Lyrics from “A vida é uma só (pare de tomar a pílula)” by Odaír José (1973)
Já nem sei há quanto tempo // I don’t even know how long it’s been
Nossa vida é uma vida só// Our life is only one
E nada mais// And nothing more
Nossos dias vão passando// Our days go passing by
E você sempre deixando// And you’re always leaving
Tudo pra depois// Everything for later
Todo dia a gente ama// Every day we love one another
Mais você não quer deixar nascer// But you don’t want to give birth
O fruto desse amor//To the fruit of that love
Não entende que é preciso// You don’t understand that we need
Ter alguém em nossa vida// Someone in our life
Seja como for// No matter what
Você diz que me adora// You say you adore me
Que tudo nessa vida sou eu// That I’m everything in this life
Então eu quero ver você// So I want to see you
Esperando um filho meu// Carrying my child
Entao eu quero ver você// So I want to see you
Esperando um filho meu// Carrying my child
Pare de tomar a pílula!// Stop taking the pill!
Pare de tomar a pílula
Pare de tomar a pílula
Porque ela não deixa o nosso filho nascer (3x)// Because it keeps our child from being born
— Commentary —
Most people associate protest music during Brazil’s dictatorship (1964-85) with MPB singers like Chico Buarque, Geraldo Vandré, and Elis Regina. But even songs like this one, from the brega (corny, cheesy, lowbrow…) genre — an over-the-top romantic style from the northeast — were vehicles of resistance. Composers of brega ballads critiqued racism, social inequality, and the social conservatism of the regime, and advocated for things such as the legalization of divorce (only passed through a constitutional amendment known as the “divorce law” in 1977). Their songs represented a major channel for political discourse among Brazil’s poorest populations.
This song serves as a perfect example. The military government treated the impoverished northeast as a problem: an overpopulated and undercivilized hinterland that bred radical peasants and hindered the country’s drive toward order and progress. To try to stamp out that problem without instituting meaningful social reforms, the regime pushed birth control pills and IUDs across the region. State-sponsored population-control programs attempted to win hearts and minds with the uninspired slogan “take the pill with lots of love” (tome a pílula com muito amor); this song responded with “stop taking the pill!”
The song was catchy, irreverent, and amusing, and was a runaway hit. After a while, the military regime’s censors caught on to the ruse and did not find it amusing: the song was banned and the discs were taken out of circulation.
Like Chico Buarque, who continued to perform banned songs such as “Cálice” and “Apesar de você,” José continued to sing this one at shows. But after a run-in with an angry general who told him, “if you’re not satisfied with the country, leave,” José opted to leave, and went into exile in England.
The late sixties and early seventies were the worst period of Brazil’s dictatorship, known as the “years of lead” (anos de chumbo). Things began to change in 1974, when General Ernesto Geisel took office as president. More moderate than the hardliners who had ruled since ’67, Geisel began a gradual liberalization program known as “distensão,” which sought to slowly reintroduce some (uncertain) degree of political liberties. Under that aegis, the mid-seventies saw a loosening of censorship and repression, and Odaír José returned to Brazil. His song, meanwhile, experienced a resurgence of popularity in the mid-nineties, when it was the unlikely soundtrack for a C&A department-store commercial that aired throughout Brazil; legions of teenage boys began singing it again, with no clue as to its original context.
Main source for this post: Eu Não Sou Cachorro, Não, by Paulo César Araújo.
“Na Pavuna” by Almirante and Homero Dornelas (pseudonym “Candoca da Anunciação”), released by Bando de Tangarás, January 1930
Na Pavuna // In Pavuna
Na Pavuna // In Pavuna
Tem um samba // There’s a samba
Que só dá gente “reiúna” // Thronged with troopers*
O malandro que só canta com harmonia // The malandro that only sings with harmony
Quando está metido em samba de arrelia // When he’s in the midst of the fervent samba
Faz batuque assim // Beats like so
No seu tamborim // On his tamborim
Com o seu time, enfezando o batedor // With his team, riling up the beater
E grita a negrada: // And the black folk yell
Vem pra batucada // “Come to the batucada!”
Que de samba, na Pavuna, tem doutor // Cause in Pavuna we have Doctors of Samba
Na Pavuna, tem escola para o samba // In Pavuna, there’s a school for samba
Quem não passa pela escola, não é bamba // Anyone who doesn’t pass through it’s no bamba (virtuoso of samba)
Na Pavuna, tem // In Pavuna there’s
Canjerê também // Canjerê too
Tem macumba, tem mandinga e candomblé // There’s macumba, mandinga and candomblé [all four of these refer to Afro-Brazilian religious or spiritual rituals]
Gente da Pavuna // People from Pavuna
Só nasce turuna // Are all born brutes
É por isso que lá não nasce “mulhé” // That’s why no pansies are born out there
“Lataria” by Almirante, João de Barro (Braguinha) & Noel Rosa, released by Bando de Tangarás, January 1931
Almirante: Como é, pessoá, vamos fazer uma batucada? // What you say, fellas, let’s make a batucada?
João de Barro: Vambora. Mas cadê pandeiro? // Let’s do it. But where’s the pandeiro?
Eduardo Souto: Pandeiro nada! Lata véia tá aí à beça // Forget the pandeiro! We have plenty of old cans.
João de Barro: Isso mesmo. Vamos fazê um batuque de lata véia! // Alright! Let’s have a batuque with old cans!
All: Vambora! // It’s on!
Já que não temos pandeiro // Since we don’t have a pandeiro
Pra fazer nossa batucada // To play our batucada
Todo mundo vai batendo // Everyone’s beating
Na lata velha e toda enferrujada // On an old rusty can
Pra poder formar no samba // To be able to join in the samba
Para entrar na batucada // To be part of the batucada
Fabriquei o meu pandeiro // I produced my pandeiro
Com lata de goiabada. // From a can of goiabada
Sai do meio do brinquedo, // Get out of the middle of the game
Não se meta, dona Irene, // Keep away, Dona Irene
Porque fiz o meu pandeiro // Cause I made my pandeiro
De lata de querosene // From a can of kerosine
Ando bem desinfetado, // I’m well disinfected these days
Só porque, minha menina // Just because, my gal,
O meu tamborim foi feito // My tamborim was made
De lata de creolina // From a can of creolin
João de Barro:
Escuta bem, minha gente // Listen here, folk
Repara bem pelo som // Pay close attention to the sound
E depois vocês me digam // And then tell me
Se meu instrumento [um penico] é bom // If my instrument [a bedpan] is good
“Eu Vou Pra Vila” by Noel Rosa, released by Bando de Tangarás, January 1931
Não tenho medo de bamba // I’m not afraid of bambas
Na roda de samba // In the roda de samba
Eu sou bacharel // I’m a diplomate
(Sou bacharel) // I’m a diplomate
Andando pela batucada // Drifting through the batucada
Onde eu vi gente levada // Where I saw spirited folks
Foi lá em Vila Isabel… // Was out in Vila Isabel
Na Pavuna tem turuna // In Pavuna, you’ve got brutes
Na Gamboa gente boa // In Gamboa, good people
Eu vou pra Vila // I’m going to the Vila
Aonde o samba é da coroa // Where the samba’s fit for royalty
Já saí de Piedade // I left Piedade
Já mudei de Cascadura // I moved away from Cascadura
Eu vou pra Vila // I’m on my way to the Vila
Pois quem é bom não se mistura // Cause noble folk don’t intermingle
Quando eu me formei no samba // When I graduated in samba
Recebi uma medalha // I received a medal
Eu vou pra Vila // I’m going out to the Vila
Pro samba do chapéu de palha. // For samba on a straw hat
A polícia em toda a zona // The police throughout the region
Proibiu a batucada // Banned the batucada
Eu vou pra Vila // I’m going out to the Vila
Onde a polícia é camarada // Where the police are pals
First a few notes about the translation: As far as I’ve been able to find out, gente ‘reiuna’ was slang at the time for soldiers of the military police, “reuina” being the boot that they wore. So the fact that the samba in Pavuna fills up with “gente reiuna” isn’t a good thing.
Bambais a common word in Brazilian Portuguese to refer to “virtuosos of samba,” and is believed to derive from the Kimbundu word mbamba: preeminence. Batucada, which appears throughout these songs, refers to the act of drumming, and the word batuque was used in both Portuguese colonial Africa and Brazil to refer, often derogatorily, to African drumming and accompanying dances. In the 1930s, beginning with the 1930 hit “Na Pavuna,” and “Já Andei” (Pixinguinha, João da Bahiana and Donga, 1932), batucada took on new meaning, referring to this style of samba, which incorporated the percussion instruments typical of Rio’s nascent samba schools (some pictured left).
Recording technicians in Rio’s studios — a German, in the case of “Na Pavuna” — were dubious of these instruments, believing their sounds wouldn’t transfer well to wax and would just muddy up the recording. “Na Pavuna” proved this notion unfounded, and thus paved the way for the professionalization of percussionists as recording artists in Rio de Janeiro, including tremendous talents like João da Baiana, Alcebíades Barcelos, Armando Marçal, Raul Marques, Ministro da Cuíca, and others.
And actually, according to the Bando de Tangarás’s front man, Almirante, one of the reasons the group decided to record “Na Pavuna” was because they thought it would work well with these percussion instruments in the studio, an experiment they’d been hoping to try out. Almirante recalled that their friend Homero Dornelas invited the group to his house in Vila Isabel to hear the samba he’d composed, which he beat out for them on the piano (he was a cellist); in spite of Homero’s graceless piano playing, the Tangarás saw potential in the song. Almirante composed the verses for the second part, and they brought it to record at Odeon/Parlophon.
Funnily enough, Parlophon, against Almirante’s wishes, released “Na Pavuna” not as a samba but as a “Choro de rua de Carnaval” (Carnaval street choro), demonstrating how arbitrary genre classification was at the time.
“Na Pavuna” is the first example of a recorded reference to a “school for samba.” And just as it pioneered the use of surdos, omelê, tamborim, cuícas (friction drum)and reco-recos in the recording studio, “Na Pavuna” also inspired a series of sambas about neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. Shortly after the release of the wildly popular song, Jota Machado released “Na Gamboa,” which began in a nearly identical fashion: “Na Gamboa, Na Gamboa / Tem macumba que só entra gente boa” [In Gamboa, in Gamboa, there’s a macumba where only good people get in] and J. Rezende’s samba for the Carnaval society Clube Tenentes do Diabo that year, “Canja de bode,” began “No bairro de Catumby/ Tem cigana de pagode” [In the neighborhood of Catumby/ There’re pagode gypsies], and went on to mention Largo do Machado and Leblon. Other examples include “Em Deodoro” (Mário Paulo, 1934), and “Isso Não Se Atura,” by Assis Valente, released by Carmen Miranda in 1934: “Lá em Cascadura/ isso não se atura.”
And in turn, Noel Rosa composed “Eu vou pra Vila,” his tribute to Vila Isabel, making reference in the lyrics to both “Na Pavuna” and “Na Gamboa.”
Almirante remarked years later that he was surprised when Noel presented the samba to him, saying he’d underestimated Noel’s ability to compose. Noel was just starting out in his short but inimitable musical career, and played a largely background role with Bando de Tangarás. He was the last member to join the band:
History of Bando de Tangarás In 1928, Braguinha (Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga, alternatively known by his pseudonym João de Barro) and his talented classmates Henrique Brito and Álvaro “Alvinho” de Miranda Ribeiro had organized with several other students from Tijuca’s Colégio Batista as the Conjunto Flor do Tempo. One day Braguinha invited Almirante –so nicknamed from his time as a Navy reservist — to their rehearsal. Braguinha had been impressed by Almirante’s musical prowess when he’d seen him in Carnaval blocos, and at the rehearsal Almirante showed off his clear superiority on pandeiro (as he recalled, their pandeirista had no rhythm) and his powerful voice, with a vast repertoire of songs. They snatched him up and he quickly took on a role as leader.
When the group received an invitation for a recording audition with Odeon/Parlophon, Almirante suggested sending only their four top talents — himself, Braguinha, Alvinho and Brito — to have a better chance at commercial success. But they still wanted another stringed instrument, so they invited their shy young guitar-playing neighbor in Vila Isabel, Noel Rosa, whom Almirante had first met in 1923.
Since they’d changed the group’s make-up, they decided to change the name. Braguinha, enchanted by a tale he’d heard of Tangarás birds gathering in circles of five to dance and sing in the Brazilian rainforest, suggested they call themselves Bando de Tangarás. He also suggested they each take the name of a bird, but only his stuck: João de Barro.
In mid-1929, when Bando de Tangarás recorded their first two songs with Odeon/Parlophon, Noel was a timid boy of just nineteen. Many in his milieu looked askance at his hobnobbing with the malandros of Vila Isabel, and Almirante, two years his elder, was decidedly the leader of the pack. These elements might help explain why Noel’s tremendous talent as a composer was initially overlooked, and Bando de Tangarás only recorded the first of Noel’s compositions, “Eu vou pra Vila,” in August 1930, over a year after their first recording. That song has endured as one of Noel’s greatest tributes to his neighborhood and his relationship with his city.
“Lataria”: In their biography of Noel Rosa, João Máximo and Carlos Didier relate that shortly after recording “Na Pavuna,” Almirante and Braguinha found themselves on the streetcar from Vila Isabel to Rua Almirante Barroso wondering what to record on side B of Braguinha’s “Mulata.” They began to joke around about recording on whatever cans they found upon arriving downtown, and composed a refrain on the streetcar, using the melody from the first samba Almirante had composed, several years earlier: Já que não temos pandeiro / para fazer nossa batucada / todo mundo vai batendo / na lata velha e toda enferrujada. They’d give each member of Bando de Tangarás a can to bang on and sing a verse about. Pleased with their plan, the pair presented it to Eduardo Souto, artistic director of Casa Edison, who was so delighted that he joined in on the recording.
The musicians improvised the verses in the studio, with the help of Noel, one of Brazilian music’s greatest improvisers. Only Henrique Brito was left off, since, according to Almirante, he couldn’t stop laughing when it was his turn to record, and ruined several takes of the song. And they were all really playing on the cans they mentioned; João de Barro, in his verse, left to the imagination the detail that he was playing on a bedpan.
Not surprisingly, considering its relatively well-heeled make-up, Bando de Tangarás was an important agent for samba, nudging Rio’s middle-class toward embracing the genre. The decision to bring percussionists onto the the recording of “Na Pavuna” was crucial in strengthening ties between the Tangarás and sambistas from Rio’s morros. In the following years, Noel Rosa earned his lasting reputation as one of the most important figures in uniting “morro and asphalt” in 1930s Rio de Janeiro.
The Bando de Tangarás recorded together for the last time in May 1933. Between 1929 and 1933 they appear on 38 albums, 73 tracks, most of which were composed by Almirante. Here’s a short video that shows the rising stars, beginning around minute 7:00:
Sources for this post: Noel Rosa, uma biografia by João Máximo and Carlos Didier; No Tempo de Almirante: uma história do Radio e da MPB by Sérgio Cabral; Yes, nós temos Braguinha by Jairo Severiano; Dicionário da História Social do Samba by Nei Lopes and Luiz Antonio Simas; and conversations with Jairo Severiano.
Chega de Saudade (1958, Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes)
Vai minha tristeza // Get along, my sorrow
E diz a ela que sem ela não pode ser // And tell her it’s just impossible without her
Diz-lhe numa prece // Urge her in an entreaty
Que ela regresse // To come back to me
Porque eu não posso mais sofrer // Because I can’t suffer any longer
Chega de saudade // That’s enough of saudade
A realidade é que sem ela não há paz // The truth is that without her there’s no peace
Não há beleza // There’s no beauty
É só tristeza e a melancolia // Only sadness and melancholy
Que não sai de mim, não sai de mim, não sai // That won’t leave me be, won’t leave me, won’t leave…
Mas se ela voltar, se ela voltar // But if she comes back – if she comes back
Que coisa linda, que coisa louca // What a beautiful thing, what a crazy thing
Pois há menos peixinhos a nadar no mar // Cause there’re fewer fishies swimming in the sea
Do que os beijinhos que eu darei na sua boca // Than the kissies I’ll plant on her mouth
Dentro dos meus braços // In my arms
Os abraços hão de ser milhões de abraços // The hugs will become millions of hugs
Apertado assim, colado assim, calado assim // Tight like so; entwined like so; hushed, like so
Abraços e beijinhos, e carinhos sem ter fim // Hugs and kisses and caresses without end
Que é pra acabar com esse negócio de você viver sem mim // Which is to put an end to this nonsense of you living without me!
“Garota de Ipanema”(1962, Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes)
Olha que coisa mais linda // Look, what a most beautiful thing
Mais cheia de graça // Most full of grace
É ela a menina // It’s her, the girl
Que vem e que passa // That appears and passes by
Num doce balanço // In a sweet sway
A caminho do mar // On her way to the sea
Moça do corpo dourado // The girl with that body of gold
Do sol de Ipanema // From the sun of Ipanema
O seu balançado é mais que um poema // Her sashay is more than a poem
É a coisa mais linda que eu já vi passar // It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen go by
Ah, por que estou tão sozinho? // Oh, why am I so lonely?
Ah, por que tudo é tão triste? // Oh, why is everything so sad?
Ah, a beleza que existe // Oh, this beauty that exists
A beleza que não é só minha // Beauty that’s not mine alone
Que também passa sozinha // That also passes by on her own
Ah, se ela soubesse // Oh, if she only knew
Que quando ela passa /That when she passes by
O mundo inteirinho se enche de graça // The whole wide world swells up with grace
E fica mais lindo // And grows more beautiful
Por causa do amor // On account of love
“O amor em paz” (1961, Tom Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes)
Eu amei // I loved
E amei, ai de mim, muito mais // I loved, woe to me, much more
Do que devia amar // Than I ought to have loved
E chorei // And I cried
Ao sentir que iria sofrer // Sensing that I would suffer
E me desesperar // And grow desperate
Foi então // That was when
Que da minha infinita tristeza // Out of my infinite sadness
Aconteceu você // You came along
Encontrei em você // I found in you
A razão de viver // My reason for living
E de amar em paz // And for loving in peace
E não sofrer mais // And never suffering again
Nunca mais // Never again
Porque o amor // Because love
É a coisa mais triste // Is the saddest thing
Quando se desfaz // When it falls apart
O amor é a coisa mais triste // Love is the saddest thing
Quando se desfaz // When it falls apart
— Commentary —
Bossa nova classics are some of the songs curious listeners search for the most, so here are a few of the standards. And as you can see, the Portuguese lyrics differ significantly from their respective English versions (“No more blues“; “Girl from Ipanema“; “Once I loved“).
So much has been written about bossa nova that I think my posts on bossa nova songs are probably more valuable just for the literal translation of the lyrics, in part because there are so many different stories out there – even in generally reliable sources – that it’s hard to feel confident about the veracity of many of them. But below I provide a little commentary on each of these songs.
João Gilberto liked to say he developed his innovative bossa-nova rhythm on the guitar in imitation of the rhythmic sway of the hips of the lavadeiras (laundry women) in Juazeiro, his home town in Bahia. He has also always insisted that bossa nova isn’t a genre; it’s just sambas performed with a little added twist – the new bossa of his guitar and voice. As you know, that bossa — whether it was the result of an epiphany he had while watching the lavadeiras of Juazeiro, or the culmination of a trend in Brazilian music that he managed to capture and express — turned the Brazilian music scene on its head in 1958, and in turn, quickly swept the United States off its feet.
“Chega de Saudade” was the title track on João Gilberto’s seminal 1958 album that is considered the cornerstone of bossa nova. Tom Jobim summed up the importance of the album and João Gilberto’s influence on the Brazilian music scene in his clear-sighted text in the liner notes. At the time, his affirmations seemed exaggerated to many consumers who had barely heard of 27-year-old Gilberto: “In almost no time, he [João Gilberto] has influenced an entire generation of arrangers, guitarists, musicians and singers,” Tom wrote.
Funnily enough, according to Tom, quoted in A Canção no Tempo, this song — which casts off saudade in its lyrics — is nostalgic in its very construction, and not really the best representative of anything “nova”: “Its introduction recalls those traditional introductions of ensembles of guitar and cavaquinho … It has all of the classic modulations of old music… It’s a nostalgic song that’s rejecting saudade!”
But the version released on João Gilberto’s album was indeed bossa nova, with João Gilberto’s rhythmically innovative guitar strokes woven together with his soft style of singing and the simplicity of the lyrics — including the rhyme of peixinhos (fishies) with beijinhos (kissies), which raised more than a few critical eyebrows.
“Chega de Saudade” was first released on Elizeth Cardoso’s landmark album Canção do amor demais, six months prior to Gilberto’s Chega de Saudade, and on that album already represents a strong precursor to bossa nova, with João Gilberto playing his signature guitar accompaniment. Cardoso’s album is considered a “bridge” to the bossa-nova period that came into swing with Chega de Saudade.
Tom and Vinicius said that “Garota de Ipanema” was inspired by a teenage girl who they often admired as she passed by Bar Veloso, a bar on the street where she lived where the two were devoted patrons in the early ’60s. The bar has since taken the name of the song. In a 1965 interview with the magazine Manchete, Vinicius identified the girl as Heloísa (Helô) Menezes Pais Pinto (Helô Pinheiro, after marriage), saying: “For her we composed, with the utmost respect and speechless enchantment, the samba that put her in headlines around the world and turned our dear ‘Ipanema’ into a magical word for foreign listeners.”
The song wasn’t thrown together on a napkin in Bar Veloso, though. Both Tom and Vinicius labored carefully over their respective parts and, together with João, presented the version they were pleased with during the show Encontro, which debuted its forty-five day run at the boîteAu Bon Gourmet on 2 August 1962. During the show, the trio included a playful intro to “Garota de Ipanema” that could actually serve as an introduction to much of bossa nova:
João Gilberto: “Tom e se você fizesse agora uma canção que possa nos dizer, contar o que é o amor…” (Tom, how about if you were to make a song right now that might tell us, explain what love is…)
Tom Jobim: “Olha Joãozinho, eu não saberia, sem Vinicius para fazer a poesia…” (Look, dear João, I wouldn’t know how, without Vinicius to write the poetry…)
Vinicius de Moraes: “Para essa canção se realizar, quem dera o João para cantar” (For this song to come to be, if only we could have João to sing…)
João Gilberto: “Ah, mas quem sou eu? Eu sou mais vocês. Melhor se nós cantássemos os três” (Ah, but who am I? I prefer the two of you. Best for all three of us to sing!)
…Olha que coisa mais linda, mais cheia de graça…
“Garota de Ipanema” was released in early 1963 on the Phillips LP A Bossa dos Cariocas, and six months later Tom introduced it to American listeners on the Verve LP The Composer of Desafinado Plays. At the end of ’63, Verve released the Astrud Gilberto/Stan Getz single “Girl from Ipanema” (with the title taken from the new English-language version, by Norman Gimbel), and then in 1964, the tremendously influential album Getz/Gilberto, which changed the musical landscape around much of the world, became the first Grammy-Award-winning album from non-American artists and propelled “Garota de Ipanema” and the amateur Astrud Gilberto to enduring international stardom.
Finally, I don’t have much to say about “O amor em paz,” except thatthe harmony and lyrics are brilliantly complementary in this song, shifting between minor and major modes as the lyrics shift between notes of sadness and joy. João Gilberto released the song on his self-titled LP in 1961.