Falsa Baiana

Lyrics from “Falsa Baiana” by Geraldo Pereira (1944)



Good Audio Versions: João Gilberto, Gal Costa

[This] baiana, who goes into the samba and just stands there
Doesn’t samba, doesn’t dance, doesn’t move or nothing
Doesn’t know how to leave the youth in a craze

[The] baiana is the one who goes into the samba any which way
That moves, that shakes, twists her hips into a knot
Leaving the young’uns’ mouths watering

The phony baiana, when she goes into the samba,
No one goes out of their way, no one claps
No one opens the circle, no one yells “Oba, Salve a Bahia, Lord”
But we like it when a baiana dances samba just right
From the top on down, she rolls her little eyes, saying,
“I’m a daughter of São Salvador”

— Interpretation —

Geraldo Pereira, image via Funarte

Dona Isaura, the wife of the composer Roberto Martins, takes the dubious honor of being the inspiration for this song. On the second to last night of Carnaval in 1944, Martins was at a bar chatting with Geraldo Pereira when Dona Isaura showed up, dressed up as a baiana (a woman from the state of Bahia, where the population is predominantly of African descent). In contrast to Bahian women, who are reputed for being joyful and exuding positive energy – and for knowing how to dance samba “just right” – Dona Isaura was in a sour mood that night, prompting her husband to observe to Geraldo, “Check out the phony baiana.” Martins’s observation got Pereira thinking about how to distinguish a true baiana from an impostor, and he wrote his greatest hit based on that premise.

Baiana dancing
What would appear to be a true baiana, dancing.

Pereira’s innovative style of syncopated samba and the rhythm within the lyrics themselves had a strong influence on João Gilberto, who, in turn, went on the make this song doubly famous with his bossa nova version, released on the 1973 LP João Gilberto.  

Geraldo Pereira was born in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais,  in 1918, and moved to Rio de Janeiro’s renowned Morro da Mangueira  in 1930. He died in 1955, at age 37, from a hemorrhage that was rumored to have been caused by a fight with an almost mythical marginal figure of the carioca night, the drag artist and capoeirista known as Madame Satã (Madam Satan). Although even Satã took advantage of this story, the most reliable sources say Pereira actually died from an untreated intestinal disease that was aggravated by his drinking habits.

How to dress up as a falsa baiana.
How to dress up as a falsa baiana.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Baiana que entra no samba e só fica parada
Não samba, não dança, não bole nem nada
Não sabe deixar a mocidade louca
Baiana é aquela que entra no samba de qualquer maneira
Que mexe, remexe, dá nó nas cadeiras
Deixando a moçada com água na boca

A falsa baiana quando entra no samba
Ninguém se incomoda, ninguém bate palma
Ninguém abre a roda, ninguém grita ôba
Salve a bahia, senhor

Mas a gente gosta quando uma baiana
Samba direitinho, de cima embaixo
Revira os olhinhos dizendo
Eu sou filha de são salvador

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos da músicas brasileiras by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Melo

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Arrastão

Lyrics from Arrastão (Trawl) by Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes, 1965

Good Audio Version (Grooveshark)

Eh! There are dinghies in the sea
Hey! hey! hey!
They’re trawling today
Eh! Everyone fishing
Enough of the shade, João
Jovi, look at the trawl
Going into the endless sea
Eh! My brother, bring me
Yemanjá for me
My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína

Eh! Pull real slowly
Hey! hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea
Come
Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

My Santa Barbara
Bless me
I want to get married
To Janaína…

Eh! pull real slowly
Hey! Hey! hey!
The trawl is already coming in
Eh! It’s the Queen of the Sea
Come!

Come in the net, João

For me

Help me God
Our Lord of Bonfim
Never before were there seen
As many fish as this

— Interpretation —

Edu Lobo and Vinicius de Moraes‘ “Arrastão,” intepreted by Elis Regina, took first place in Brazil’s I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira, staged by Excelsior TV in 1965. The performance marked a breakthrough in both Edu Lobo’s and Elis Regina’s musical careers: the young artists became household names and came to represent the emerging genre called “música popular moderna” (modern popular music, MPM), which soon began being labeled as MPB —  música popular brasileira. “Arrastão” is considered to mark a watershed moment, when erudite bossa novistas began to explore other styles and incorporate social messages in their music. Edu Lobo mixed social protest with regional influences from northeast Brazil. (In his book Verdades Tropicais, Caetano Veloso recognizes Edu Lobo’s role in incorporating northeastern elements into popular music, remarking, “Actually, the northeastern modalism came through to us more from Edu Lobo, from Rio, than from the border between [northeastern states]Bahia and Pernambuco.”)

“Arrastão” powerfully recalls Dorival Caymmi‘s lyrics about fishing, the sea, and the goddess of the sea Yemanjá.  Fittingly, Edu began composing the song during a music session at Dorival Caymmi’s house. Dorival was singing “História de Pescadores,” and during the third part, “Temporal,” Edu began composing a response, which became the base of the song.

Vinicius de Moraes’ lyrics reveal his involvement at the time with Afro-Brazilian mystical themes; the following year, he released the album Afro-Sambas with Baden Powell.  Yemanjá and Janaína are names for the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian sycretic religion Candomblé.  Catholicism’s Santa Barbara is represented in Candomblé by Yansã, the goddess of wind and storms. Our Lord of Bonfim is the syncretic counterpart of Jesus.

Although “Arrastão” is not explicit in its protest, it is identified as a protest song because of its regionalist and populist undertones. The song evokes a scene from a poor, remote northeastern fishing village, yet was written and performed by young, upper middle class, urban and well-educated Brazilian artists. The element of protest, then, lies in the attempt to draw the urban masses’ attention to social realities in Brazil during the early years of military dictatorship in the country. These kinds of messages were absent from the classic bossa nova songs from a few years earlier, which reflected an optimism that didn’t really consider what was going on outside of Ipanema.

Edu Lobo, identified among a “second wave” of bossa novistas, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1943, son of the composer Fernando Lobo.  He began playing accordion as a child before switching to guitar.  He was profoundly influenced by Dorival Caymmi, and in the early 1960s began playing with Caymmi’s eldest son, Dori. He composed his first song with Vinicius de Moraes in 1962,  “Só me fez bem,” and went on to collaborate frequently with Vinicius, Tom Jobim, and Chico Buarque.

The I Festival of Música Popular Brasileira was such a hit that TV Record, a competitor of Excelsior, immediately appropriated the show, staging a competition by the same name the following year. The military dictatorship shut down TV Excelsior in 1970.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985,  Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello (Editora 34, São Paulo), 1998