#48 – Jorge Ben – Menina mulher da pele preta

from A Tábua de Esmeralda (Philips, 1974)

Original lyrics:

Essa menina mulher da pele preta,
Dos olhos azuis, do sorriso branco
Não está me deixando dormir sossegado.
Será que ela não sabe que eu fico acordado.
Pensando nela todo dia, toda hora
Passando pela minha janela todo dia, toda hora
Sabendo que eu fico a olhar
com malícia.
A sua pele preta
com malícia.
Seus olhos azuis
com malícia
Seu sorriso branco
com malícia.
Seu corpo todo enfim,
com malícia.

Com malícia…

Será que quando, eu fico acordado
Pensando nela, ela pensa um pouco em mim?
Um pouco em mim
Com malícia.
Um pouco em mim
Com malícia.

Um…pouco em mim.
Com malícia.
Essa menina mulher…
Da pele preta
Não está me deixando…
Dormir sossegado.
Será que ela não, não, não
Pensa um pouco em mim, pensa.
Com malícia, com malícia.
Pouco em mim, Pouco em mim
Pouco em mim, Pouco em mim.
Com malícia, com malícia
Um pou pou pou pou pouco em mim
pouco em mim.
Com malícia.
Com malícia.
Essa mulher…
Da pele preta
Da pele preta
Do sorriso branco,
Dos olhos azuis
Não está deixando me…
Dormir sossegado…

Translated lyrics:

This black skinned woman girl
With blue eyes and white smile
It’s not letting me sleep
I wonder if she thinks that I stay awake
Thinking about here everytime everyday
Passing through my window everytime everyday
Knowing that I stand looking at her
With malice
Her black skin
With malice
Her blue eyes
With malice
Her white smile
With malice
All of her body
With malice

Does she thinks about me
When I’m awake thinking about her?
Not even a little bit
With malice
A little bit
With malice

This song probably wouldn’t pass today’s standards about feminism and sexual abuse issues (which is a good thing), but anyway it is a beautiful and captivating song. In its content, it is more simple than the previous songs I’ve posted here: it is just a dark skinned woman with whom Jorge Ben is obsessed about.

One of the things I like about this song is the use of iteration. There are some repetitive notions throughout it, such as menina mulher, which I translated as woman girl, and one usual feature of Jorge Ben’s songs which is the repetition of certain words or sentences one, two, or three times. In the first time what is said doesn’t actually fit into the song, but then Jorge Ben keeps on saying the same thing over and over again and then — almost by magic — the vocals fit into the song as if they were the most natural thing. I’ll point whenever this happen on the album or in other of his albums.

The song also feature a little spoken/sung introduction, which reads like this:

– Pedrinho vai ser papai
– Quem vai ser papai?
– Menina mulher da pele preta
– Menina mulher da pele preta?
– Haha

It can be translated as follows:

– Pedrinho is having a baby
– Who’s having a baby?
– Black skinned woman girl
– Black skinned woman girl?
– Haha

I don’t know if that has its origins on some popular tune or what, but I always liked it. On some notes about Portuguese language, you may know that the suffix -inho serves as diminutive, so Pedro would be the normal name, and Pedrinho is an endearing nick name. This suffix can also be used to lessen one person, saying someone or something is small, unimportant etc. Papai, on its hand, is also an affectionate way of referring to dad. Usually the word is only pai, but on some parts of Brazil people say papai, as they also say mamãe, and not mãe, to refer to their (or someone else’s) mothers.

This repetition of syllables is used more frequently with children. People usually say that a baby or a child is not dormindo (transl., sleeping), but nanando or mimindo, which is just the same thing but more loving, caring and infantile.

As you may know, for a long time it was said that the “Brazilian preference” was for the mulata. The mulata is the same as mulatto, a descendant both of White and Black parents. Needless to say, having a preference for the mulata shows some signs of continuation of the slavery thinking on Brazilian society. On the other hand, it shows how Brazilian society differs from, for example, North American society, as being mixed is, at least superficially, a good thing. Nowadays I sense that the Brazilian fascination with the mulata is lessening, both as racism seems more conspicuous on Brazilian society (which, nonetheless, is also a good thing, as it is not hidden anymore) and public policies regarding the minorities are creating an ambient for people to assume themselves as Black and not as mulatto anymore.

Anyway, one anachronistic feature which is maintained even now is the (in)famous mulata globelezaGlobeleza is a combination of the words Globo and beleza (transl., beauty). Globo is the major media company of Brazil, which you may or may not know from this documentary, and Globeleza is its periodic section devoted to Rio de Janeiro carnival. The mulata globeleza was the dancer that represented carnival for Globo, and she was featured on DAYTIME television, with CHILDREN and FAMILIES watching, covered only with BODY PAINTING.


With that in mind, you can understand that when Janet Jackson showed her left (or right?) boob on television on Super Bowl most Brazilians just answered: “what’s the big deal?”.

For some time (a decade or more), the mulata globeleza was Valéria Valenssa, but in later years she was replaced by someone I don’t know. You can peek a little of my childhood watching the Globeleza spot on Globo’s coverage of Brazilian carnival here.

PS: I’ve translated only part of the lyrics because most of the song is comprised of — you guess — repetitions.


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