#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:

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