#45 – Jorge Ben – Os alquimistas estão chegando

from A Tábua de Esmeralda (Philips, 1974)

Original lyrics:

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!…

Os Alquimistas
Estão chegando
Estão chegando
Os Alquimistas…(2x)

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Êh! Êh! Êh! Êh!…

Eles são discretos
E silenciosos
Moram bem longe dos homens
Escolhem com carinho
A hora e o tempo
Do seu precioso trabalho…

São pacientes, assíduos
E perseverantes
Segundo as regras herméticas
Desde a trituração, a fixação
A destilação e a coagulação…

Trazem consigo, cadinhos
Vasos de vidro
Potes de louça
Todos bem e iluminados
Evitam qualquer relação
Com pessoas
De temperamento sórdido
De temperamento sórdido
De temperamento sórdido
De temperamento sórdido…

Êh! Êh! Êh! Êh!
Êh! Êh! Êh! Êh!…

Os Alquimistas
Estão chegando
Estão chegando
Os Alquimistas…(2x)

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!…

Translated lyrics:

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!…

The alchemists
Are coming
Are coming
The alchemists

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!…
Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh!

They’re discreet
And silent
They live far away from men
They choose carefully
Time and place
For their precious work

They’re pacient, effortful
And they struggle
They do everything
According to the Hermetic rules
From grinding to fixating
From destillation to coagulation

They bring crucibles with them
Glasses and earthenware
Everything well lit
And they avoid any person
Of dubious character (4x)

Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh!
Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh!

The alchemists
Are coming
Are coming
The alchemists

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!

This is the opening track from A Tábua de Esmeralda and it introduces already the theme of alchemy. The lyrics are simple ones. The alchemists are coming lá lá lá and just that.

One thing I think I haven’t spoke about it here is the Brazilian Portuguese diacritics. Usually when people see something like é in a Brazilian title they talk it like it was French, but in Brazilian Portuguese those sounds are inverted. É is an open sound usually on a higher range (like treble), and the ê is a closed sound, just like French é. What in French is é becomes ê, and what in French is ê becomes é.

What I have to say about Jorge Ben is that he is one of the true innovators in Brazilian music. He started doing samba, but samba of his kind, as you can hear on his album Samba Esquema Novo.

In his earlier works he was heavily influenced by Bossa Nova, specially João Gilberto, but he also always had lots of attention to black music. In the early 70s, as he went electrified, this black music influence increased, and his albums A Tábua de Esmeralda and África Brasil (1976) are both almost whole electrified. He combined those diverse sounds into what would be called samba-rock, a genre that spanned a lot of imitators, but no one sounds like Jorge Ben.

In 1978 he went to (another) major Som Livre, changed his band to Banda do Zé Pretinho and recorded an album with that title, which to me is his last great album. As happened to a lot of Brazilian musicians that were successful around this time, in the 80s he lost momentum and his oeuvre wasn’t as original as before. In the last couple of years he has had a sort of resurgence after recording an Brazilian MTV acoustic concert in 2002 and having some of his album put on the list of the best Brazilian albums of all time compiled by Rolling Stone Brazil.

By the way, Tábua de Esmeralda was ranked 6th best album ever by that same list.

PS: In the late 70s Jorge Ben also changed his name to Jorge Ben Jor…for reasons unknown to me…


Jorge Ben – A Tábua de Esmeralda

So, as if nothing has happened, I decided to come back to this blog. Actually, a lot has happened in my life, I started my PhD studies in History at the local university, I made tons of readings and had lots of classes, I wrote a few stuff and (fortunately) travelled widely. That’s why I kept this blog in hibernation. 

It makes me very glad that people continued to read it even though no further content was added. It’s for these people and for — I hope — a lot more people that I’m writing again.


I decided to fulfill a promise I made a while ago of translating Jorge Ben’s A Tábua de Esmeralda. This is one of my favorite albums and surely is one of the greatest records in Brazilian discography. Also, it is about one topic I really like, which is Hermetism and all those crazy stuff. Let me just sketch a few comments about the album before I post some of the translations.


I really don’t know how a mythical figure from the Greek domination over the Egyptians in Late Antiquity could be studied by the librarians the library of Alexandria, then took by alchemists, magicians and scientists in the Renaissance as a topic of studies and — in the end — become the subject of Brazilian popular music, but that’s just what happened in A Tábua de Esmeralda.

As some of you may know, Hermes Trismegistus was a mythical priest from some esoteric traditions dating around the 3rd century B.C., when the Greek reinterpreted traditional Egyptian religion on their conquest of Egypt. The Hellenistic Greeks combined the gods Hermes and Thoth, who both presided over knowledge and communication. Trismegistus means “thrice great”, because Hermes was a summit of theology, alchemy, and astrology.

The figure of Hermes Trismegistus was attached to the texts known as Corpus Hermeticum. It comprises seventeen or eighteen mystical books attributed to the god. They spouse a philosophy in which the unity between heaven and what’s bellow heaven is a major principle. This dynamic unity between all things helps to understanding what was alchemy, as its basic tenet was that one element could be transformed into another. Hermeticism comes from mystical Platonism of Antiquity, as it deals over forms and ideal elements.

One interesting thing is its survival. During the Middle Ages, the Hermetic texts were translated to Arabian over the course of Muslim expansion, where they formed the major corpus of alchemia. It was in Arabian that alchemy’s major writing, the Emerald Tablet which Jorge Ben tackles here, first appeared. The work was later translated into Latin and adopted over the course of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

In Renaissance, the Corpus Hermeticum was held in high esteem by scholars, magicians, princes and…the Pope! Hermes was though to provide a prisca theologia, or a pristine theology, prior to that of the Bible and Moses. In this way, he was both a pagan figure and one that, because of all the talking about the One, prefigured Christianism. Egypt was then held, as in Antiquity, as the source of civilization.

The fame of Hermes in the Renaissance was so big that, as Frances Yates writes in her book about the Hermetic tradition, when Marsilio Ficino was translating Plato, he was interrupted by Lorenzo de’ Medici because they had just found the texts attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. So Ficino interrupted his translations of the nowadays famous Plato to translate the now obscure Hermes.

It was via Renaissance that the Corpus Hermeticum became available, and even though in late sixteenth-century it began to be disregarded as spurious writing, it survived in mystical circles. In the nineteenth-century, British magician Aleister Crowley used the Hermetic writings as base of some of his works.

And I guess it was because of Aleister Crowley, who was well known in the sixties (just look at Sgt. Peppers cover) that he got into contact with Hermes Trismegistus.

I won’t provide a translation of the Emerald Tablet because that’s just what Jorge Ben does in one of his songs, but as a side note it is interesting to note the presence of Aleister Crowley in some very mainstream characters from Brazilian music over the sixties and seventies. Raul Seixas used to read him and introduced some of his philosophy in his songs. This was done, of course, because of the influence of his creative partner, the now bestseller writer Paulo Coelho, but that’s a whole different story…

I hope you enjoy the translations and the comments I usually do here.


#44 – Pixinguinha & Benedito Lacerda – Um a zero

Original lyrics:

Vai começar o futebol,pois é,
Com muita garra e emoção
São onze de cá, onze de lá
E o bate-bola do meu coração

É a bola, é a bola, é a bola,
É a bola e o gol!
Numa jogada emocionante
O nosso time venceu por um a zero
E a torcida vibrou

Vamos lembrar
A velha história desse esporte
Começou na Inglaterra
E foi parar no Japão
Habilidade, tiro cruzado,
Mete a cabeça, toca de lado,
Não vale é pegar com a mão

E o mundo inteiro
Se encantou com esta arte
Equilíbrio e malícia
Sorte e azar também
Deslocamento em profundidade
Na hora da conclusão

Meio-de-campo organizou
E vem a zaga rebater
Bate, rebate, é de primeira
Ninguém quer tomar um gol
É coisa séria, é brincadeira
Bola vai e volta
Vem brilhando no ar

E se o juiz apita errado
É que a coisa fica feia
Coitada da sua mãe
Mesmo sendo uma santa
Cai na boca do povão

Pode ter até bolacha
Pontapé, empurrão
Só depois de uma ducha fria
É que se aperta a mão
Ou não!

Vai começar…

Aos quarenta do segundo tempo
O jogo ainda é zero a zero
Todo time quer ser campeão
Tá lá um corpo estendido no chão
São os minutos finais
Vai ter desconto

Mas, numa jogada genial
Aproveitando o lateral
Um cruzamento que veio de trás
Foi quando alguém chegou
Meteu a bola na gaveta
E comemorou

Translated ones:

The match is going to start
Lots of emotion and determinations
It’s eleven on this side, eleven on the other
And my heart beating like the ball

It’s the ball, the ball,
It’s the ball and goal!
On an incredible play
Our team won 1-0
And the crowd cheered

Let’s remember
The history of this sport
Which began in England
And ended even in Japan
Skill, free kick,
Head on, side pass,
You just can’t use your hands

And the whole world
Fell for this art
Balance and malice
Good and bad luck
Launching across the field
And aims at the shooting

The mid-field player opened up space
The defense comes take the ball
Shoots, it rebounds,
Nobody wants to take a goal
It’s serious, it’s not
The ball comes and goes
Shining in the air

And if the referee decides wrong
Things get ugly
Have pity on his mother
Even if she’s a saint
Her name’s in the rumours

There can even be punches,
kicks and pushes,
Only after a cold shower
Can we shake hands
Or not!

Five minutes to end the game
The match is still draw
Every team wants to be champion
There’s a player laying on the field
It’s the final moments

But on a last play
Going through the flanks
A ball crosses and nobody sees it
That’s when someone comes from behind
And kicks right in the goal
And celebrates!

This one is another one that exists in both instrumental and sung versions. 1 x 0 was composed by Pixinguinha and Benedito Lacerda in 1946 and it’s also a football-related classic. I find it amazing how the song conveys the flow of feelings of a football match. Unfortunately, my translating skills are not so good to being able to translate the more specific terms, so I’ll just try to give an idea below.

Deslocamento em profundidade” is when a player runs across most of the field coming behind from the opponent’s defense; “de primeira” is when the ball comes and the plays kicks it without letting it drop on the field (just like 80% of the goals Van Persie scores). Finally, the thing about the referee at the end of the song is a reference to one of Brazil’s foremost swearwords, “filho-da-puta“, or “son of a bitch”. Obviously, when the referee does something against one’s own team, the first reaction is to call him everything possible.

As for Pixinguinha, he’s one of the most celebrated popular composers in Brazilian musical history. He was born in 1897, in the twenties he picked up the saxophone and formed the “Oito Batutas” (roughly translated, the “Eight masters”), who played for great acclaim in Rio de Janeiro. Pixinguinha is recognized as a great master both of his instrument (the saxophone) and as a composer, blending the choro rhythms with jazz-like harmonies. I don’t know, but I have the feeling that if choro wouldn’t become so stuck in tradition, it would really have become a Brazilian jazz, in the sense not of a translation of the jazz idiom to Brazil but as a music similar to jazz in rhythm, structure, and the place it gives for players to improvise. Pixinguinha died in 1973, universally acclaimed in Brazil, though kinda forgotten recently.

I don’t know much about Benedito Lacerda, I only know he was a musical partner of Pixinguinha in the 1930s and 1940s. I also don’t know who wrote the lyrics to this song. I suspect the lyrics were written much more recently than the music, because some of the football-related words I don’t know if they were used back then (like “deslocamento em profundidade“). Anyway, you can hear a sung-version of the song below:

#43 – Na cadência do samba (Que bonito é)

Original lyrics:

Que bonito é
Ver um samba no terreiro
Assistir a um batuqueiro
Numa roda improvisar

Que bonito é
A mulata requebrando
Os tambores repicando
Uma escola desfilar

Que bonito é
Pela noite enluarada
Numa trova apaixonada
Um cantor desabafar

Que bonito é
Gafieira salão nobre
Seja rico, seja pobre
Todo mundo a sambar

O samba é romance
O samba é fantasia
O samba é sentimento
O samba é alegria

Bate que vá batendo
A cadência boa que o samba tem
Bate que repicando
Pandeiro vai, tamborim também

Translated lyrics:

Oh what a beauty it is
To see samba on the floor
To watch all the drummers
Improvising together

Oh what a beauty it is
To see the mulaa shaking
The drums in rhythm
A samba school passing by

Oh what a beauty it is
To see a singer open his heart
On a moonlit night
In a love melody

Oh what a beauty it is
The samba in a classy saloon
Be rich, be poor
Everybody together dancing

Samba is romance
Samba is fantasy
Samba is feeling
Samba is joy

Beat on keep on beating
In this rhythm only samba has
Beat on keep on beating
Tambourine too, tambourine on

I don’t want to make this blog as a kind of memorial, but as everybody knows, Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup and I thought it would be a great occasion to restart things here. The university term is ending and I don’t have much time to keep attention on the blog, but everything’s being so great during the World Cup (when everybody thought it would be a disaster) that there would be no reason not trying to share some of the joy around it with those that read this blog.

So, what about this song? What does it has to with football/soccer?

Nothing…and everything. “Na Cadência do Samba” is a song composed by Luís Bandeira in the 1950s (actually, I don’t know if the lyrics were composed by him or only the melody) and which became synonym with football in Brazil because it was, in its instrumental version, as you can see above, the theme-song to “Canal 100”, one of the most memorable movie initiatives in Brazilian history.

Canal 100 was the brainchild of journalist Carlos Niemeyer and Jean Manzon, who between 1958 and 1986 produced hundreds of hours of movie-reels recording what went on Brazilian stadium, specially on Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Those short films, like the news shows of today, used to play before the sessions started in cinema. Canal 100 helped to establish the visual memory of Brazilian football, showing through the country what mythic players like Pelé, Garrincha, Nilton Santon, later Zico and his teammates and all that came between did on the field.

What distinguished Canal 100 from other TV efforts to capture football, however, was that the camera stood usually at the level of the players, and not above it, as the almost bird’s eye view we have today. So when you see a Canal 100 reel you feel as if you were inside the game, feeling whatever the players and the public is feeling.

Below you can see a snippet of this history with this complete reel of Palmeiras beating Santos (and Pelé!) by 2 x 1 at the state championship of São Paulo in 1969.

And if you’re interested in more Canal 100, you can see this site (unfortunately only in Portuguese).

#42 – Racionais MC’s – Negro Drama (2002)

from Nada como um dia após o outro dia (Cosa Nostra, 2002)

Original lyrics:

Negro drama
Entre o sucesso e a lama
Dinheiro, problemas
Inveja, luxo, fama

Negro drama
Cabelo crespo
E a pele escura
A ferida, a chaga
À procura da cura

Negro drama
Tenta ver
E não vê nada
A não ser uma estrela
Longe, meio ofuscada

Sente o drama
O preço, a cobrança
No amor, no ódio
A insana vingança

Negro drama
Eu sei quem trama
E quem tá comigo
O trauma que eu carrego
Pra não ser mais um preto fodido

O drama da cadeia e favela
Túmulo, sangue
Sirene, choros e vela

Passageiro do Brasil
São Paulo
Agonia que sobrevivem
Em meia às honras e covardias
Periferias, vielas e cortiços

Você deve tá pensando
O que você tem a ver com isso
Desde o início
Por ouro e prata

Olha quem morre
Então veja você quem mata
Recebe o mérito, a farda
Que pratica o mal

Me ver
Pobre, preso ou morto
Já é cultural

Histórias, registros
Não é conto
Nem fábula
Lenda ou mito

Não foi sempre dito
Que preto não tem vez
Então olha o castelo e não
Foi você quem fez cuzão

Eu sou irmão
Dos meus trutas de batalha
Eu era a carne
Agora sou a própria navalha

Tin, tin
Um brinde pra mim
Sou exemplo de vitórias
Trajetos e glórias

O dinheiro tira um homem da miséria
Mas não pode arrancar
De dentro dele
A favela

São poucos
Que entram em campo pra vencer
A alma guarda
O que a mente tenta esquecer

Olho pra trás
Vejo a estrada que eu trilhei
Mó cota
Quem teve lado a lado
E quem só fico na bota
Entre as frases
Fases e várias etapas
Do quem é quem
Dos mano e das mina fraca

Negro drama de estilo
Pra ser
E se for
Tem que ser
Se temer é milho

Entre o gatilho e a tempestade
Sempre a provar
Que sou homem e não covarde

Que Deus me guarde
Pois eu sei
Que ele não é neutro
Vigia os rico
Mas ama os que vem do gueto

Eu visto preto
Por dentro e por fora
Poeta entre o tempo e a memória

Nessa história
Vejo o dólar
E vários quilates
Falo pro mano
Que não morra, e também não mate

O tic-tac
Não espera veja o ponteiro
Essa estrada é venenosa
E cheia de morteiro

É um elogio
Pra quem vive na guerra
A paz nunca existiu
Num clima quente
A minha gente sua frio
Vi um pretinho
Seu caderno era um fuzil

Um fuzil
Negro drama

Crime, futebol, música, caraio
Eu também não consegui fugir disso aí
Eu só mais um
Forrest Gump é mato
Eu prefiro conta uma história real

Vô conta a minha

Daria um filme
Uma negra
E uma criança nos braços
Solitária na floresta
De concreto e aço

Olha outra vez
O rosto na multidão
A multidão é um monstro

Sem rosto e coração

São Paulo
Terra de arranha-céu
A garoa rasga a carne
É a torre de babel

Família brasileira
Dois contra o mundo
Mãe solteira
De um promissor

Câmera e ação

Gravando a cena vai
Um bastardo
Mais um filho pardo
Sem pai

Senhor de engenho
Eu sei
Bem quem você é
Sozinho, cê num guenta
Cê num entra a pé

Cê disse que era bom
E as favela ouviu, lá
Também tem
Whisky, Red Bull
Tênis Nike e fuzil

Seus carro é bonito
Eu não sei fazê
Internet, videocassete
Os carro loco

Eu tô um pouco sim

Eu acho

Só que tem que

Seu jogo é sujo
E eu não me encaixo
Eu sô problema de montão
De carnaval a carnaval
Eu vim da selva
Sou leão
Sou demais pro seu quintal

Problema com escola
Eu tenho mil
Mil fita
Inacreditável, mas seu filho me imita
No meio de vocês
Ele é o mais esperto
Ginga e fala gíria
Gíria não, dialeto

Esse não é mais seu
Entrei pelo seu rádio
Cê nem viu
Nós é isso ou aquilo

O quê?
Cê não dizia?
Seu filho quer ser preto
Que ironia

Cola o pôster do 2Pac aí
Que tal?
Que cê diz?
Sente o negro drama
Tenta ser feliz

Ei bacana
Quem te fez tão bom assim?
O que cê deu,
O que cê faz,
O que cê fez por mim?

Eu recebi seu tic
Quer dizer kit
De esgoto a céu aberto
E parede madeirite

De vergonha eu não morri
To firmão
Eis-me aqui

Você, não
Cê não passa
Quando o mar vermelho abrir

Eu sou o mano
Homem duro
Do gueto, Brown


Aquele louco
Que não pode errar
Aquele que você odeia
Amar nesse instante
Pele parda
Ouço funk

E de onde vem
Os diamantes
Da lama

Valeu mãe

Negro drama
Drama, drama, drama…

Aê, na época dos barracos de pau lá na Pedreira, onde vocês tavam?
O que vocês deram por mim?
O que vocês fizeram por mim?
Agora tá de olho no dinheiro que eu ganho
Agora tá de olho no carro que eu dirijo
Demorou, eu quero é mais
Eu quero até sua alma
Aí, o rap fez eu ser o que sou

Ice Blue, Edy Rock e Kl Jay e toda a família
E toda geração que faz o rap
A geração que revolucionou
A geração que vai revolucionar
Anos 90, século 21
É desse jeito
Aê, você sai do gueto, mas o gueto nunca sai de você, morou irmão?
Você tá dirigindo um carro
O mundo todo tá de olho em você, morou?
Sabe por quê?
Pela sua origem, morou irmão?
É desse jeito que você vive
É o negro drama
Eu não li, eu não assisti
Eu vivo o negro drama, eu sou o negro drama
Eu sou o fruto do negro drama
Aí dona Ana, sem palavras, a senhora é uma rainha, rainha
Mas aê, se tiver que voltar pra favela
Eu vou voltar de cabeça erguida
Porque assim é que é
Renascendo das cinzas
Firme e forte, guerreiro de fé
Vagabundo nato!

Translated lyrics:

Black drama
Between the mud and the stalwart
Money, issues
Greed, Luxury, fame

Black drama
Bad hair
Dark skin
The injury, the sore
Looking for a cure

Black drama
He tries to see
But he sees nothing
Besides a far away and
Shadowy star

He feels the drama
The price, the demands,
In love, in hate
The insane and constant vengeance

Black drama
I know who plays againt me
And who’s with me
The pain that always walks with me
So that I won’t end up just another fucked up black guy

Prison and favela
Graves, blood
Sirens, tears and candles

A stowaway in Brazil
São Paulo
The pain of those who survive
Amidst the kudos and the frowns
Suburbs, narrow ways and slums

You must’ve been thinking
What the hell do I have to do with it
Since the beginning
Looking only for gold and riches

Look who dies
So look at who do you kill
The one that makes evil receives
The merit, the uniforms

To look at myself
As poor, in chains or dead
Has already become a second nature

Stories, documents
It isn’t a myth, a tale, a legend or a fable

Hasn’t been always said that
A black guy has no stand?
So look at the castle and you know
It wasn’t you who made it, you asshole

I’m a brother of my fellow comrades
I was flesh, now I’m the razor

Cheers, cheers to you
I’m an sideshow of victories
Paths and glories

Money can bring misery out of someone
But can’t take favela from inside him

There are only few
Who present themselves ready to win
The soul keeps
What the mind tries to forget

I look back
I see the path I’ve chosen
[Mó cota]
Who stood together
And those that got behind
Between sentences
Trials and many stages
Of who’s who
Of who stands and who falls

A stylish black drama
Just to be and if it does become
It has to be
It can’t tremble

Between the trigger and the storm
Always having to prove
That I’m a man and not a coward

May God bless me
Because I know
That He’s taking sides
He watches for the rich ones
But loves those from the ghettoes

I wear black
Inside out
I’m a warrior
A poet stood against time and memory

Well, in this story
I see big money and precious stones
I talk to him
So that I don’t die, and also that I don’t kill

The clock runs
It doesn’t waits
In this vicious road
And full of stones
A nightmare

It’s a compiment
For those who live in war
Peace has never existed
Even in warm weather
My people sweats cold
I saw a little black guy
He had a rifle for a schoolbook

A rifle
Black drama

Crime, football, music, the shit
I wasn’t able to escape it all too
I’m just another one
Forrest Gump, that’s bullshit
I’d rather tell another story

I’m gonna tell me
It would be a movie, a good movie

A black woman
A child in her arms
Alone in the middle of the jungle
Of steel and concret

Look another time
The face in the crowd
The crowd is a monster
Without simpathy
And a heart of stone

Hey, São Paulo
Skyscraper town
Raindrops tear the skin apart
Exposes the flesh
It’s Babylonia once again

Brazilian family
Two against the world
Single mother of a
Prosperous crook

Light and action
Recording, go

A bastard
Another mulato son
Who never knew his father

Hey, slave owner
I know who you are
I’m very aware that
When you’re alone
You can’t stand it

You walk into a place
You heard there was good too
And the favela has listened
In the favelas there is also
Whiskey, Red Bull
Nike shoes and rifles

I admit
You have a fancy car
I don’t know how to do it
Internet, VHS, the cars, man

Yes, I’m a little late
I guess

I only think that
Yours is a treacherous game
And I don’t fit it
I’m a lot of trouble
From year to year
I came from the jungle
I’m a lion
I’m too much for your precious backyard

Problems at school
I have those to sell
You can’t believe it
But your son wants to be like me
When he’s with you
He’s the clever one
He dances and talk slang
Slang, no! Dialect

This one here is not yours anymore
Here, look, I got up from the radio
We’re here and you haven’t even seen it
We are here and there

Didn’t you said it?
Your son wants to be black?
What an irony

Put the 2Pac poster on the wall
What do you say?
Feel the black drama
Go on
Try to be happy

Hey, you
What made you be so good like that?
What did you give,
What did you do,
What has you made for me?

I got your message
I mean, your survival kit
Composed of open sewages
And plywood walls

I will not be ashamed to death
I’m stil here, proud and strong
Here I am

You, don’t
You will not pass
When the sea opens

I’m here, I’m strong
I’m from the ghetto, Brown

That crazy guy
That cannot fail
That one you love to hate
And you adore right now
Dark skin
Listens to funk

And from where does the diamonds come?
From the mud

Black drama,
Black drama, drama, drama

Oh really, when we lived in the wood tents at Pedreira,
Where were you at?
Did you stand to help me?
Did you lift a finger for me?
Now you’re paying attention to how much I earn
Now you care about the car I drive
You’re late, now I want more
I want your soul
It’s there, it’s rap who made me what I am

Ice Blue, Edy Rock, KL Jay and all my crew
And every generation that makes rap be what it is
The people who stood against
And who will stand from now on
Who will make a revolution
Nineties, the twentieth century
It is this way

You come out from the ghetto, but the ghetto doesn’t come outside of you,
You’re driving your car and the whole world is watching you,
Got it?
You know why?
Because of your origins, bro
That’s the way you live
That’s the black drama
I didn’t need to read it, to watch it on TV
I’m black, I’m the drama, I’m the black drama
I’m black drama’s son

Here, Dona Ana, you make me without words,
You’re a queen, a queen
But if I have to go back to the favela
I’ll come back proudly
Because that’s how it is
To be born once again from the ashes
Strong and brave, righteous warrior
A born shit!

This took me a while to translated…

Racionais MC’s are one of the most well-known Brazilian rap outfits. Actually, they were present at the very beginning of the genre in Brazil. Rising from Capão Redondo, a large favela in south São Paulo, in the mid-eighties, they’ve recorded only four albums and this one is their last one with new material. Boy, it’s been twelve years already.

Racionais rose to proeminence amongst public opinion in Brazil in 1997 when they released their album Sobrevivendo no Inferno (translating, “Surviving in Hell”). They were accused of patronizing violence, as one of their songs, “Diário de um detento” (“Journal of a prisoner”) was based on a letter writter by an inmate. Conditions in Brazilian prisons are specially gruesome. Earlier this year the state of Maranhão passed through a crisis on its security system, and almost twenty years later the conditions hasn’t improved since Racionais released that song.

“Negro drama”, however, was released five years later and its subject is more relevant than ever. As I’ve said before, Brazil experienced “rolezinhos” in most of its biggest cities and capitals. The rolezinhos were only meant as a kind of fun by those who did it, mostly black young people who now have money but live too far away to enjoy the cities they live. The rolezinhos are deeply connected to funk ostentação, a new kind of genre in Brazilian music in which the connection to drug traffic from classic funk brasileiro are switched to songs talking about buying stuff, spending money, driving fancy cars, drinking liquor and walking around with beautiful women. Later I’ll do a post about it.

What I find interesting in this song and on other Racionais songs is that they took that really as an aim at which young black people look for. How can one refuse it when all the signs of success are associated with having money and spending it around? On this, one can understand all about gangsta rap. But Mano Brown, Racionais leader lyrics and singer, always emphasizes that those are not the main things that will make people happy, that those are illusory goals, in some way. Even so, why not try it…? Especially when the fate of so many young blacks is to die shortly after their twenties? Live fast, die young. Or, as they say, vida loka.

I was thinking about doing a Racionais post for quite some time. Their sound is very reminiscent of gangsta rap. Not all Brazilian rap is like that, as there are those, like Marcelo D2 (a big name on the Brazilian pop scene), who mix rap with MPB and more “Brazilian” sounds. I kinda like it, but musically Racionais have more pleasant songs (like this one, from their second album, in which they sample Curtis Mayfield).

Near the end they mention their own names, KL Jay, Edy Rock, Ice Blue. KL Jay is the DJ, and the others plus Mano Brown are the MC’s. It may seem strange to say, but although he is sometimes too much overtly polemical, Mano Brown is one of the finest Brazilian public intellectuals from the last two decades.

Racionais have a live DVD which is very interesting, as it also has a documentary on Brazilian black music from the seventies until their own time. You can find a live version of this song here and the whole double studio album from where it came down below:

#41 – Jorge Ben – Zumbi (1974)

from A Tábua de Esmeralda (Philips, 1974)

Original lyrics:

Angola Congo Benguela
Monjolo Cabinda Mina
Quiloa Rebolo
Aqui onde estão os homens
Há um grande leilão
Dizem que nele há
Um princesa à venda
Que veio junto com seus súditos
Acorrentados num carro de boi
Eu quero ver
Eu quero ver
Eu quero ver
Angola Congo Benguela
Monjolo Cabinda Mina
Quiloa Rebolo
Aqui onde estão os homens
Dum lado cana de açúcar
Do outro lado o cafezal
Ao centro senhores sentados
Vendo a colheita do algodão tão branco
Sendo colhidos por mãos negras
Eu quero ver
Eu quero ver
Eu quero ver
Quando Zumbi chegar
O que vai acontecer
Zumbi é senhor das guerras
É senhor das demandas
Quando Zumbi chega e Zumbi
É quem manda
Eu quero ver
Eu quero ver
Eu quero ver

Translated lyrics:

Angola, Congo, Benguela
Monjolo, Cabinda, Mina
Quiloa, Rebolo
Here where the men stand
There’s a big auction
People say that here is
A princess for sale
Who came with her subjects
Chained to a bullock cart
I want to see
I want to see
I want to see
Angola, Congo, Benguela
Monjolo, Cabinda, Mina
Quiloa, Rebolo
Here where the men stand
One side there’s a sugar plantation
On the other there’s coffee
In the middle the slavemasters are sitted
Watching the white cotton
Being picked by black hands
I want to see
I want to see
I want to see
When Zumbi comes
What will happen then
Zumbi is a lord of war
He’s a lord of needs
When Zumbi arrives
Zumbi will take charge
I want to see
I want to see
I want to see

This is one of my all-time favorite songs and I just love how much “swing” Jorge Ben can put on the first two or three lines. I have a theory that the only guy who can play the guitar like Jorge Ben is Microphones/Mt. Eerie leader Phil Elverum. I don’t know why, but Elverum seems to play with the loose strings just like Jorge Ben always does. The swing is in the hand and on the melody, and not on the beat, if it may be more easy to understand my point. Later I’ll talk more about Jorge Ben and this album in particular, however.

While I was translating this song I was reminded of 12 Years a Slave. The song has such powerful imagery, like the African princess being sold with her subjects on the market or the white cotton being picked by black hands while the slave owners just sit and watch. It is easy to find out what is the subject of the song.

Zumbi, however, is not a zombie, but the name of the most famous fighter against white Portuguese domination in colonial Brazil. Zumbi was the last leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares, in the mid-seventeeth century. The quilombos were settlements created by fugitive slaves, usually in very remote locations. Zumbi became a symbol of the resistance against slavery when he led the negros to two victories and another fierce fight against Paulistas bandeirantes, at the end of which the quilombo fell to the Portuguese. The date when Palmares fell, November 20th, became a holiday on most Brazilian states.

There are still quilombos throughout Brazil, even on urban zones. Porto Alegre, where I live, has recognized the existence of 15 or 20 quilombos in its urban perimeter. The quilombos, however, were easily erased from local public memory.

“Zumbi” is a powerful song and it remains a long time in the head. Just to add to the overall theme, the names recited in the first verses are of African peoples or the origins that the African slaves were given when they arrived. So Angola, Mina and the others indicate from where the slave came. They were specially prized according to their culture and abilities in the colonial and imperial centuries in Brazil (remember that Brazil had an empire in the nineteenth century), just like in 12 Years a Slave most of the slaves were treated differently according to what they knew how to do or their relationship with others.

Caetano Veloso also recorded a version of this song on his Noites do Norte album, which you can listen below:

#40 – Clara Nunes – Canto das três raças (1976)

from Canto das três raças (EMI-Odeon, 1976)

Original lyrics:

Ninguém ouviu
Um soluçar de dor
No canto do Brasil

Um lamento triste
Sempre ecoou
Desde que o índio guerreiro
Foi pro cativeiro
E de lá cantou

Negro entoou
Um canto de revolta pelos ares
No Quilombo dos Palmares
Onde se refugiou

Fora a luta dos Inconfidentes
Pela quebra das correntes
Nada adiantou

E de guerra em paz
De paz em guerra
Todo o povo dessa terra
Quando pode cantar
Canta de dor

ô, ô, ô, ô, ô, ô
ô, ô, ô, ô, ô, ô

ô, ô, ô, ô, ô, ô
ô, ô, ô, ô, ô, ô

E ecoa noite e dia
É ensurdecedor
Ai, mas que agonia
O canto do trabalhador

Esse canto que devia
Ser um canto de alegria
Soa apenas
Como um soluçar de dor

Translated ones:

Nobody heard
A painful sob
On Brazil’s chanting

A sad cry has always echoed
Since the warrior Indian got
Imprisoned and from there he has sung

The black man chanted
A rebellion’s cry through the air
At Palmares to where he fled

Neither the Inconfidentes struggle
For breaking up the chains
Has achieved nothing

And through war and peace
And peace and war
All the people in this land
When they’re able to sing
Sing a painful song

And this frightening song
Goes on and on day and night
Oh but such a grief
Is the worker’s chant

This song should be
A joyful one
But it sounds just like
A painful sob

Over the weekend during a Barcelona match against Villareal for the Spanish national soccer league, a banana was thrown at the field, near Brazilian right wing player Daniel Alves. Such occurrences are quite common in Spain, but Daniel Alves had a surprising reaction when he took the banana from the field and ate it, right before every single person in the stadium (you can see it on the video below).

One can argue for or against Alves’ reaction, but everyone must concede that this was an uncommon thing to do. Later, after the game, he told that maybe it had come the time to “laugh at those idiot racists”. A heartfelt declaration.

What no one expected was that the act would become indeed a hot topic for the week, even if Daniel Alves was quickly forgot. Later on that same day, Brazilian striker Neymar posted a photo with his son of both eating a banana and sporting the hashtage #somostodosmacacos. Or, translated, “we are all monkeys”.


The next day, however, as every Brazilian celebrity — but only those that are white — posted a photograph with the same hashtag, Brazilian TV-show host Luciano Huck launched a public campaign about it, selling t-shirts with the sentence “#somostodosmacacos” stamped on it.


It turned out that what seemed like a spontaneous reaction of solidarity with a fellow player by Neymar, who has already suffered racist attacks on some matches in the Spanish league, was in fact a marketing stunt aimed at generating buzz around the symbol of the banana and a shallow discourse about racism just to sell Neymar’s image and Luciano Huck’s t-shirts.

Daniel Alves, quickly forgotten, had just made what seemed more like the adequate answer to it, eating the banana, but in fact he had just started an open argument about racism and the sometimes too easy ways that the topic gets treated on the press or is appropriated by celebrities trying to sell themselves are humanitarian. Now the discussion is fading already, but in the same week that NBA has banned from basketball a franchise owner who said he was against black people at the arenas supporting his own team, racism became indeed the talk of the day.


But what this all has to do with Clara Nunes’ “Canto das três raças?”. Well, everything.

Clara Nunes was a Minas Gerais-born samba singer who rose to fame around the mid-60’s. She had a difficult life and began singing professionally after winning some radio contests, which she entered as a way to escape her work as a weaver. She quickly became very famous and requisited, as she had a very good range and knew a lot about singing techniques, which she learned in church choirs when she was a child. To get a measure of her success, this album here sold over a million copies, as did another three or four of her albums. And don’t forget that this means only the Brazilian market. Unfortunately, she died as a result of an accident while doing a simple surgery on her legs when she was only 39 years old.

“Canto das três raças” was released on the same-title album, dated from 1976. I don’t know who is the composer of the song. Anyway, it lends itself to very interesting things about Brazil.

Brazil usually braggs about being a kind of “racial democracy”, where blacks and whites live together peacefully. As the banana incident above shows, this is not so, as there is very veiled — and more often than not, nowadays, frankly open – racist discourse and practices. One of the pillars of the “racial democracy” thing is the notion that Brazil is the result of the influx of three different races, the indigenous peoples, the black people and the white people.

Needless to say, this theory provides a framework in which each of this “races” have their designated places. So the Indians get the sentiment, the blacks are marked for their work and labour-force and the whites are designated the leadership and the brain behind it all. This kind of thinking was made most famous by the work of Brazilian anthropologist and essayist Gilberto Freye, who in his seminal work “Casa Grande & Senzala” (1935) created a kind of mythical vision in which the casa grande was the site of a peaceful encounter between the black slaves and the white sons of the slave owners, who inherited both the white European culture and the black African costumes, thus creating a new mix from it.

What the song does is to twist it and present the resulting “chant” they all provided as a death song, a painful cry from those below.

And it is indeed amazing how much of that discourse remains on Brazilian imaginary. On the beginning of the year happened on Brazil the “rolezinhos”, in which suburban — mostly black — kids went to shopping malls just to hang out, thus creating panic among the white buyers and the shop owners. Their crime? Just hanging out where they weren’t expected.

But about this I’ll talk real soon.

Just to end this post, bellow you’ll find a link to the whole 1976-Clara Nunes’ album from where this song comes.

Going back

Hey, guys and gurls, readers, I hope, of this blog.

I’ll try to come back to it. I’m sorry for all the time that this blog has been silent, but as my classes began I got very very busy.

Actually, I’ve got so busy that one of the ways I found to relax over everything is to translate and comment Brazilian lyrics once again, so I’m resuming works here on Brazil 70 Translation Project.

I intend to do things this way and you can check it if something is missing:

1. A series of posts about racism (you’ll soon know why…);

2. Translating Jorge Ben’s A Tábua de Esmeralda, just because I like it, OK?

3. Beginning a series of translation of songs about the military dictatorship, which we here in Brazil have just “celebrated” the 50th anniversary of the 1964 coup d’état;

4. Go back again to a series of albums I think are cool, like something from Tim Maia, some Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and maybe something else I don’t know about;

5. Finally, I have a lot of things I’m trying to post here for sometime which don’t fall in all these categories, so stay tuned for some downloads and special “features”.

Hope you enjoy!

#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.