“Saudosa Maloca” & “Torresmo à Milanesa”

Lyrics from “Saudosa Maloca” by Adoniran Barbosa (1951), interpreted by Adoniran Barbosa & Conjunto do Nelson Miranda


Saudosa maloca // Dear old hut
Maloca querida // Beloved hut
Onde nóis passemos // Where we spent
Dias feliz de nossa vida // Happy days of our life

Se o sinhô não tá lembrado / If you are not recalling, sir
Dá licença de contá // Please do let me tell
Qui aqui onde agora está esse edifício artu // That here where this tall building stands
Era uma casa veia um palacete assobradadu // There was an old house, a two-storey’d palace
Foi aqui seu moço// It was here, my boy
Que eu, Mato Grosso e o Joca // That I, Mato Grosso and Joca
Construímos nossa maloca // Made our quarters
Mas um dia nem quero lembrar // But one day, I don’t even want to think of it
Chegô os homeis com as ferramenta // The men with the tools came
o dono mandô derrubá // The owner ordered it torn down
Peguemo’ tuda nossas coisas // We took all our things
E fumos pro meio da rua // And went out to the middle of the road
Ispiá [espiar] a demolição // To watch the demolition
Que tristeza que eu sentia // What sorrow I felt
Cada tauba [tábua] que caia // Every board that fell
Doía no coração // Hurt in my heart
Mato Grosso quis gritar // Mato Grosso wanted to scream
Mas em cima eu falei // But over him I said
O hômiis tá ‘cá razão // The men they got reason
Nós arranja outro lugar // We’ll find another place
se conformemos quando o Joca falou // We only accepted it when Joca said
“Deus dá o frio conforme o cobertor”// “God deals out cold based on the size of the blanket”
E hoje nóis pega páia nas grama do jardim // And today we collect straw in yards of the garden
E pra esquecê nóis cantemos assim // And to forget, we sing like this
Saudosa maloca, maloca querida // Good old hut, dear hut
Onde nóis passemos dias feliz da nossa vida // Where we spent happy days of our life (3x)


Lyrics from “Torresmo à Milanesa” by Adoniran Barbosa and Carlinhos Vergueiro (1979)


O enxadão da obra bateu onze hora // The hoe of the construction site just struck 11 o’clock
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João
Vam s’embora, joão! // Les’go, João

Que é que você troxe na marmita, Dito? // What’d you bring in your lunch box, Dito?
Troxe ovo frito, troxe ovo frito // I brought fried egg, I brought fried egg
E você beleza, o que é que você troxe? // And you, beauty, What’d you bring?
Arroz com feijão e um torresmo à milanesa // Rice with beans and a pork rind à milanesa
Da minha Tereza! // From my Tereza!

Vamos armoçar // Let’s have lunch
Sentados na calçada // Sitting on the sidewalk
Conversar sobre isso e aquilo // Talk about this and that
Coisas que nóis não entende nada // Things we don’t know nothing about
Depois, puxá uma páia // And afterwards hit the hay
Andar um pouco // Take a little stroll
Pra fazer o quilo // To aid digestion

É dureza João! // Ain’t it tough, João! (4x)

O mestre falou // The master said
Que hoje não tem vale não // That today there’s no lunch pass
Ele se esqueceu // He forgot
Que lá em casa não sou só eu // That it’s not just me at home!

— Commentary —

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 1.40.17 PM
Adoniran Barbosa with the vocal group Demônios da Garoa, who were the first to record and popularize many of his songs.

I translated “Saudosa Maloca” to show some of my students so decided to take advantage and make a post out of it!

Adoniran Barbosa’s “Trem das Onze” (translated in an old post here) is his song that has achieved the greatest success outside of São Paulo — specifically in the territorial samba circles of Rio — but “Saudosa Maloca” is probably his most iconic and beloved samba among his fellow paulistasThe version included above was the first recording, but the song only became a hit with this 1955 recording by the vocal group Demônios da Garoa:

That group’s role in popularizing Adoniran’s sambas has generated some controversy in recent years, as members of the present-day iteration of the group have claimed that Demônios was responsible for inventing the “‘narfabeto” (illiterate Italian-inflected) style of singing that Adoniran became famous for. The 1951 recording reveals there is little truth to that claim.

Both of these songs address the rapid expansion of urban Brazil — specifically São Paulo — in the early to mid-twentieth century, and the hard lives of those who built the city but had trouble finding a place in it.

Italian immigrants at a shelter in São Paulo c. 1890. Most immigrants passed through these special shelters before continuing on to coffee plantations. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

As this earlier post explains, Barbosa was born João Rubinato in 1912 to Italian immigrant parents in the interior of São Paulo state. As millions of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 – 1930,  about 4 million more went to South America. Most went to Argentina, but approximately a hundred thousand (exact numbers are hard to come by) disembarked in Brazil. Most of these families, including Barbosa’s, first settled in rural areas to work on and around Brazil’s booming coffee plantations. But as the themes of Barbosa’s songs highlight, most soon ended up seeking better economic possibilities in growing cities.

Italian immigrants selling fruit in the Mooca neighborhood of São Paulo, 1920. Image via Museu da imigração.

As mentioned, Barbosa was famous for composing and singing in the Italian-inflected rural style of speech he grew up with, which is still common all around São Paulo, especially in the rural interior of the state.  I’ve put those words/phrases in bold in the original Portuguese lyrics; it’s things like pronouncing an “r” in place of an “l” (e.g. “armoçar” instead of “almoçar,” to have lunch) and mis-conjugating verbs (e.g., “fumos” instead of “fomos,” we went; “se conformemos” instead of “nos conformamos,” and “nois pega” instead of “nós pegamos.”)  I hope that gives a picture. In a few places I’ve tried to translate into parallel English to add a little of that flavor.

“Maloca” is a pretty hard word to translate. The word originally referred to an indigenous communal dwelling, and can connote an improvised dwelling and the concept of “home.” In this song, I believe it refers to something like squatters’ quarters, set up in the old house that gets torn down.  I haven’t been able to come up with any word in English that would carry all of the same connotations without giving an idea of much greater luxury than “maloca,” so I’ve just left it translated as hut, and “quarters” in one place.

“Saudoso/a” is of course also a challenge: it comes from the notoriously untranslatable word “saudade.” Saudoso is one of my favorite derivatives of saudade. It is often used in the way we use “late” (as in dead) in English, but is much more elegant and appropriately sentimental. (For occasions when no sentiment is called for, the word “falecido/a” might be substituted.)

The phrase “fazer o quilo” is, according to the Internet, a popular corruption of “fazer o quimo,” which refers to chymotrypsin, a chemical responsible for digestion.

In the mid-twentieth century there was a tremendous amount of construction in the centrally located neighborhoods of São Paulo known as Jardins (Gardens): Jardim Paulista, Jardim Europa, Jardim America, etc. Those neighborhoods quickly became some of the city’s wealthiest. In the line “we collect straw in the yards of the garden” (i.e. work clearing yards), “garden” probably refers to that construction boom.

Barbosa and his friend Carlinhos Vergueiro composed “Torresmo à Milanesa” in a bar in 1979. The song apparently began as “Bife à Milanesa,” but Barbosa suggested last minute that they change it to “torresmo à milanesa” to make it more comical, since pork rinds à milanesa doesn’t exist. He then suggested they also change it to “um torresmo à milanesa” — a single pork rind — because that’s “sadder.”

A final note on that song: an enxadão is a hoe. Here it might be referring to some other similar tool from a construction site, but I’m assuming the lyrics mean that a boss struck the time using a hoe (or similar instrument) so that the sound would reverberate across the construction site.

“Esquiva da Esgrima”

“Esquiva da Esgrima” by Criolo (2014)

Talking too much makes gum go sour
Call in SAMU and teach this fool to respect our principles
There’s more god to give than y’all in a chamberpot
Back in the day words alone sorted things out
An exchange of ideas — respect was enough
Money is vile, uncle transacted, virile instincts
The AR-15’s loaded and boys carry rifles
From Grajaú to Curuzú 
For immigration, my people are mules
My inspirations are Black Alien, Ferréz — not Tia Augusta
Minimal, lyrical verse from an oneiric universe
Every hoodlum has empirical know-how
Rap é forte, better believe it: Oui, Monsieur
Perrenoud, Piaget, Sabotá: Enchanté!
It’s that I’m the son of cearenses
The caatinga’s cruel
And my people have hot blood
Wrecked, following the north star
By the blessin’s of Padre Cícero and the lyrics of Edi Rock
Shutting the loons mouths, because he who showers in hatred
Gives off the aroma of death


There’s no mouth to be kissed
No soul to be cleansed
There’s no life to be lived
But there’s money to be counted
In a suit and tie, fulfilling your father’s wishes
Take my son (//your daughter) for the world to lose
It’s heaven, in hell’s mouth, waiting for you
It’s heaven, in hell’s mouth, waiting for…

A ball to kick, a country to sink
Generation that doesn’t just want weed to smoke
Milianos, bad smells and disillusion
Every truncheon is a lash to a trunk
Bushels, Brazilian latifúndios
In showers of smoke, only vinegar quenches thirst
New packages for the same old interests
The Right’s hook-and-bait turned the Left into a fish
Osiris look after me, keep me away from Diabolyn
You don’t have a moto – you don’t get to be in the photo
Mobylettes with dream motors
He tried to flee, and I saw what happened
With no helmet he got screwed
God help him, let’s go
It’s the esquive in a duel, the forgotten tear
The color of my skin
I know some criticize it
Because serpents are to apples
What the apple reflects to the media
Abel had a brother
But Cain had the malice

The art for the album cover was drawn from pieces from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which recently made 125,000 works publicly available through Creative Commons (https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio?ii=3&p=0)
The art for the album cover was drawn from pieces from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which recently made 125,000 works publicly available through Creative Commons (https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio?ii=3&p=0)

This is the second track on the São Paulo rapper Criolo’s third album, Convoque Seu Buda. Criolo — whose real name is Kleber Gomes — says the title, which translates to “Summon your Buddha,” means that everyone should call up the good energy they have within.  Like Nó na Orelha (2011), the album was produced by Daniel Ganjaman and Marcelo Cabral, who were even more liberal with their musical creativity on this album as compared to Nó na Orelha. Also like Nó na Orelha, the album mixes genres, including a samba – “Fermento pra Massa” – and a reggae, “Pé de breque.”  Criolo is tremendously popular in Brazil and abroad, and the album was simultaneously released in Europe (Sterns Music) and the United States (Circular Moves).


There’s lots of explaining for this one, so I’m going to go almost line by line. The title, “Esquiva da Esgrima” – translated in the song as “the esquive [dodge or evasion] in a duel” – likely refers to the artful, evasive moves needed for survival in the periphery of São Paulo.

Criolo starts the song by criticizing people who are all talk, and says it’s best to teach these fools (comédias, literally, “comedies”) using force – which will make it necessary to call in SAMU,  Brazil’s emergency response service (Serviço de Atendimento Móvel de Urgência). Then he makes a play on the saying, “Tem mais deus pra dar do que o diabo para tirar” — roughly, “there’s more God to give than devil to take” — by turning it into “there’s more god to give than all you [shits] in a chamber pot.”

A little further down, Criolo mentions Grajaú, the south São Paulo neighborhood where he grew up. In 2013, Grajaú-SP was singled out as the worst São Paulo neighborhood to live in, in a city of 19 million. Curuzu is a poor and almost exclusively Afro-Brazilian neighborhood in Salvador, Bahia, which might be why he used the name — on top of the ease of the rhyme. In the line, “From Grajaú to Curuzu, for immigration, my people are mules,” Criolo could be making reference to internal migration in search of better opportunities, and the eventual path to drug trafficking that the frustrated hopes of such migration can lead to; he could also be referring to immigration authorities – and by inference, authorities more broadly – equating poor and darker skinned Brazilians to drug traffickers/mules.

Gustavo Black Alien
Gustavo Black Alien has released one (tremendously popular) album to date, Babylon by Gus vol. 1.

Criolo next cites Black Alien – a profoundly respected rapper from Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, who sang with Planet Hemp and Speedfreaks – and Ferrez, an author and rapper, also from São Paulo’s gritty south zone, famous for his “marginal literature.” Tia Augusta, in turn, was a travel agency in São Paulo that was famous for bringing teen groups to Disney World, a trip that is considered one of the main signs of wealth and the first necessary trip abroad for many Brazilians.

The São Paulo rapper Sabotage (1973 – 2003)

Rap é forte (rap is strong) is a song from Criolo’s first album, Ainda Há Tempo; Criolo switches into French —  “enchanté” – enchanted to meet you — to pay tribute to two French…well, French-named Swiss men: Philippe Perrenoud, the Swiss sociologist renowned for his work on the professionalization of teaching, and Jean Piaget, the Swiss developmental psychologist (1896-1980) who fought for improvements in education for children worldwide, and served as director of the International Bureau of Education. In the same breath, Criolo cites “Sabotá,” turning the São Paulo rapper Sabotage‘s name into a French-sounding name; Criolo thus associates Sabotage with these educational leaders in the same way he associates Edi Rock with Padre Cícero later in the song. Sabotage was killed in 2003, at age 29, in a presumed drug fight.  (Here’s a video of him in Daniel Ganjaman’s studio a day before his death.)

Caatinga is an eco-region found only in the interior of northeastern Brazil. Caatinga comes from the Tupi language, meaning "white vegetation" or "white brush."
Caatinga is an eco-region found only in the interior of northeastern Brazil. Caatinga comes from the Tupi language, meaning “white vegetation” or “white brush.”

Criolo goes on to explain he’s the son of cearenses — people who had migrated to São Paulo from the northeastern state of Ceará. Criolo was born around the peak of Brazil’s rural exodus, mostly from the hot, drought-stricken northeast shrublands – the caatinga – to southeastern cities, especially São Paulo. In 1940, only around 31 percent of Brazil’s population lived in cities; by 1970, urban residents accounted for more than 50 percent of the population, and in 1980, nearly 70 percent.

“My people have hot blood” essentially means people who have been beaten down by the conditions in the northeast are tough.

The North Star is given as a reference for something to guide the way after getting lost; it was the star escaping slaves in the United States used to guide them north to freedom.

padre cíceroPadre Cícero — called “Padim Ciço,” like little father — was a Catholic priest from Carto, Ceará, who is known for his deeply influential role as a spiritual, social and political leader in rural Ceará in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; hundreds of thousands of devotees still visit the town each year.

Edi Rock is a rapper with Racionais MC’s, a rap/hip hop group formed in 1988 and widely considered Brazil’s most influential hip hop group of all time.  Here Criolo implies that the same principles can be found in the teachings of Father Cícero and the lyrics of Edi Rock, and goes on to say these ideas can be used to shut up the “lóki” – a corruption of the word “loucos,” crazies — in this case, those who adopt a discourse of hatred and “give off the scent of death” according to the song.

Edi Rock, left, with the other members of Os Racionais MC's.
Edi Rock, left, with the other members of Racionais MC’s.

The refrain sums up the song by talking about a world lacking true pleasures and values, where money is all that matters; people seeking money — heaven — without realizing they’re in the mouth of hell, at its mercy.

“A ball to kick, a country to sink” has a couple of meanings: it could refer to the country’s dedication to and massive investment in football (soccer)  — including the World Cup that was going on in Brazil as Criolo recorded the album — and to a hit of marijuana, which is sometimes called a “bola” (ball).

“Every truncheon is a lash to a trunk” makes reference to recent — well, ongoing — police brutality, and also to the practice of tying slaves to trunks to whip them.

Latifúndios Brasileiros” refers to Brazil’s extremely unequal land distribution — 1 percent of the population controls about 45 percent of the land — and goes on to say “in showers of smoke” (tear gas and pepper spray used liberally and abusively by police in protests, most recently in the June 2013 protests) “only vinegar quenches thirst” possibly referring to the vinegar that was widely used to counteract the effects of these gases, and maybe to the biblical vinegar given to Jesus for his thirst when he was on the cross.

The “hook and bait” of the Right could be referring to the commitment to the economy, broadly: The invisible hand of the financial markets controls the hook and bait of the Right, which lures the Left into its logic, ultimately killing the Left.

Osiris, the ancient Egyptian king of the dead and ruler of the underworld.
Osiris, the ancient Egyptian king of the dead and ruler of the underworld.

Osiris was the ancient Egyptian god of the dead and ruler of the underworld; Criolo asks Osiris to look out for him and protect him from Diabolyn, the villain from the Disney cartoon Wildfire — Cavalo de Fogo, in Portuguese — who was especially evil and rotten to poor people.

“You don’t have a moto [motorbike/motorcycle]…” is criticizing the value placed on material goods like motorbikes in poor fringe neighborhoods like Grajaú; if someone doesn’t have one, they’re not worthy of being in the photo.

In the Bible, a serpent convinced Adam and Eve to try the apple – the forbidden fruit; like the serpent, the media convinces the population to think what it wants them to think.  Finally, Criolo discusses the bible story of Adam and Eve’s children, Cain and Abel: According to the story,  Cain killed his brother Abel after God preferred Abel’s gift over Cain’s; the story represents the first occurrence of murder – fratricide – among humans.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Falar demais chiclete azeda
Chama o SAMU e ensina pra esse comédia
Respeitar nossos princípios
Tem mais Deus pra dar que cês tudo num penico
Antigamente resolvia na palavra
Uma ideia que se trocava
O respeito que se bastava
Dinheiro é vil, tio geriu, instinto viril
AR-15 é mato e os muleque tão de fuzil
Do Grajaú ao Curuzu, pra imigração meu povo é mula
Inspiração é Black Alien, é Ferrez não é Tia Augusta
Verso mínimo, lírico, de um universo onírico
Cada maloqueiro tem um saber empírico
Rap é forte, pode crê, “oui, monsiuer”
Perrenoud, Piaget, Sabotá, Enchanté
É que eu sou filho de cearense
A caatinga castiga e meu povo tem sangue quente
Naufragar, seguir pela estrela do norte
Nas bença de Padim Ciço as letra de Edi Rock
Calar a boca dos lóki
Pois quem toma banho de ódio exala o aroma da morte

[Refrão x2]
Hoje não tem boca pra se beijar
Não tem alma pra se lavar
Não tem vida pra se viver
Mas tem dinheiro pra se contar
De terno e gravata teu pai agradar
Levar tua filha pro mundo perder
É o céu da boca do inferno esperando você
É o céu da boca do inferno esperando…

[Verso 2]
Uma bola pra chutar, país pra afundar
Geração que não só quer maconha pra fumar
Milianos, mal cheiro e desengano
Cada cassetete é um chicote para um tronco
Alqueires, latifúndios brasileiros
Numa chuva de fumaça só vinagre mata a sede
Novas embalagens pra antigos interesses
É que o anzol da direita fez a esquerda virar peixe
Osiris olhe por mim, me afaste de Diabolyn
Quem não tem moto não sai na foto
Mobiletes com motor de dream
Tentou fugir, foi lá que eu vi
Sem capacete, levou rola, Deus acode e vamo aí
É a esquiva da esgrima, a lagrima esquecida
A cor da minha pele, eu sei, tem quem critica
O que a serpente é pra maçã
É o que a maçã reflete pra mídia
É que Abel tinha um irmão
Mas Caim tinha a malícia


“Volta por cima” and “Ronda”

Lyrics from “Volta por cima” (1962) and “Ronda” (1967) by Paulo Vanzolini

“Volta por cima”

I cried, I didn’t try to hide it, everyone saw
They pretended to pity me, they needn’t have
There where I cried, anyone would cry
Come back out on top like I did, I’d like to see who could do that

A man of morale doesn’t stay on the ground
Nor does he want a woman to come give him a hand
He acknowledges the fall, but doesn’t despair
He gets up, shakes off the dust and comes back out on top


At night I roam the city looking for you, without finding you
Amidst gazes, I peek into all the bars, and you’re not there
I return home dejected, disenchanted with life
Dreams bring happiness – you’re in them*
Oh if I had someone who cared for me dearly
That someone would tell me, ‘give up, it’s futile’
But I wouldn’t give up
Rather, with perfect patience, I go back to looking, I’m bound to find you
Drinking with other women, rolling dice, playing billiards
And that day, then, it’ll come out in the first edition:
“Bloody scene in a bar on Avenida São João”

— Interpretation —

Paulo Vanzolini, image via veja.abril.com.br.
Paulo Vanzolini, image via veja.abril.com.br.

Paulo Vanzolini died yesterday, April 28th, three days after his 89th birthday, of complications from pneumonia. He was both a beloved samba musician and one of Brazil’s most accomplished and world-renowned scientists – a zoologist specializing in reptiles.

Vanzolini liked to poke fun at himself as a musician, implying that he’d become a popular sambista in spite of himself: “I work as a zoologist 15 hours a day and I love my job,” he told Folha de São Paulo in 1997. “I can’t sing and I don’t even know the difference between minor and major tones.” His air of blithe irreverence and his knack for managing to be at once politically incorrect and entirely lovable made him wildly popular, with the help of course of his compositions like “Volta por cima” and “Ronda,” two of the best known and most requested songs in music venues in his native São Paulo and around the country.
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