Lyrics from “Alvorada” by Cartola, Carlos Cachaça and Hermínio Bello de Carvalho (1968)

Good Audio Version

Dawn up on the hillside, what beauty
No one cries, there’s no sorrow, no one feels displeasure…
The sun, coloring, is so lovely, is so lovely
And nature smiling, painting, painting, … dawn

You too remind me of the dawn when it arrives
Illuminating my lifeless paths
And the rest for me is so little, or almost nothing
Just rambling on like this, on this lost highway

— Interpretation —

Daybreak in Rio de Janeiro, via National Geographic.

The inspiration for this song – another classic samba from Mangueira mainstays Cartola and Carlos Cachaça – came one early morning as the two were walking down Rio’s Pendura a Saia hill, which is part of the larger Morro de Mangueira. Moved by the beauty of the first light of day, and its contrast with the destitution on the hillside, they composed the first lines of the samba together.  They then brought the piece to their friend Hermínio Bello de Carvalho for completion; Carvalho wrote the final lines while Cartola composed the melody. (For more on the friendship and partnership between Cartola and Carlos Cachaça, see these posts.)

Carlos Cachaça and his wife, Menina, the sister of Cartola’s wife, Zica. Cartola and Carlos Cachaça met in 1922; they became fast friends and went on to found Rio’s most celebrated carnival samba school, Estação Primeira da Mangueira. Photo via Raiz do Samba.

The song recalls the final scene in Black Orpheus, the 1959 film adaptation of Vinicius de Moraes’s play, Orfeu da Conceição (1954). The play brought the Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice to the hillside slums of Rio de Janeiro; it was also the first time Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim composed together.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Cartola, Ismael Silva, and Mano Décio da Viola on the cover of the popular magazine Veja in 1975. At the time, Cartola had stopped performing, hurt and indignant over the poor treatment and low pay that he and his fellow sambistas received in Rio’s recording studios and music venues. Photo via Raiz do Samba.

Alvorada lá no morro, que beleza
Ninguém chora, não há tristeza
Ninguém sente dissabor

O sol colorindo é tão lindo, é tão lindo
E a natureza sorrindo, tingindo, tingindo
( a alvorada )
Você também me lembra a alvorada
Quando chega iluminando
Meus caminhos tão sem vida
E o que me resta é bem pouco
Ou quase nada, do que ir assim, vagando
Nesta estrada perdida.M

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2 : 1958 – 1985 by Jairo Severiano and Zuzu Homem de Mello

Piano na Mangueira

Lyrics from “Piano na Mangueira”
Music by Tom Jobim, Lyrics by Chico Buarque

Album: Antônio Brasileiro (1994)

I’m on the platform
Of the First Station
The Hill came to call me
In a white suit and a straw hat
I will introduce myself to my new partner
I already ordered the piano to be lifted to Mangueira

My music doesn’t stir up the dust
But it can enter the shed
Where the mulatta hangs her skirt
At dawn on Wednesday
First Station of Mangueira…


Cartola (L), Nelson Cavaquinho and Juvenal during a Mangueira Carnaval parade


This is one of many songs paying homage to GRES Estação Primeira de Mangueira, arguably Rio’s most celebrated samba school, founded by Cartola, Carlos Cachaça, Nelson Cavaquinho and others in 1929.

In the DVD “Chico Buarque: Estação Derradeira” (2005), Chico Buarque reveals that he has been a lifelong fan of Mangueira, saying he chose to root for them because “Mangueira is always referenced, its the real capital of samba. The impression people have is that everything started here.” Indeed, Mangueira was the first champion of Rio de Janeiro’s carnaval samba parades, which began in 1932.

Antônio (Tom) Carlos Jobim is considered one of the fathers of bossa nova, along with Vinicius de Moraes and João Gilberto. He is perhaps best known as the composer of “Garota de Ipanema” (Girl from Ipanema); Vinicius wrote the lyrics for the song. (In this clip, you can hear Tom, Vinicius, and João Gilberto perform “Garota de Ipanema” for the first time, in the restaurant Au Bom Gourmet in Rio de Janeiro in 1962. João Gilberto begins, “Tom, what if you were to make a song that could say to us, tell us what is love”; Tom responds: “Look, Joãozinho, I wouldn’t know how, without Vinicius to write the poetry; Vinicius: “For this song to happen, I wish for João to sing…”)

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1927, Tom Jobim’s musical style was influenced principally by jazz and samba, along with more “erudite” music, most notably the French composer and pupil Chopin, Claude Debussy.

By age 20, Tom was performing in parties and nightclubs in Rio de Janeiro.  He recorded his first album in 1954, but only achieved widespread fame in 1954, with “Orfeu da Conceição – a collaboration with Vinicius de Moraes for Vinicius’s play by the same name.

In 1958, João Gilberto released his first album, Chega de Saudadethe album is recognized as the beginning of bossa nova‘s dominance in the Brazilian music scene, and the title track was a collaboration between Tom and Vinicius. Tom became known for his beautiful style on the piano, adding unique, jazz-influenced touches to simple and melodic pieces.

In 1962, Tom achieved international fame when Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd released the LP Jazz Sambawhich included an instrumental track of Tom’s song “Desafinado” (Off key). A year later, Tom sang “Garota de Ipanema” in Carnegie Hall; during the 1960s and 1970s he recorded with major U.S. labels, and spent years in New York City.

Chico Buarque and Tom Jobim met around 1965, but Tom left for the United States very shortly after. He returned in 1967, and Chico and Tom formed a close partnership, with Tom composing music and Chico contributing the lyrics.

The first song they collaborated on was “Retrato em Branco e Preto” (Portrait in Black and White) in 1967. Since they were not very close yet – and perhaps because Tom was trying to motivate Chico – Chico says Tom was very accepting of his lyrics.  By the time they wrote Piano na Mangueira, however, for the 1992 Mangueira parade dedicated to Tom Jobim, Chico noted that Tom insisted on second-guessing his lyrics.  What’s more, when Chico presented him with lyrics that he’d written to match the metric of the music perfectly, Tom changed the music. In certain versions, Tom removes the “already” from “I already ordered the piano be lifted…” because he liked the way the lyrics sounded better that way, according to Chico.

“Dawn on Wednesday” refers to Ash Wednesday, the day after Carnaval. The song is a tribute to Tom and his piano and the legendary Mangueira samba school.