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Tasting Noel

Tasting Noel

There has been a revival of Noel Rosa’s life and work. But who is
this artist whose music is so greatly loved by young and old more than 60 years after his
death at only 26, and how did such a young man come to write songs with such emotional
depth?
By Kirsten Weinoldt

Although he left this world May 4,1937, Noel de Medeiros Rosa is not forgotten. On the
contrary, there seems to have been a renaissance of his life and work in the past several
years. His songs have been the object of several artists who chose to dedicate whole CD’s
to his music. Johnny Alf, pre-bossa nova musician and singer known for his jazzy
harmonies, recorded a CD filled with the beautiful songs, and about the same time, Ivan
Lins launched two CD’s with Rosa songs as well as the history of each one of them printed
in the liner notes.

Cristina Buarque, sister of Chico, has with Henrique Cazes also contributed to the
recent Noel Rosa revival with a CD with 15 cuts, many of which are less known songs. One
must mention the mammoth collection by Almir Chediak, Songbook of Noel Rosa, well
over an hour of songs recorded by a great many Brazilian singers, such as Chico Buarque,
Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethânia, Gal Costa, Djavan, and others. And
recently, at a grand Brazilian concert in London, Caetano Veloso sang Rosa’s O X do
Problema, The Crux of the Problem. There also exist re-mastered CD’s of Rosa, himself,
originally recorded on 78 rpm records, and Rosa was excellent at interpreting his own
music, the hallmark of which was his irreverent and colloquial style.

So, who was this Noel Rosa whose music is so greatly loved by young and old more than
60 years after his death at only 26, and how did such a young man come to write songs with
the emotional depth of someone much older?

Son of Manoel Garcia de Medeiros Rosa, manager of a shirt factory and Marta de Azevedo,
a teacher, little Noel was born December 11, 1910 in the chalet on Rua Teodoro Silva in
Vila Isabel, Rio de Janeiro.

It was a difficult birth, during which the little boy was taken with forceps, and as a
consequence, Noel suffered a broken jawbone, which left his jaw forever crooked and
deformed. He also suffered partial paralysis of the right side of his face, which left him
timid in public, never letting other people see him eat. Forever worried about her oldest
son, Mrs. Marta begged him not to stay out late in the street, but to return to the house.

Knowing that Noel would surely go to a party on Saturday night, she hid all his
clothes. When his friends arrived to pick him up, Noel shouted, "With what
clothes?" (Com que roupa?) Thus his mother involuntarily inspired his first
great hit recorded for Carnaval in 1931, where it sold 15,000 copies. He was self
conscious about his face, but at the same time, he accentuated the deformity in the
caricatures he made of himself, and under the influence of drink and musical numbers, he
would let his hair down allowing his intelligent and sarcastic humor to surface.

He rarely had any money—just what he received from his compositions and some help
from his mother. But everything he made was spent on his Bohemian lifestyle with women,
drink, and smoke—exacerbating a chronic lung condition and leading to tuberculosis.

While Noel was still very young, his father left Vila Isabel, Rosa’s Rio neighborhood,
and went to work on a coffee farm in Araçatuba, while his mother opened a school in her
house to support her children. Taught in his mother’s school, Noel entered the Maisonnette
School and then São Bento, where he stayed until 1928. His nickname was Queixinho, Little
Jaw.

He started playing the mandolin by ear and soon went on to the guitar, which he learned
from his father, but as a whole, he was mostly self taught. While he was still in Colégio
São Bento, he benefited from a decree by President Getúlio Vargas, who had assumed power
during the revolution of October 1930, providing dispensation for the evaluation and
approval of students. Noel Rosa thus got his bachelor’s degree.

At about sixteen years of age, he had already composed a song and was becoming known
for his guitar playing and frequented get-togethers at Bar dos Cem Réis near his house.

In 1929, when he finished high school, he prepared to get into medical school, but
without putting aside his guitar and serenades. In fact, the only thing that really came
of his medical school days was the samba Coração, Heart, although with anatomical
errors. Eventually, the music won out over the medicine, and he never finished his
studies. So, while the world of patients lost a doctor, the world of music lovers gained
one of the great songwriters of all times.

Young Noel Rosa "hung out" with the sambistas of Estácio de Sá and
of the morros (hills), learning from them the rhythm and style of their
compositions and songs. About the same time, some students at the Colégio Batista and
inhabitants of Vila Isabel had formed a musical group called Flor do Tempo, Flower of the
Time, which performed at family and other functions.

Invited to record in 1929, the group was revised and renamed Bando dos Tangarás. The
members of the group were João de Barro, Almirante, Alvinho, and Henrique Brito in
addition to Rosa who, despite his young age, was already well known as a good guitarist.
Thus, he participated in the first recordings of Bando dos Tangarás. It was during the
same year that he composed his first songs, Minha Viola, My Viola, an embolada, a
Brazilian expression denoting poetry set to music, and Festa no Céu, Feast in
Heaven, which he recorded on the record Parlophon.

In spite of a very short life, Noel Rosa became one of the most fertile composers of
his time, perhaps of all time. Within a period of less than ten years, he came to compose
some 250 songs, among them numerous successes, which are now considered Brazilian
classics. After the initial recording, he returned to the studio to record the first of
his great hits, "Com Que Roupa?", With What Clothes?

In July of 1931, he debuted in the review Mar de Rosas, Sea of Roses, by Gastão
Penalva and Velho Sobrinho, whose repertoire included the sambas "Cordiais
Saudações," Cordial Greetings, "Mulata Fuzarqueira,"
Funloving Mulatto Woman, and "Mão no Remo," Hand on Oar, all
by Noel Rosa. The first two were recorded by himself, and the last, made in partnership
with Ary Barroso, was sung by Sílvio Caldas.

After a couple of engagements at Rádio Educadora and Mayrink Veiga in 1931, Noel
started at Rádio Philips, where from February 1932 he worked at stage manager of the
Programa Casé, but he also performed as a singer alongside Marília Batista, Almirante,
João de Barro, and others.

He joined with Lamartine Babo and Mário Reis in the group Ases do Samba, which
performed in São Paulo, where they achieved some success, encouraging them to do a tour
of the south. In Porto Alegre, they performed at the Cine Teatro Imperial along with
pianist Nonô, Mário Reis, Francisco Alves, and mandolin player, Peri Cunha.

He left behind six recordings with Marília Batista and some duets with João Petra de
Barros, I. G. Loyola, Arthur Costa, Ismael Silva, and Léo Vilar. Noel did not have a good
singing voice, but he knew how to interpret his own songs, and through the richness of the
poetry of his compositions he managed to have some cases of great success during his time.

Noel Rosa’s importance was already clear during his lifetime. Not only was the volume
of 250 songs in a time span of 8 years impressive and enviable, the genius of the musician
and lyricist was immense—as attested to in the words of Orestes Barbosa, writer, to
Nássara, "You know something, Nássara? The guy without a jaw is a genius."

Alongside Almirante and Bando dos Tangarás, he introduced the "kitchen" like
the percussion with cans made in the recording "Lataria," Canned
Food, as well as in the percussion instruments like the pandeiro, reco-reco, cuíca, and
surdo, among others* in the performances.

In addition to his interest in and fondness for percussion instruments, Noel Rosa also
had a fascination with the malandros, those living on the fringe of society with
their cunning and criminal behavior. They came from the morros, hills of Rio and
brought their own style of music with them. Rosa incorporated their style of composing
into his own, marking definitively the dissemination and acceptance of samba as music of
quality, contributing to eliminating the concept that samba was música negra, black
music; coisa de negro, thing of the negro, or coisa de bárbaro, thing of
the barbarian.

On the other hand, Noel used his talent to realize in his songs a brilliant social
chronicle of Rio de Janeiro, which was becoming rapidly urbanized. He portrayed social
injustice throughout the country, politics, and love affairs, as well as the cultural
changes brought on by mass media, in particular "talkies" and radio.

Some radio and newspaper reporters came up with their own nicknames of him, such as the
"Bernard Shaw of Samba," "the philosopher of Samba," and those
referring to his physical deformity. In his work he left behind a cultural history of the
late 20’s into the mid 30’s. The influence of Rosa is felt throughout Brazilian cultural
life. Examples can be seen in the work of Chico Buarque, the different theater productions
dealing with his life and work, as well as the numerous re-recordings by Brazilian and
foreign artists alike.

Anguished Mind

Noel Rosa, however, was also a tormented man, who could not picture himself living a
life without the Bohemian lifestyle, the criminal element, the bars and cabarets, the
brothels. Since the beginning of his adolescence, he had frequented these houses of ill
repute, like the ones in Mangue. He was also intimately familiar with all the greatest
drinking places. This was his way of loving life, and even though he knew that the
tuberculosis was destroying his lungs, he never abandoned his cigarettes, drinks, or
lifestyle.

He was an insatiable seducer, always involving himself with several women at a time.
The cost of this was a forced marriage to Laurinda, whom he did not love, after which he
declared himself a mortal enemy of marriage. He had an intense love affair with Ceci, for
whom he left as the last composition—among many written for her—"Último
Desejo," Last Wish, in which he remembered the day they met at Festa de
São João, at the Cabaret Apollo, creating a kind of samba-testament. Their relationship
was a long and tumultuous one.

He had some famous feuds going with two well known malandros at the time, Kid
Pepe and Zé Pretinho. Rosa had worked in partnership with Kid Pepe on "O Orvalho vem
caindo," The Dew Comes Falling, but had no desire to continue—a
fact that made the "gentleman" very angry, and he went on to make threats
against Rosa. Zé Pretinho, with whom Noel was cultivating a sincere friendship, freed him
from the threats by letting Kid Pepe know that he was carrying a revolver.

It was some time later when Noel was traveling and left a song with Zé, so that he
might complete it and prepare it for recording. He was none too happy when he returned and
found that the song had been recorded—not only without his name—but naming his
enemy, Kid Pepe, as co-composer. His response and revenge was the one he always managed
best, he composed "Século do Progresso," Century of Progress.

Another feud, which caused a great "musical controversy," was short but with
a lot of commentary. This feud was with composer Wilson Batista in regards to a samba of
his, "Lenço no Pescoço," Scarf, in which he elevated the
criminal element to a level, where Rosa felt it did not belong. He was severely criticized
for this in a newspaper article by Orestes Barbosa and in a song by Rosa, "Rapaz
Folgado," Cheeky Devil. Wilson responded with "Mocinho da Vila,"
The Little Boy from Vila, in which he came down on the composer and his neighborhood.

This inspired Rosa to write one of his most beautiful songs "Feitiço da
Vila," see lyrics. Wilson Batista was not beaten and composed "Conversa
Fiada," All Talk, for which Noel Rosa had an answer in "Palpite
Infeliz," see lyrics. But instead of acknowledging his inability to compete
with Noel Rosa, and at the same time perhaps recognizing a long term advantage from the
feud, Wilson wrote Frankenstein da Vila referring to Noel’s physical appearance,
but the latter did not respond. One day, they ran into each other at Café Leitão. Wilson
showed Noel "Terra de Cego," Land of the Blind. Noel wrote a different lyric for
the song, and thus was born "Deixa de Ser Convencido," Don’t Be So Cocksure.
Thus ended the famous controversy.

Noel Rosa was a scathing critic of the customs and politics of his time. He was
fascinated with the shady side of life, while suddenly turning into its severest critic.
He was unhappy with the exploitation of poor composers by those, who bought songs. This
influenced Ismael Silva to free himself from Francisco Alves. He was able to rise above
the frivolity of Wilson Batista, perhaps because he recognized a budding composer, who
would still be writing beautiful songs.

As a boy, he wrote pornographic lyrics for the national anthem. As a man, he continued
in the same vein through his ad-libs with Marília Batista, such as in the song "De
Babado;" his improper excuses to Ademar Casé for his tardiness, as well as the many
titles he gave to the same song "Cem Mil Réis," A Hundred Thousand Réis
(Brazilian unit of currency). He counted on the inattentive ear of the radio show host and
thus won the bonus for the most unpublished songs in a week on his program.

Inspiring Noel

Ricardo Van Steen, one of the major directors of shorts and commercials in Brazil, is
preparing to confront the challenge of his first feature length film. If everything works
out as planned, he intends to start in July of this year on the life of Noel Rosa, not his
whole life, but rather the last two years, when he already knew that his life was ending
due to illness. Steen has worked on the project for six years, four of those on the
screenplay—an adaptation of João Máximo and Carlos Didier’s biography.

He says of the book, "The book is wonderful, although a bit hard to read, a thesis
on Rosa and his time." For years the director has been paying for the rights to the
adaptation and the image of Noel Rosa. He figures he has already invested some $60,000.
The total production cost is estimated at between $3 and 3.5 million. So far he figures
that he and producer Carlos Dantas of Movi&Art, have collected 40% of the total and
expect to finish raising the funds very shortly.

Van Steen admits that he is a little worried about the challenge of making a feature
film after "telling stories in 30 seconds," referring to his commercials. In an
interview, he talks about the manner in which Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, said he
made his films as if he were constructing one of those great cathedrals. Van Steen is
concerned that he will leave something that his son can be proud of. It is Steen’s
intention to paint a picture of the artist living life with intensity, pressed for time.

The question of what is better, living with intensity or for an extended period, is the
thread that goes through the film. Poeta da Vila (Village’s Poet, as Rosa is often
called) is about that. Set in 1930’s Rio de Janeiro, it portrays a young man, 22 years of
age. Noel lived a Bohemian lifestyle, fragile, drank a lot and did everything to excess.
He contracted tuberculosis, which at the time had no possibility of cure, and that led to
his early demise. Van Steen sees the parallel in our times in the premature deaths of many
artists he, himself, has known from AIDS. And the scenery, of course, Rio, the Marvelous
City, Noel Rosa’s city with its casinos, the fringe element in their white suits living
their most glorious moments. In the cabarets of Lapa, Mário de Andrade and Madame Satã
seated at the same table, while in the room next door Cartola is playing snooker with
Araci de Almeida and Villa-Lobos. It is this mythical Rio that Van Steen wants to depict.

The film will portray Noel with his facial deformity as what he was—an incredibly
seductive man—who wrapped women around his little finger with his grace and charm.
Two of them stand out in his life: Laurinda, the wife, and Ceci, the singer whom Noel met
a week after his marriage and with whom he fell hopelessly in love.

As a step in the preparation for making Poeta da Vila, Van Steen tested his
ability, directing the short Com Que Roupa?, in 1996. It won a prize for
photography at the Festival de Gramado. Van Steen feels that a film about music should be
made with musicians. Therefore, he chose Luís Felipe de Lima to play Noel. In addition to
being an actor, he is a musician and performs in samba shows in Rio, playing and singing
Noel Rosa. Singer and composer, Luís Melodia will play Papagaio, taxi driver and best
friend of Noel’s, and the narrator of the story. Translated from an article in Estado
de São Paulo by Luiz Carlos Merten

Covering Noel

Sem Tostão…A Crise não é Boato—Canções de Noel Rosa with Cristina
Buarque and Henrique Cazes. On Kuarup Produções www.kuarup.com.br

E-mail kuarup@kuarup.com.br
Tel (021)220 1623 Fax (021)220 0494

Arising from the great familiarity of Cristina Buarque with the universe of samba and
from the experience of Henrique in more than 15 years with the Conjunto Coisas Nossas,
Group of Our Things, the duo has put together a view of the many facets of "O Poeta
da Vila."

The chronicler, who has not lost his current-day appeal, the humorist, the creator of
parody, the anti-romantic, the innovator of form, and finally the genius, who in only 26
years and little more than 8 years of musical works, influenced forever Brazil’s popular
music. The above from the Kuarup website

The CD consists of 15 cuts, among which are several medleys—bringing the grand
total to almost 30 songs. The classics that "everybody" knows, are there:
"Três Apitos," "O X do Problema," "Quem Dá Mais,"
"Último Desejo," and "Feitiço da Vila." But there are also some less
known songs, which make this CD an even more interesting project—something to widen
the Noel Rosa horizon of every MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira—Brazilian Popular
Music) fan out there. These other songs include "Mulato Bamba," Mulatto Bully;
"Para me Livrar do Mal," To Free Me from Evil; "Triste Cuíca," Sad
Cuíca; "Século do Progresso," Century of Progress, and "Você por
Exemplo," You for Example, and others.

Songbook

Noel Rosa is the simple title of a recent CD with Johnny Alf and Leandro Braga
on Lumiar Discos, www.lumiar.com.br
  produced by Almir Chediak who has given us so much in his collection of
"Songbooks" in book and CD form.

Says Chediak about the CD: "One of the objectives of this fourth Letra e
Música is to call attention to the excellent composer that was Noel Rosa. When you
speak of him, you quickly highlight his lyricist side, which is so worthy of admiration,
but Noel created such beautiful and innovative melodies. Those who set out to compare his
work to that, which had been produced until then, will see that they are looking at a
creator who revolutionized music.

To interpret Noel Rosa, here is Johnny Alf, another great creator and innovator of MPB,
composer, singer, and pianist, who is known, among other things, as the precursor of bossa
nova. Alongside Johnny Alf is arranger and pianist Leandro Braga, one of the great
talents emerging in recent years, who has devoted himself to his harmonizing of extreme
good taste to the essentially Brazilian musical language." Johnny Alf himself
contributed with a composition—the last cut on the CD—Noel—Rosa do
Samba, Noel, Rose of Samba."

Noel—Feitiço da Vila

As we speak, a musical is filling the theaters in Brazil, most recently in São Paulo,
authored and directed by Andreia Fernandes. It portrays, in song, dance, and comedy, Noel
Rosa’s life from the difficult start until the much too early death of tuberculosis. One
walks away with a feeling of elation, not at all the tragedy that his birth and short life
might indicate. There is little indication that this man was hindered by his handicap. The
musical has a wonderful cast of actors and singers, most notably Marcelo Serrado as Noel,
Edson Montenegro as a malandro, whose great baritone voice carries and fills the
room. The wonderful Maria Odette Garnier is Dona Marta, Noel’s mother, whose strength is
constantly tested and whose unconditional support must have been a great comfort to Noel.
Says the author and director of the musical:

"The passion for Carnaval, for samba, has accompanied me since I was a girl. The
music of Noel mixes with the memories of my infancy, the summer vacations, an uncle whose
face always lit up with a wide smile, when he was listening to a samba by Noel. Were they
just my remembrances? I don’t know. Aren’t those recollections common to so many other
people’s childhood? Noel plays a definitive part in my history, but also in the history of
samba. I decided to write a text, which would be an homage to this great composer and to
this marvelous city, berth of the samba, which lives in the soul of its people.

"I started reading about Noel and Rio de Janeiro of the 20’s and 30’s, a happy
city, festive, which always commemorated, with music, Carnaval, and the feasts of Penha
and of São João. About Noel, I always encountered the marked man, gloomy, sick, and
ugly, very ugly. A Noel, who did not combine, definitively, with the irreverence of his
sambas—with Carnaval. But in the biography of Noel, written by João Máximo and
Carlos Didier, the man physically marked co-existed with the Bohemian, the mischievous
protagonist of many stories, many loves. It was from reading this that I imagined a Noel,
also happy, seductive, full of life, a womanizer, and… handsome.

"Noel—Feitiço da Vila is a musical to pay homage to the great
composer. As the author, I raised the question of emphasizing certain aspects of his
personality, such as the irreverence and his Bohemian nature. I sought to emphasize his
passion for the samba, for the women, for the night and the dawns. A Noel, who wandered
the deserted streets, the favelas (shantytowns) and Lapa, as naturally as someone
staying home. The result was a personage in love with life, seducer, happy, and…
handsome? Yes, handsome. Handsome in his Spartan existence and in his simplicity. Handsome
because the samba found, in his soul, a definitive home.

"To validate this concept, the cast was not chosen as a function of physical
traits of the historic characters. To interpret Noel’s women, for example, were chosen
actresses who would represent types of Brazilian women. Marcelo Serrado interprets Noel,
representing the beauty and joviality of the soul of the composer.

"For the show were selected more than fifteen of Noel’s songs. The musical
arrangements were made in a manner that captured the original tempo proposed by the
composer. Meanwhile, seeking again to emphasize certain passages of his life, many times
the songs, during the show, are separate in time and space from the chronology of his
compositions. Many facts, songs, and important figures are also not represented in the
text. Noel knew numerous people and composed almost 300 songs. To mention them all would
be impractical.

"Left out are Lamartine Babo, Ary Barroso, Braguinha, Wilson Batista,…
"Palpite Infeliz;" "Cor de Cinza," Color of Gray; Sorriso de Criança,
Smile of a Child… and finally, an enormous gallery of curious facts, marvelous
people, and musical pearls.

Noel—Feitiço da Vila presents a look at this story—our own
story—which could and should be told in numerous ways. I sought, only, to bring back
a smile… that same, wide smile which marked, in my girl’s heart, the happiness of
samba."

On the Stage

Noel of the Stage by João Máximo, co-author of the comprehensive biography of
Noel Rosa.

Few figures in MPB have as much identification with the stage as Noel Rosa. It is
probable that not even he was conscious of this fact. He did not have time. Or the
footlights of Rio were not sufficiently brilliant to cry out to him: "Attention,
Noel, the place for your songs is here, on the stage." Perhaps it was the lack of
time, since he lived only 26 years, 4 months, 22 days, and 15 hours, limiting his
experience as composer for the theater to some attempts in reviews staged on Praça
Tiradentes at the beginning of the 30’s (or the three pseudo-operettas for radio, which
were never aired). Or maybe, since there was almost no tradition for musical theater in
Brazil, Noel hardly perceived that his poetic vein was so theatrical.

Let’s look at any of his lyrics. Those that narrate episodes, those that speak of
personalities, those that get into philosophical tirades. Nothing could be more
theatrical. Strictly speaking, Noel, Luis Peixoto, Lamartine Babo, Chico Buarque, and
Aldir Blanc are the most theatrical of the lyricists in Brazil. Chico Buarque is
undoubtedly the most complete, the one with the most accomplishments, in part because of
his monumental talent and in part because he, stubbornly, returns and bets on the musical
theater and writes for it. And he has had more time than Noel, and certainly, more
consciousness.

But the theatric quality of Noel is not just poetic. It is above all a factor of who he
was, a little bit of Chaplin, a bit of timid villain, a bit of pocket philosopher, a
little bit of clown of the bars and street corners of a Bohemian Rio de Janeiro, which no
longer exists. A little bit of all that and a lot of himself, happy Carioca (from
Rio), who always knew that he who laughs best, laughs last. (It is necessary to think of
Noel Rosa laughing and making people laugh, as he was almost all his life, and not of Noel
Rosa with sad eyes, grim poet of the last times).

In short, the true Noel Rosa is more than a great personage of the musical comedy,
especially if he has his own music and poetry to serve him: he is the symbol, the myth,
the icon. For lack of time or because the theater did not know how to make him the right
kind of offer, he missed the train that would have taken him to the stage.

Any show, which undertakes this—and tries with intelligence to approximate Noel of
the theater, be it as author, be it as personage—can’t help but be a formidable force
in the sense of resuscitating the vocation, which the poet with the short life couldn’t
consume. The show we have here has that force. Which lasts longer than the poet and which
is quite as theatrical as he. Amen.

*Pandeiro: Tambourine. Reco-reco: A notched instrument (often made
of bamboo or metal) that is scraped with a stick and produces a crisp sound. Cuíca:
Small friction drum with a thin stick inside attached to drum skin. A moistened cloth is
used to rub the stick, and one hand applies pressure to the drum skin, producing grunting,
groaning, and squeaking noises. Surdo: Drum played in samba with a wooden stick
topped by velvet-covered, wooden head. Surdos come in three sizes and function as
the bass in the samba bateria. From Brazilian Sound by Chris McGowan and
Ricardo Pessanha.

In addition the above mentioned sources, I’d like to thank my Carioca friend,
José Fabiano, whose insight into Rosa and Rio de Janeiro of the 1930’s, helped me
translate the songs.

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. Her e-mail: kwracing@erols.com
 

The Songs


Três Apitos

Noel Rosa

Quando o apito
Da fábrica de tecidos
Vem ferir os meus ouvidos
Eu me lembro de você
Mas você anda
Sem dúvida bem zangada
E está interessada
Em fingir que não me vê
Você que atende ao apito
De uma chaminé de barro
Por que não atende ao
grito tão aflito
Da buzina do meu carro?
Você no inverno
Sem meias vai pro trabalho
Não faz fé com agasalho
Nem no frio você crê
Mas você é mesmo
Artigo que não se imita
Quando a fábrica apita
Faz reclame de você
Nos meus olhos você lê
Que eu sofro cruelmente
Com ciúmes do gerente
impertinente
Que dá ordens a você
Sou do sereno
Poeta muito soturno
Vou virar guarda-noturno
E você sabe por quê
Mas você não sabe
Que enquanto você faz pano
Faço junto do piano
Estes versos pra você

Three Whistles

When the whistle
From the cloth factory
Comes to offend my ears
I remember you
But you are
Without a doubt quite irritated
And want to
Pretend you don’t see me
You, who listens for the whistle
From the clay chimney
Why not pay attention to
the distressed cry
From the horn of my car?
You in the winter
Go to work without stockings
Have no faith in sweaters
Nor believe in the cold
But you are the same
Article with no equal
When the factory whistles
It advertises you
In my eyes you read
That I suffer cruelly
With jealousy of the impertinent
manager
Who gives you orders
I live in the night
Am a very gloomy poet
Who will be night watchman
And you know why
But you don’t know
That while you make fabric
Beside the piano, I
Make these verses for you.

 

Feitio de Oração
Vadico and Noel Rosa

Quem acha vive se perdendo
Por isso agora eu vou me defendendo
Da dor tão cruel desta
saudade
Que, por infelicidade
Meu pobre peito invade
Batuque é um privilégio
Ninguém aprende samba no colégio
Sambar é chorar de
alegria
É sorrir de nostalgia
Dentro da melodia

Por isso agora
Lá na Penha vou mandar
Minha morena prá cantar
Com satisfação
E com harmonia
Essa triste melodia
Que é meu samba
Em feitio de oração

O samba na realidade
Não vem do morro
nem lá da cidade
E quem suportar uma paixão
Sentirá que o samba então
Nasce no coração

In the Form of a Prayer

Who thinks he keeps getting lost
For that now I’ll defend myself
From the pain, so cruel, of this
longing
Which, from unhappiness
Invades my poor breast
Drumming is a privilege
Nobody learns samba in school
To dance the samba is to cry
with happiness
Is to smile with nostalgia
Within the melody

For that, now
To Penha* I’ll send
My dark woman to sing
With satisfaction
With harmony
This sad melody
Which is my samba
In the form of a prayer

Samba in reality
Does not come from the hill,
nor from the city
And he who bears a passion
Will feel that the samba then
Is born in the heart

*The church of Nossa Senhora
da Penha is located on a hill in Rio,
and it is traditional for the faithful to
crawl on their knees to the top to
offer their prayers.

 

Último Desejo
Noel Rosa

Nosso amor que eu não esqueço
E que teve o seu começo
Numa festa de São João
Morre hoje sem foguete
Sem retrato e sem bilhete
Sem luar, sem violão

Perto de você me calo
Tudo penso e nada falo
Tenho medo de chorar
Nunca mais quero o seu beijo
Mas meu último desejo
Você não pode negar

Se alguma pessoa amiga
Pedir que você lhe diga
Se você me quer ou não
Diga que você me adora
Que você lamenta e chora
A nossa separação

Às pessoas que eu detesto
Diga sempre que eu não presto
Que meu lar é um botequim
Que eu arruinei sua vida
Que eu não mereço a comida
Que você pagou pra mim

Last Wish

Our love, which I don’t forget
And which had its beginning
At the Feast of São João
Dies today without fireworks
Without portrait and without notice
Without moonlight, without guitar

Close to you I fall silent
I think of everything and say nothing
Have fear of crying
I never want your kiss again
But my last wish
You can’t deny me

If some person, a friend
Asks that you tell her
If you want me or not
Say that you adore me
That you lament and cry
At our separation

To the people I hate
Say always that I’m no good
That my home is a bar
That I ruined your life
That I don’t deserve the meal
That you bought for me

 

Pela Décima Vez
Noel Rosa

Jurei não mais amar
Pela décima vez
Jurei não perdoar
O que ela me fez
O costume é a força
Que fala mais alto
Do que a natureza
E que nos faz dar provas
de fraqueza

Joguei meu cigarro no chão
e pisei
Sem mais nenhum
aquele mesmo apanhei
e fumei
Através da fumaça
Neguei minha raça
Chorando, a repetir
Ela é o veneno
Que eu escolhi
Pra morrer sem sentir

Senti que o meu coração
quis parar
Quando voltei
E escutei a vizinha falar
Que ela só de pirraça
Seguiu com um praça
Ficando lá no xadrez
Pela décima vez
Ela está inocente
Nem sabe o que fez

For the Tenth Time

I swore not to love anymore
For the tenth time
I swore not to pardon
What she did to me
The habit is the strength
Which speaks more strongly
Than nature
And makes us test
weakness

I threw my cigarette on the floor
and stepped on it
Without another one
I picked the same one up
and smoked it
Through the smoke
I denied my race
Crying, repeating
She is the poison
That I chose
To die without feeling

I felt that my heart
wanted to stop
When I came back
And heard the neighbor talk
That she just out of spite
Carried on with a soldier
Staying there in prison
For the tenth time
She is innocent
Doesn’t know what she did.

 

Feitiço da Vila
Vadico and Noel Rosa

Quem nasce lá na vila
Nem sequer vacila
Ao abraçar o samba
Que faz dançar os galhos
Do arvoredo
E faz a lua nascer mais cedo
Lá em Vila Isabel
Quem é bacharel
Não tem medo de bamba
São Paulo dá café
Minas dá leite
E a Vila Isabel dá samba

A Vila tem
Um feitiço sem farofa
Sem vela e sem vintém
Que nos faz bem
Tendo nome de princesa
Transformou o samba
Num feitiço decente
Que prende a gente

O sol na Vila é triste
Samba não assiste
Porque a gente implora
Sol, pelo amor de Deus
Não venha agora
Que as morenas vão
logo embora
Eu sei tudo que faço
Sei por onde passo
Paixão não me aniquila
Mas tenho que dizer:
Modéstia à parte,
meus senhores,
Eu sou da Vila!

Spell of the Vila1

Who is born there in the Vila
Doesn’t even hesitate
To embrace the samba
Which makes the branches
Of the grove dance
And the moon rise earlier
There in Vila Isabel
He who has graduated
Has no fear of the bully
São Paulo gives coffee
Minas gives milk
And Vila Isabel gives samba

The Vila has
A spell which is pure
Without candle without a penny
Which does us well
Having the name of a princess2
Transformed the samba
Into a proper spell
Which captures the people

The sun in the Vila is sad
Samba doesn’t help
Because the people beg
Sun, for the love of God
Don’t come now
That the dark women will
soon go away
I know all I do
Know where I’m going
Passion doesn’t annihilate me
But I have to say,
modesty aside,
My friends,
I’m from the Vila

1Portuguese word for town is vila,
which also refers to Noel Rosa’s
neighborhood, Vila Isabel.
2Princess Isabel, daughter of Emperor
Dom Pedro II. She is famous for the
Lei Áurea, The Golden Law,
which freed the slaves May 13, 1888.

 

Meu Barracão
Noel Rosa

Faz hoje quase um ano
Que eu não vou visitar
Meu barracão lá da Penha
Que me faz sofrer
E até mesmo chorar
Por lembrar a alegria
Com que eu sentia
O forte laço de amor
que nos prendia
Não há quem tenha
Mais saudades lá da Penha
Do que eu—juro que não!
Não há quem possa
Me fazer perder a bossa
Só a saudade do barracão
Mas veio lá da Penha
Hoje uma pessoa
Que trouxe uma notícia
Do meu barracão
Que não foi nada boa
Já cansado de esperar
Saiu do lugar
Eu desconfio
Que ele foi me procurar
Não há quem tenha
Mais saudades lá da Penha
Do que eu—juro que não!
Não há quem possa
Me fazer perder a bossa
Só a saudade do barracão

My Shack

Today makes almost a year
That I won’t visit
My shack there in Penha
Which makes me suffer
Even to the point of crying
To remember the happiness
Which I used to feel
The strong bond of love
which held us
Now there is nobody
Who longs for Penha
More than I, I swear there isn’t
There is nobody who
Can make me lose the knack
Just the longing for the shack
But there came from Penha
Today somebody
Who brought some news
From my shack
Which was not good
Already tired of waiting
Left the place
I’m afraid
He went looking for me
Now there is nobody
Who longs for Penha
More than I, I swear there isn’t
There is nobody who
Can make me lose the knack
Just the longing for my shack

 

Palpite Infeliz
Noel Rosa

Quem é você que não sabe o que diz?
Meu Deus do céu, que palpite infeliz!
Salve Estácio, Salgueiro, Mangueira
Oswaldo Cruz e Matriz
Que sempre souberam muito bem
Que a Vila não quer abafar ninguém
Só quer mostrar que faz samba também

Fazer poema lá na Vila é um brinquedo
Ao som do samba dança até o arvoredo
Eu já chamei você pra ver
Você não viu porque não quis
Quem é você que não sabe o que diz?

A Vila é uma cidade independente
Que tira samba mas não quer tirar patente
Pra que ligar a quem não sabe
Aonde tem o seu nariz?
Quem é você que não sabe o que diz?

Unhappy Thought

Who are you who don’t know what you’re saying?
My God in Heaven, what an unhappy thought
Hooray for Estácio, Salgueiro, Mangueira,
Oswaldo Cruz and Matriz*
Which always knew very well
That Vila (Isabel) doesn’t want to suffocate anyone
Only wants to show that it also makes samba

To make a poem in the Vila is child’s play
The sound of samba dances to the grove
I already called for you to see
You didn’t because you didn’t want to
Who are you who don’t know what you’re saying?

Vila is an independent city
Which has samba but doesn’t want the patent
Why pay attention to someone who doesn’t know
Where his nose is
Who are you who don’t know what you’re saying?

*Neighborhoods of Rio, famous for their
samba schools

 

Fita Amarela
Noel Rosa

Quando eu morrer
Não quero choro nem vela
Quero uma fita amarela
Gravada com o nome dela

Se existe alma,
Se há outra encarnação
Eu queria que a mulata
Sapateasse no meu caixão

Não quero flores,
Nem coroa de espinho
Só quero choro de flauta
Violão e cavaquinho

Estou contente
Consolado por saber
Que as morenas tão formosas
A terra um dia vai comer

Não tenho herdeiros
Não possuo um só vintém
Eu vivi devendo a todos
Mas não paguei nada a ninguém

Meus inimigos
Que hoje falam mal de mim
Vão dizer que nunca viram
Uma pessoa tão boa assim

Quero que o sol
Não visite meu caixão
Para minha pobre alma
Não morrer de insolação

Yellow Ribbon

When I die
I don’t want crying or candle
I want a yellow ribbon
With her name on it

If there exists a soul
If there is another incarnation
I’d like it if the mulatto woman
Tap-danced on my coffin

I don’t want flowers
Nor crown of thorns
I just want choro with flute
Guitar and cavaquinho

I’m content
Consoled to know
That the earth will one day eat
The dark women so beautiful

I don’t have heirs
I don’t own a penny
I always owed everybody
But I never paid anybody

My enemies
Who today speak badly of me
Will say that they never saw
A guy as good as me

I want the sun
Not to visit my coffin
So that my poor soul
Doesn’t die of sunstroke.

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