“Quem São Eles (a Bahia é boa terra)” – “Já Te Digo”

Quem São Eles  (“Samba Carnavalesco gravado pelo Bahiano e o corpo de coro para Casa Edison – Rio de Janeiro!”) – 1918


A Bahia é boa terra// Bahia is a good land
Ela lá e eu aqui – Iaiá // Her up there and me down here, iaiá
Ai, ai, ai // Ai ai ai
Não era assim que meu bem chorava  (2x) // That’s not how my darling cried

Não precisa pedir, que eu vou dar // You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
Dinheiro não tenho mas vou roubar (sambar) // I don’t have money but I’ll steal it

Carreiro olha a canga do boi //  Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Carreiro olha a canga do boi // Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Toma cuidado que o luar já se foi // Be careful, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone

__(extra verses added for the recording) __

O castelo é coisa a toa // The castle is nothing
Entretanto isso não tira, Iaiá // But that doesn’t matter(?), iaiá
Ai, ai, ai
É lá que a brisa respira (2x) // It’s up there that the breeze breathes

Não precisa pedir, que eu vou dar // You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
Dinheiro não tenho mas vou roubar (sambar) // I don’t have money but I’ll steal it

Carreiro olha a canga do boi //  Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Carreiro olha a canga do boi // Driver, look at the ox’s yoke
Toma cuidado que o luar já se foi // Be careful, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone
Ai que o luar já se foi // Ai, cause the moonlight’s gone

Quem são eles? // Who are they?
Quem são eles? // Who are they?
Diga lá e não se avexe – Iayá // Go ahead and say it, and don’t get flustered, iaiá
Ai, ai, ai
São peixinhos de escabeche (2x)// They’re little pickled fish

Não precisa pedir que eu vou dar //You don’t need to ask, I’ll give
O resto do caso pra que cantar (2x) // The rest of the case – why sing it?
O melhor do luar já se foi // The best of the moonlight’s gone
O melhor do luar já se foi // The best of the moonlight’s gone
Entre menina que aqui estão de horror // Come in girl, cause they’re in a frenzy here (?)
Ai, que aqui estão de horror // Ai, they’re in a frenzy
Ai, que aqui estão de horror // Ai, they’re in a frenzy

— Commentary —

Sinhô rei do samba
In 1920, José Barbosa da Silva — known by his nickname “Sinhô” — was dubbed the “King of Samba” by the newspaper Correio da Manhã. And the title stuck.
Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.07.19 AM
February 1920 – Correio da Manhã crowns Sinhô the “king of carioca samba”. Sinhô had three major Carnival hits that year.

In 1917, Sinhô (José Barbosa da Silva, 8 September 1888 – 4 August 1930) learned a rather bitter lesson about the money that could be made with Carnival songs when he witnessed the unprecedented commercial success of Donga’s “Pelo Telefone.” The song is widely and erroneously cited as being Brazil’s “first recorded samba.” It’s actually a maxixe, and there were at least 23 recorded  “sambas” released prior to 1916; nevertheless, it was the first recorded “samba” to achieve such resounding commercial success, and to demonstrate to composers that composing songs for Carnival could be a lucrative business. The release of “Pelo Telefone” hence opened the era of Carnival compositions.

The success of “Pelo Telefone” didn’t sit well with Sinhô because the song had in fact been a collaborative effort, based on a popular folk song, in which he had played a significant role, along with others who frequented the famed home of Tia Ciata, the most legendary of the tias baianas (Bahian aunties) who opened their homes around Praça Onze to this gaggle of pioneering composers. But when Donga registered the song, he listed only himself and Mauro de Almeida as the songwriters.

Sinhô’s frustration at being erased from the official history and rights to royalties of “Pelo Telefone” helped spark the inspiration for his first major success, “Quem são eles (a Bahia é boa terra),” first recorded by Bahiano and back-up singers at Casa Edison in Rio de Janeiro.  And this song set off the first major duel in the annals of Brazilian popular music.

Fenianos float, Carnival 1923.

Sinhô had initially named the song “A Bahia é Boa Terra,” but the samba ended up taking the name of a Carnival bloco (street parade group) that he was helping to lead that year, Quem são eles, which was associated with one of the city’s three major Carnival societies, Os Fenianos. The provocation “quem são eles” (who are they), then, originally referred to that club’s two principal rivals in Rio,  Democráticos and Tenentes do Diabo. The “castle” mentioned in the song was the name for the Democráticos headquarters, and their members were called carapicus, a kind of fish, hence the “pickled fish” reference. (The Fenianos were called cats, which presumably devour pickled fish.) I assume the observation “it’s up there that the breeze breathes” must be some veiled insult against the rival Carnival club.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 9.38.53 AM
19 January 1921 – Jornal “O Imparcial” announcing the presence of Rio’s three most popular Carnival clubs at a great “battle of confetti” in Vila Isabel

On its surface, in its references to Bahia, the song lampooned an ongoing political skirmish between Bahian politicians Rui Barbosa and J.J. Seabra.  But Sinhô took advantage of the theme to incorporate what were easily interpreted as digs at Bahia and Bahians in general, honing his storied knack for double entendre. His teasing wasn’t taken lightly: tias baianas like Tia Ciata were essential to the emergence of Rio’s samba. They provided the space for musical creation mixed with Afro-Brazilian religious practices that incubated carioca samba in its earliest manifestations. And many of the composers who hung out there – most notably João da Baiana and Donga – were sons of Bahian migrants. Bahia was deeply woven into their upbringing and musical influences. Sinhô  wasn’t born to Bahians, but he was still a musical progeny of this group, having spent a good chunk of his early days as a musician at the homes of tias baianas. So when he released this samba that started out “Bahia is a good land/ her up there, me down here,” that clan not only took offense, but also considered it something of a betrayal by a composer who’d suddenly gotten a bit too big for his britches.

Pixinguinha_João da Baiana_DongaThey were affronted by “I don’t have money/ but I’ll steal it,” interpreting it as a message that Bahians couldn’t be trusted. (Sinhô’s biographer Edgar de Alencar published “sambar” in the place of “roubar,” steal, as the original lyrics. I’m not sure about that.) And they were likely extra galled by the smashing success of the song, which drowned out their 1918 release “O Malhador,” (registered to Donga and Pixinguinha, and also recorded by Bahiano), which had been Donga’s attempt to repeat the success of the prior year’s “Pelo Telefone.”

Funnily enough, in spite of its light mockery, the samba ultimately fit nicely into the style of sambas written by the “Bahian wing” of composers, with its syncopation; the “ai ai ai” that recalls the second part of “Pelo Telefone” (ai, ai, ai, deixa as mágoas para trás, o rapaz), and its evocation of rural scenes like the reference to the ox-cart driver.  Iaiá and ioiô were terms with origins among slaves referring to masters’ sons (ioiô) and daughters (iaiá); the terms eventually evolved into terms of endearment used among slaves or freed slaves, or their offspring. As noted above, the original lyrics ended after the first “o luar já se foi.”  But as was common practice those days, someone — maybe Sinhô, maybe Bahiano, maybe both  — added the extra verses for the recording.

Sensitive to issues of rights and royalties after the case of “Pelo Telefone,” Sinhô ordered a custom stamp made to mark the authorized scores, thereby also marking the start of an era when royalties began to be taken more seriously – the advent of the professionalization of the popular composer.

“Quem são eles” quickly inspired four new compositions in retort: “Não és tão falado assim” (You’re not so widely spoken of), by Hilário Jovino Ferreira, a native of Pernambuco who had grown up and made his name in Bahia and moved at the end of the 19th century to Rio de Janeiro (more on him, an important Carnival booster, here); “Fica calmo que aparece,” by Donga; “Já te digo,” by Pixinguinha and his brother China; and “Entregue o samba aos seus donos,” also by Hilário Jovino, who asserted in the lyrics that Bahians were the true owners of sambas, while Sinhô was just a lame sell-out. What’s more, this song also decried Sinhô’s plagiarism, in this case specifically regarding Sinhô’s latest hit, another rib aimed at Bahian politician Rui Barbosa, “Fala meu louro” (aka “Papagaio louro”). Hilário published the lyrics together with a note denouncing Sinhô for “the most brazen plagiarism in the history of sambistas” and calling on all “sambistas” (with sambistas still published in quotation marks in 1920) to write sambas on this theme:

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 10.42.38 AM.pngEntregue o samba a seus donos // Turn samba over to its owners
É chegada a ocasião // The time has come
Lá no Norte não fizemos // Up north we didn’t make
Do pandeiro profissão // A profession of the pandeiro
Falsos filhos da Bahia // Phony sons of Bahia
Que nunca passaram lá // Who’ve never even been there
Que não comeram pimenta // Never eaten chili sauce
Na moqueca e vatapá // In moqueca and vatapá
Mandioca mais se presta //Manioc is the good stuff
Muito mais que a tapioca //Much more than tapioca
Na Bahia não tem mais coco? //There’s no more coconut in Bahia?
É plágio de um carioca //That’s plagiarism by a carioca

Neither of Hilário Jovino’s responses were recorded, and today there’s unfortunately no record of “Não és tão falado assim” – lyrics or melody. Pixinguinha recorded an instrumental version of Donga’s “Fica calmo que aparece,” and the banal lyrics on the score make no apparent reference to the spat (“Keep calm, love will appear/ Passion is something that’s never forgotten”), suggesting these were merely the “official” lyrics, and that the song likely had an alternative set of spicier lyrics that have since been lost.

The most beautiful (by my judgment) and enduring of these four responses — “Já te digo” (also recorded by the fixture Bahiano for Casa Edison) — was also the most pointed roast of Sinhô, taking aim at his looks (“he’s tall/skinny/ugly, missing teeth”); his extravagant manner of dressing (“he suffered to use a stiff standing collar”); his short-lived flute-playing days (“When he used to play flute/ What agony!”), and his general  dandy persona (“today he’s all dapper / on the dime of the suckers of Rio de Janeiro”):

“Já te digo” by Pixinguinha and China (1919)


Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é // One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é // One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé // He suffered to use a stiff standing collar (?)
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé// He suffered to use a stiff standing collar

Vocês não sabem quem é ele, pois eu vos digo // You all don’t know who he is, well I’ll tell you
Vocês não sabem quem é ele, pois eu vos digo // You all don’t know who he is, well I’ll tell you
Ele é um cabra muito feio, que fala sem receio // He’s a real ugly guy, who says whatever he wants
Não tem medo de perigo // Has no fear of danger
Ele é um cabra muito feio, que fala sem receio // He’s a real ugly guy who says whatever he wants
Não tem medo de perigo // Has no fear of danger

Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é //One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Um sou eu, e o outro não sei quem é //One is me, I don’t know who the other one is
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé // He suffered to use a stiff standing collar
Ele sofreu pra usar colarinho em pé// He suffered to use a stiff standing collar

Ele é alto, magro e feio // He’s tall, skinny and ugly
É desdentado // He’s missing teeth
Ele é alto, magro e feio // He’s tall, skinny and ugly
É desdentado // He’s missing teeth
Ele fala do mundo inteiro // He bad-mouths everyone
E já está avacalhado no Rio de Janeiro // And is already scorned around Rio
Ele fala do mundo inteiro // He bad-mouths everyone
E já está avacalhado no Rio de Janeiro // And is already scorned around Rio

To the dismay of Sinhô’s detractors, the public really didn’t care about the feud or the accusations of plagiarism; they loved Sinhô’s songs, and he quickly established his place as Brazil’s most successful popular music composer of the 1920s,”teaching Brazil to like samba,” as Jairo Severiano has put it.

Just in 1920 he had three major hits, which all hid digs at his rivals: “Vou me benzer” (I’m going to get blessed/ to rid myself / of those evil eyes / they cast on me”);  the marchinha “Pé de Anjo,” a blatant copy of the French waltz “C’est pas difficile,” which took aim at Pixinguinha’s brother China, who was known for having huge feet (and which also launched Francisco Alves‘s career as a recording artist); and “Fala meu louro,” mentioned above, about Bahian Rui Barbosa’s loss in the 1919 presidential elections.

Likewise, the success of “Já te digo” propelled Pixinguinha’s career, which of course was so paramount and prolific that historian and musicologist Ary Vasconcellos famously wrote in his classic Panorama da Música Popular Brasileira, “If you have 15 volumes to talk about all Brazilian popular music, you can be sure that it’s too little.  But if you have only enough space for one word, not everything is lost; write quickly: Pixinguinha.”

Main sources for this post: Uma História do Samba, vol. I, by Lira Neto; Nosso Sinhô do Samba by Edgar de Alencar; Feitiço Decente by Carlos Sandroni; and conversations with Jairo Severiano



Padeirinho da Mangeira: “Favela” – “Vida de Operário” – “Cavaco Emprestado” – “Modificado” – “Como será o ano 2000” – “O Grande Presidente”

“Favela” by Padeirinho & Jorginho Pessanha (1966)

Numa vasta extensão // On a vast expanse
Onde não há plantação // Where there’s nothing planted
Nem ninguém morando lá // And no one living there
Cada pobre que passa por ali // Every poor man who passes by
Só pensa em construir seu lar // Can only think of building a home
E quando o primeiro começa // And when the first begins
Os outros depressa procuram marcar // The others rush to try to mark
Seu pedacinho de terra pra morar // Their little piece of land to live on
E assim a região // And that’s how the region
sofre modificação // Undergoes modification
Fica sendo chamada de a nova aquarela // Ends up being called the “new watercolor”
E é aí, é aí que o lugar // And that’s when, that’s when the place
Então passa a se chamar favela // Starts being called “favela”

“Vida de Operário” by Padeirinho & Quincas do Cavaco (first recording 1966 – Jamelão)
(video unavailable)

Ora vejam // Now look
Com é a vida de um operário // What the life of a factory-hand is like
Sai todos os dias no mesmo horário // He leaves every day at the same exact time
Fazendo ginástica pra trabalhar // Doing acrobatics to get to work
Ele pega o trem do subúrbio // He catches the suburban train line
Tão superlotado // So overcrowded
Que pra viajar tem que ir pendurado //That to take it he has to hang off of it
Arriscando a vida pra lá e pra cá  // Risking his life all over the place
E as vezes  // And sometimes
Quando ele chega um pouco atrasado // When he arrives just a little late
Por causa do trem que ficou enguiçado // On account of the train that broke down
O patrão não deixa ele mais pegar // His boss doesn’t let him take it anymore
Mas as vezes quando ele pega // But sometimes when he takes it
Ele perde o Domingo // He loses his Sunday
Porque o patrão que ele tem é mendigo // Because the boss he has is a miser
E nunca lhe deu uma colher de chá // And never gave him even a tea
(Azar do Valdemar) // (What tough luck for Chuck)

“Cavaco emprestado” by Padeirinho (1974)

Você quebrou // You broke
Meu cavaco de estimação // My pet cavaco
E não pagou // And didn’t pay
Por que razão? // Why was that?
Agora mesmo quero indenização // I want indemnity right now
Porque se não, se não, se não // Or else, or else, or else
Se não não, sei não… // Or else I don’t even know what…
Você pegou // You took
Meu cavaquinho emprestado // My cavaquinho on loan
Viajou pra todo lado //And traveled everywhere
E nem sequer me convidou // And didn’t even invite me
Ganhou dinheiro // You made money
Tirou onda de artista // Played the star
Quero pagamento a vista // I want my full cash payment
Do meu cavaquinho // For my cavaquinho
Que você quebrou // That you broke

“Modificado” by Padeirinho (1962; first recording 1980s)

Vejo o samba tão modificado // I see samba so modified
Que eu também fui obrigado // That I’m also obliged
A fazer modificação // To make modifications
Espero que vocês não me censurem // I hope you don’t censor me
O que eu quero é que todos procurem // All I want is that you all try
Ver se eu não tenho razão // And see if I’m not right –
Já não se fala mais no sincopado // No one talks about syncopated anymore
Desde quando o desafinado // Since when was out-of-tune
Aqui teve grande aceitação // So accepted here
E até eu também gostei daquilo // And I even liked that too
Modificando o estilo // Modifying the style
Do meu samba tradição // Of my samba tradition
Gosto de um samba ritmado pra sambar // I like a rhythmic samba to swing to
Também gosto de um sincopado pra dançar // And I like a syncopated samba to dance
Mas agora tudo é diferente // But now everything’s different
Já não se fala mais naquele samba de ritmo quente // No one talks anymore about those sambas with hot rhythms

“Como será o ano 2000” by Padeirinho (first recorded by João Nogueira, 1983)

Como será daqui para o ano 2000? // What will it be like by the year 2000?
Como será o nosso querido Brasil? // What will our dear Brazil be like?
Como será o morro sem os barracôes? // What will the hillside without the shacks be like?
Como será o Rio sem as tradições? // And Rio without its traditions?
Será que no ano 2000 as escolas de samba irão desfilar? // I wonder if the samba schools will parade in the year 2000?
Será que haverá carnaval? Será? // I wonder if there’ll be Carnival? Could it be?
Daqui para o ano 2000 só Deus sabe como será // By the year 2000, only god knows what it’ll be like
E o povo do Brasil verá // and the Brazilian people will see
Como será? // What will it be like?

“O Grande Presidente” (1956)

No ano de 1883 // In the year of 1883
No dia 19 de Abril // On the 19th day of April
Nascia Getúlio Dorneles Vargas // Getúlio Dorneles Vargas was coming into this world
Que mais tarde seria o governador do nosso Brasil // And would come to be governor of our Brazil
Ele foi eleito a deputado // He was elected deputy
Para defender as causas do nosso país // To defend our nation’s causes
E na revolução de 30 ele aqui chegava // And in the revolution of ’30 he was arriving here
Como substituto de Washigton Luiz // To take the place of Washington Luiz
E do ano de 1930 pra cá // And from year of 1930 to now
Foi ele o presidente mais popular // He was the most popular president
Sempre em contato com o povo // Always in touch with the people
Construindo um Brasil novo // Building a new Brazil
Trabalhando sem cessar // Working incessantly
Como prova em Volta Redonda a cidade do aço // And as proof, in Volta Redonda, the city of steel
Existe a grande siderúrgica nacional // We have the great national steel industry
Que tem o seu nome elevado no grande espaço // Which bears his name raised high in space
Na sua evolução industrial // In its industrial evolution
Candeias a cidade petroleira // Candeias, the “petroleum city”
Trabalha para o progresso fabril // Works for industrial progress
Orgulho da indústria brasileira // The pride of Brazilian industry
Na história do petróleo do Brasil // In the history of Brazilian oil

Ô Ô // Oh, Oh
Salve O estadista idealista e realizador BIS // Save the idealist statist and man of action
Getúlio Vargas  // Getúlio Vargas
O grande presidente de valor // The great president of valor

— Commentary —

Padeirinho da Mangueira.
Padeirinho da Mangueira.

Só muitos anos depois entendi a grande importância do Padeirinho no contexto da cultura popular. Ele deixou registrado com música, ritmo e rimas, a linguagem das comunidades mais baixas da sociedade.

—  Only many years later would I come to understand the tremendous importance of Padeirinho in the context of popular culture. He left records – through music, rhythms, and rhymes – of the language of the lowest classes of our society. —
– Nelson Sargento

Padeirinho was one of Mangueira’s most versatile sambistas of all time, excellent with improvisation and humorous critical observation of social ills. He was an expert in the slang of Rio’s favelas, and used the “language of the morro”  to tell his syncopated stories about life in Rio’s lower social rungs in the mid-twentieth century.

His greatest idols were his elders in Mangueira:  Geraldo Pereira, Cartola, and Nelson Cavaquinho, especially. And his sambas represent a mixture of the styles of these three legendary samba composers, including romantic songs, syncopated critical sambas (“Vida de operário,” for example) in the style of Geraldo Pereira, and sambas de enredo like “O Grande Presidente.”

padeirinho_2-e1434740239974He may be most remembered for his cheeky use of slang from the morros in songs, as the Nelson Sargento quotation above points out. Many sambistas at the time hesitated to lace local dialect into lyrics: they were trying to conform to a more clean-cut image to appeal to larger audiences and appease authorities. But Padeirinho made several successful sambas that relied on slang from his community, including “Mora no assunto” – his first samba to be recorded, by Jamelão, in the early ’50s –  “Deixa de moda,” and “Nota de duque,” one of the most popular sambas on the morro in the late 1950s. Around then Padeirinho came to the conclusion that he should provide a translation so some more people could understand him, and he wrote one of his most popular sambas, “Linguagem do morro,” which provides a clever list of concepts that were called by different names on the morro.

Padeirinho was born Osvaldo Vitalino de Oliveira on March 5, 1927, in Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro; he earned the nickname “padeirinho” because his father was a padeiro – a baker. He moved with his father to the samba stronghold of Morro da Mangueira when he was ten, and began to compose around age thirteen. 

Padeirinho never had the chance to go to school and felt ashamed of his illiteracy. Through samba — finding rhymes and constructing lyrics — he taught himself to read and write. He began singing his sambas in canteens around the community for whoever would listen. He also began drinking at a very young age in those canteens, and samba and alcoholism would remain two constants in his life.

Padeirinho with his wife Cremilda. The couple had twelve children together.
Padeirinho with his wife Cremilda. The couple had twelve children together.

Padeirinho used to say 1947 was “his year”: that year, an older brother-in-law brought him to sing for the composers at Mangueira, where he performed his samba “Mangueira desceu para cantar,” and he officially entered the composers’ wing of the school.  He married his wife Cremilda that year – they stayed together until their deaths forty years later –  and he landed a steady job as a stevedore at Rio’s port, alongside many sambistas including Aniceto do Império, one of the leaders of the stevedores’ union. Another sambista and founder of Império Serrano samba school, Eloy Antero Dias, set Padeirinho up with the job, and there were so many sambistas on the docks – imperianos in particular – that Dona Ivone Lara said Império Serrano should actually be called the Union of Stevedores.

Bloco Clube do Samba" 1980, L-R: Eliseu do Tamborim, Padeirinho (center), Franco Paulino & João Nogueira in the window.
Bloco Clube do Samba” 1980, L-R: Eliseu do Tamborim, Padeirinho (center), Franco Paulino & João Nogueira in the window.

Mangueira at the time was a hotbed of samba, and as Padeirinho continued composing, big name recording artists became his fans and recorded his songs, beginning with Jamelão in Rio and Germano Mathias in São Paulo. Other samba legends who released Padeirinho’s sambas include João Nogueira, Paulinho da Viola, Beth Carvalho, Candeia, Martinho da Vila, Moacyr Luz, Xangô da Mangueira, Clementina de Jesus and Elza Soares.

In 1987, forty years after “his year,” Padeirinho was supposed to record his first album. But his wife Mida died in late 1986. Padeirinho, weak and heartbroken, died two months later, in January 1987.

Padeirinho reportedly composed “Favela” as he observed, from his home atop Morro da Mangueira, the favela dos Esqueletos rising up before him. (The favela was torn down to make space for the UERJ campus later on.)

“Modificado” is a response to bossa nova. In 1959, Padeirinho went twice to São Paulo and returned home frustrated, saying he had been hoping to hear Germano Mathias’s recording of his song “Zé da pinga” on the radio, but instead only heard Celly Campelo’s “Estúpido Cupido,” some other pop songs, and bossa nova, which everyone was talking about, albeit with mixed reactions. Padeirinho’s fellow sambistas around Mangueira hated the new style: samba with totally different sounds, rhythmic inflections and accents. But despite his frustration, Padeirinho didn’t mind it, and defended it as “samba all the same.”  In response to all the fuss, he wrote his humored syncopated critique of this new, modified samba: “Modificado,” which makes reference to the bossa nova song “Desafinado“(out of tune).

“O Grande Presidente” is one of the finest examples of the kind of bombastic samba-enredo that dominated Carnival in the 1950s and 1960s, full of statements about opulence, magnificence and glory. Mangueira came in third place that year, behind Império Serrano (Caçador de Esmeraldas, by Silas de Oliveira & Mano Décio) and Portela. This specific kind of samba is called a “samba-lençol” (sheet samba) since it covers the story of the person being paid tribute to from top to bottom, start to finish. The samba pays tribute to Getúlio Vargas, Brazil’s controversial populist leader who governed Brazil from 1930-1945 as a dictator and 1951-1954 as a democratically elected president. Vargas came to power in the revolution of 1930 mentioned in the song, and made a big push to industrialize Brazil, as the samba says. In August 1954, growing unrest signalled an impending military overthrow of Vargas. Before that could happen, he shot and killed himself in Catete Palace. Because of his populist principles, Vargas was known as the “father of the poor,” and Padeirinho’s samba in tribute to him, composed shortly after Vargas’s death, is widely considered one of the most beautiful samba-enredos of all time.

Main source for this post: Padeirinho da Mangueira: Retrato sincopado de um artista by Franco Paulino

Sala de Recepção

Lyrics from “Sala de Recepção” by Cartola (early 1940s, recorded on Cartola II [1976])

Inhabited by people so simple and so poor
Who have only the sun for shelter
How can you sing, Mangueira?

(response) Well we’ll have you know we don’t desire any more
At night, the silvery moon, in silence, listens to our songs
Up atop the hill there’s a cross where we say our prayers
And we take pride in being the first champions

I say and repeat that happiness resides here
And the other schools even cry with envy of your position, my Mangueira
This reception room
Here we embrace our enemy as if he were our brother

— Interpretation —

Cartola recording his second album in 1976, with his daughter Regina.
Cartola recording his second album in 1976, with his daughter Regina.

In this recent post, I wrote about Paulo da Portela and his falling out with the samba school he’d helped to found in Oswaldo Cruz. Part of this falling out had to do with Paulo’s close friendship with sambistas from downtown Rio, Heitor dos Prazeres and Cartola. Cartola was one of the founders of the rival Mangueira samba school. In 1941, Paulo da Portela wanted to include Cartola and Heitor in the Portela Carnival parade, since the three had just arrived together from São Paulo. This provoked a nasty fight that caused Paulo da Portela to abandon the school.

Cartola, 1940s
Cartola, 1940s

When Paulo da Portela left Portela in 1941, he was taken in by his friends in Mangueira (though he ended up joining the small samba school Lira de Amor, in Bento Ribeiro, near Oswaldo Cruz). Soon after, Cartola composed this samba, which makes reference to the school’s warm reception of Paulo da Portela – “we embrace our enemy as if he were our brother.” The “pride in being the first champions” is because Mangueira won the first Carnival parade competition, sponsored by the newspaper Mundo Sportivo,  in 1932. (Portela, with a samba composed by Paulo’s friend Heitor dos Prazeres, had won the first samba competition, in January 1929, and went on to win the first city-sponsored parade competition, in 1935.)

Lyrics in Portuguese
Habitada por gente simples e tão pobre
Que só tem o sol que a todos cobre
Como podes, mangueira, cantar?

Pois então saiba que não desejamos mais nada
A noite, a lua prateada
Silenciosa, ouve as nossas canções

Tem lá no alto um cruzeiro
Onde fazemos nossas orações
E temos orgulho de ser os primeiros campeões

Eu digo e afirmo que a felicidade aqui mora
E as outras escolas até choram
Invejando a tua posição

Minha mangueira essa sala de recepção
Aqui se abraça inimigo
Como se fosse irmão

Main source: Escolas de Samba do Rio de Janeiro, by Sérgio Cabral (2011)