Sem Ilusão

Lyrics from “Sem Ilusão” by Elton Medeiros and Antonio Valente (1977)

No carnaval não vou querer me fantasiar// This Carnival, I don’t want to put on a costume
Não vou querer me vestir de rei// I don’t want to dress up as a king
Não quero mais colorir a dor// I no longer wish to gloss over the pain
E se alguém quiser me aplaudir// And if anyone wants to applaud me
Vai ter que ser assim como eu sou// It’s gonna have to be for me, as I am
Não quer dizer que não vou nem brincar// I don’t mean to say that I’m not going to revel
Só não quero é enganar o meu coração// I just don’t want to fool my heart
No Carnaval, não vou mais sair fingindo//During Carnival, I’ll no longer go out pretending
Que passo a minha vida inteira a cantar// That I spend my whole life singing
Eu vou me divertir, na certa eu vou sambar// I’ll have fun, sure, I’ll samba, no doubt
Mas dessa vez a ilusão não vai me pegar// But this time, illusion won’t get the best of me
No Carnaval eu sempre sai sorrindo// During Carnival, I’ve always gone out smiling
Me divertindo só pra desabafar// Having fun just to lighten my heart
Três dias pra sorrir, um ano pra chorar// Three days to smile, a year to cry
Mas dessa vez a ilusão não vai me pegar// But this time, illusion won’t get the best of me

— Interpretation —

1966: Paulinho da Viola and Elton Medeiros practice with Clementina de Jesus for their show in Dakar, Senegal, at the first World Festival of Black Arts. Paulinho recalls he and Elton only played atabaque - no guitar or cavaquinho - and that the show was a huge success.
1966: Paulinho da Viola and Elton Medeiros practice with Clementina de Jesus for their show in Dakar, Senegal, at the first World Festival of Black Arts. Paulinho recalls he and Elton only played atabaque – no guitar or cavaquinho – and that the show was a huge success.
Elton Medeiros on the matchbox and Paulinho da Viola on the guitar, cover of their 1968 album Samba na Madrugada
Elton Medeiros on the matchbox and Paulinho da Viola on the guitar, cover of their 1968 album Samba na Madrugada

Elton Medeiros (born 22 July 1930, Glória, Rio de Janeiro) has never been keen on playing the role people expect of him. He’s been known since the 1960s as a master of rhythm on the matchbox, for instance, but never liked posing with the diminutive instrument, saying those kinds of pictures and the like contributed to the “folklorization” of samba: “A lot of people think that to make samba you have to be a bar fly. I know how to beat a rhythm on a matchbox, but I don’t play up that role just to live up to what people expect of a sambista.” This song takes a similarly rebellious tone: Why do I have to pretend I have no cares in the world, and fool even myself, just because it’s Carnival? And it came at a time when a lot of sambistas were particularly down on Carnival, as Elton hints at in the introduction to the song on the 1977 album Os Quatro Grandes do Samba.

On the album,  Guilherme de Brito asks Elton Medeiros  why he, who had founded three samba schools, wasn’t parading with any. Medeiros responds, “It’s true, Guilherme, lately I’ve really lamented what’s been happening with Carnival.”

The three samba schools he founded were: GRES Tupi de Brás de Pina [late 1940s], GRES Unidos de Lucas [1967] and GRANES Quilombo [1976], which was founded essentially out of protest of the direction samba schools had taken. In 1977, Elton indeed marched — or maybe danced is more appropriate — in Quilombo’s first Carnival parade.

The sentiment expressed in this song reflects the widespread feeling of dejection that had taken hold among most “old-guard” samba composers by the mid to late 1970s: Most sambistas in Rio thought leadership at samba schools had become too autocratic and profit-driven, contributing to the commoditization of samba by seeking only sambas that would sell well. And any profits stayed in the pockets of outsiders who had taken power at the schools, or was used to pay for expensive artists to produce ever more extravagant Carnival floats and costumes.

Paulinho da Viola in the first Quilombo Carnival parade.  I wasn't able to find images of Elton Medeiros in the parade.
Paulinho da Viola in the first Quilombo Carnival parade. I wasn’t able to find images of Elton Medeiros in the parade.

In protest — particularly of the situation at Portela — in 1975-1976, together with Candeia and Wilson Moreira (both Portela), and Nei Lopes (Salgueiro) — Elton Madeiros founded Grêmio Recreativo de Arte Negra e Samba Quilombo.  Candeia had come up with the idea for the new samba school after growing totally fed up with Portela, as this post explains.

Elton Medeiros was never a member of Rio’s biggest schools like Portela  and Mangueira; in the 1970s he was a composer with GRES Unidos de Lucas. But Elton felt close to Portela because the school had chosen him and his line of composers at Unidos de Lucas to be their “patrons.” Medeiros also worked closely with several of Portela’s most revered composers, including Zé Kéti, Paulinho da Viola, and Candeia, along with Mangueirenses like Cartola — with whom he composed one of the best-loved samba classics of all time (and one of the first entries on this blog), “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir),” Nelson Cavaquinho, and Nelson Sargento.

Conjunto Voz do Morro was one of the groups formed at Zicartola, in an effort to give more publicity to the greatest talents in samba do morro.
Conjunto Voz do Morro was one of the groups formed at Zicartola, in an effort to give more publicity to the greatest talents in samba do morro. L-R: Paulinho da Viola; Anescarzinho do Salgueiro; (???); Zé Cruz do Chapéu de Palha; Elton Medeiros; Zé Keti; Jair do Cavaquinho.

Medeiros was born in the Glória neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, where he lived until the family moved to Brás de Pina when he was seven. Just a year later he reportedly began composing sambas with neighborhood friends, and as a teenager he learned to play trombone and saxophone at school.  When he was about 20 he met Zé Kéti,  and in the early 1960s he became a regular at Zicartola — the restaurant Cartola ran with his wife Zica from 1963 – 1965 —  where he sang and “swapped ideas” (from the Portuguese trocar ideia) with Rio’s samba and cultural elite.

In 1965, Élton Medeiros began singing with the groups Voz do Morro and Rosa de Ouro, with Zé Kéti (Voz do Morro), Paulinho da Viola, Nelson Sargento, Anescarzinho do Salgueiro, Jair do Cavaquinho, Zé Cruz (Voz do Morro) and Oscar Bigode (Voz do Morro). Both shows aimed to introduce the most promising "sambistas de morro" to a wider audience and give them the opportunity to record their songs.
In 1965, Élton Medeiros began singing with the groups Voz do Morro and Rosa de Ouro

Two groups that propelled the  Zicartola set to samba stardom were born from the encontros at the restaurant:  In 1965, Elton joined Herminio Bello de Carvalho’s musical show Rosa de Ouro. Soon after, upon request from the record label MusiDisc, Zé Kéti formed the group Conjunto A Voz do Morro with performers from Rosa de Ouro:  Jair Costa (Jair do Cavaquinho), Paulinho da Viola, Elton Medeiros, Anescarzinho do Salgueiro, Oscar Bigode, Zé Cruz – who played percussion on a straw hat, Nelson Sargento (for the second album), and of course, Zé Kéti. Rosa de Ouro recorded two albums (“Rosa de Ouro” and “Rosa de Ouro II“), and Voz do Morro recorded three, “Roda de Samba,” “Roda de Samba II,” and “Os Sambistas.”

Zicartola, with Nelson Cavaquinho on the guitar and Zé Kéti standing.
Zicartola, with Nelson Cavaquinho on the guitar and Zé Kéti standing.

In 1968, Elton and Paulinho da Viola recorded the beautiful album “Samba na Madrugada,” with sambas composed with Cartola, Mauro Duarte, Zé Keti, Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, and Paulinho and Elton together.  1973, Elton recorded his first self-titled solo album, with his classics “Pressentimento” (with Herminio Bello de Carvalho), “Mascarada” (with Zé Kéti), and “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir).” Four years later, with Candeia, Nelson Cavaquinho, and Guilherme de Brito, he recorded the historic album that included “Sem Ilusão.”

(The date is wrong on the YouTube video):

Here is footage of a Rosa de Ouro reunion in 1980, with each sambista contributing to a pot-pourri with a samba he composed:

Elton Medeiros with friend and partner Paulinho da Viola. Medeiros was a master of the matchbox but said he didn't like posing with the "instrument" because he thought those kinds of pictures contributed to the folklorization of samba.
Elton Medeiros with friend and partner Paulinho da Viola. Medeiros was a master of the matchbox but said he didn’t like posing with the “instrument” because he thought those kinds of pictures contributed to the folklorization of samba.

 

 

 

Foi um rio que passou em minha vida

Lyrics from “Foi um rio que passou em minha vida” by Paulinho da Viola (1969)

If some day my heart is consulted
To find out if it ever went astray
It will be tough to deny
My heart has a compulsion for love; love isn’t easy to find
The mark of my dashed dreams is deep, is deep
Only a love can erase it…
And yet, aiii, and yet, there’s a special story
That in just a short time left an everlasting imprint on my heart
It was one day during Carnival
I was weighed down with a certain sorrow, not thinking of new love
When someone I don’t remember announced: Portela, Portela
And the samba that brought daybreak captured my heart
Ah, my Portela, when I saw you go by
I felt my heart race — my whole body enraptured
My joy return
I can’t define that blue
It wasn’t of the sky
It wasn’t of the sea
It was a river that passed through my life
And my heart let itself be carried away
It was a river that passed through my life
And my heart let itself be carried away

— Interpretation —

Odeon EP, 1969
Odeon EP, 1969
Paulinho da Viola saw the title "Por onde andou meu coração" (Where my heart has gone, roughly) and was inspired to compose this samba, which begins with musings about his heart having gone astray.
Paulinho da Viola saw the title “Por onde andou meu coração” (Where my heart has gone, roughly) and was inspired to compose this samba, which begins with musings about his heart having gone astray.

Walking down Rua México in downtown Rio one day in 1969, Paulinho da Viola looked in the window of a book shop and a title jumped out at him: “Por Onde Andou Meu Coração” (Where My Heart Has Gone, roughly). He liked something about the phrase, and it stuck in with him.

Paulinho had recently composed the lyrics for a tremendous hit for his rival samba school Mangueira, “Sei lá, Mangueira,” and he was feeling a bit guilty about the success of this samba. So as he recounts, when he got home that day, he started playing around with his guitar and composed this samba, using the book’s title as inspiration for this beautiful song dedicated to his beloved samba school Portela.  Portelenses fell in love with the song immediately, and it has become his best known and loved composition of all time. (For more on the story behind the song, see this post on “Sei lá, Mangueira.”)

Paulinho recalls that he initially wrote the samba with a different melody, which he explains and sings for what he says is the first time in this recent video of his show in Circo Voador.  Paulinho da Viola started singing “la-iá, la-iá, la-iá la-iá” at the end of the song after hearing Jair Rodrigues’s recording, and he recalls Jair always joked that this meant he was Paulinho’s partner in the composition.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Se um dia
Meu coração for consultado
Para saber se andou errado
Será difícil negar
Meu coração
Tem mania de amor
Amor não é fácil de achar
A marca dos meus desenganos
Ficou, ficou
Só um amor pode apagar
A marca dos meus desenganos
Ficou, ficou
Só um amor pode apagar…

Porém! Ai porém!
Há um caso diferente
Que marcou num breve tempo
Meu coração para sempre
Era dia de Carnaval
Carregava uma tristeza
Não pensava em novo amor
Quando alguém
Que não me lembro anunciou
Portela, Portela
O samba trazendo alvorada
Meu coração conquistou…
Ah! Minha Portela!
Quando vi você passar
Senti meu coração apressado
Todo o meu corpo tomado
Minha alegria voltar
Não posso definir
Aquele azul
Não era do céu
Nem era do mar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar
Foi um rio
Que passou em minha vida
E meu coração se deixou levar!

“Coisas banais” and “Preciso me encontrar”

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


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


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



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

— Interpretation —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyrics in Portuguese: Preciso me encontrar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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