Ganha-se Pouco, Mas É Divertido

Lyrics from “Ganha-se Pouco, Mas É Divertido” by Wilson Batista and Ciro de Souza, released by Aracy de Almeida (1941)

___
Ele trabalha de segunda a sábado // He works from Monday to Saturday
Com muito gosto sem reclamar // With great relish without complaining
Mas no domingo ele tira o macacão // But on Sunday he strips off his coveralls
Embandeira o barracão, põe a família pra sambar // Decks out the shack and puts the family to samba
Lá no morro ele pinta o sete // Up on the hillside he cuts loose
Com ele ninguém se mete // No one messes around with him
Ali ninguém é fingido // Up there no one’s phony
Ganha-se pouco, mas é divertido // Money’s short, but it’s fun

Ele nasceu sambista // He’s a born sambista
Tem a tal veia de artista // He has that artist’s vein
Carteira de reservista // Reservist’s Card
Está legal com o senhorio…// In good standing with the authorities
Não pode ouvir pandeiro, não // He can’t hear a pandeiro
Fica cheio de dengo // He swells up with dengo*
É torcida do Flamengo // He’s a fan of Flamengo
Nasceu no Rio de Janeiro // Born in Rio de Janeiro…

— Commentary —

wilsonbatista05_Tinhorão acervo
Wilson Batista, 1957. Image via Instituto Moreira Salles, acervo José Ramos Tinhorão.

Here’s a brighter entry for the Sunday Songs series: no trace of domingueira, or that melancholy Sunday mood, in this classic by Wilson Batista (1913 – 1968) and Ciro de Sousa (1911-1995).

This samba is a typical example of how Batista — a consummate malandro composer best known for his dispute with Noel Rosa over the intricacies of malandragem and samba (on that, see, for example, this post on “Lenço no Pescoço“) — played to the Vargas regime’s (1930-45) demands that samba lyrics promote the sort of upstanding citizen-worker that Vargas projected as the ideal Brazilian.  

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 4.45.14 PM
Aracy’s release of “Ganha-se Pouco, Mas É Divertido” came in the wake of the tremendous success of Batista’s and Ataulfo Alves’s “Oh, seu Oscar!,” which won the DIP’s samba contest in 1940. Image via Carioca acervo, 1940.

Indeed, Batista even voiced support for government censorship of his sambas. As Bryan McCann has written in Hello, Hello, Brazil, Batista once commented on the Vargas-era censors within the most fascist government agency, the Department of Press and Propaganda [DIP]: “Sometimes the DIP censors my lyrics. I get upset, but then I realize they are correct. There has to be some control.”

Batista realized that composers did well to play by the regime’s rules. In 1940, Batista’s and Ataulfo Alves’s samba “Oh, Seu Oscar!” — about a hard-working man burdened by a roving wife — won a DIP-sponsored samba contest, propelling the two Afro-Brazilian composers to new heights of popularity with fans and recording artists.

But to anyone familiar with Batista’s life, it’s hard to read such statements as that above as anything but tongue-in-cheek, and the same goes for many of his verses.

In fact, this song almost line by line embodies the tensions between the two lives and lifestyles portrayed in Batista’s sambas: an upstanding worker who’s really a born sambista; a commanding family man — as long as he doesn’t hear a pandeiro.

*The Afro-descended word dengo is tough to translate but means something like doting attachment and caresses; here it can be taken as something a little more like fiery passion. Most importantly, it provides a brilliant rhyme with “torcida do Flamengo,” Rio’s most popular soccer team on the morros, of which Wilson Batista was indeed a devoted fan. (See, for example, his 1955 “Samba Rubro-Negro” — Samba for the Red & Black.)

 

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 4.52.15 PM
Aracy de Almeida, in a photo published in Carioca magazine in 1935, with the caption: “Aracy de Almeida, one of the most celebrated figures of our ‘broadcasting’…”

Aracy de Almeida (1914-1988) was a tremendously popular singer in the 1930s – 50s whose recording career is central to the story of samba’s rise as Brazil’s national sound during the Vargas era. Her singular, nasally singing style was beloved by audiences and critics alike. Mário de Andrade, one of Brazil’s most prominent twentieth-century modernist intellectuals and musicologists, identified the nasal timbre as a key marker of Brazilianness, and commented that Almeida’s was “a hot, sensual nasality, of delicious timbração [timbre], deeply carioca.”

Almeida is widely known in Brazil as the “voice of Noel Rosa,” and her recording of Rosa’s “O X do Problema” became her trademark. Yet as Pedro Paulo Malta and Rodrigo Alzuguir (Batista’s biographer) point out in this excellent documentary series on Aracy de Almeida, Wilson Batista was in fact the composer Aracy recorded the most; indeed, she recorded more of Wilson’s nearly 600 compositions than any other recording artist.

Ciro_de_Sousa
Ciro de Sousa, image via Acervo Revista Cinearte, 1938.

Another favorite composer of Aracy’s was Ciro de Sousa, Batista’s partner on this song. As de Sousa recalled the story of this song, one day he was in the entry of Café Nice — a  landmark in the history of samba and carioca culture in the 1930s and 40s — when Batista arrived, excited about a samba he’d begun on the bus. Batista sang the first verse up to “tira o macacão” (he strips off his coveralls) and Ciro added “embandeira o barracão” (decks out — literally with little flags — the shack), and the two went on composing from there.  Aracy released the samba in August 1941, with the beautiful backing of Pixinguinha, on flute, and Os Diabos do Céu.

Wilson Batista, for his part, demonstrated such brilliant melodic inventiveness without training or instruments other than a matchbox that the pianist Custódio Mesquita, one of the greatest classically trained popular composers of the 20th century, nicknamed him the “Maestro Caixa de Fósforos,” the Matchbox Maestro. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in the 1970s, Paulinho da Viola said he regarded Wilson Batista as the greatest sambista of all time. Paulinho has recorded a number of Batista’s compositions, including most famously “Chico Brito” and “Meu Mundo é Hoje.”

Cristina Buarque made “Ganha-se Pouco, Mas É Divertido” the title track of her 2000 Batista tribute album. And in 2017, Hermínio Bello de Carvalho produced an album in honor of Aracy’s centenary (a project he had been working on for years), with Marcos Sacramento on vocals and Luiz Flávio Alcofra on guitar. Here is the beautiful medley from that recent album of “Engomadinho,” by Pedro Caetano and Claudionor Cruz, and “Ganha-se Pouco, Mas É Divertido”:

João Gilberto – “João Valentão” (Dorival Caymmi) and “Chão de Estrelas” (Orestes Barbosa and Silvio Caldas)

 

“João Valentão” by Dorival Caymmi (1945)

João Valentão é brigão// João Valentão is a tough
De dar bofetão// He throws blows
Não presta atenção e nem pensa na vida// He doesn’t pay attention and doesn’t even contemplate life
A todo João intimida// He intimidates every João
Faz coisas que até Deus duvida// He does things even God can’t believe
Mas tem seu momento na vida// But he has his moment in life…

É quando o sol vai quebrando lá pro fim do mundo pra noite chegar// It’s when the sun goes breaking over the end of the world, for night to arrive
É quando se ouve mais forte o ronco das ondas na beira do mar// It’s when the roar of the waves can be heard more loudly at the edge of the sea
É quando o cansaço da lida, da vida, obriga João se sentar// It’s when the weariness of the struggle, of life, forces João to sit down
É quando a morena se encolhe, se chega pro lado querendo agradar// It’s when the morena curls up, comes to his side, wishing to please
Se a noite é de lua a vontade é de contar mentiras, de se espreguiçar// If the night is moonlit, the urge is to tell fibs, to stretch out
Deitar na areia da praia que acaba onde a vista não pode alcançar// Lie down on the sand on the beach that ends beyond where the eye can see
E assim adormece esse homem que nunca precisa dormir pra sonhar// And that’s how this man falls asleep, who never needs to sleep to dream
Porque não há sonho mais lindo do que sua terra não há// Because there is no dream more beautiful than his land, there’s none

“Chão de Estrelas” by Orestes Barbosa and Silvio Caldas (1937)

Minha vida era um palco iluminado// My life was a lighted stage
Eu vivia vestido de dourado// I was always dressed in gold
Palhaço das perdidas ilusões// Clown of lost illusions
Cheio dos guizos falsos de alegria// Full of the phony bells of joy
Andei cantando minha fantasia// I went around singing my fantasy
Entre as palmas febris dos corações// Among the feverish palms* of hearts

Meu barracão lá no morro do Salgueiro// My shack, on Salgueiro Hill
Tinha o cantar alegre de um viveiro// Had the cheerful song of an aviary
Foste a sonoridade que acabou// You were the sonority that ended
E hoje quando do sol a claridade //And today, when the sun’s rays
Forra meu barracão, sinto saudade// Stream into my shack, I feel saudade
Da mulher, pomba rola, que voou// For the woman, dove that flew away

Nossas roupas comuns dependuradas// Our modest clothes hanging
Na corda, qual bandeiras agitadas// Out on the line, like waving flags
Parecia um estranho festival// Appeared an exotic festival
Festa dos nossos trapos coloridos// A party of our colored rags
A mostrar que nos morros mal vestidos// Showing that on the poorly dressed hillsides
É sempre feriado nacional// It’s always a national holiday

A porta do barraco era sem trinco// The shack’s door had no latch
Mas a lua furando o nosso zinco// But the moon, boring through our tin
Salpicava de estrelas nosso chão// Peppered our floor with stars
E tu pisavas nos astros, distraída// And you stepped on the stars, absent-minded
Sem saber que a ventura dessa vida// Unaware that the fortune of this life
É a cabrocha, o luar, e o violão// Is the cabrocha, the moonlight and the guitar

— Commentary–

 

Última Hora, Missão 2858-59
João Gilberto’s debut at Copacabana Palace, 1959. Photo via Arquivo Publico do Estado de São Paulo. 
Jornal Aqui Sao Paulo;
João Gilberto. Photo via Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo.

It would be hard to find a foreign lover of Brazilian music whose life wasn’t fundamentally changed by João Gilberto, who died yesterday, July 6, at age 88.  I remember listening over and over to a playlist put together by the fantastic Zuim Podcast in 2011 for Gilberto’s 80th birthday. I was living in New York at the time and the songs — which still bring to mind memories of runs in Prospect Park and drab days at a midtown office — helped inspire this blog, which I started a few months later, and my move to Brazil. They included several from this 1958 recording from the casa de Chico Pereira, linked above. Especially beautiful to me was “João Valentão,” to this day, thanks to that recording, maybe my favorite Brazilian song — or at least one of the first that would come to mind if I had to answer that impossible question. It was one of the first songs I translated for the blog back in 2011. Here it is reprised with João Gilberto singing, along with “Chão de Estrelas” (which also has its own post from 2012), which follows “João Valentão” on the album. Over the next few weeks I hope to get time to translate more João Gilberto recordings on here; for now, here are two of my favorites.

 

*The first verse of “Chão de Estrelas” ends with “among the feverish palms of hearts.” In Portuguese, the literal translation for “clap” in English is “to beat palms.” Orestes Barbosa played with this phrase, referring to beating hearts as “palms of hearts.”

Mascarada/ Minhas Madrugadas/ Injúria/ Recado/ O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)/ Jurar com Lagrimas/ Rosa de Ouro

Lyrics from “Mascarada” by Zé Kéti and Élton Medeiros (1964)


Vejo agora esse teu lindo olhar/ I see your beautiful gaze
Olhar que eu sonhei/ A sight I dreamed of
E sonhei conquistar/ And dreamed of winning over
E que num dia afinal conquistei, enfim/ And that in the end one day I won over at last Findou-se o carnaval/ Carnival ended
E só nos carnavais/ And only during Carnivals
Encontrava-me sem/ I’d find myself unable
Encontrar este teu lindo olhar, porque/ To find your beautiful gaze, because
O poeta era eu/ I was the poet
Cujas rimas eram compostas/ Whose rhymes were composed
Na esperança de que/ Of the hope that
Tirasses essa máscara/ You’d remove that mask
Que sempre me fez mal/ That always caused me pain
Mal que findou só/ Pain that ended only
Depois do carnaval/ After Carnival

Lyrics from “Minhas Madrugadas” (Paulinho da Viola/ Candeia, 1965)

Vou pelas minhas madrugadas a cantar/ I go along through my late nights, singing
Esquecer o que passou/ To forget all that happened
Trago a face marcada/ I show wear and tear
Cada ruga no meu rosto/ Every wrinkle on my face
Simboliza um desgosto/ Represents a hardship

Quero encontrar em vão o que perdi/ I want to find in vain what I lost
Só resta saudade/ Only saudade remains
Não tenho paz/ I have no peace
E a mocidade/ And my youth
Que não volta mais/ That will never return

Quantos lábios beijei/ How many lips I kissed
Quantas mãos afaguei/ How many hands I caressed
Só restou saudade no meu coração/ Only saudade is left in my heart
Hoje fitando o espelho/ Looking in the mirror today
Eu vi meus olhos vermelhos/ I saw my bloodshot eyes
Compreendi que a vida/ And understood that the life
Que eu vivi foi ilusão/ I lived was an illusion

Lyrics from “Injúria” by Élton Medeiros and Cartola

Pois é/ That’s right
Tudo começou assim/ That’s how it all started
Alguém se vingou em mim/ Someone took revenge on me
Inventando o que eu não pratiquei/ Making up something I hadn’t done
Pois é/ That’s right
Só deus sabe o quanto amei/ Only god knows how much I loved
Por te amar tanto chorei/ For loving you how I cried
E chorando levo a coisa até o fim/ And crying I take the thing to its end
Não sei como foste acreditar/ I don’t know how you came to believe
Em mentira tão vulgar/ In such a vulgar lie
De um sujeito tão vulgar também/ From such a vulgar guy what’s more
Sofri a maior decepção/ I’ve suffered the greatest disillusion
Tentarei te esquecer/ I’ll try to forget you
Pois te amar foi ilusão/ Because loving you was an illusion
Não sei porque foste derrubar/ I don’t know why you went and knocked down
O castelo que eu fiz/ The castle I built
Em meu castelo era tão feliz/ In my castle I was (or you were) so happy


Lyrics from “Recado” by Paulinho da Viola and Casquinha (1965)

Leva um recado/Take a note
A quem me deu tanto dissabor/ To the one who caused me such bitterness
Diz que eu vivo bem melhor assim/ Say that I live much better like this
E que no passado fui um sofredor/ And that in the past I was a wretch
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
E agora já não sou/ And now I’m not anymore
O que passou, passou/ The past is the past
{bis}

Vai dizer à minha ex-amada/ Go and tell my ex-love
Que é feliz meu coração/ That my heart is happy
Mas que nas minhas madrugadas/ But that in my late nights
Eu não esqueço dela, não/ I haven’t forgotten her
Leva um recado!/ Take a note


Lyrics from “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” by Cartola and Élton Medeiros (1963)

A sorrir/ Smiling
Eu pretendo levar a vida/ I intend to lead my life
Pois chorando/ Because crying
Eu vi a mocidade/ I saw my boyhood
Perdida/ Lost

Finda a tempestade/ Once the storm’s over
O sol nascerá/ The sun will come out
Finda esta saudade/ Once this saudade is over
Hei de ter outro alguém para amar/ I’ll find someone else to love


Lyrics from “Jurar Com Lágrimas” by Paulinho da Viola (1965)

Jurar com lágrimas/ Swearing with tears
Que me ama/ That you love me
Não adianta nada/ Won’t get you anywhere
Eu não vou acreditar/ I won’t believe it
É melhor nos separar/ It’s better for us to split up

Não pode haver felicidade/ There can’t be bliss
Se não há sinceridade/ If there’s no sincerity
Dentro do nosso lar/ In our home
Se aquele amor não morreu/ If that love hasn’t died
Não precisa me enganar/ You don’t need to try to fool me
Que seu coração é meu/ That your heart is mine


Lyrics from “Rosa de Ouro” by Paulinho da Viola, Élton Medeiros and Hermínio Bello de Carvalho (1965)

Ela tem uma rosa de ouro nos cabelos/ She has a golden rose in her hair
E outras mais tão graciosas;/ And others too so lovely
Ela tem outras rosas que são os meus desvelos/ She has other roses that are my devotion
E seu olhar faz de mim um cravo ciumento/ And her gaze turns me into a jealous thorn
Em seu jardim de rosas/ In her garden of roses
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada em meu peito!/ To have this rose planted in my heart
Rosa de ouro, que tesouro/ Golden rose, what a treasure
Ter essa rosa plantada no fundo do peito!…/ To have this rose planted deep in my heart…

 

— Commentary —

Screenshot 2018-08-09 at 1.10.29 PM
Paulinho da Viola and Élton MedeirosPhoto via Instituto Moreira Salles.

I translated all of these together because they’re all recorded as a single medley track on the album Samba na Madrugada (1966). In April 1966, just before leaving for the First Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal, Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros hurriedly recorded the albumwhich became an enduring samba classic.  (It was supposed to be called Na Madrugada, but the record company misprinted the name, and it stuck.)

According to Élton Medeiros, in an interview recorded in 1985 for the General Archive of the City of Rio de Janeiro, he and Paulinho recorded the album in a single night on the eve of their trip to Africa, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Medeiros laughed as he recalled the other musicians joking that “Benil [Santos, the album’s producer] thinks you’re going to die on that plane,” because Santos was in such a rush to record everything before they left.

Medeiros said that by the middle of the night he was exhausted, and the album included moments of him falling asleep, including at the beginning of the first song in this ‘potpourri,’ or medley, “Mascarada.” He said he could be heard nodding off as the song began but that they were in too much of a rush to do a retake.

In 1968, the renowned music critic Luiz Carlos Maciel wrote in the Rio daily Correio da Manhã that the album transmitted a “pleasant spontaneity,” with performances offering the “freshness of improvisation”; Medeiros’s description of the recording session helps to explain that vibe. Maciel praised Samba na Madrugada as a model samba album, beginning, “O samba carioca has its traditions. And almost all of them can be found on this LP by Paulinho da Viola and Élton Medeiros.” He wrote that the collection of sambas revealed “roots on the morro” — the favela — “but a trunk nurtured by the asphalt,” or more refined city below.

Medeiros recalled that he and Paulinho were in a bit of a fight at the time with Zé Kéti, with whom they had been performing and recording as A Voz do Morro since they all began to frequent Cartola’s restaurant Zicartola together in 1964. So they abandoned A Voz do Morro and decided, upon Benil Santos’s urging, to record an album on their own.

The trombonist on the album is Raul de Barros, who also traveled with the Brazilian delegation to the festival in Senegal. Élton Medeiros played trombone as a teenager, and had always been a vocal admirer of the instrument. He stopped playing when the friend whose trombone he had borrowed asked for it back; after that, he said he went into a botequim and bought a matchbox — a cheaper and more portable instrument. He can be heard playing matchbox on this recording.

A couple notes on the other songs here: “Recado” was the first samba Paulinho da Viola played when he went in late 1964 to Portela Samba School. When the composers there asked him to show them one of his compositions, he played the first part of “Recado” twice and recalls that Casquinha jumped in with the second part on the spot.

Cartola and Élton Medeiros also composed “O Sol Nascerá (A Sorrir)” on the spot when challenged to compose a samba one night at the house on Rua das Andradas that prefigured Zicartola.

Main source for this post:  Élton Medeiros depoimento para o Projeto Memória Músical Carioca, Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 4 July 1985.