#23 – Caetano Veloso – Coração Materno

from Tropicália, ou Panis et Circensis (Philips, 1968)

Original lyrics:

Disse o campônio a sua amada
Minha idolatrada diga o que qués?
Por ti vou matar, vou roubar
Embora tristezas me causes mulher
Provar quero eu que te quero
Venero teus olhos teu porte, teu ser
Mas diga tua ordem espero
Por ti não importa matar ou morrer
E ela disse ao compônio a brincar
Se é verdade tua louca paixão
Partes já e pra mim vá buscar
De tua mãe inteiro o coração
E a correr o campônio partiu
Como um raio na estrada sumiu
E sua amada qual louca ficou
A chorar na estrada tombou
Chega à choupana o campônio
Encontra a mãezinha ajoelhada a rezar
Rasga-lhe o peito o demônio
Tombando a velhinha aos pés do altar
Tira do peito sagrando da velha mãezinha
O pobre coração e volta a correr proclamando
Vitória, vitória tem minha paixão
Mais em meio da estrada caiu
E na queda uma perna partiu
E a distância saltou-lhe da mão
Sobre a terra o pobre coração
Nesse instante uma voz ecoou
Magoou-se pobre filho meu
Vem buscar-me filho, aqui estou
Vem buscar-me que ainda sou teu!

Translated lyrics:

Said the peasant to his wife
My worshipped one, tell me what you want
For you I’d kill, I’d steal
Even if you make me miserable
I want to show you how much I want you
I praise your eyes, your ways, your way
Only give me an order, I’ll wait
For you it doesn’t matter if I kill or if I die

And then she said playing with the peasant
If your crazy passion for me is real
Leave me now and bring to me
Your mother’s very heart

So the peasant went away
Like a lightning he stroke the road
But his loved one went mad
She fell by the side of the road crying

The peasant returned home
He found his mother praying on her knees
Then he tears her chest
The old woman falls by the altar
He rips her mother’s bleeding heart
And quicky goes back screaming
I did it, I did it, my love

But then on the middle of tthe road he fell,
And at the landing he broke his leg,
And his poor mother’s heart flew away

At this moment a voice roared
My poor son is sad
Come rescue me, son
Come rescue me that I’m still yours

The first Caetano Veloso cut on the album and once again the subject is country life, although in a very dramatic way. I don’t know if this is correct, but maybe you can find some differences between the approaches the guys up North (from Bahia, I’m saying) have and that of the Southeast city guys, like Os Mutantes. Maybe there’s no connection, as Gil, Caetano or any other baiano that became famous that time were peasants themselves, they were very middle class, urban and educated individuals with a strong poetic and artistic inclination. Anyway, it’s cool to see how “country”-themed songs can be written without the songwriter falling into the “rock rural”-The Band thing neither just making a rural psychedelia.

This song prompted me to write about something and I’m already sorry for it, but as I’m a historian, I find it very interesting.

The 60s, as you may know, was a very turbulent decade in modern Brazil history. Its first president, Jânio Quadros, renounced for almost unknown reasons, and he was succeeded by his vice-president, João “Jango” Goulart, which was a much more reformist-inclined president then the former one. Jango was the political godson of Brazilian political legend Leonel Brizola, which exploited (for very good reasons) the political legend of Getúlio Vargas, the main political figure of the first half of the twentieth-century in Brazil. Vargas was nicknamed “father of the poor” and he was very popular because he improved the worker’s conditions (actually, he was the first Brazilian president who gave a thought about it). In the sixties, this conjuncture led to a polarization between the politicians who based themselves on the demands of the workers, and which come close, through Jango’s attempt to establish the reformas de base (structural reforms, like distribution of lands to the peasants), to socialism and communism (at least in the eyes of the opposition), and those politicians who were very conservative and who exploited the fears of the middle class. Needless to say, the almost-socialist guys were also educated urban middle class, just like much of what’s happening in the Arab world right now.

What this all leads us is that until 1964, the date of the Brazilian military coup, the Communist Party enjoyed a huge prestige and it had established the CPC’s (Centro Popular de Cultura, or, Popular Culture Center), which were gatherings that tried to teach workers and mostly peasants about their social condition and how they could improve it and resist it. They were very centered and one must say much of the CPC initiatives assumed a very magisterial tone, but nonetheless they looked upon this often forgotten part of Brazilian population. They also tried to use tradition forms of peasant culture, like autos (one-act theatrical plays) and cordel (the traditional story writing of Northeastern sertão).

What Tropicália tried to achieve was to break away from this magisterial tone and its search of a purity of the so-called popular culture and to assume that Brazil was a modernizing country, with lots of different influences, most of them regarded as bad by the CPC’s (like television and American music) . As I’ve said before, there could only be revolutionary art through a revolutionary form.

This conflict, actually, updates another one from the early Brazilian modernist movement, the one between the anthropophagical appropriation and the search for an authentic Brazilian culture. Funny thing is, the former went to the Communist Party in the 40s, and the latter associated themselves with the right-wing authoritarian movement that appeared the same time. Just to see how things change.

Anyway, it’s this conflict which is behind famous Caetano Veloso’s ranting about it’s forbidden to forbid, as the festivals usually until then favored the guitar-playing guys singing protest or “popular” songs, and not the Tropicália avant-garde.

End of history lesson. Just to relax, now, I must say that that line about the guy ripping his mother’s heart reminded me of the second movie of the Indiana Jones series, and so I’ll finish this post with it!


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