“Vento de maio” (1966) and “Vento de maio” (1979)

“Vento de maio” by Gilberto Gil (music) and Torquato Neto (lyrics), 1966 



Oi você, que vem de longe // Hey you [girl] who’s come from so far away
Caminhando há tanto tempo // Been walking for so long now
Que vem de vida cansada // You, arriving tired of life
Carregada pelo vento // Carried in by the wind
Oi você, que vem chegando // Hey you, who’s just getting here
Vá entrando, tome assento // Come on in, take a seat
Desapeie dessa tristeza // Dismount from that sorrow
Que eu lhe dou de garantia // Cause I give you this guarantee
A certeza mais segura // With the utmost certainty
Que mais dia, menos dia // That one of these days
No peito de todo mundo vai bater a alegria // Joy will beat in everyone’s chest
Oi, meu irmão, fique certo // Hey, my brother, be confident
Não demora e vai chegar // It won’t take long and is sure to come
Aquele vento mais brando // That gentler wind
E aquele claro luar // And that bright moonlight
Que por dentro desta noite // That within this night
Te ajudarão a voltar // Will help you make your way back
Monte em seu cavalo baio // Get up on your bay horse
Que o vento já vai soprar // Cause the wind’s about to blow
Vai romper o mês de maio // The month of May is gonna break
Não é hora de parar // It’s not the time to stop
Galopando na firmeza // Galloping on steadily
Mais depressa vais chegar // You’ll get there more swiftly


“Vento de maio” by Telo Borges & Márcio Borges (1979) 


Vento de maio rainha de raio estrela cadente // Wind of May, queen of rays, falling star Chegou de repente o fim da viagem  // Suddenly the end of the trip has arrived
Agora já não dá mais pra voltar atrás // Now there’s no going back
Rainha de maio valeu o teu pique // Queen of May, your insistence served
Apenas para chover no meu piquenique // only to rain on my picnic
Assim meu sapato coberto de barro // Leaving my shoe covered in mud
Apenas pra não parar nem voltar atrás // only to keep me from stopping or going back
Rainha de maio valeu a viagem // Queen of May, the trip was great
Agora já não dá mais… // Now it can’t go on
Nisso eu escuto no rádio do carro a nossa canção // But meanwhile I hear our song on the car radio
Sol girassol e meus olhos abertos pra outra emoção // Sun, sunflower, and my eyes open for another emotion
E quase que eu me esqueci que o tempo não pára // And I almost forgot that time doesn’t stop
Nem vai esperar // Nor will it wait
Vento de maio rainha dos raios de sol // Wind of May, queen of the sun’s rays
Vá no teu pique estrela cadente até nunca mais // Go on get lost falling star, until never
Não te maltrates nem tentes voltar o que não tem mais vez // Don’t mistreat yourself or try to go back to what no longer has a chance
Nem lembro teu nome nem sei // I don’t even remember your name, I don’t even know
Estrela qualquer lá no fundo do mar // Just one of those stars in the depths of the sea
Vento de maio rainha dos raios de sol // Wind of May, queen of the sun’s rays
Rainha de maio valeu o teu pique // Queen of May, your insistence served
Apenas para chover no meu piquenique // only to rain on my picnic
Assim meu sapato coberto de barro // Leaving my shoe covered in mud
Apenas pra não parar nem voltar atrás // only to keep from stopping or going back

— Commentary —

Torquato & Gil, 1960s.
Torquato & Gil, late 1960s.

Torquato Neto wrote the lyrics for the first “Vento de maio” here in partnership with Gilberto Gil just before the Tropicália movement they were such an important part of took off.

Gil, Ana Duarte and Torquato at Torquato's wedding in 1966.
Gil, Ana Duarte and Torquato at Torquato’s wedding in 1966.

Neto (November 9, 1944 – November 10, 1972) was a lyricist, poet and journalist born in the arid northeastern Brazilian city of Teresina, Piauí.  He was fascinated with poetry and activism from a young age: At eleven, he requested the complete works of Shakespeare from his parents; at fifteen, he was kicked out of his school in Teresina for his political rabble-rousing. Neto then spent three years studying in Salvador (1960-63), where he first became acquainted with the Bahian musicians Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, Caetano Veloso and Caetano’s sister, Maria Bethânia, and Gal Costa, along with the Bahian lyricist and poet José Carlos Capinan, who would also become a pivotal player in Tropicália.

Chico_TorquatoIn 1965, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso moved to São Paulo and spent a lot of time between there and Rio, and that’s when their collaboration with Neto really got going. In 1966, Elis Regina and Jair Rodrigues recorded Neto’s and Gil’s “Louvação,” and the song became Neto’s first big hit as a lyricist. That same year, Wilson Simonal released “Vento de Maio”, and in 1967 it became an even bigger success with Nara Leão’s recording of the song as the title track of her album.

Torquato Neto, Caetano Veloso, and José Carlos Capinan.
Torquato Neto, Caetano Veloso, and José Carlos Capinan.

1967 was the year that Tropicália blasted onto the Brazilian music scene, beginning with Caetano’s “Alegria, Alegria” and Gil’s “Domingo no Parque.” On the seminal collaborative album from that movement — Tropicália ou Panis et Circensis (1968) — three of the biggest hits had lyrics by Neto: the Tropicália anthem “Geleia Geral,” with Gil; and “Mamãe Coragem” and “Deus vos salve esta casa santa,” with Caetano; that year, with Gil, Neto also released the hit “Marginalia II.”

Torquato Neto at Rio's D'Engenho de Dentro Psychiatric Hospital.
Torquato Neto at Rio’s D’Engenho de Dentro Psychiatric Hospital.

It’s no coincidence that Neto died a day after his twenty-eighth birthday. He committed suicide after struggling with depression throughout his twenties, leaving a note with a flurry of disconnected thoughts that ended by asking those who found him not to wake his three-year-old son.

 

 

 

– “Vento de Maio” (Telo Borges & Márcio Borges, 1979) –

L-R:  Mané Buxa, Milton Nascimento, Jaceline (on floor), Lô Borges, Célio Cabral, Telo Borges, Duca Leal and Márcio Borges at Milton Nascimento's house in Três Pontas, Minas Gerais, 1971.
L-R: Mané Buxa, Milton Nascimento, Jaceline (on floor), Lô Borges, Célio Cabral, Telo Borges, Duca Leal and Márcio Borges at Milton Nascimento’s house in Três Pontas, Minas Gerais, 1971.
Milton Nascimento in the middle and Telo Borges at right in Belo Horizonte in 1973, celebrating 35 years of marriage for the Borges's parents.
Milton Nascimento in the middle and Telo Borges at right in Belo Horizonte in 1973, celebrating 35 years of marriage for the Borges’s parents.

“Vento de maio” (1979) is Telo Borges‘s first recorded composition. Telo, born January 22, 1958, is the younger brother of Márcio Borges (b. January 31, 1946)  and Lô Borges (b. January 10, 1952). The older Borges brothers became famous when Telo was still just a kid, through their participation in Brazil’s famed music festivals of the late 1960s.  Their careers especially took off in the early 1970s, after their release of the groundbreaking 1972 album Clube da Esquina alongside Milton Nascimento and other clube da esquina (“corner club”)  musician pals from Minas Gerais. In this song, Telo makes several references to the song “Um girassol da cor do seu cabelo” from that album, by Lô Borges and Márcio Borges (and one of the first songs on this blog). References include “our song comes on the radio, sol, girassol“; “just one of those stars in the depths of the sea”; and even the way the song revolves around wind and solar rays : “Girassol…” begins with “vento solar e estrela do mar” (solar wind and starfish).

Around the time Clube da Esquina was released, Telo began to spend his vacations at Milton’s house in Rio, and participated in the recording of Milton’s 1973 album Milagre dos Peixes. At age 17 he composed “Vento de maio,” which he says was about a romance he was living at the time. Elis Regina recorded the song together with Lô Borges on her 1980 LP Elisbringing greater recognition to Telo, who went on tour with Lô that year as part of the Projeto Pixinguinha.

 

 

Lenço no Pescoço

Lyrics from “Lenço no Pescoço” by Wilson Batista
Recorded by Silvio Caldas in 1933

Good audio version(Grooveshark)

My hat tilted to the side
Wood-soled shoe dragging
Kerchief around my neck
Razor in my pocket
I swagger around
I provoke and challenge
I am proud
To be such a vagabond
(Repeat)

I know they talk
About this conduct of mine
I see those who work
Living in misery
I’m a vagabond
Because I had the inclination
I remember, as a child I wrote samba songs

(Don’t mess with me, I want to see who’s right… )

My hat tilted to the side
Wood-soled shoe dragging
Kerchief around my neck
Razor in my pocket
I swagger around
I provoke and challenge
I am proud
To be such a vagabond

And they play
And you sing
And I don’t  give in

— Interpretation —

This is perhaps the most characteristic example of “samba malandro” — samba songs celebrating malandragem,  a rough, vagrant life initially associated with the poor black communities that formed in Rio de Janeiro after slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888.  A life of malandragem was a rejection of the societal norms being imposed at the time by the country’s white elite.  A malandro (sometimes translated as a rogue), facing intense racial discrimination and socioeconomic oppression, responded with his own, individual form of justice, achieved through cheating, fooling and foiling the authorities, and generally getting ahead through manipulation, cunning and shrewdness.

The malandro life involved days spent singing and dancing in samba circles, drinking, womanizing, and gambling in games like  Jogo do Bicho – a popular nationwide lottery allowing bets as low as 1 cent.  (The game was officially outlawed in 1946, but it remains widespread and incredibly popular in Brazil even today.)

Malandros dressed rebelliously and spurned wage work and the capitalist system in general.  However, in part because of increasing repression from Getulio Vargas’s regime (1930 – 1945, described in this post) and in part in response to broader popular trends, there were only a few songs — including “Lenço no pescoço” — dedicated explicitly to the benefits of such a life versus the life of a working man. Most of these songs were produced during the late 1920s and early 1930s, when the celebration of malandragem peaked to such an extent that even Vinicius de Moraes – a student of law and future poet and diplomat –  wrote one of his first songs, in partnership with the Irmãos Tapajós, saying “I’m going to go crazy/I don’t want to work/I was born a malandro/Everyone can see I’m a malandro/ I’ll die a malandro.” Along with “Lenço no pescoço,” other well-known songs dedicated to the malandro life are “Malandragem,” from 1928, and “O que será de mim?” (“What will become of me?”), from 1931.

Under increasing censorship and pressure from the Vargas regime for sambistas to clean up their act (authorities demanded sambistas wear impeccable white suits, for instance) and produce sambas de “exaltação” — exaltations of Brazil’s natural beauty and economic opportunities — and in response to changing tastes among listeners and a broadening national audience for Rio de Janeiro’s sambas, with the proliferation of the radio,  the main themes of samba-malandro songs softened around the mid-1930s.  Sambistas began to focus more on malandros’ artfulness, rather than expressly defying the work that Vargas so heartily promoted. (Laws establishing workers’ rights were defined and formalized under Vargas, including many labor institutions — such as the minimum wage and 8-hour workday — that are still in force today. Of course, Vargas had his own interests in mind: tellingly, the system was modeled after the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini’s Carta del Lavoro.) Also, by the mid-1930s, more and more white sambistas from middle class backgrounds were  becoming popular, diluting the samba-malandro message.

Wilson Batista (1913 – 1968) was born in Campos, in the northern interior region of Rio de Janeiro state. In 1930 his family moved to Rio de Janeiro, and Wilson composed his first samba at age 16 – “Na estrada da vida” (“On the road of life”).  As a poor Afro-Brazilian, and an outsider to Rio’s samba circles, Batista truly had to prove his toughness and guile to make it in Rio. Beginning in the early 1930s, he composed a number of sambas with other famous sambistas of the time that became Carnaval hits throughout the 1930s and 1940s. He produced nearly 600 sambas before dying at 55. While in recent years Batista has been largely overlooked by the media and samba critics,  in the 1970s, Paulinho da Viola declared that he regarded Wilson Batisa as the greatest sambista of all time.

“Lenço no pescoço” stoked a dispute between Wilson Batista and Noel Rosa, a feeble and brilliant white sambista from a middle-class background who had relatively little in common with Batista. Rosa was “not a streetwise tough but a Bohemian poet“; still, his eloquent sambas challenged the samba-malandro link, bridging the favelas and morros, cities and nation of Brazil.  Rosa responded to “Lenço no pescoço” in 1933 with the song “Rapaz Folgado,” a critique of Batista.  The rivalry continued for a few years, with a back-and-forth of sambas disputing the malandro identity and the essence of samba. (2019 update: As João Máximo, Noel Rosa’s biographer, points out in this fantastic 2012 show, a common misconception is that Noel Rosa was denouncing malandragem in general, when in fact he was really just interested in taking jabs at Wilson Batista.)

Sources for this post include Roberto DaMatta‘s Carnavais, Malandros e Heróis;  Bryan McCann’s Hello, Hello Brazil; Instituto Moreira Salles Radio Batuta interview with Batisa biographer Rodrigo Alguzuir; and “Gente do samba: malandragem e identidade nacional no final da Primeira República” por Tiago de Melo Gomes.

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)