“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 paralyzation 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

Zumbi

Lyrics from “Zumbi” by Jorge Ben

Album: A Tábua de Esmeralda (1974)

Angola, Congo, Benguela

Monjolo, Cabinda, Mina

Quiloa, Rebolo

Here where the men are

There’s a big auction

They say that in the auction,

There’s  a princess for sale

Who came, together with her subjects

Chained on an oxcart

I want to see, I want to see, I want to see

Angola, Congo, Benguela

Monjolo, Cabinda, Mina

Quiloa, Rebolo

Here where the men are

To one side, sugarcane

To the other side, the coffee plantation

In the middle, seated gentlemen

Watching the cotton crop, so white

Being picked by black hands

I want to see, I want to see, I want to see

When Zumbi arrives

What will happen

Zumbi is a warlord

A lord of demands

When Zumbi arrives, Zumbi

Is the one who gives orders

I want to see, I want to see, I want to see

–Interpretation–

Jorge Ben (now known as Jorge Ben Jor) was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1942.  His first major hit was “Mas que nada,” a catchy samba-pop song released in 1963 and subsequently re-recorded around the globe.  With his fusion of samba, bossa nova, rock, rhythm and blues and African American soul music, Jorge Ben did not easily fit in with either the MPB or the Jovem Guarda movements that dominated the Brazilian music scene at the time. He tried to reconcile this by declaring in a song that he came from “the jovem-samba” (“eu sou da jovem-samba”). It didn’t work; the name jovem-samba didn’t catch on (later, samba-rock would stick), and  Caetano Veloso says Jorge Ben was “ostracized by the more prestigious figures” of Brazil’s music and arts scene at the time.  Veloso and Gilberto Gil, who were playing together in Bahia in the early to mid 1960s,  had a deep reverence for Jorge Ben.  Caetano even recounts a time when Gil declared that he would “never again sing any of his own songs because there was a new guy by the name of Jorge Ben who did everything Gil thought he himself ought to be doing”; Caetano found this posture to be a bit exaggerated, and appreciated that it did not last long (though Gil did play one concert of entirely Jorge Ben songs).   A few years later, in 1968, Jorge Ben aligned himself with the tropicalist movement led by Gil and Veloso. Today, Jorge Ben is known as the “father of samba-rock,” a genre whose origins are traced to his 1967 album, Bidu-Silêncio no Brooklin (Brooklin is the name of a neighborhood in São Paulo), which he recorded with the Brazilian rock band The Fevers.

What set Jorge Ben apart at the time, and earned such admiration from Gil and others, was not only his unique musical style but his artistic stance: Veloso describes him as “not only the first great black composer since bossa nova…[but] also and most importantly the first to make that blackness the determining stylistic element… Jorge Ben brought a tone of black consciousness to Brazilian pop music.”

The song “Zumbi” exemplifies this incorporation of black consciousness in Jorge Ben’s songs.

Jorge Ben celebrated black nobility and female beauty in his songs. In Zumbi, he speaks of an African princess, chained to an oxcart; nobility and beauty are immediately associated with the African woman. The names at the beginning of the song are places in Angola. Zumbi refers to Zumbi dos Palmares (b. 1655 — d. 1695), the last leader of the Quilombo of Palmares.  Quilombos were runaway slave settlements, similar to maroon societies in the southern United States or palenques in Cuba. Palmares was the most well-known of Brazil’s quilombos:  in present-day Alagoas state, Palmares was really a community of  ten quilombos, with a total estimated population of 20,000 in 1671.  Runaway slaves initially settled there sometime around 1580, and the settlement eventually attracted not only a steady stream of runaways from the region’s sugar plantations, but also fugitives of other races, including white women accused of witchcraft. The quilombo’s population boomed during Dutch invasions of Brazil’s northeast (1624 – 1654). Overseers on plantations were distracted, allowing more runaways, and in addition, the Portuguese offered freedom to slaves who fought the Dutch; many slaves took advantage of the chance to leave the plantation, deserted the war effort, and fled to Palmares.

Slave masters led frequent expeditions to try to break up Palmares and recapture runaway slaves. During one such mission, a baby from the quilombo was given to the priest of Porto Calvo. Baptized Francisco, the child grew up learning Portuguese and Latin, until he ran away at fifteen to return to Palmares. He took the name Zumbi, which most likely came from the Bantu word Nzumbi, meaning warrior or religious leader.

Zumbi led the quilombo’s resistance until the Portuguese destroyed the settlement with a massive military invasion in February 1694.  Zumbi survived the attacks and fled, but was captured and killed on November 20, 1695. Indignant, the Portuguese put Zumbi’s head on a post on display in Recife, Brazil, in an effort to quiet rumors of his immortality.  Nonetheless,  the myth surrounding Zumbi only grew after his death. To this day he remains the most powerful symbolic figure of  Afro-Brazilian heritage, and November 20 — the day of his death — was designated Black Awareness Day in Brazil.

In this song, when Ben says “When Zumbi arrives,” he draws upon the  Umbanda religion: he is literally stating that Zumbi’s spirit is going to descend to Earth. Umbanda mixes elements of African religions like Candomblé, indigenous lore, Catholicism, and Spiritism, and maintains that spirits descend and inhabit our bodies, or are reincarnated.

Jorge Ben rarely gives interviews. When he gives interviews, he identifies himself as a Catholic; however, a number of his songs have clear references to the Umbanda religion.

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)