Influência do Jazz

Lyrics from “Influência do Jazz” by Carlos Lira (1962)

My poor samba
It started getting mixed up and modernized, and got lost
And the sway, where is it? It’s gone
Where’s that shimmy that stirs us up
Poor thing, my samba changed all of a sudden
Influence of jazz

It almost died
And ends up dying, is almost dying, it didn’t realize
That samba sways from side to side
Jazz is different, forward and back
And samba, half dead, got half warped
Influence of jazz

In the afro-cubano, it’s getting complicated
It’s going down the tubes, it’s going
It’s getting warped, going without rest
Going, leaving, falling off the scale

My poor samba
Go back there to the hillside and seek help where you were born
To not be a samba with too many notes
Not be a warped samba, forward and back
You’re going to have to stand on your own to be able to free yourself
From the influence of jazz

— Interpretation —

In the early 1960s a rift was opening in the bossa nova movement as some – mostly younger – singers developed a taste for including political messages in their songs.  This approach often also involved a rejection of foreign influences in Brazilian music and a return to samba’s roots.   Carlos Lira (often spelled Lyra), born in Rio de Janeiro on May 11, 1936*, was perhaps the greatest leader of the bossa novistas “engajados” — Portuguese for politically and socially “engaged,” whose ranks included  renowned musicians like Edu Lobo and Nara Leão by the mid 1960s. The other side — “purists” who thought bossa nova should remain faithful to the contemplative serenity of songs like “O Barquinho” — included Lira’s former partner (and Nara Leão’s ex-boyfriend) Ronaldo Bôscoli, and the brothers Marcos Valle and Paulo Sérgio Valle. The Valle brothers composed the song “A Resposta” (“The Answer“) to criticize socially “engaged” bossa nova – and Nara Leão in particular.

In 1961, Lira — together with Oduvaldo Viana Filho, Ferreira Gullar, and others —  founded the Popular Culture Center (Centro Popular de Culturaof the National Students’ Union, which aimed to support and disseminate “revolutionary art” among university students. By this point, according to Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello, Lira was beginning to express frustrations with bossa nova, feeling it was “just a trite modern style, repeating the same romantic musings as always.” He began to compose more explicitly political and nationalistic songs, including “Mister Golden,” “Os Subdesenvolvidos” (“the Underdeveloped”), and “Influência do Jazz,” which laments the tainting of traditional samba with obvious foreign influences.

While the lyrics protest the influence of jazz, the samba is written in an Americanized, bossa nova style– using the pentatonic scale so pervasive in American jazz and blues compositions — with a melody that purposefully recalls American songs like “You Were Meant for Me,” from Singing in the Rain, and “Indian Love Call,” from Rose-Marie. 

“Influência do Jazz” was first released by the Tamba Trio on Zé Trinidade’s sunday program on TV Rio. It was an immediate hit, and was performed twice at the famous bossa nova show at Carnegie Hall — by Lira and the Oscar Castro Neves Quartet.

*I am using the date cited in A Canção do Tempo, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (also a main source for this post), although a number of websites list 1939 as Lira’s year of birth.


Lyrics from “Sabiá” (Song-Thrush), 1968
Music by Tom Jobim
Lyrics by Chico Buarque

Good audio verison

I’m going to go back
I know that I’m going to go back, yet
To my  place
It was over there
And it’s still over there
And I will hear
A Sabiá
A Sabiá

I’m going to go back
I know that I’m going to go back yet
I’m going to lie down
In the shade of a palm tree
That’s no longer there
Pick the flower
That no longer blooms
And some love
Perhaps might frighten away
The nights that I don’t wish for
And announce the day

I am going to go back
I know that I’m going to go back, yet
It won’t be in vain
That I made so many plans
Of fooling myself
How I made delusions
Of finding myself
How I made roads
For losing myself
I did everything and nothing
For forgetting you…

I’m going to go back

Forgotten verse: added by Tom Jobim and rejected by Chico Buarque (and dropped by Tom Jobim): 

I’m going to go back
I know I’m going to go back yet
And it will be for good
I know love exists
I’m not sad anymore
And the new life is about to arrive
And this lonesomeness is going to end
And this lonesomeness is going to end

The sabiá – in English, the Rufous-Bellied Thrush – is a songbird found throughout most of Brazil. It has been the official state bird of São Paulo since 1966, and became Brazil’s national bird in 2002.

— Interpretation —

“Sabiá” was the winner of Brazil’s 1968 III International Festival of the Song. The victory caused outcry among fans of a competing song, Geraldo Vandré‘s more explicitly rebellious anthem – a call to arms against the military regime – “Pra não dizer que não falei das flores (Caminhando).” Critics claimed “Sabiá” was “escapist” in comparison with Vandré’s wildly popular song, which came in second place.  But a closer look shows that the lyrics evoke a sense of nostalgia for a lost Brazil that was a direct blow to the oppressive military regime that had taken power in 1964, and much of the criticism can be blamed on a final verse that was added at the last minute by Tom Jobim and dropped quickly thereafter.

Sabiá can be classified as a “song of exile,” evoking symbols and imagery from the most well-known song of exile, the poem”Cánção do Exílio,” 1843, by Gonçalves Dias. Gonçalves Dias’s poem, which he wrote while studying at University of Coimbra, in Portugal, came to represent an archetype of an optimistic, romanticized song of exile; in turn, songs like Sabiá serve as a parody, contrasting the romanticized Brazil from the mid-19th century with the dismal reality under military rule.  In Sabiá, the exile from Brazil is temporal, rather than geographical.  (Incidentally, shortly after the 1968 festival, both Chico Buarque and Geraldo Vandré went into exile.)

Dias longs for Brazil’s abundant palm trees and flowers, which in “Sabiá” are “no longer there.”  Dias says “Lonely night-time meditations please me more when I am there”; in “Sabiá,” however, the narrator doesn’t want these nights – which now represent oppression – to come. Even the love or lover, taken for granted in Dias’s poem, becomes something uncertain in “Sabiá.”

Still, while in “Canção de Exilio” Dias pleads to God to return to Brazil before dying, the poet in “Sabiá” makes a firmer declaration, stating “I am going to go back, I know.”

Here is a full English translation of Canção do Exilio. The elements of Brazil that Dias speaks of – the Sabiá (Rufous-Bellied Thrush), palm trees, flowers, loves, and the idea of “over there” – appear again and again in Brazilian popular music. (Gilbert Gil, for example, alludes to Dias’s poem in his exile song “Back in Bahia.”)

Sabiá was one of the first songs Chico Buarque and Tom Jobim composed together. (The first was “Retrato em Branco e Preto“/Portrait in Black and White, from 1967). During these early days of their partnership — which continued until Tom’s death, in 1994 — Chico admits there was still a certain distance between the two. Chico revered Tom, and Tom treated Chico a bit more like a pupil than a partner, responding to his lyrics with effusive praise and encouragement.

Later on, as the two became more comfortable working together, they would admittedly argue heatedly over each word that went into the songs they wrote together. Still, Tom’s desire to control the lyrics in his songs already manifested itself in Sabiá:  After the two finished the song, Chico went on a trip, and in his absence, Tom added the final verse – in gray, above – because he thought the song was repetitive and needed additional lyrics. Chico confesses he was a bit peeved when he found out about the change.  At any rate, he says, Tom came around and quickly abandoned the final verse, which had changed the tone of the song and invited sharp criticism of the song as escapist.

Sources for this post: Luiz Roberto Oliveira’s interviews with Chico Buarque, on Tom Jobim’s website, and Adélia Bezerra de Meneses’s book Desenho Mágico: poesia e política em Chico Buarque (Editora Hucitec, São Paulo, 1982).

Post by Victoria Broadus

Apesar de você

Lyrics from “Apesar de você” by Chico Buarque (1970)
Album: Chico Buarque (Samambaia) 1978

Good audio version: Apesar de você

Tomorrow will be another day…

Today, you’re the one who calls the shots
That’s it,  it’s been spoken
There’s no arguing
My people walk around today
Speaking to the side and looking toward the ground
Got it?
You, who invented this State,
Invented by inventing
All darkness
You who invented sin
Forgot to invent forgiveness

In spite of you
Tomorrow will be another day
I ask you, where will you hide
From the great euphoria?
How will you prohibit
When the rooster insists on crowing?
New water flowing,
And our people loving one another, without stopping

When the moment arrives
This suffering of mine
I’m going to charge with interest, I swear
All this love repressed
This scream contained
This samba in the dark

You who invented sadness
Now kindly “disinvent” it
You’re going to pay – and doubled
Every tear that rolled
In this anguish of mine

In spite of you
Tomorrow will be another day
I will still pay to see
The garden bloom
The one you didn’t want to

You’re going to become embittered
Seeing the day break
Without asking your permission
And I’m going to die of laughter
And that day is bound to come
Sooner than you think
In spite of you

In spite of you
Tomorrow will be another day
You will have to see
The morning reborn
And pour out poetry

How will you explain to yourself
Seeing the sky clear, suddenly
With impunity?

How are you going to stifle
Our chorus singing
Right in front of you
In spite of you

In spite of you
Tomorrow is going to be another day
You’re going to to be out of luck
Etcetera and so on
La la-ya, la la-ya, la….


After spending approximately a year in Italy in exile from Brazil’s military dictatorship,  Chico Buarque returned to Brazil in 1970 and met with a rigid censorship machine — a result of Ato Institucional V, which institutionalized the pre-release censorship process.

In an interview in September 1971, Chico lamented, “Of every three songs I write, two are censored. After being censored so much, something troubling is happening with me: I’m beginning to self-censor, and that is terrible.”

The censors had grown particularly harsh with Chico after their inadvertent release of his thinly veiled protest anthem “Apesar de você.”

Chico wrote and released “Apesar de você” as a single in 1970. The censors initially approved the song and it became a quick hit on the radio. As the song became popular, rumors spread that it was dedicated specifically to general Médici, who served as president from 1969 – 1974.(Chico says the “you” in the song actually referred to the entire system.) To the censors, Chico argued that he had written the song for a rooster that mistakenly believed that the day only broke as a result of his song, until one night when the rooster lost track of time and realized that day broke in spite of him. Unconvinced, the censors banned the song and punished those who had let it through.

After the song was banned, Chico says he received the treatment of a traitor who had attempted to dupe the censors.  As a result, he faced even more stringent censorship. “Apesar de você” was re-approved and re-released on the album Chico Buarque (Samambaia) in 1978, as the government began a gradual political liberalization process during Ernesto Geisel’s presidency.

(The source for most of this post is the book Chico Buarque para Todos by Regina Zappa, Rio de Janeiro, 1999.)

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)