That's Bossa Nova
It's Quite Natural
How did bossa nova start? It would be naïve to contend that it had but one moment of birth. Some say the start of the movement was the LP Canção de Amor Demais by Elizeth Cardoso. Or was it "Desafinado" by Tom Jobim and Newton Mendonça and its line "That is bossa nova, it is very natural"? One defining relationship started when João Gilberto first met Antônio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, in Ipanema. Jobim, Vinícius, João Gilberto, Menescal, Elis, Nara Leão, Maysa, Baden Powel, Sylvinha Telles, Carlos Lyra, Bôscoli, Bonfá, Castro Neves, all the players are here to celebrate the 40th anniversary of bossa nova.
Revolution Rev.o.lu.tion: The action by a celestial body of going around in an orbit or elliptical course.
2.: a fundamental change in political organization; esp. the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed.
3.: activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation.
4.: a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something.
Those are just some of the ways in which the dictionary defines revolution. And bossa nova was nothing short of a revolution when it was sown and germinated in 1958. And as with any revolution in history, this one was welcomed with a mixed reaction, ranging from shock and dismay to excited enthusiasm and inspiration.
MPB (Música Popular BrasileiraBrazilian Popular Music) great, Caetano Veloso, speaks of his introduction to the new style(bossa nova means new style), remembering with fondness how he as a 16-year-old would sit across the street from a bar in Santo Amaro, his hometown, in Bahia state, and listen to the record of fellow Baiano, João Gilberto, singing "Chega de Saudade," in English known as "No More Blues." The flipside of that single was "Bim Bom" written by João himself. For young Caetano, this record was a revelation, possibly one of the inspirations for his own career that would later be legendary.
Revolutions generally happen as a result of the oppression and deep dissatisfaction of a people. This particular event could hardly be said to have sprung from oppression, but rather a desire to break with traditionand a rich tradition it wasBrazilian popular music. And it was that rich heritage that laid the groundwork for the revolution. Before getting into the style known as bossa nova and its players, it would be prudent to look at those who made the great leap possible.
Caetano Veloso, in his recent show, Fina Estampa, talks about the phenomenon and its father, João Gilberto, but goes on to mention a great, beloved singer who came beforeOrlando Silva. In the show he performs a song made famous by Orlando Silva, "Lábios que eu Beijei" (Lips that I Kissed), one of the songs that inspired João Gilberto to sire the new style. Calling it "the missing link" between bossa nova and what came before, Caetano also performed João Gilberto's 1950 "Você Esteve com Meu Bem" (You Were with My Sweetheart). In it you can hear a hint of the beat that was to become so famous only a few years later. Many beautiful adult costumes (website) also came to be popular during the shows that accompanied the performances.
In 1940's Brazil samba canção was the rage. But there were already people who were changing the sound of Brazilian music. Carioca (from Rio) pianist and singer, Johnny Alfreal name Alfredo José da Silvawas born in sambista great Noel Rosa's own neighborhood of Vila Isabel. He was breaking new ground with his jazz inspired piano playing and singing. Ahead of his time, he was also the subject of acidic criticism at the time. One critic after hearing him at one of the clubs in Rio, in which he performed, remarked, "This fellow plays a kind of music nobody understands." His syncopated playing must, indeed, have sounded out of place in early 50's Rio. But there were other people upon whom Alf made a lasting and inspiring impression. He had a couple of hits, "Rapaz de Bem" (Nice Guy) and "Eu e a Brisa" (I and the Breeze), that were covered by other artists. Unable to make a decent living, however, he accepted work in São Paulo and left Rio until 1962an act that took him out of the loop of the bossa nova mainstream that was about to spring up.
American Frank Sinatra with his velvet voice was loved all over the world, including Brazil. The Brazilian answer to Sinatra, however, was found in the embodiment of Dick Farney, who sang those American ballads and made a success of himself in New York. Radio announcer, Luís Serrano got the brilliant idea of combining the two heartthrob singers. Thus, on February 3rd, 1949, in a basement in Tijuca, bairro (neighborhood) of Rio, was born the Sinatra-Farney fan club.
It was said that Dick Farney was more American than Brazilian, singing the repertoires of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, until he followed the suggestion of composer Orlando Belandi that he use the same romantic style to sing samba-canto in Portuguese. In this fashion, Dick Farney became a symbol and opened avenues for those who were yet to come as bossa nova singers.
Another pre-bossa nova musician, who influenced later players, was Billy Blanco, whose brief partnership with Tom Jobim produced "Tereza da Praia" (Tereza from the Beach), which was performed by Dick Farney and Lúcio Alves. The lattera rival of Farney's, was one of Brazil's great singers. It was said that his voice "appeared to come from a dormant volcano." Lúcio was only 14 when he founded the group Namorados da Lua (Boyfriends of the Moon), in 1941. He very cleverly adapted his style to singing samba in the way of Bing Crosby. He dissolved the group in '47 and founded another, Os Anjos do Inferno (The Angels of Hell). His odd style did not become popular in Rio, where he was virtually unknown.
Then, in 1950, young João Gilberto arrived from his home state of Bahia at the invitation of Os Garotos da Lua (The Moonboys), thereby throwing his voice into the ring of the vocal group war. Os Garotos did not sing in English. They were Brazilian and sang in Portuguese. With the arrival of João Gilberto, the group began to annoy the other groups. However, João Gilberto did not easily conform to the rules of the group. He also had the idea that he would do well on his own. Therefore, when his failure to show up for rehearsals and shows resulted in his subsequent firing, it probably did not upset him very much. The eccentric Senhor Gilberto next allied himself to another eccentric João (Donato), and the two prepared the way for bossa nova together.
The group Os Cariocas with their nationalistic music, had their first success with "Adeus América" (Farewell, America) by Geraldo Jacques, in which they mock such American "institutions" as boogie woogie, swing, rock, singing "Que isso não está mais pra mim. Eu quero um samba feito só pra mim," That this is not for me anymore. I want a samba made just for me.
"That night, as I heard that slow and syncopated samba, the musician hiding in me took control of my body. I became part of that wonderful energy of the trio, when a cuíca came from within me, and I had the courage to imitate its sound, at the right time and in the right pitch. Later, the musicians told me I must be Brazilian to understand that exact moment."
Luciane Simonds, expatriate Brazilian, after a recent concert with Eliane Elias.
The Birth of
It would be naïve to contend that bossa nova had but one moment of birth after conception and gestation. Almir Chediak, who has given so much to lovers of Brazilian music with his Songbooks, collections of music on CD and in books, representative of a great many of MPB's greatest, has also issued a CD-ROM called Song Book about bossa nova. On it, he challenges the user to answer questions and then provides the answers. About the birth of bossa nova he depicts 5 possibilities with pictures to click on, then with text, animation, "live" performances by several artists, and sound tracks of famous songs, he answers the questions posed by himself.
One of them, which countless others see as the start of bossa nova, is the LP Canção de Amor Demais (Song of Too Much Love), by Elizeth Cardoso. On it she sings Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes' "Chega de Saudade" (Enough Longing) almost simultaneously made famous by the guitarist who accompanied her, João Gilberto.
Another of the possibilities mentioned was a phone call from Tom Jobim to the artistic director of record company, Odeon, Aloysio de Oliveira. Tom Jobim had heard mention of a "Baiano singer with a different style," whom he wanted to invite to his house. That precipitated the first meeting between two of the geniuses of bossa nova.
Yet another option on the CD-ROM is this, on the liner notes of the LP entitled Chega de Saudade, Tom Jobim, in fact, gave name to the new movement. He called João Gilberto "O Baiano bossa-nova de 27 anos" (The new-style, 27-year-old Bahian), thereby coining a name that would send shock waves into the world.
A fourth "click" introduces the song "Desafinado" (Off-key) by Tom Jobim and Newton Mendonça and its line "Isso é Bossa Nova, isso é muito natural" (That is bossa nova, it is very natural). A delightful animation shows a hapless singer being bombarded with tomatoes as he sings "Off Key" off key.
Last, but not least, is mentioned a conversation that took place at Casa Villarino, a bar, in 1956. Critic and historian Lúcio Rangel introduced Tom Jobim to Vinícius de Moraes, who was looking for a musical partnership for his play Orfeu da Conceição." Tom Jobim was a little embarrassed but finally dared ask the question if there were any money in the project. The play did not produce great remuneration, but a divine and immortal partnership was born.
The mid 50's had brought with them a desire for renovation. Popular music had for some time, to a great degree, come from outside Brazil. A movement for creating music inside the countrya music all-Brazilian, albeit with foreign influences, was brewing among a group of young people in the Zona Sul in Rioa talented group of musicians and singersborn into the bourgeoisie of Ipanema and Copacabana. These people were eager to create their own jeito, their own way: "Revolution with beauty," a phrase used by the triumvirate of Tom Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes, and Carlos Lyra.
Tom Jobim did not like what people were saying, that bossa nova was inspired by jazz. He said of the subject that his work was inspired by the harmonies of Villa-Lobos, Chopin, and other classics. Others said that what he and his pals did was simply samba. Then, producer and lyricist Aloysio de Oliveira created quite a stir when he arrived from the U.S. and stated that "Foi a Noite" (It was the Night), by Jobim and Newton Mendonça and "Menina" (Girl), by Carlos Lyra, recorded by Sylvinha Telles, were not samba, not samba-canção, nor ballads. "I have seen that something new is being born," he said.
João Gilberto was intrigued by the modern style employed by Tito Madi, who had great success with "Chove Lá Fora" (It's Raining Outside). They struck up a friendship, which led to many creative moments between the two.
But one defining relationship during this time, of course, started when João Gilberto first set foot in the apartment belonging to Antônio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, in Ipanema. Tom was astonished to hear the beat utilized by the Baiano singer and immediately thought of "Chega de Saudade," already recorded by Elizeth Cardoso, as a vehicle for João. As history has shown, his instincts were exactly right.
At that time, São Paulo was the important market for music. The director of Odeon Records, Osvaldo Gurzoni, however, showed somewhat less enthusiasm than Tom Jobim had. In fact, when presented with the record, he is said to have had a fit and broken it. Thus, he too, has his place in the history of bossa nova. One can only be grateful it was the finished product and not the master tape he heard. "Chega de Saudade" went on to break all record sales in Brazil and around the world.
Osvaldo Gurzoni was not the only one who vociferously expressed his dislike for the new style. Antônio Maria, author of sambas-canções like "Ninguém Me Ama" (Nobody Loves Me), was one of the first. Nobody, however, was as virulent as music critic José Ramos Tinhorão, for whom bossa nova never went beyond "an assembly of North American music, a servile adaptation of cool jazz." One can only wonder if at some time later, Mr. Tinhorão felt as if he were standing on the track of an oncoming train with a picket, protesting the noise.
Brazil had for a long time had a national obsession with the accordion and has, over the years, produced many great players. João Gilberto changed that picture forever. The sound and beat of his guitar became the manner in which the new musicians of Brazil wanted to express themselves. And scores of hopeful young people flocked to learn "the new beat" from Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal at their music academy. Another tradition was born then, as well, that of getting together in small, intimate groups at someone's house to sing and play. Such a place was the so-called bunker of Nara Leão, the muse of bossa nova.
I remember that day clearlythe day that changed my life forever. It was during school vacation. Copenhagen was warm and sunny that day, when this teenager strolled up my hometown's famous Walking Street. And there, on the right, in that little movie theater, now long gone, I saw the poster of two black people with the morros (hills) of Rio in the background. The pictures were too intriguing to pass by, and I bought a ticket for Orfeu Negro. I didn't know the writer, director, score composer, or actors. But it began my love affair with Brazil at the same time that it opened the world of bossa nova to me.
The "Places" of
Aforementioned Casa Villarino was on the corner of Avenida Calógeras and Avenida Presidente Wilson in the center of Rio. It was not just the birthplace of the partnership between Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes, but also a creative haven for the bohemians in Rioa place in which were written some of the most wonderful sambas-canções, the most passionate poems, and some of the most interesting radio programs of the time. Casa Villarino was frequented by such luminaries as the poets Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Paulo Mendes Campos, the composers Ary Barroso, Dorival Caymmi, and Fernando Lobo and the singers Dolores Duran and Aracy de Almeida.
Another place with significance in the history of bossa nova, which nurtured the growing movement, was the nightclub of the Hotel Plaza at Avenida Prado Júnior. A small space, it lent itself perfectly to the get-togethers of greatly talented people, where they had the opportunity to play the sounds that were becoming increasingly popular. Not surprisingly, it was João Gilberto who brought fame to the Plaza when he performed with drummer Milton Banana. Tom Jobim went there to see the Baiano guitarist. But perhaps the most famous and wide reaching result stemming from the Plaza was the work done by Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes, which led to the birth of bossa nova.
"Beco das Garrafas" (Bottle Alley) is another term that should not be forgotten. In fact, journalist Ruy Castro, author of the book Chega de Saudade, is quoted as saying that "the Beco das Garrafas was to bossa nova what Milton's Playhouse on 118th Street in Harlem was to Be-Bop," the jazz style created by, among others, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Beco das Garrafas got its name from the action of the neighbors upon hearing the Carioca bohemians playing their music into the wee hours. They threw bottles out the windows at the hapless musicians to get them to quiet down. It was a blind alley between Duvivier and Rodolfo Dantos Streets, but some time before the start of the 60's, writer Sérgio Porto baptized it Beco das Garrafas.
Located in Beco das Garrafas were the clubs Little Club, Bottle's Bar, Baccara, and Ma Griffe. The first two presented shows with the duo Miéle and Bôscoli. Then came performers like Elis Regina, Paulo Moura, Baden Powell, and many others. Later emerged groups like Luizinho Eça's Tamba Trio, Bossa Três led by Luiz Carlos Vinhas, and the sextet of Sérgio Mendes. Discovered in Rome and brought to Brazil, American dancer Lenny Dale put his own spin on bossa nova for a while in Beco das Garrafas and almost transformed it into another Broadway show. At Bottle's, his crazy choreography created a stir. Waving his arms like the rotors of a helicopter, he appeared on stage. Likewise, he made an entrance with a live duck to sing "O Pato" (The Duck). He also invented a bossa nova dance filled with lots of swinging and swaying.
Bossa nova has changed not only the culture but also the geography of Brazil. There used to be a little hangout called Bar Veloso on Rua Montenegro. The bar is now called Bar Garota de Ipanema and the street is called Rua Vinícius de Moraes. It is commonly believed and accepted that Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes composed the song of the same name, in English known as The Girl from Ipanema, in this bar. The story, however, is not accurate. The famous pair frequented Bar Veloso to drink and chat and gather inspiration. And indeed, it was there that in 1962 the green eyes of Heloísa Menezes inspired the creative duo to write a song and dedicate it to Helô, as she was generally called. But it was in Tom Jobim's new house on Rua Barão da Torre that the music began. The song was, originally, named "Menina que Passa" (Girl Who Walks By) and the lyrics were quite different.
The Bunker of
Some call the apartment, where 14-year-old Nara Leão lived with her parents, the actual beginning of bossa nova, because it was a place in which, supported by her parents, Nara's friends gathered at all times and tried out their compositions. Her circle consisted of people like Roberto Menescal, Carlos Lyra, Ronaldo Bôscoli, Chico Feitosa, Luís Carlos Vinhas, the brothers Castro Neves, and Dori Caymmi, son of Dorival Caymmi.
In Rua Nascimento Silva, 107, Tom Jobim stayed up all hours of the night to compose music for Vinícius de Moraes' play Orfeu da Conceição. The architect who designed Brazil's new capital Brasília, Oscar Niemeyer, also designed the set for the play. The play was a success and a cultural event in 1956 Brazil.
It could be said that bossa nova had officially arrived, when the president's preferred pianist, Bené Nunes, also called the Godfather of bossa nova, invited to a party at his apartment in the last week of 1959. Invited was the Turma da Bossa (Bossa Gang), which consisted of Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Ary Barroso, Luiz Bonfá, Ronaldo Bôscoli, Carlinhos Lyra, Roberto Menescal, Sylvinha Telles, Nara Leão, Oscar Castro Neves, Luizinho Eça, Luís Carlos Vinhas, Chico Feitosa, Sérgio Ricardo, Alayde Costa, Nana Caymmi, and others. This happened as the magazine O Cruzeiro presented a 10-page spread on the new wave of music. Ronaldo Bôscoli said of the style, "bossa nova is a state of the spirit."
Created in the Marvelous City, Cidade Maravilhosa (Rio), it didn't take long before it arrived in São Paulo. In the beginning of the 60's, the movement made its appearance on television, in clubs, theaters, and student hangouts. In spite of the initial reception of "Chega de Saudade," bossa nova was there to stay.
Flux and reflux. I cannot help thinking about the cool Scandinavian sound of the fifties. Recordings with Gullin, Domnerus, Bilberg, and Bent Hallberg that became quite an influence in America, from east to west with its lush, warm and lyrical sounds and with so much tristeza (Portuguese: sadness). And then these very sounds fell on us again, less than a decade later through the masteries of Jobim, Gilberto, Carlos Lyra, Johnny Alf, Sidney Miller, etc., who themselves had listened to Chet Baker, Mulligan, Modern Jazz Quartet, The Miles Davis-Gil Evans collaborations. So the scene was clean and ready for the arrival of the bossa nova in Europe, caught in a turmoil of hard bop and avant-garde. The wave was on its way to be, it certainly saved Getz' career, and bossa nova musicians went on tours all over Europe.
Finn Nielsen, writer and music critic, Copenhagen, Denmark
On November 21, 1962, New York's Carnegie Hall became the stage for a much advertised show. Thousands got tickets, and at least 1000 people were left in the rain outside. It was a show, in which Murphy played a central part, i.e. the Murphy with the law, in that everything that could go wrong, did. Nothing worked right. And yet, it turned out to be a thundering success.
"Batida Diferente" (Different Beat) sent the audience flying. Tom Jobim on the piano got messed up on the lyrics of "Samba de uma Nota Só" (One Note Samba), but people loved it. On "Corcovado" things got complicated, and he stopped, then started again and sang it both in Portuguese and English to everybody's delight. Carlinhos Lyra sang his "Influência do Jazz," a tribute to the North American art form. João Gilberto thrilled the audience, among whom were Peggy Lee, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, with "Samba da Minha Terra" (Samba From My Land), "Corcovado," and "Desafinado" (Off Key) with Tom Jobim on piano. Agostinho dos Santos sang Luiz Bonfá's hauntingly beautiful "Manhã de Carnaval" (Morning of Carnaval) with Bonfá on guitar.
It was a new beginning for bossa nova and its artists. USA's First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, received the artists in the White House. Many of them signed recording and touring contracts in New York. A new era, in which North American artists jumped on the bossa nova bandwagon, began. Of supreme importance was tenor player, Stan Getz, whose velvety sound seemed perfect for bossa nova. He went on to record a series of Brazilian albums with people like João and Astrud Gilberto, and Tom Jobim, who always remained known in this country as Antônio Carlos Jobim. "Old Blue Eyes" himself recorded one of his best records in partnership with Tom Jobim.
USA's and Europe's gain also became Brazil's loss, in a way, in that both João Gilberto and Tom Jobim ended up living many years outside Brazil. Sérgio Mendes also a became a household name in the U.S. and Europe.
Jobim along with Lennon/McCartney became the most recorded composer on the planet. His songs "Garota de Ipanema," "Samba de Uma Nota Só," "Corcovado," "Meditação," "Insensatez," and "Wave" were sung and made famous by Astrud Gilberto, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat "King" Cole, and Peggy Lee. "Desafinado" recorded by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd sold over a million copies.
Bossa Nova Baby
Bossa Nova and I were born some thirty-five years ago in New York City. I on the East Side, bossa nova on the West. Actually, the musical genre had about a four-year head start on me in Brazil, yet it wasn't until the November 1962 concert at Carnegie Hall that America was introduced to the soft, understated sounds of what Jobim referred to as "samba distilled." Yet, even as a small child sitting in front of my family's Motorola stereo, I had thought bossa nova was American jazz music and only years later discovered it came from Brazil. What I mean to say is that this music felt so natural (so New York!)so universalthat there was no trace of anything "foreign" in it. Many years later, I certainly appreciate the subtle differences, yet for me bossa nova was, and continues to be, pure and timeless music.
Being a contemporary with bossa nova, I've always had a keen interest in its development and spread throughout the world. Much has changed in Brazilian music since that time, yet there's always been a sort of timelessness and universality expressed by bossa nova, which I cherish. The subtle rhythm continues to tickle gently like a soft feather brushing across your cheek. It has attracted an international following (which, indeed, has kept it alive) and has relied on the cross-pollinating influences of non-Brazilian greats such as Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.
Bossa Nova both draws upon and contributes to the body of work we call jazz and doing so is a true partner in the musical experience: one that shows the importance of an unselfish give-and-take.
So, is bossa nova Brazilian? In origin, perhaps, but as it has circled the world, it has become so much more. Bossa Nova is the origin of integrated world musicone sure to be recognized from Manhattan to Manaus, Paris to Parsippany, Tokyo to Toledo. Thanks, Joe, Mr. Bim*, for nurturing your distilled spirit and sharing it with us.
Gabriel Ben-Yosef, a bossa nova baby, is editor of Bossa Magazine and can be reached at editor@BossaMag.com on the Internet.
* Refers to an incident at which Tom Jobim arrived in New York and was greeted in that manner by a customs agent who was not familiar with the famous name and its pronunciation.
Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim was born on January 25th, 1927 in Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro. The family moved to Ipanemaa place that inspired much of Jobim's music. He started studying the piano at 13. By 1956, he worked as a pianist and had already written music in partnership with Billy Blanco, Dolores Duran, and Newton Mendonça. It was at this time that he met Vinícius de Moraes, and their creative relationship started. "With Vinícius, I could write as much as three songs a day," said Tom Jobim.
In the 60's, he began his international career starting with the Carnegie Hall concert. That led to the recording with Frank Sinatra. This move toward the exterior, however, made him the target of hard criticism in Brazil. They said he was making "American music," and that he had sold out. His recordings gathered dust in the stores in Brazil, while they were torn off the shelves outside. "In Brazil, success is a personal affront," complained Jobim.
Another great source of bitterness for Jobim was the destruction of nature, particularly in Amazônia. He took his worry about the environment into the studio with "Matita Perê," "Urubu," and "Passarim." In the 80's, he regained his prestige in his homeland and was often the subject of frequent tributes.
With his wife, Tereza, he had the children Elizabeth and Paulo, who is also a musician and father of Daniel Jobim. From his marriage to Ana Lontra, he had the children Mario Luíza Helena and João Francisco Lontra Jobim, who was killed in 1998 at 18, when he was driving a car his mother had given him as a present a week earlier.
In '92, he was the theme of the samba school Mangueira's Carnaval performance. In '94, Tom Jobim was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In spite of surgery to remove the tumor, Jobim did not recover and died in New York on December 8th of that year. Brazil and the world had lost one of the greatest composers to ever hit the scene.
Vinícius de Moraes, "O Poetinha" The Little Poet, was one of the most endearing characters in MPB and Brazilian literature. His career in music was a curious one. In 1933, still quite young, Vinícius recorded a marchinha (a little march), "Loura ou Morena" (Blond or Dark). But soon he abandoned his artistic life for the Foreign Service, including a stint at the Brazilian consulate in Los Angeles. Until the beginning of the 50's, Vinícius' Foreign Service restricted his artistic expressions to articles for newspapers about movies and poetry.
In 1956, after he had returned to Brazil, Vinícius sought a partner for Orfeu da Conceição, his Brazilian version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. At first he rejected the suggestion of Vadico, ex-partner of Noel Rosa, and agreed to talk to Tom Jobim. Vinícius de Moraes was known for his bon vivant lifestyle (wine, woman, and song). Retired from the Foreign Service by the military regime, he spent the rest of his days enjoying his life to the fullest.
Roberto Batalha Menescal was born in Vitória, Espírito Santo, on October 25th, 1937. Studied piano from childhood and later switched to accordion and harmonica. Finally, he opted for the guitar. Having studied with some excellent teachers, he later founded a musical academy with Carlos Lyra in Copacabana in the mid-fifties. In 1958, his first song was recorded by Alaíde Costa. He participated in the show Samba Session, considered one of the forerunners of bossa nova. In 1961, he wrote the classic "O Barquinho" (The Little Boat), inspired by his own love for and adventures at sea. The following year he sang in publicfor the first and last timeat the concert at Carnegie Hall.
Menescal went on to become producer and director of PolyGram Records. He produced a great many collections of Brazilian music for the Japanese market. He collaborated with Almir Chediak on the CD-ROM about bossa nova. His son, Márcio, has followed in his father's footsteps becoming involved in the production of music.
Elis Regina, Gaúcha (woman from Rio Grande do Sul state), was born in Porto Alegre. At 19, she arrived in Rio in 1964. It didn't take long for the sprite Regina, nicknamed "Pimentinha" (the little pepper), to become a success. After a show in Beco das Garrafas, in Rio, the doors were opened for her. In 1965, after a season at the Paramount Theater in São Paulo, she was put in charge of the program O Fino da Bossa, on TV Record.
In the 70's, when she was married to maestro César Camargo Mariano, Elis established herself as one of the most important names of MPB and made some outstanding recordings. She was also instrumental in discovering new talents, such as Renato Teixeira, João Bosco, and Aldir Blanc. Sadly, she died of a heart attack brought on by a mixture of alcohol and cocaine, in January of 1981.
Nara Lofego Leão was 14 years old in 1956 when she started taking guitar lessons from two fellows in Copacabana, Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal. They say that bossa nova was practically born in the family's apartment, facing the sea, where she organized get-togethers with her teachers and friends. One of those was Ronaldo Bôscoli, who ended up moving in as her boyfriend.
Toward the end of the decade, Nara was considered the muse of bossa nova and engaged in a career as a singer. Perhaps her greatest merit was discovering or re-discovering great talents, new and old, such as Cartola and Carlos Cachaça, she recorded Zé Kéti and João do Vale. She helped launch Maria Bethânia's career and recorded Chico Buarque's first success "A Banda" (The Band).
She had famous fights with Bôscoli and Elis Regina. She was married to the filmmaker, Cacá Diegues, with whom she had the daughter, Isabel. In the 70's, she recorded LP's with music by João Donato and Erasmo Carlos. In 1991, she died of cancer at the age of 49.
João Gilberto was born in Juazeiro, Bahia, in 1931. He lived in his hometown until the age of 18. Until then, practically his only contact with the outside world was radio, on which he listened to his idol, Orlando Silva. He also listened to the American recordings coming from the loud speakers on the main square in Juazeiro.
After his tumultuous relationship with Os Garotos da Lua mentioned earlier, he went on working toward his solo career. For the next seven years, he traveled between Rio, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, and Bahia encountering the same problems dealing with adapting to the rules of others. After the success of "Chega de Saudade," he became an overnight success, practically. He married Astrud and together they recorded in the U.S. with Stan Getz. After they broke up, he married Miúcha, sister of Chico Buarque, with whom he had the daughter Bebel.
In the 70's, after he returned to Brazil, he performed with Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and Gal Costa, for whom he approached God-status. In the 90's, his reputation for being difficult has only grown, but recently, in 1998, he made a successful tour of the United States, which received rave reviews both from the audiences and critics.
Maysa Figueira Monjardim, known as "O Furacão da MPB" (The Hurricane of MPB), was famous for her large, green eyes. The poet Manuel Bandeira called them dois oceanos não pacíficos (two not pacific oceans). At 18, she married impresario André Matarazzo, 38. They had everything required to live a comfortable and tranquil lifestyle, but her father recognized her uncommon talent and insisted on making her a star.
He succeeded in setting up an audition with Columbia, which resulted almost immediately in a contract. Maysa was pregnant with her son, Jayme, and chose to spend time with him, but not for long. Eventually, it came to a choice between her marriage and artistic career. The latter won out.
The tearful and most personal voice of the singerwho also composed was a sensation, and with the arrival of the new style, she considered switching to bossa nova. Finally, in 1961, involved in a relationship with Ronaldo Bôscoli, she took the plunge and went on tour in South America singing bossa nova. Her life was a mixture of turbulent love affairs and whiskey, and in 1977, she was killed in an automobile accident on the Rio-Niterói Bridge.
Baden Powell was already an established guitarist at the outset of bossa nova, but the movement gave him the opportunity to play with other musicians of high caliber. He worked in partnership with Vinícius de Moraes on several occasions, which produced works such as "Canto de Ossanha", "Samba da Benção" (Blessing Samba), "Berimbau" (an instrument used widely in the martial arts form of capoeira), and "Apelo" (Appeal).
In the 80's, after having lived in Paris for several years, he returned to Brazil. Unfortunately, he never had the recognition he so richly deserved and got in Europe, and he is now living in Germany.
Sylvinha Telles began her love affair with bossa nova almost a decade before the genre officially existed. In 1952, when she was 19, she was the girlfriend of João Gilberto and attempted a career as a singer. The affair did not last, but the musical influence stayed. In 1955, she started going out with guitarist Candinho, whom she later married. At the same time she began performing in small clubs, but soon attracted wider attention.
In 1957, her LP Carícia (Caress), a precursor of bossa nova, launched her on the road to fame. In fact, it resulted in a TV program not unlike I Love Lucy, in which she performed with her husband. She separated from Candinho and later married Aloysio de Oliveira, formerly of Bando da Lua, the group which accompanied Carmen Miranda to the U.S.. In the 60's, her career hit some snags due to alcohol. She died in a car accident in 1966.
Carlos Lyra was born in Rio de Janeiro on May 11th, 1936 into a middle class family with a penchant for music. His parents and uncles played instruments, and Carlos himself started on the road to being a musician at the age of 7. His first performances with the guitar took place at the Colégio Santo Inácio, where he went to school.
At secondary school in Copacabana, he met Roberto Menescal, with whom he later founded his musical academy. This academy was, in truth, an apartment in which the two gave lessons to young hopefuls, but it also became a meeting place of people like Edu Lobo, Nara Leão, Ronaldo Bôscoli, and Marcos Valle.
In 1955, while he was studying architecture and playing electric guitar with the pianist, Bené Nunes, he began composing. In '56, he won at the Festival da Canção on TV Rio with the song "Menina" (Girl) later recorded by Sylvinha Telles. In 1960, he composed the music for the play A Mais-Valia Vai Acabar, Seu Edgar (The Surplus Value Will End, Mr. Edgar) by Oduvaldo Vianna Filho. The following year, he met Vinícius with whom he composed the musical Pobre Menina Rica (Poor Rich Girl) and Primavera (Spring).
One of his great contributions to bossa nova, was "Influência do Jazz," from 1962, which, in a vibrant rhythm he theorizes about how the genre was created, mixing samba, jazz, Afro Cuban rhythms and more. Carlos Lyra says today that bossa nova is over. "It was the Brazilian popular music between 1956 and 1965," he says. In 1994 he issued his first album with unpublished songs in 20 years. He has never liked the pressure from producers to record something he did not consider quality and has always spoken up for the rights of composers to write what they believe: "I don't have to write any nonsense."
Ronaldo Bôscoli was born in Rio on October 27th, 1929. His was a family of artists, composer Chiquinha Gonzaga and actors Jardel Jércolis and Jardel Filho. His road to musician, however, went by way of journalism. His first job as a reporter was in the 50's when he wrote about musical events in the magazine Manchete, moving on later to the newspaper Última Hora.
He established himself as an influential figure in bossa nova, being both a producer of musical shows and manager. He also composed and distinguished himself with the composition "Sente," (Feel) on the LP Oh, Norma, recorded in 1957 by Norma Benguel. He also performed in pocket shows with invited guests.
Along with Carlos Lyra he composed "Lobo Bobo" (Silly Wolf) in 1959, "Saudade Fez um Samba" (Longing Made a Samba), and many others. But the most steady of his partnerships was with Roberto Menescal, whom he met in '56 and with whom he composed the famous "O Barquinho."
He was known as a relentless music critic but also for his great sense of humor. He was also a great ladies' man, having had affairs with many of the leading ladies of bossa nova, Nara Leão, Maysa, and Elis Regina. He never shied away from speaking openly of his affairs. "It wasn't just the women everybody knew, but all the prettiest women around," he is known to have said. He and Elis had a son, João Marcelo, who also has a musical career. From about the 70's, he worked with Roberto Carlos as a musical director until his death in 1993.
Newton Mendonça wrote the lyrics for two of the most famous bossa nova songs, "Desafinado" (Off Key), and "Samba de Uma Nota Só" (One Note Samba). Unfortunately, he was never to reap the fruits of the roaring worldwide success both of these songs received. In May of 1959, a couple of months after João Gilberto's historic recording, he suffered a cardiac infarction. A year and a half later, a massive heart attack killed him at the age of 33. One of the great Carioca bohemians, Mendonça spent his nights playing piano in the clubs of Copacabana like Mogambo, the Carrousel, the Posto 5, and Ma Griffe in Beco das Garrafas. And there was always whiskey, women, and conversation with friends that went well into dawn, creating many problems with his wife.
Cardiac problems ran in the family of Mendonça, and after the first infarction, he was told by the doctors to stop drinking, smoking and fooling around. He was also advised to stop working for six months. He did not follow a single one of those pieces of advice and continued his lifestyle as musician of the night.
Luiz Bonfá was born in Rio in 1922 and made a living as a guitarist in the early 50's. Respected by his colleagues, he was the subject of an homage by João Gilberto in the tune "Um Abraço no Bonfá" (A Hug on Bonfá). His beautiful song from Vinícius de Moraes' Orfeu Negro, "Manhã de Carnaval," is one of those classics most people know, even if perhaps they don't know its origin. He was another Brazilian musician who made a great success of himself in the United States with songs such as "Gentle Rain," "Menina Flor," and "Ruth's Waltz."
In the 70's, he and Jobim, who were great friends, engaged in a controversy about who had composed which harmony. The fight escalated until there was a break in their relationship. They later re-united with the help of music critic, Roberto Muggiati, who was an unconditional fan of both.
After music, Bonfá has another great passion, antique carsat one point, he owned about 20, most of them from the 30'sand he is a member of the Veteran Car Club.
Oscar Castro-Neves was born in Rio on May 15th, 1940. Since the age of 6, he played cavaquinho and guitar. When he was 14, he formed a musical group with his brothers Mário on piano, Leo on drums, and Ico on bass. In 1960, the LP Bossa Nova Mesmo, included two of his songs, "Menina Feia" (Ugly Girl) and "Chora sua Tristeza" (Cry Your Sadness). In 1964, he accompanied Vinícius and Quarteto em Cy in the club Zum-Zum and presented his song "Onde Está Você?" (Where Are You?) in the show O Fino da Bossa. That song became a great success for Alaíde Costa.
Oscar participated in the 1962 bossa nova show at Carnegie Hall. After that, he returned many times to the United States, and since 1966 has lived in this country where he divides his time between producing CDs, arranging movie scores, and acting as representative of Brazilian musicians for American projects. From time to time, he goes to Brazil. In 1975 he participated in writing the soundtrack for the soap opera Gabriela and in 1993, he was in the annual Free Jazz Festival in Brazil.
The Mark They
Most of us have probably played the philosophical game, "If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there, does it make a sound?" It's easy to give biographical data on the people who created bossa nova, but does it tell us what they came to mean to us and to the generations that were to follow? Gilberto Gil said in a recent interview, asked about the death a while earlier of Tim Maia, "Life is like that, isn't it? People create, leave their marks, and die. But those marks are fundamental for the development of a generation. In that is the renewal."
And indeed, the masters of bossa nova, some of whom are no longer with us, live on, not only in their recordings, but also in the legacies carried on by present and future standard-bearers.
Tom Jobim, as seen by others.
Tom, for me, is my university. The best music courses that I took were to hear what Tom played and the things he said as well as the arrangements he made for my things.
Tom Jobim was accused, many times, of plagiarism. In a chronicle, Antônio Maria denounced five such (perceived) instances. Sérgio Cabral in his biography, touches on this event, which caused great controversy in the Carioca community, but leaves the conclusion up to the reader. Carlos Lyra says of the subject, "Sure, there were times, but Tom was generally the first one to point out the similarities between his new song and one written by someone else. For instance, I remember when he showed me his new song, I think it was "Discussão," (Discussion) written because he adored "Você e Eu" (You and I). He said, "This is the influence of Carlinhos Lyra, I took it all from "Você e Eu." I can't hear the similarity, but obviously, he did."
Edu Lobo says, "With Tom, it was like this, the closer you got to his work, the more you'd become able to enjoy it, to play it, and you'd start to see the dimensions. Tom is the best popular composer I know. In his day, he had no equal, anywhere in the world. I had the pleasure of telling him that several times. One of those times he asked me, "And what about Michel Legrand?" I told him that Michel Legrand didn't come close to him. But I thought it was funny him asking that because it was almost like he was a little kid."
Edu Lobo says furthermore, "For me Tom was always a kind of model, an objective, something like that. I think it was that way for everyone in my generation. My thing is to make my music come as close as possible to that model, that harmonic and melodic rigor. I think he was very important in the sense of attracting people to that music, such that they wouldn't be drawn to some other kind of music.
"Tom was one of the funniest people I ever knew. In the middle of a conversation, he'd start telling a story about buzzards. There were some people who didn't get his humor at all. We'd record, and as soon as the track was laid down, it was straight back to the jokes, just non-stop silliness. Puns, plays on words. He was a pun specialist, from the worst to the best, he was very funny. There was a story about him and Chico (Buarque) fighting over reading dictionaries. They had every dictionary in the world."
Chico Buarque about his first partnership with Tom Jobim on the beautiful song "Retrato em Branco e Preto" (Portrait in White and Black): " the funny thing is that back there in the beginning, I don't know if this is just my impression or if it was really so, but I had the impression that he was sort of lending me a hand, giving me a break, he insisted that I do the lyrics, but comparing this to other times later, when there was already a strong friendship between us, it was more difficult to write lyrics for Tom, because he interfered all the time. But this time he didn't. He was like, "It's great." Like he was going out of his way or even patronizing me a little.
"In the song, "Piano na Mangueira" I was very careful to fit the lyrics to his music. And then he'd go and change it when he sang it. Sometimes, I'd actually get pissed off, but in reality, he turned it around and musicalized the lyrics."
Meu maestro soberano foi Antônio Brasileiro (my supreme maestro was Antônio Brasileiro), as Tom Jobim was often called, is a line from Chico Buarque's song "Paratodos" (For Everybody) from the CD of the same namein tribute to Tom Jobim.
About João Gilberto.
Carlos Lyra about the claim that "Chega de Saudade" was composed, not as a bossa nova, but as a choro:* "It's obvious that it was changed, for sure. I don't know if it was a choro, but it was evidently something Tom had already done. What João Gilberto did was put a samba into an outline of syncopated rhythm, an absolute economy of chordshe played few chords. Today, he plays more."
Chico Buarque about "Chega de Saudade" and the reaction to it: "It was a sense of general estrangement, so much so that there was a break between the generations, between those who didn't like what was going on, older people, who had a hard time accepting that first moment of the bossa nova, including Tom's music and the voice and guitar and the vocal style of João Gilberto."
* A musical style that emerged in Rio about 1870played mostly in instrumental form. Origin is (perhaps) the Portuguese word chorothe act of cryingbut could be an African expressionno one is really sure.
About Vinícius de Moraes
Chico Buarque: "Vinícius had the power to fascinate people who were a little envious, in the good sense of the word, of the kind of life he led. In a certain way I think my father wanted to be like him."
Carlos Drummond de Andrade: "Vinícius was a great poet who lived his own poetry."
The Influence of
The people responsible for marketing various products in Brazil did not waste a minute hopping on the bandwagon of bossa nova. It was not long before consumer products from clothes to refrigerators bore the name of the suddenly "hot" style.
Carnaval got its own marchinha named Garota Bossa Nova. Filmmaker of Cinema Novo (the name of the Brazilian movies produced at that time, whose leading filmmaker was Gláuber Rocha), Leon Hirszman, directed "Garota de Ipanema" with the actress Márcia Rodrigues and a soundtrack full of bossa nova songs. And if someone wore a garish outfit, people would comment, "bossa nova, huh?"
Not even politics were excepted. The UDN (União Democrática NacionalNational Democratic Union), a former Brazilian party, trying to renew their image, became "A bossa nova da UDN." Knowing that the party no longer exists, one can only assume the strategy didn't work.
Humorist Juca Chaves, who was in no way considered part of "the gang," got some mileage out of the movement with "Presidente Bossa Nova," a satire on the popular Juscelino Kubitschek. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the song was prohibited by the presidential censors, which only made it more popular.
Bossa Nova Discography
Canção de Amor DemaisElizeth Cardosoon Festa, 1958
Chega de SaudadeJoão Gilbertoon Odeon, 1958
Orfeu do CarnavalAgostinho dos Santos and otherson Fontana, 1959
Bossa NovaCarlos Lyraon Phillips, 1960
Alayde Canta SuavementeAlayde Costaon RCA, 1960
O Amor, o Sorriso e a FlorJoão Gilbertoon Odeon, 1961
Bossa NovaRoberto Menescalon Imperial, 1962
A Bossa dos CariocasOs Cariocason Phillips, 1962
Tamba TrioTamba Trioon Phillips, 1962
Big Band Bossa NovaOscar Castro Neveson Audio Fidelity, 1962
Getz/GilbertoJoão Gilberto, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilbertoon Verve, 1963
Vinícius e Odete LaraVinícius and Odete Laraon Elenco, 1963
Bossa, Balanço e BaladaSylvia Telleson Elenco, 1963
Samba Esquema NovoJorge Benon Phillips, 1963
A Bossa Muito Moderna de DonatoJoão Donatoon Polydor, 1963
Baden Powell à VontadeBaden Powellon Elenco, 1964
Pobre Menina RicaCarlos Lyra and Dulce Nuneson CBS, 1964
Zimbo TrioZimbo Trioon RGE, 1964
Entre NósWalter Wanderleyon Phillips, 1964
Opinião de NaraNara Leãoon Phillips, 1964
Luiz Eça & CordasLuiz Eçaon Phillips, 1965
Dom UmDom Um Romãoon Phillips, 1965
Manfredo Fest TrioManfredo Feston RGE, 1965
Samba Eu Canto AssimElis Reginaon Phillips, 1965
Dois na BossaElis Regina and Jair Rodrigueson Phillips, 1965
Milton Banana TrioMilton Banana Trioon Odeon, 1965
Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos JobimFrancis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobimon Reprise, 1966
The Gentle RainLuiz Bonfáon Mercury, 1967
Beach SambaAstrud Gilbertoon Verve, 1967
Chega de Saudade
the one that started it all
Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes
Vai minha tristeza
E diz a ela
Que sem ela não pode ser
Diz-lhe numa prece
Que ela regresse
Porque eu não posso mais sofrer
Chega de saudade
É que sem ela não há paz
Não há beleza
É só tristeza
E a melancolia
Que não sai de mim
Não sai de mim, não sai.
Mas se ela voltar, se ela voltar
Que coisa linda, que coisa louca
Pois há menos peixinhos a nadar no mar
Do que os beijinhos
Que eu darei na sua boca
Dentro dos meus braços
Hão de ser milhões de abraços
Abraços e beijinhos
E carinhos sem ter fim
Que é prá acabar com esse negócio
De viver longe de mim
Vamos deixar desse negócio
De você viver sem mim
No More Blues
Go my sadness
And tell her
That without her it cannot be
Plead with her
To come back
Because I can't suffer anymore
No more blues
Is that without her there is no peace
There is no beauty
It is just sadness
Which does not leave me
Does not leave me, does not leave.
But if she returns, if she returns
What a beautiful thing, what a crazy thing
For there are fewer fish swimming in the sea
I will put on her mouth
In my arms
There will be millions of hugs
Tight like this
Close like this
Quiet like this
Hugs and kisses
And affection without end
To put a stop to this business
To live far from me
Let's leave behind this business
Of you living without me.
Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes
A insensatez que você fez
Coração mais sem cuidado
Fez chorar de dor
O seu amor
Um amor tão delicado
Ah, porque você foi fraco assim
Assim tão desalmado
Ah, meu coração quem nunca amou
Não merece ser amado
Vai meu coração ouve a razão
Usa só sinceridade
Quem semeia vento, diz a razão
Colhe sempre tempestade
Vai, meu coração pede perdão
Vai porque quem não
Não é nunca perdoado
English lyrics by Gene Lees
How insensitive I must have seemed
When she told me that she loved me
How unmoved and cold
I must have seemed
When she told me so sincerely
Why? She must have asked
Did I just turn and stare in icy silence?
What was I to say
What can you say
When a love affair is over
Now she's gone away
And I'm alone
With a memory of her last look
Vague and drawn and sad
I see it still
All her heartbreak in that last look
How, she must have asked
Could I just turn and stare and icy silence
What was I to do
What can you do
When a love affair is over.
Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes
Tristeza não fim
A felicidade é como a pluma
Que o vento vai levando pelo ar
Voa tão leve mas tem a vida breve
Precisa que haja vento sem parar
A felicidade do pobre parece
A grande ilusão do carnaval
A gente trabalha o ano inteiro
Por um momento de sonho
prá fazer a fantasia
De rei ou de pirata ou jardineira
E tudo se acabar na quarta-feira
Tristeza não tem fim, felicidade sim
A felicidade é como a gota de orvalho
numa pétala de flor
Brilha tranqüila, depois de leve oscila
E cai como uma lágrima de amor
A minha felicidade está sonhando
Nos olhos da minha namorada
É como esta noite passando, passando
Em busca da madrugada
Falem baixo por favor
Pra que ela acorde alegre como o dia
Oferecendo beijos de amor
A felicidade é uma coisa louca
E tão delicada também
Tem flores e amores de todas as cores
Tem ninhos de passarinhos
Tudo bom ela tem
Pois é por ela ser assim tão delicada
Que eu trato dela sempre muito bem
English lyrics by Arto Lindsay
Sadness has no end,
but happiness does.
Happiness is like a feather
The wind carries through the air
Its flight is light but its life is short
It needs to feel a breeze that never stops
The happiness of a poor man is like
The great illusion of carnival
We work all year long
For one moment in a dream,
to play the part
Of a king, a pirate or a gardener
Then everything is over on Ash Wednesday
Happiness is like a drop of dew
on a petal.
It shines peacefully and swings gently
Then falls like of tear shed for love
My happiness lies dreaming
In the eyes of my girlfriend
It's like a night that passes by
Looking for dawn.
Speak quietly, please
So she'll wake as happy as the day
And offer me kisses of love
Happiness is a crazy thing
And so delicate, too.
Flowers and love of all colors
It's made of, and bird's nests
and everything nice
Because she is so very delicate
I always treat her well.
The title of the next song is an example of the humor of Tom Jobim. The new style of music had by some critics been called "music for off-key singers" because of the odd sounding harmonies and intervals. This inspired Jobim to make fun of those critics and write the song. The best known part of the song is the refrain, and often the verse is not sung at all. But in a version by Tom Jobim himself, he sings the verse and purposely sounds off keysomething that is bound to have upset the critics. However, the first time João Gilberto heard it, he is said to have shouted, "That's mine."
Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça
Se você disser que eu desafino amor
Saiba que isto em mim provoca imensa dor
Só privilegiados têm ouvido igual ao seu
Eu possuo apenas o que Deus me deu
Se você insiste em classificar
Meu comportamento de antimusical
Eu, mesmo mentindo devo argumentar
Que isto é bossa nova
Que isto é muito natural
O que você não sabe, nem sequer pressente
É que os desafinados também têm um coração
Fotografei você na minha Rolleiflex
Revelou-se a sua enorme ingratidão
Só não poderá falar assim do meu amor
Este é o maior que você pode encontrar, viu
Você com a sua música esqueceu o principal
Que no peito dos desafinados
No fundo do peito bate calado
Que no peito dos desafinados
Também bate um coração
English lyrics by Gene Lees
If you say my singing is off key, my love
You will hurt my feelings
Don't you see, my love
I wish I had an ear like yours
A voice that would behave
All I have is feeling and the voice God gave
You insist my music goes against the rules
Yes, but rules were only made for lovesick fools
I wrote this little song for you, but you don't care
It's a crooked song
Ah, but all my heart is there
The thing that you would see
If you would play your part
Is even if I'm out of tune I have a gentle heart
I took your picture with my trusty Rollei-Flex
Ah, but all I have developed is a complex
Possibly in vain I hope you weaken, oh my love
And forget the rigid rules
That undermine my dream of
A life of love and music
With someone who understands
That even though I may be out of tune
When I attempt to say how much I love you
All that matters is the message that I bring
Which is my dear one, I love you.
Everybody has heard and felt the sweet notes of this next song, in English entitled "Quiet Nights" and made famous outside Brazil by Astrud Gilberto on the album Getz Au Go-Go. But many people probably don't know that Tom Jobim originally wrote the lyrics with this first line, "Um cigarro, um violão" (A cigarette, a guitar). Jobim, who smoked three packs a day, wanted to start the song in that manner. But João Gilberto, who had stopped years earlier, disagreed vehemently, "Tomzinho (little Tom), this thing with a cigarette and a guitar . Cigarettes are a bad thing. How about um cantinho (A little corner)." And that's how João Gilberto got his way with what was to become a famous and beloved song.
Um cantinho, um violão
Este amor, uma canção
Prá fazer feliz a quem se ama
Muita calma prá pensar
E ter tempo prá sonhar
Da janela vê-se o Corcovado
O Redentor, que lindo!
Quero a vida sempre assim
Com você perto de mim
Até o apagar da velha chama
E eu que era triste
Descrente desse mundo
Ao encontrar você eu conheci
O que é a felicidade
English lyrics by Gene Lees
Quiet nights of quiet stars
Quiet chords from my guitar
Floating on the silence that surrounds us
Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams
Quiet walks by quiet streams
And a window looking on the mountains
and the sea. How lovely
This is where I want to be
Here with you so close to me
Until the final flicker of life's embers
I who was lost and lonely
Believing life was only
A bitter tragic joke
Have found with you
The meaning of existence, oh my love
Garota de Ipanema
Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes
Olha que coisa mais linda
Mais cheia de graça
É ela menina
Que vem e que passa
Num doce balanço, caminho do mar
Moça do corpo dourado
Do sol de Ipanema
O seu balanço é mais que um poema
É a coisa mail linda que eu já vi passar
Ah, porque estou tão sozinho
Ah, porque tudo é tão triste
Ah, a beleza que existe
A beleza que não é só minha
Que também passa sozinha
Ah, se ela soubesse
Que quando ela passa
O mundo sorrindo se enche de graça
E fica mais lindo
Por causa do amor
Girl from Ipanema
English lyrics by Norman Gimbel
Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes
When she walks she's like a samba
When she walks, she's like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle
That when she passes, each one she passes
Oh, but I watch her so sadly
How can I tell her I love her
Yes, I would give my heart gladly
But each day as she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead, not at me
Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, I smile, but she
doesn't see. She just doesn't see
No, she just doesn't see
Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça
No amor, no sorriso, na flor
Então sonhou, sonhou
E perdeu a paz
O amor, o sorriso e a flor
Se transformam depressa demais
Quem, no coração
Abrigou a tristeza de ver
Tudo isto se perder
E, na solidão
Procurou um caminho e seguiu
Já descrente de um dia feliz
Quem chorou, chorou
E tanto que seu pranto já secou
Quem depois voltou
Ao amor, ao sorriso e à flor
Então tudo encontrou
Pois, a própria dor
Revelou o caminho do amor
E a tristeza acabou
English lyrics by Norman Gimbel
In my loneliness
When you're gone and I'm all by myself
And I need your caress
I just think of you
And the thought of you holding me near
Makes my loneliness soon disappear
Though you're far away
I have only to close my eyes
And you are back to stay
I just close my eyes
And the sadness that missing you brings
Soon is gone and this heart of mine sings
Yes I love you so
And that for me is all I need to know
I will wait for you
Till the sun falls from out of the sky
For what else can I do
I will wait for you
Meditating how sweet life will be
When you come back to me
Samba de uma Nota Só
Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça
Eis aqui este sambinha
Feito numa nota só
Outras notas vão entrar
Mas a base é uma só
Esta outra é consequência
Do que acabo de dizer
Como eu sou a consequência
Inevitável de você
Quanta gente existe por aí
Que fala tanto
e não diz nada
Ou quase nada
Já me utilizei de toda a escala
E no final não sobrou nada
Não deu em nada
E voltei prá minha nota
Como eu volto prá você
Vou cantar com a minha nota
Como eu gosto de você
E quem quer todas as notas
Ré mi fá sol la si dó
Fica sempre sem nenhuma
Fique numa nota só
One Note Samba
English lyrics by Tom Jobim
This is just a little samba
Built upon a single note
Other notes are bound to follow
But the root is still that note
Now this new one is the consequence
Of the one we've just been through
As I'm bound to be the unavoidable
consequence of you
There's so many people who can
talk and talk and talk
And just say nothing
Or nearly nothing
I have used up all the scale I know
And at the end I've come to nothing
Or nearly nothing
So I came back to my first note
As I must come back to you
I will pour into that one note
All the love I feel for you
Anyone who wants the whole show
Re mi fa sol la si do
He will find himself with no show
Better play the note you know
Samba do Avião
Minha alma canta
Vejo o Rio de Janeiro
Estou morrendo de saudade
Rio, teu mar, praias sem fim
Rio, você foi feito pra mim
Braços abertos sobre a Guanabara
Este samba é só porque
Rio, eu gosto de você
A morena vai sambar
Seu corpo todo balançar
Rio de sol, de céu, de mar
Dentro de mais um minuto
estaremos no Galeão
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Braços abertos sobre a Guanabara
Este samba é só porque
Rio, eu gosto de você
A morena vai sambar
Seu corpo todo balançar
Aperte o cinto, vamos chegar
Água brilhando, olha a pista chegando
E vamos nós
Song of the Jet
English lyrics by Gene Lees
How my heart is singing
I see Rio de Janeiro
My lonely longing days are ending
Rio, my love, there by the sea
Rio, my love, waiting for me
See the cable cars
That sway above the bay of Guanabara
Tiny sailboats far below dance
the samba as they go
Shining Rio, there you lie
City of sand and sea and sky
Mountains of green rising so high
Four minutes more we'll be there
at the airport in Galeão
Rio de Janeiro,
Rio de Janeiro,
Rio de Janeiro,
Rio de Janeiro
Statue of the Savior
with open arms above the yellow sea shore
Sugar Loaf in majesty climbing from the silver sea
Dark-eyed girls who smile at me
City of love and mystery
Fasten seat belts
No smoking please
Now we're descending and everything rushing
And now the wheels
Touch the ground.
It would be easy to continue for page after page of songs that still make the heart flutter and brings on images of gentle breezes as one stands on Copacabana Beach at the point where Pão de Açucar is visible and Ipanema beckons at the other end. There is a fragrance and a feeling in Rio that says bossa nova, that says Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes, that says "come to me and drink in my intoxicating spirit." Being very subjective, I'd have to say that São Paulo could never have inspired bossa nova. It arrived at the Bay of Guanabara on the wings of a divine Baiano, who changed our vision forever.
I will be eternally grateful to Almir Chediak, who with his partner Roberto Menescal produced the CD-ROM Song Book of Bossa Nova as well as the newspaper Estado de S. Paulo whose wonderful Website for the whole year of 1998 has carried a special feature about the 40 years of bossa nova. They can be visited at www.estado.com.br It provides links to, among other things, The Tom Jobim Website, which again provides more links and all the information, in Portuguese and English, you could ever want about Mr. Jobim. Log onand be prepared to spend the day.
Kirsten Weinoldt was born in Denmark and came to the U.S. in 1969. She fell in love with Brazil after seeing Black Orpheus many years ago and has lived immersed in Brazilian culture ever since. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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