#39 – Vinicius de Moraes – Marcha de Quarta-Feira de Cinzas

Original lyrics:

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

Translated lyrics:

Our Carnival is over
Nobody sings any more songs
Nobody cheers on the streets
And in their hearts
Regrets and ashes are all
That is left

By the street what you see
Is some people that barely
Look at each other
That don’t smile, don’t kiss
Or hug one another
And they go out walking
Singing and dancing
To old love tunes

And nonetheless one must sing
Now more than ever one must sing
One must sing and cheer up the city

The sadness we now have
Will end anyday soon
Everybody will smile
Hope will come back
And the people will dance
Singing and dancing joyfully

Because so much things are so sad
But there’s so much hope on the streets
So much love to give to those
Who we don’t even know yet

I wish I could live to see
And play another Carnivals
With the same joy of
Old Carnivals
What beautiful tunes
The people singing
Their peace chants
Their peace chants

Every carnival has its end…

With this song we come to Ash Wednesday. Its lyrics were composed by the great poet/singer-songwriter/overall-bon-vivant Vinicius de Moraes and the music was composed by Carlos Lyra. Vinicius had tons of writing partners during his career. As Chico Buarque said once, Vinicius was a very gregarious person and liked company a lot. He also liked to pay homage to his friends and he made this giving them co-writing credits for songs that, in fact, he composed almost alone.

Vinicius de Moraes is a larger-than-life character in Brazilian culture. One of its most popular poets, he was one of the exponents of modernism but also was largely known for his partnership with Tom Jobim and, later, the guitarist Toquinho. With Tom Jobim, he helped to craft the bossa nova sound in the fifties. I could make a whole Vinicius de Moraes month on this blog and still wouldn’t end his streak of great songs.


#38 – Chico Buarque – Noite dos mascarados

from Chico Buarque de Hollanda – Volume 2 (RGE, 1967)

Original lyrics:

– Quem é você?
– Adivinha, se gosta de mim!

Hoje os dois mascarados
Procuram os seus namorados
Perguntando assim:

– Quem é você, diga logo…
– Que eu quero saber o seu jogo…
– Que eu quero morrer no seu bloco…
– Que eu quero me arder no seu fogo.

– Eu sou seresteiro,
Poeta e cantor.
– O meu tempo inteiro
Só zombo do amor.
– Eu tenho um pandeiro.
– Só quero um violão.
– Eu nado em dinheiro.
– Não tenho um tostão.
Fui porta-estandarte,
Não sei mais dançar.
– Eu, modéstia à parte,
Nasci pra sambar.
– Eu sou tão menina…
– Meu tempo passou…
– Eu sou Colombina!
– Eu sou Pierrô!

Mas é Carnaval!
Não me diga mais quem é você!
Amanhã tudo volta ao normal.
Deixa a festa acabar,
Deixa o barco correr.

Deixa o dia raiar, que hoje eu sou
Da maneira que você me quer.
O que você pedir eu lhe dou,
Seja você quem for,
Seja o que Deus quiser!
Seja você quem for,
Seja o que Deus quiser!

Translated ones:

– Who are you?
– If you like me, guess!

Tonight the two masked ones
Search they companions
Asking just like that:

– Who are you, tell me quickly…
– That I want to play your game…
– I want to lose myself in your bloco…
– I want to burn myself in your fire.

– I’m a serenader, poet and singer
– Me, I play with love all the time.
– I have a tambourine
– All I want is a guitar
– I swim in money
– I’m always broke
I was standard-bearer,
Now I don’t dance anymore
– Honestly, I was born to dance
– I’m such a little girl…
– My time has passed…
– I’m Colombina…
– And I’m Pierrot

But tonight it’s Carnival!
Don’t speak anything more about yourself!
Tomorrow everything turns back to normality,
Let the party run, let things get their way

Let the sun rise that tonight I am
Everything you ask me
What you want I’ll give,
Whoever you are,
Whatever you want,
Whoever you are,
Whatever you want.

From what I know, this is the song that most captures the whole Carnival-like sensation of being able to be anyone, of not having any worries, of feeling that the world is really turned upside down but being really happy about it, like any alternatives are viable, you can do whatever you want, you can have whoever you would like to.

I don’t have much to say about this song and words don’t do it justice. Just as a note, however, I translated “porta-estandarte” as standard-bearer, but you must notice that this is not, obviously, on the military sense. The standard-bearer is a fixture in samba schools as the lady who leads the school’s standard down the avenue. She is accompanied by the male mestre-sala and they are the chief samba school pair. The song is a dialogue between very contrasting man and woman and I guess you can sense their erotic tension even in my translation of it. As for the mestre-sala and porta-bandeira, you can see them below:


Chico Buarque has another carnival-related classic, “Quem te viu, quem te vê”, a song of ambition and transformation in a carnival setting, which I’ll translate in later carnivals…Until I do this, however, you can watch this beautiful rendition of “Noite dos mascarados” recorded in the sixties for TV Record with Chico, Nara Leão and the vocal group MPB-4.

#37 – Zé Keti – Máscara Negra (1967)

Original lyrics:

Quanto riso, oh, quanta alegria!
Mais de mil palhaços no salão
Arlequim está chorando
Pelo amor da Colombina
No meio da multidão

Quanto riso, oh, quanta alegria!
Mais de mil palhaços no salão
Arlequim está chorando
Pelo amor da Colombina
No meio da multidão

Foi bom te ver outra vez
Tá fazendo um ano
Foi no carnaval que passou
Eu sou aquele Pierrô
Que te abraçou e te beijou, meu amor

Na mesma máscara negra
Que esconde o teu rosto
Eu quero matar a saudade
Vou beijar-te agora
Não me leve a mal
Hoje é carnaval

Vou beijar-te agora
Não me leve a mal
Hoje é carnaval

Translated ones:

So much laughing, so much joy!
More than a thousand clowns on the room
Harlequin however cries for Columbina
In the midst of everyone

It was good seeing you again
It’s been a whole year
It was at the last Carnival
I’m that Pierrot that
Embraced you and kissed you, my love

The same black mask that hides
Your face I need to see you again
I’m gonna kiss you now
Don’t take it so badly
Today is Carnival

This is one of the most beautiful songs I know. I find it amazing how sad it is, actually, especially for a carnival song. The sad harlequin crying for his loved columbina which, of course, will never return his love. And it has been a year since the sigh of her face has burned harlequin’s heart…

We have already seen a little bit about Zé Keti before on that Nara Leão post back a while ago. For me, he is one of the most interesting figures in Brazilian music. He was born in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. The suburbs in Brazil, instead of what happens in the US, for instance, are not a middle class refuge, but usually are home to the working class. In Rio de Janeiro, especially during the mid-twentieth-century, the suburbs were home to a sprawling culture which got together samba, choro, gave rise, of course, to drug traffick among other things, but which was nonetheless based upon community ties and a traditional way of living. Zé Keti came from this universe, but he was also very active politically and carved his way among MPB rising popularity and the growing popularity of samba. All of this to say, he’s an unclassifiable figure!

He was also very tied with the Portela samba school, whose history has given us the awesome Paulinho da Viola and its larger-than-life velha guarda, one of the musical treasures of Brazil.

At around the same time he also composed another carnival-themed song called “Amor de carnaval”, which you can listen here in a 1968 rendition by Nerino Silva:

And here you can listen to a TV show recorded in 1973 by Fundação Anchieta, which runs the great TV Cultura in São Paulo:

#36 – Marchinhas

So this is carnival! Eeeeeeh!

Nothing is more Brazilian than real real carnival and a real real carnival needs music. Fortunately, a century ago the real real carnival music was created. They are the marchinhas!

Marchinhas are a genre of music crafted after the rhythm of the military marching songs. They are not like those drill-songs in American movies however. They are a fast-paced music to which you can dance without actually knowing how to dance and they still make the majority of the blocos’ songs. Besides, nearly anything can be played as a marchinha.

(You should read marchinhas remembering that ch, in Portuguese, sounds just like sh in English and that nh sounds like ñ in Spanish or gn in Italian!)

One of the most well-known marchinhas is “Allah-la-ô”, composed by Haroldo Lobo in 1941. Its lyrics, as most of marchinhas, are very simple:

Allah-la-ô, ô ô ô ô ô ô
Mas que calor, ô ô ô ô ô ô
Atravessamos o deserto do Saara
O Sol estava quente, queimou a nossa cara
Allah-la-ô, ô ô ô ô ô ô
Mas que calor, ô ô ô ô ô ô…

Viemos do Egito
E muitas vezes nós tivemos que rezar
Allah, Allah, Allah, meu bom Allah
Mande água pro iôiô
Allah, meu bom Allah.

Basically it is:

Allah-la-ô, it’s so hot! We crossed the Sahara desert, the sun was hot, we were melting

We came from Egypt and every once in a while we had to pray for Allah to give us rain

Of course I can’t translate the ô-ô’s and á-ás.

The undisputable king of marchinhas, however, is Lamartine Babo. Lamartine, born in 1904 and deceased in 1963, was a prolific composer, one who did also some operas and non-marchinha pop music. He is famous for having composed the hymns for the ELEVEN Rio de Janeiro football teams in ONE SINGLE DAY.

Some marchinhas reflect the usual prejudices people had back then (and still have) about race and sexual option. Brazil is not a liberal country, you must be reminded of it. And at that time the notion of “politically correct” wasn’t around yet. But the marchinhas are still played and sung by everyone, as does this one by Lamartine Babo:

O teu cabelo não nega mulata
Porque és mulata na cor
Mas como a cor não pega mulata
Mulata eu quero o teu amor

Tens um sabor bem do Brasil
Tens a alma cor de anil
Mulata mulatinha meu amor
Fui nomeado teu tenente interventor

Quem te inventou meu pancadão
Teve uma consagração
A lua te invejando faz careta
Porque mulata tu não és deste planeta

Quando meu bem vieste à terra
Portugal declarou guerra

A concorrência então foi colossal
Vasco da gama contra o batalhão naval

Which can be translated as follows:

Your hair doesn’t hide it, brown girl
Because your mulata in your skin
But as skin color doesn’t passed from one another
Girl, I want your love

On the streets people usually sing just the first stanza, so I’ll refrain from translating the rest of the lyrics.

One of the well-known and now controversial marchinhas is “Cabeleira do Zezé”, composed by João Roberto Kelly. The lyrics are scandalous by today’s concerns:

Olha a cabeleira do Zezé
Será que ele é?
Será que ele é?

Olha a cabeleira do Zezé
Será que ele é?
Será que ele é?

Será que ele é bossa nova?
Será que ele é Maomé?
Parece que é transviado
Mas isso eu não sei se ele é


Look at Zezé’s haircut
I wonder if he is
I wonder if he is

I wonder if he is bossa nova?
I wonder if he is Mohammad
He looks like he is degenerated
But I’m not certain if he is that

The other king of marchinhas was João de Barro, also known as Braguinha. He composed the Portuguese version of “As três caravelas” which we saw earlier, but he made much more songs. His marchinhas are some of the most beautiful ones that were ever composed, as you can see on the marchinha below, which he composed with the late great Noel Rosa:

A estrela d’alva
No céu desponta
E a lua anda tonta
Com tamanho esplendor
E as pastorinhas
Pra consolo da lua
Vão cantando na rua
Lindos versos de amor

Linda pastora
Morena da cor de Madalena
Tu não tens pena
De mim que vivo tonto com o teu olhar
Linda criança
Tu não me sais da lembrança
Meu coração não se cansa
De sempre e sempre te amar

In English:

The morning star
Already appears in the sky
The moon, still dizzy
Is illuminating everything
And the partygoers
To moon’s pleasure
Go around singing
Beautiful love verses

Beautiful girl
Brown skinned as Madalen
Don’t you worry about me
Who gets dizzy by your gaze
Beautiful child
You face lingers on my memory
My heart won’t rest
Of always and forever loving you

And below you can listen to an one-hour mix of marchinhas! Check it out: