“Na Pavuna” – “Lataria” – “Eu vou pra Vila”

“Na Pavuna” by Almirante and Homero Dornelas (pseudonym “Candoca da Anunciação”), released by Bando de Tangarás, January 1930

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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…

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

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Conversation
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!

Lyrics
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

Almirante:
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

Noel Rosa:
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

Alvinho:
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


Commentary


Bando De Tangarás.jpg

 

InstrumentsFirst 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.

Bamba is 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.

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In this note in Rio’s Gazeta de Notícias from Tuesday, 4 February 1930, the author joyfully describes a group of pre-Carnaval revelers gathered around his home, one of whom handed him an envelope with the lyrics from the samba “Na Pavuna” by “Candoca da Anunciação” (Homero Dornelas’s pseudonym)
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Almirante (Henrique Foréis Domingues, 1908 – 1980) was a fundamental figure to 20th century Brazilian popular music: a composer and singer of resounding success, and a researcher and collector of items of immeasurable value to the memory of Brazilian popular music during a time when scant attention was paid to preservation and documentation of  popular music.

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.

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Lyrics for “Na Pavuna” published in Diário Carioca – 21 January 1930

“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.”

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Jornal do Brasil, 20 March 1928 – Conjunto Flor do Tempo announced as entertainment for a benefit party for the Pavilhão dos Tuberculosos organized by the União de Senhoras do Hospital Evengelico.

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.

“Viena fica na 28 de Setembro” & “Tempos do onça e da fera (Quarador)”

Lyrics from “Viena fica na 28 de Setembro” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco (1982)


Morre a luz da noite // The evening’s light dies
O porre acende pra me iluminar // The liquor lights up to illuminate me
Numa outra cena…// In another scene…
Zune o vento e valsam os oitis // The wind howls and the oiti trees waltz
No velho boulevard // On the old boulevard
Bosques de viena! // The Vienna Woods!
Escrevo carta a uma desconhecida // I write a letter to some unknown woman
Com quem tive um flerte, um anjo azul…// With whom I had a little dalliance, a blue angel
Pobres balconistas de paquete // Poor saleswomen on the rag
de ar infeliz // with an air of discontentment
São novas Bovarys…// Are new Bovarys
Já perdi o expresso do oriente // I’ve missed the Orient Express
Onde sempre sou // Where I’m always
Vítima e assassino… // Victim and assassin
Tomo a carruagem e o cocheiro // I take a coach and the coachman
De tabela dois // On Table 2 (late-night fare)
Diz que é vascaíno… // Says he’s vascaíno
Ah, triste figura, don quixote // Ah, sorry character, Don Quixote
Quer mais um traçado // After another quest
– cadê o sancho? // — Where’s Sancho?
Dá pro santo, bebe, e o passado // He gives a little to the saint, drinks, and the past
Volta a desfilar // comes marching back
Pierrô de marcha-rancho: // Pierrot of a marcha-rancho:
Com as bronca do Ary Barroso, sem elas… // With Ary Barroso’s rebukes, without them
Com a bossa do Ciro Monteiro, sem ela… // With Ciro Monteiro’s bossa , without it
Com o copo cheio de Vinícius, sem ele…// With Vinicius’s full glass, without it
Com nervos de aço Lupicinio, sem eles…// With Lupicínio’s “nervos de aço,” without them
Com as mãos do Antonio Maria, sem elas…// With Antonio Maria’s hands, without them
Com a voz do Lamartine Babo, sem ela… // With Lamartine Babo’s voice, without it
Com a rosa Dolores Duran, sem ela…// With the rose Dolores Duran, without her
Com a majestade da Elis, sem ela…// With the majesty of Elis, without her


Lyrics from “Tempos do Onça e da Fera (Quarador)” by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco (1977)


Saindo pro trabalho de manhã // Leaving for work in the morning
o avô vestia o sol do quarador // The grandfather wore the sun of the quarador (bleaching ground)
tecido em goiabeiras, sabiás // woven in guava trees, song-thrushes
cigarras, vira-latas e um amor // cicadas, mutts, and a love
E o amor ia ao portão pra dar adeus // And the love would go to the gate to say goodbye
de pano na cabeça, espanador… // With a headscarf on, a feather duster…
Os netos.. o quintal… Vila Isabel // The grandchildren… the yard.. Vila Isabel
Todo o Brasil era sol, quarador // All of Brazil was sun, quarador
Hoje, acordei depois do meio-dia // Today I woke up after noon
chovia, passei mal no elevador // It was raining; I felt sick in the elevator
ouvi na rua as garras do Metrô // I heard the metro’s talons on the street below
O avô morreu // The grandfather died
Mudou Vila Isabel ou mudei eu? // Did Vila Isabel change or did I?
Brasil
Tá em falta o honesto sol do quarador // We’re missing that honest sun of the quarador 

— Commentary —

Todo mundo é carioca. Mas Aldir Blanc é carioca mesmo.
Dorival Caymmi

1aldir-aos-7-anos-no-quintal-da-casa-dos-avos-maternos-em-vila-isabel
Aldir Blanc at age seven in Vila Isabel.

rua-dos-artistas-e-arredores-de-aldir-blanc-557101-mlb20271391652_032015-fAldir Blanc was born in Estácio — one of Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhoods known as the “cradle of samba” — in 1946. When he was six*, his family moved to Vila Isabel (another “cradle of samba”) to a house on Rua dos Artistas. The yard of the new home provided a perfect natural playground for a young child, with its guava, orange and banana trees. These trees, and the sounds associated with them – like cicadas and song-thrushes (sabiás, the Brazilian national bird) – became an indelible part of the imagery of mid-19th-century Vila Isabel that Aldir passes on through his songs, poetry, and stories (crônicas).  Aldir weaves together the scenery, sounds, and slang from the era, elegantly recreating Rio’s Zona Norte of his childhood.

Vila Isabel was one of Rio de Janeiro’s first planned neighborhoods, laid out by the abolitionist Barão de Drummond in the early 1870s. (Drummond is better known for having created Brazil’s widely popular, albeit illegal, animal-based gambling game, Jogo do Bicho, to promote his new zoo in Vila Isabel.) The thoroughfare, named for the date in 1871 that Princesa Isabel decreed the Law of Free Birth,  earned the distinguished designation of “boulevard” because it was most painstakingly modeled after Parisian boulevards. In the song, the store clerks on the boulevard, like their French forebear Madame Bovary,  exude disappointment with their monotonous lives; nearby, oiti trees waltz, as if to Strauss’s famous “Tales from the Vienna Woods.” While Boulevard 28 de Setembro was lined with pau-ferro (“iron wood trees”) in 1910, oiti is another favorite native tree for urban arborization that was planted around Vila Isabel and surrounding Zona Norte neighborhoods in the beginning of the 20th century.

aldir_blanc_vasco
Aldir Blanc in a Vasco jersey.

Agatha Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express was first released in 1934, and the “victim and assassin” line makes reference to this mystery. I imagine that with Orient Express, Aldir is referring to the tram that ran in Vila Isabel until the mid-1960s, or the bus line.  Blanc, like the late-night coachman of the song, is vascaíno – a die-hard fan of Rio’s Vasco da Gama football team. To “give some to the saint” is a practice of pouring a little bit of alcohol on the ground before drinking. In this line, though in the translation it sounds as though he’s still talking about the coachman, here he actually seems (to me) to be back to talking about himself.

Closely associated with the melancholy pierrotthe marcha-rancho is a slower, more richly melodious style of Carnaval marcha that was most popular from the 1930s – 1950s. Aldir’s mention of the pierrot of a marcha-rancho sets the stage for the reminiscence that follows,  a wistful tribute to a series of beloved masters of Brazilian popular music of the 20th century who had passed away over the preceding 25 years, and who were known for the characteristics he mentions: Lupicínio’s famous song “Nervos de aço,” for instance, Vinicius’s full glass of spirits, and ultimately, Elis’s overwhelming majesty. The song was composed shortly after Elis Regina’s untimely death in January 1982, which had left Aldir stunned. The two had been devoted musical partners, but they’d recently had a falling out, of sorts. Aldir laments that he hadn’t properly gotten the chance to reconcile.

“Tempos do Onça e da Fera”

lugar-onde-a-ma%cc%83e-velha-ia-1965-quarar-a-rou-pa-pq
Example of a “quarador”, or bleaching ground. Sometimes clothes were laid on wire drying racks.

“Nos tempos do Onça” (in the days of the Jaguar) is an old-fashioned carioca way of saying a long, long time ago. The saying derived from references to the Portuguese administrator of Rio de Janeiro from 1725 – 1732, Luís Vaia Monteiro. Monteiro’s harsh, irascible nature earned him the nickname of the “onça,” or jaguar.

The quarador — also known as quaradouro or cuarador — was an especially sunny plot in the yard or courtyard where clothes were laid out to dry, and is usually referred to as a drying ground or bleaching ground in English.  Here Aldir recalls the quarador in his childhood home, where his dear grandfather’s shirts soaked up the “honest sun” of the olden days together with elements of the natural surroundings.

Aldir has said that by and large his lyrics and writings are built of the recollections of the little boy who lived in Vila Isabel, where he could hear Benedito Lacerda’s flute floating in from nearby, and where he was likely first enchanted by the sambas of his predecessor in the Vila, the “poet of the Vila” Noel Rosa. To this day, when asked to choose “the most beautiful song,” he gives a few responses – all by Noel Rosa.

These two songs clearly express Aldir’s love and pining for the neighborhood as it was in his early childhood, or even before. Aldir’s grandparents helped raise him — in part because his mother suffered from debilitating depression — and his close relationship with them may have helped him develop his rich repertoire of old-time sayings and manners of speaking, along with his robust sense of nostalgia.

For more on the Aldir Blanc – João Bosco partnership, see these posts.

* The ages that he lived in Vila Isabel change slightly in different accounts. In this recent interview with O Globo, he recalls that it was from ages 3 – 11. In A poesia de Aldir Blanc, Melodias e Letras Cifradas… he recalls that it was from ages 6 – 13.

Tarzan, o Filho do Alfaiate

Lyrics from “Tarzan, o Filho do Alfaiate” by Noel Rosa and Vadico (1936)

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Quem foi que disse que eu era forte? // Who said I was strong?
Nunca pratiquei esporte // I’ve never played sports
nem conheço futebol…// I don’t follow football
O meu parceiro sempre foi o travesseiro // My partner has always been my pillow
E eu passo o ano inteiro // And I go the whole year
sem ver um raio de sol // without seeing one ray of sunlight
A minha força bruta reside // My brute force resides
Em um clássico cabide // On a classic coat-hanger
já cansado de sofrer // Already weary of suffering
Minha armadura é de casimira dura // My armor is made of stiff cashmere
Que me dá musculatura // Which gives me ‘musculature’
mas que pesa e faz doer // but which is heavy, and causes pain

Eu poso pros fotógrafos // I pose for photographers
e destribuo autógrafos // and give out autographs
A todas as pequenas lá da praia de manhã // To all the broads out on the morning beach
Um argentino disse, me vendo em Copacabana: // An Argentinian said, seeing me in Copacabana:
No hay fuerza sobre-humana que detenga este Tarzan‘// ‘There’s no super-human force that could stop this Tarzan’

De lutas não entendo abacate // Of bouts, I know squat
Pois o meu grande alfaiate // You see my masterful tailor
não faz roupa pra brigar // Doesn’t make clothes to fight in
Sou incapaz de machucar uma formiga // I’m incapable of hurting an ant
Não há homem que consiga nos meus músculos pegar//And there’s no man alive who could touch my muscles
Cheguei até a ser contratado // I had even been signed
Pra subir em um tablado // To go up in a ring
pra vencer um campeão // And beat a champion
Mas a empresa, pra evitar assassinato // But the company – to prevent homicide –
Rasgou logo o meu contrato // swiftly tore up my contract
quando me viu sem roupão // when they saw me sans robe

Eu poso pros fotógrafos // I pose for photographers
e destribuo autógrafos // and distribute autographs
A todas as pequenas lá da praia de manhã // To all the broads out on the morning beach
Um argentino disse, me vendo em Copacabana: // An Argentinian said, seeing me in Copacabana:
No hay fuerza sobre-humana que detenga este Tarzan‘// ‘There’s no super-human force that could stop this Tarzan’

Quem foi que disse que eu era forte? // Who said I was strong?
Nunca pratiquei esporte // I’ve never played sports
nem conheço futebol…// I don’t follow football
O meu parceiro sempre foi o travesseiro // My partner has always been my pillow
E eu passo o ano inteiro // And I go the whole year
sem ver um raio de sol // without seeing one ray of sunlight
A minha força bruta reside // My brute force resides
Em um clássico cabide // On a classic coat-hanger
já cansado de sofrer // Already weary of suffering
Minha armadura é de casimira dura // My armor is made of stiff cashmere
Que me dá musculatura // Which gives me ‘musculature’
mas que pesa e faz doer! // but which is heavy and causes pain!

— Commentary —

Ad for the 1936 movie Cidade Mulher
Ad for the 1936 movie Cidade Mulher
Noel Rosa in 1937
Noel Rosa in 1937. Noel is known for his brilliantly poetic and humorous observations of carioca society in the 1930s.

Noel Rosa composed six songs, including this humorous samba, for the 1936 film Cidade MulherRio is often referred to poetically as cidade-mulher (lady-city) in homage to its exquisite enchantments. (In popular music, along with Noel Rosa’s eponymous marcha composed for the movie, there’s Paulo da Portela’s beautiful samba “Cidade Mulher.”)

The movie in and about Rio provided the perfect opportunity for Noel Rosa to flex his critical poetic muscles. He is known for his witty lyrical commentary on carioca society, and this samba satirizing the scene on Rio’s beaches at the time is a perfect example of his humorous critique of one aspect of society in Rio in the 1930s.

Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan set a tough standard of beauty for boys in Rio to achieve.
Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan set a tough standard of beauty for boys in Rio to achieve.

In the early 1930s, Hollywood movies shattered previous standards for male beauty in Rio, establishing a new, much brawnier image of an attractive man. In the 1933 movie Tarzan the Ape Man, translated in Portuguese to Tarzan, Filho das Selvas (Tarzan, Son of the Jungle – hence the title of this song, “Tarzan, Son of the Tailor”),  Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller played the hero: broad shoulders and booming biceps became the ideal many carioca men strove to achieve.

But when so many of the wispy but well-heeled boys on the beaches of Noel Rosa’s Rio de Janeiro couldn’t live up to this standard of beauty, they turned to their trusty tailors, who gave them enough heavy shoulder padding to add plenty of “musculature.” Their strength therefore resided on a weary weighed-down coat-hanger.

Almirante recorded the song for the movie.

Source for this post: Noel Rosa: Uma biografia by João Máximo and Carlos Didier