Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas

Lyrics from “Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas” by Carlos Lyra and Vinicius de Moraes (1963)

Original recording (Jorge Goulart)

Our Carnival is over
No one hears songs being sung
No one passes by anymore, playing, happy
And in people’s hearts, longing and ashes are all that’s left
In the streets, the scene is of people who don’t even see one another
Who don’t even smile
Hug and kiss one another and go their separate ways
Dancing and singing love songs
And meanwhile, it’s necessary to sing
More than ever, it’s necessary to sing
It’s necessary to sing and cheer up the city
This sadness we feel will end any day now
Everyone will smile
Hope has returned – it’s the people who dance
Contented with life, happily singing
Because there are so many serene things
And such grand promises of light
So much love to give that we don’t even know about
How I wish I could live to see it
And frolic in other Carnivals
With the beauty of those Carnivals of the past
What lovely marches
And the people singing their song of peace, their song of peace

— Interpretation —

Vinicius de Moraes and Carlos Lyra in the early 1960s.
Vinicius de Moraes and Carlos Lyra in the early 1960s.

“Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas” (March of Ash Wednesday) is a seemingly prescient protest song:  Vinicius de Moraes and Carlos Lyra wrote the song in 1963, on the cusp of the coup that installed a  military dictatorship in Brazil until 1985.  The lilting lyrics that lament the end of Carnival can be interpreted as mourning the end of a brighter, more carefree period in Brazil.

Carlos Lyra was an important figure in the wildly popular bossa nova movement of the early 1960s. João Gilberto recorded three of Lyra’s songs — “Maria Ninguém”, “Lobo Bobo”, and “Saudade fez um samba” — on the seminal bossa nova album Chega de Saudade (1959). But Lyra reacted against bossa nova’s lightheartedness – which he felt was too shallow – and quickly established a politically activist musical stance, as this post highlights. In 1961, he helped found the  Centro Popular de Cultura (Popular Culture Center) of the National Students’ Union, which aimed to promote revolutionary art that would politically educate the masses and cultivate a “popular, democratic national culture.”  Carlos and Vinicius wrote this song on the same day that they finished the “Hino da UNE (Hymn of the National Students’ Union), which beckons, “To your feet, young guard/ the student class, always in the vanguard, struggles for Brazil.”

Jorge Goulart was the first singer to release “Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas” in 1963, but Nara Leão’s 1964 recording made the song a hit.

In the documentary Mosaícos – A Arte de Vinicius de Moraes, Vinicius and Carlos remember the beginning of their partnership, which Vinicius says began in 1962.  Carlos Lyra recalls, “When he made Orfeu with Tom [Jobim], I practically fell in love with Vinicius.” (Orfeu marked the start of Vinicius’s musical partnership with Tom Jobim, in 1956. ) Lyra continues,  “I called his house and said, ‘Hi, this is Carlos Lyra’ and he said ‘Oh – little Carlos!’ — going ahead and belittling me (laughing) — I’ve heard a lot about you, what can I do for you?’ So I decided to get diminutive too, and said, ‘Oh, I’d just like some little lyrics!’ And he said to come on over!”  Before long, Carlos Lyra, like Tom before him, found himself working with Vinicius on lyrics for a musical, Pobre Menina Rica (1964).

Lyrics in Portuguese

Acabou nosso carnaval
Ninguém ouve cantar canções
Ninguém passa mais
Brincando feliz
E nos corações
Saudades e cinzas
Foi o que restou

Pelas ruas o que se vê
É uma gente que nem se vê
Que nem se sorri
Se beija e se abraça
E sai caminhando
Dançando e cantando
Cantigas de amor

E no entanto é preciso cantar
Mais que nunca é preciso cantar
É preciso cantar e alegrar a cidade

A tristeza que a gente tem
Qualquer dia vai se acabar
Todos vão sorrir
Voltou a esperança
É o povo que dança
Contente da vida
Feliz a cantar

Porque são tantas coisas azuis
E há tão grandes promessas de luz
Tanto amor para amar de que a gente nem sabe

Quem me dera viver pra ver
E brincar outros carnavais
Com a beleza
Dos velhos carnavais
Que marchas tão lindas
E o povo cantando
Seu canto de paz
Seu canto de paz

Main source for this post not linked in the text: A Canção no Tempo: 85 anos de músicas brasileiras, vol. 2: 1958 – 1985, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello

Cotidiano no. 2

Lyrics from “Cotidiano no. 2” by Vinícius de Moraes and Toquinho (1972)

Good Audio Version (Vinícius de Moraes & Toquinho)

Hay dias que no sé lo que me pasa
I open my Neruda and shut out the sun
I mix poetry with cachaça
And I end up arguing over football
But it doesn’t matter, I’ve got my guitar (x2)
I wake up in the morning, bread and butter
And so much, so much blood in the paper
But then the whole troop of children comes by
And I even start to think Herod was normal
But it doesn’t matter, I’ve got my guitar
Later on, I play the lottery with the wife
Who knows, our day might come
And I laugh, because a rich man laughs for nothing
And after all it doesn’t hurt to dream
But it doesn’t matter, I’ve got my guitar
Saturdays at home, I get all boozed up
And dream up phenomenal solutions
But when sleep comes, and the night dies away
The day always tells the same stories
Sometimes I want to believe, but I’m unable,
It is all an utter folly
So I ask God: Listen my friend,
If it was meant to be undone, why did you make it at all?
But it doesn’t matter, I’ve got my guitar.

— Interpretation —

Toquinho and Vinícius de Moraes
Toquinho and Vinícius de Moraes

Toquinho and Vinicius de Moraes composed this song together on a languid day in Itapuã, Salvador, Bahia. Toquinho was playing around on his guitar as Nilzete, his maid, served up juices and whiskey “with rhythmic gestures.” Nilzete swayed around in a t-shirt with “My love” printed in giant letters. Toquinho relates that he played the first melodic line of the song, singing “My Love na camisa de Nilzeeete” (My love on Nilzete’s t-shirt). He summoned Vinícius to complete the composition with him. Vinícius, suggesting a tribute to his fellow poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda, replaced Toquinho’s “My love na camisa de Nilzeeete” with “Hay dias que no sé lo que me pasa,” believing it was a line from a Neruda poem. That’s how the song, whose title means “Quotidian no. 2,” began; Vinícius went on to “develop other ideas — beautiful, fantastic and terrible — about the quotidian,” recounts Toquinho.

toquinho e vinicius 2One day in Paris, Toquinho and Vinicius sang “Cotidiano no. 2” for Pablo Neruda, and Vinícius proudly explained the homage. Neruda politely pointed out that the line was actually from a tango, not a poem of his, provoking a rare moment of embarrassment for Vinícius. Toquinho held back his laughter.

The partnership and friendship between Toquinho and Vinícius began in 1970. The year before, when he was in Italy with Chico Buarque, Toquinho played guitar for a few songs on a tribute album for Vinícius, and Vinícius liked what he heard. In early 1970, back in Brazil, Toquinho – just 23 at the time – woke up one early afternoon and his mother told him Vinícius de Moraes had called, and wanted him to call back. Vinícius asked Toquinho to tour with him. A few months later, the two were together on a boat to Argentina (Vinícius, like Tom Jobim, avoided flying). They became close friends and collaborators up until Vinicius’s death ten years later.

Vinicius de Moraes would be turning 100 today, October 19, 2013. He died in 1980 from health problems related to drinking.

King Herod, referred to in the song, is known for having mistreated and killed children. The lyrics in the video above are slightly different (by just a few words) from those in the original recording.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Hay días que no sé lo que me pasa
Eu abro o meu Neruda e apago o sol
Misturo poesia com cachaça
E acabo discutindo futebol

Mas não tem nada, não
Tenho o meu violão

Acordo de manhã, pão sem manteiga
E muito, muito sangue no jornal
Aí a criançada toda chega
E eu chego a achar Herodes natural

Mas não tem nada, não
Tenho o meu violão

Depois faço a loteca com a patroa
Quem sabe nosso dia vai chegar
E rio porque rico ri à toa
Também não custa nada imaginar

Mas não tem nada, não
Tenho o meu violão

Aos sábados em casa tomo um porre
E sonho soluções fenomenais
Mas quando o sono vem e a noite morre
O dia conta histórias sempre iguais

Mas não tem nada, não
Tenho o meu violão

Às vezes quero crer mas não consigo
É tudo uma total insensatez
Aí pergunto a Deus: escute, amigo
Se foi pra desfazer, por que é que fez?

Mas não tem nada, não
Tenho o meu violão

Main source for this post: História de Canções: Toquinho, by João Carlos Pecci and Wagner Homem

Samba de Orly

Lyrics from “Samba de Orly” (1970)
Music by Toquinho; lyrics by Chico Buarque and Vinicius de Moraes

Chico Buarque and Toquinho sing the version banned by censors:

Good Audio Version (censor-approved)

Go on, my brother, catch that plane
You’re right for running away like this
From this cold, but kiss
My Rio de Janeiro
Before some opportunist makes a grab
Beg pardon for the duration of my sojourn
But don’t say anything about seeing me crying
And tell the tough ones that I’m carrying on
Go see how that idle life is going
And if you can, send me back some good news

— Interpretation —

Toquinho (L), Chico Buarque, and Vinicius de Moraes.

On December 13, 1968, Brazil’s military government –  in power since 1964 – issued Institutional Act 5 (AI-5), which shut down the National Congress, cut off all channels for criticism of the government and gave unbounded power to the president to rule by decree.  AI-5 ushered in the darkest years of Brazil’s military dictatorship, known as the Anos de Chumbo (Years of Lead), which lasted until the weakened government restored habeas corpus in 1978. The country’s official transition to democracy was in 1985.

Before AI-5 the military already had a close eye on Chico Buarque. Earlier that year he had released his first play, Roda Vivawhose language and content were an affront to military morals. In July, 1968, the paramilitary group Comando de Caça aos Comunistas (Command for Communist Hunting) stormed the set and beat the actors; soon after, the play was banned when a government censor deemed it “subversive” material by a “retarded” author wherein the actors disrespected “everyone and everything – even their own mothers.”

Chico Buarque (foreground) and Vinicius de Moraes (background) in the Passeata dos Cem Mil, a massive protest against the dictatorship on June 26, 1968. Photo via

A few days after AI-5 was issued, government agents arrested Chico in his home and brought him to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, where he was detained for interrogation about his play and his participation in the Passeata dos Cem Mil (March of the Hundred Thousand),  the largest and most threatening demonstration against the dictatorship to date.

The following month Chico went into exile in Rome, where he was already known for his 1966 hit “A Banda.” By May of that year he had booked a tour in Italy, and he sent for his friend and musical partner Toquinho to play with him. The pair ended up playing 35 shows together over the next six months.

Near the end of his stay in Italy, Toquinho wrote home about what an incredible friend and partner Chico had been: “I know a lot of great people who want the best for us, but people like Chico – I really think they’re hard to find.”  Toquinho was eager to go home, but sad to leave his friend behind in Italy. In November, 1969, one day before departing for Brazil  (from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, not Paris’s Orly, of the title), he left the music for this song with Chico as a parting gift. Chico penned the song’s final verse right away, but did not finish the lyrics until after his return to Brazil in March, 1970.

Chico Buarque and Toquinho in exile in Italy in 1969. Photo via Correio Braziliense.

When Toquinho and Chico were reviewing the final version, they were with Vinicius de Moraes, who said they should make the lyrics harsher to reflect the pain of life in exile. Vinicius changed the line “Pede perdão pela duração dessa temporada” (Beg pardon for the duration of my sojourn) to “Pede perdão pela omissão um tanto forçado” (Beg pardon for this negligence, rather forced). Chico and Toquinho accepted the change, but the censors did not, so the samba was released with the original, “blander” lines, as Vinicius called them.

The line about an opportunist making a grab for Rio de Janeiro is likely a reference to the military officers who were awarded top political positions around the country, including in Rio de Janeiro. And “the tough ones” most likely refers to the militants who stayed in Brazil to fight the dictatorship. (Alternatively, this could be interpreted as a message to the military itself. But the phrase in Portuguese – “pros da pesada” – generally reflects a certain respect or reverence, which would not be directed toward the dictatorship.)  Paris’s Orly Airport was chosen for the song because it was much better known to Brazilians in Brazil and in exile than Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Vai, meu irmão
Pega esse avião
Você tem razão de correr assim
Desse frio, mas beija
O meu Rio de Janeiro
Antes que um aventureiro
Lance mão

Pede perdão
Pela duração dessa temporada
Mas não diga nada
Que me viu chorando
E pros da pesada
Diz que vou levando
Vê como é que anda
Aquela vida à toa
E se puder me manda
Uma notícia boa

Pede perdão
Pela omissão um tanto forçada
Mas não diga nada
Que me viu chorando
E pros da pesada
Diz que vou levando
Vê como é que anda
Aquela vida à toa
Se puder me manda
Uma notícia boa

Main sources for this post: Chico Buarque: Histórias de Canções by Wagner Homem (2009); Toquinho: 30 Anos de Músicas  by João Carlos Pecci (1996); and commentary from Wagner Homem and Roberto Biela.