Na estrada da vida

Lyrics from “Na estrada da vida” by Wilson Batista (1929), recorded by Luis Barbosa (1933)


Todo homem carrega sua cruz // Every man bears his cross
Na estrada da vida // On the road of life
Que é longa e sem luz // That’s long and dark
Sou mais infeliz que outro qualquer // I’m unhappier than the next guy
Tenho um contrapeso, é de uma mulher // I have an extra weight, it’s a woman’s
(o destino assim quer) //(That’s how fate wants it)
Com desdém vive pra me criticar // With disdain, she lives to criticize me
Teu orgulho algum dia há de acabar // Some day her pride will run out
Eu sei que de mim tu não tens dó // I know that you don’t pity me
A culpa é minha, eu podia viver só // It’s my fault, I could live alone
(Mas é que todo, todo, todo…)// (But it’s just that every, every, every)
Deus é justo, e eu não te rogo praga // God is just, and I don’t wish a plague on you
O que se faz aqui, aqui mesmo se paga // What’s done here is paid for right here
Caminho pela estrada sem ter luz // I walk along the road without any light
Vou pagando os meus pecados // I just go along paying for my sins
Carregando a minha cruz // Bearing my cross

–Commentary —

irmaos_Barbosa
Luis Barbosa, middle, with brothers Paulo Barbosa on piano and Barbosa Jr  (right) singing.

As Jairo Severiano points out  in Uma história da música popular brasileira, all of the greatest voices from Brazil’s Época de Ouro (1930s, ’40s and ’50s), with the exception of Vicente Celestino, recorded sambas. These singers included Orlando Silva, Francisco Alves, and Silvio Caldas. But several radio crooners specialized particularly in sambas, offering beautiful renditions that exemplified how the blossoming genre ought to be sung. These singers included Mario Reis, Ciro Monteiro, Vassourinha, Araci de Almeida – and Luis Barbosa.

Mario Reis was the first to achieve resounding success in the early ’30s with sambas recorded in a colloquial style, rather than the over-dramatized formality of romantic songs of the period.  Shortly afterward, when Reis was at his peak, Luis Barbosa appeared on the scene. Barbosa adopted a similar style to Reis’s, while incorporating perfectly timed breaks and beating the rhythm on a straw hat, which, on top of being charming, proved easier to handle than a heavier pandeiro. These trappings made Barbosa an immediate crowd pleaser, beginning with his appearance at age 21 on the variety shows Esplêndido Programa and Programa Casé. Renowned Brazilian music critic Lúcio Rangel said of Luis Barbosa: “He was the most extraordinary of all samba singers. He possessed disconcerting rhythm, rare musicality, and he transformed the sambas he sang, adding his extra special touch.” Mario Lago, another of Barbosa’s illustrious fervent admirers, thought Luis Barbosa was at his best on stage, accompanied by a good pianist; Lago felt Barbosa stiffened up in the recording studio.

Barbosa died of tuberculosis at age 28, and while it’s tough to come by records of his performances, he left behind nearly 40 recordings, including “Seja breve” (by Noel Rosa, 1933); “No tabuleiro da baiana” in a duet with Carmen Miranda (by Ary Barroso, 1936), and “Lalá e Lelé” (by Jaime Brito and Manezinho Araújo, 1937), along with this 1933 recording.

Barbosa was so admired by the early ’30s that when he surprised Wilson Batista on 28 April 1933, telling him that he had recorded this song, Wilson, elated, proceeded to go out and get totally plastered. He was arrested, but upon explaining why he was celebrating, he made friends with the officer who had arrested him, who even went on to give Wilson a little money.

This song was special for Wilson Batista because it was his first samba performed for the public in Rio. (His first to be recorded was “Por favor vá embora,” recorded in 1932.) Batista moved from his hometown of Campos dos Goytacazes to Rio de Janeiro in 1929, and began to hang out and get odd jobs around the Teatro de Revista (like Vaudeville theaters), where he dreamed of becoming a tap dancer. At the theater he had the chance to show this composition to Araci Cortes, who performed the song in 1929.

Main sources for this post: Uma história da música popular brasileira by Jairo Severiano, and Wilson Baptista: O samba foi sua glória by Rodrigo Alzuguir.

Recording: Victor – 28 April 1933, released in December 1933; Piano: Mário Travassos de Araújo, with Luis Barbosa on the straw hat for percussion.

 

 

Meus vinte anos

Lyrics from “Meus vinte anos” by Wilson Batista and Silvio Caldas (1942)



Good Audio Version (Silvio Caldas)

In women’s eyes, in the mirror in my room
Is where I see my age
The portrait in the living room makes me remember achingly my youth
Life for me has been so wretched, only bitter disenchantment
Ay, I’d give everything to be able to go back to being twenty (repeat)

You left in my life the vivid shadow of tremendous yearning
Leaving me, you ended up showing me the counterpoint, killing my faith
And today disillusioned – I’ve suffered a lot –
Full of bitter disenchantment
Ay, I’d give everything to be able to go back to being twenty

— Interpretation —

Wilson-Batista
Wilson Batista, looking dapper c. 1933.

In this samba, Wilson Batista aches over getting older, lamenting that his appearance continues to diverge from that of the portrait in the living room, and that women’s eyes perhaps don’t shine as brightly when they see him.

Batista was a malandrostyle samba composer — an unapologetic scoundrel sort, known for his impassioned defense of waywardness in a battle he fought in samba songs with the more refined bohemian Noel Rosa. (Rosa contended that malandro sambistas should  toss out their razor blades, stop dragging their wood-soled shoes, and basically get over themselves. You can read about the feud here.)

Batista wrote this song when he was twenty-nine — an age when most would scoff at someone for pining for their youthful days of yore. But maybe he knew his lifestyle did not promote longevity; he died at 58.

The theme of fleeting youth is a universal one, and the song was one of Wilson Batista’s greatest successes as a lyricist. Silvio Caldas wrote the melody and recorded the samba in 1942, and the song was a hit throughout the following year.

Lyrics in Portuguese

Nos olhos das mulheres
No espelho do meu quarto
É que eu vejo a minha idade
O retrato na sala
Faz lembrar com saudade
A minha mocidade

A vida para mim tem sido tão ruim
Só desenganos
Ai, eu daria tudo
Para poder voltar
Aos meus vinte anos.

Deixaste em minha vida
A sombra colorida
De uma saudade imensa
Deixando-me ficaste
Mostrando-me o contraste
Matando a minha crença
E hoje desiludido
Muito tenho sofrido
Cheio de desenganos
Ai, eu daria tudo
Para poder voltar
Aos meus vinte anos.

Main source for this post: A Canção no Tempo: 85 Anos de Músicas Brasileiras, vol 1, by Jairo Severiano and Zuza Homem de Mello

Rapaz folgado

Lyrics from “Rapaz Folgado” (Idle Youth) by Noel Rosa (1933)

Stop dragging your wood-soled shoe
Because a wood-soled shoe was never a sandal
Take that kerchief off your neck
Buy dress shoes and a tie
Throw out that razor
That gets in your way
With your hat to the side, you slipped up
I want you to escape from the police
Making a samba-song
I already gave you paper and a pencil
Arrange a love and a guitar

Malandro is a defeatist word
All it does is take away
All of the value of sambistas
I propose, to the civilized people
To call you not a malandro
But rather an idle youth

— Interpretation —

As I mentioned in the previous post, “Rapaz folgado” was Noel Rosa’s response to Wilson Batista’s anthem to the malandro sambista “Lenço no pescoço.” The dispute continued in samba form over the next couple of years: Batista responded to “Rapaz folgado” with “Mocinho da Vila,” which suggested that a pretty boy from Vila Isabel – the middle class neighborhood where Rosa was born – had no right to discuss malandragem or even penetrate the world of sambas do morro; rather, he should stick to more erudite music and pursue his radio career.  Rosa, in turn, responded with “Feitiço da Vila” (Enchantment of Vila), a technically and lyrically elegant samba that affirmed that sambistas from Vila brought samba to a new level with their poetic lyrics and broader themes. “Feitiço da Vila” quickly became one of the most popular sambas of all time. The dispute continued over the course of a few more sambas, but the success of “Feitiço da Vila” evidently spoke to the popularity of Noel’s perspective.

Noel Rosa (1910 – 1937) is revered as Brazil’s greatest “popular poet” and storyteller: In his brief life — he died of tuberculosis at age 26 —   he contributed profoundly to the evolution of samba and Brazilian national identity, more broadly.

Born to a middle class family in Vila Isabel, Rio de Janeiro, Noel came from a background much different from the Afro-Brazilian sambistas from the nearby favelas.  What’s more, an accident at birth left Noel Rosa with a crushed jaw that left his face permanently distorted, preventing him from achieving the dapper look common to sambistas of the time. Rosa was white, sickly and forlorn, but his clever lyrics and technical prowess brought samba to a new level in Brazil, bridging the favelas — where Rosa often collaborated with  sambistas like Ismael Silva — with the rest of the city, and linking samba symbols — the malandro, the morena and the batucada — to Brazil’s national nascent national identity.

Sources for this post: Hello, Hello Brazil by Bryan McCann; Literature Comentada: Noel Rosa

Post by Victoria Broadus (About)