him to stop hanging around Candeia so much: “He pardoned no one. He even put his adoptive brother Ronaldo in jail.”

The run-in that left Candeia in a wheelchair happened on December 13, 1965. He left a party at Portela to bring a girl home (his wife, dona Leonilda, said the accident would never have happened if he’d brought her to the party instead of fooling around). Waldir 59 went with him — mostly because he was worried about Candeia leaving in such a drunken state.  As they drove down the final stretch of Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue – the avenue that hosts  Rio’s Carnival parades – nearing Av. Presidente Vargas, Candeia crashed into a fish truck. He pulled around, got out, and saw that his fender was bent;  then he drew his gun and shot the truck’s tires. He threatened the men in the front of the truck, and as Waldir 59 recounts in the biography Candeia: Luz da Inspiração, the “Italian in the back of the truck” shot Candeia down.

The five gunshot wounds left Candeia paralyzed from the waist down.  His friend and biographer João Baptista remarked, “I think Candeia began to rethink some things after he was paralyzed,”and writes that the vast majority of his interviewees agreed that Candeia’s music became much stronger – both lyrically and socially – after the accident.

For a while Candeia believed he might walk again. But nearly two years to the day after the shooting, he wrote that he and his family members were losing hope for recovery, continuing, “I’m gradually losing interest in the present and the future; I see myself tied up in a boat headed slowly toward the precipice. In spite of all these adversities, I will continue to fight, do my exercises and take my medicine. I will never give in to despondency or despair.”

CANDEIA-34 conversa de botequimOne way Candeia dealt with his isolation and fought off despondency was by hosting more and more lively samba parties, or pagodes, at his house. Friends remember his phone calls: “Come on over — I’ll pay for the taxi.”

He wrote touching verses about his situation, most famously in “Preciso me encontrar,” “De qualquer maneira” (“I’ll sing no matter what, no matter what, my enchantment, I’ll samba…seated in a king’s throne, or here in this chair…”) and “Pintura sem arte” (“I feel like a fallen leaf, I’m the goodbye of one who’s departing, for whom life is a painting without art…”)

He also dedicated himself to activism, defending Afro-Brazilian culture and fighting the prioritization of  outsiders’ — often rich, white outsiders — interests in samba schools:

Candeia was a fixture of Portela samba school, a close friend and partner of Waldir 59, Paulinho da Viola, and Monarco (who laments he only wrote one samba with Candeia, “Portela, uma familia reunida“).  He began composing sambas at a very young age, and became while he became best known for his partido alto-style sambas — with improvised verses mixed in with a refrain — his samba-enredos were tremendously popular as well, and brought Portela six Carnival titles, in 1953 (“Seis datas magnas” composed with Altair Marinho, won perfect scores in all categories), 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959 and 1965, the latter five all composed with Waldir 59.

Candeia at Quilombo samba school, c. 1977.
Candeia at Quilombo samba school, c. 1977.

But in the 1970s Candeia grew fed-up with grave problems he identified within the school. As Tantinho da Mangueira relates in this documentary clip, “people began to hang around the samba schools who had  nothing to do with samba, as far as we were concerned.”  Candeia felt samba was in danger of going from being a genuine popular manifestation to being a mere consumer product. He and other Portelenses wrote a letter to the president of Portela complaining that the leadership had grown too autocratic, and was pushing imitation rather than innovation — seeking to copy whatever was commercially popular at the time.  Candeia offered suggestions for how to take Portela back down the right path, but felt his concerns were not heard. So he founded a new samba school and cultural center, Grêmio Recreativo de Arte Negra e Samba Quilombo (Quilombos were runaway slave settlements, as described in this post), inaugurated in January 1976 in Coelho Neto, Rio de Janeiro. In December of that year the school received a US$20,000 grant from the Inter-American Foundation in the United States to fabricate Carnival costumes, school uniforms and educational materials about Afro-Brazilian history and culture. Almost every night Quilombo hosted debates and conferences about Afro-Brazilian contributions to Brazilian culture and national identity.  And in Carnival 1977, with the participation of stars like Paulinho da Viola, Martinho da Vila, Xangô, Clementina de Jesús, and others, the school’s parade was a hit.

Candeia’s untimely death from a heart attack on November 16, 1978, inspired a number of sambas in his honor, including “Silêncio de um bamba,” by his friends Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes, and “O sonho não acabou,” by Luiz Carlos da Vila.

Lyrics in Portuguese: Coisas banais
Repare bem, não é assim
Que a gente faz com o que tem
Se a gente ama de verdade
Orgulho, vaidade, desamor
São coisas banais que só têm utilidade
Pra machucar o nosso amor

Se quiseres ir embora, leve a saudade
Leve a dor e deixe a paz
Quando o amor é de verdade, não se implora
Nem se prende a coisas banais
Repare bem

Lyrics in Portuguese: Preciso me encontrar

Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar
Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar

Quero assistir ao sol nascer
Ver as águas dos rios correr
Ouvir os pássaros cantar
Eu quero nascer
Quero viver

Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar
Se alguém por mim perguntar
Diga que eu só vou voltar
Depois que me encontrar

Quero assistir ao sol nascer
Ver as águas dos rios correr
Ouvir os pássaros cantar
Eu quero nascer
Quero viver

Deixe-me ir
Preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar

Deixe-me ir preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar
Deixe-me ir preciso andar
Vou por aí a procurar
Rir pra não chorar

Main source for this post: Candeia: Luz da Inspiração by João Baptista M. Vargens