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Brazil: Lalá, to the Rescue of MPB

“No Rancho Fundo,” a Brazilian immortal song, known by all and still recorded today, might not have emerged from obscurity had Lamartine Babo not stepped in to save it in its infancy.

Lamartine Babo
10 January 1904”“16 June 1963

No Rancho Fundo
(Ary Barroso/Lamartine Babo, 1930)

No rancho fundo
Bem pra lá do fim do mundo
Onde a dor e a saudade
Contam coisas da cidade…
No rancho fundo
De olhar triste e profundo
Um moreno conta as “mágua”
Tendo os olhos rasos d’água
Pobre moreno
Que de tarde no sereno
Espera a lua no terreiro
Tendo o cigarro por companheiro
Sem um aceno
Ele pega da viola
E a lua por esmola
Vem pro quintal desse moreno
No rancho fundo
Bem pra lá do fim do mundo
Nunca mais houve alegria
Nem de noite nem de dia
Os arvoredos
Já não contam mais segredos
E a última palmeira
Já na cordilheira
Os passarinhos
Internaram-se nos ninhos
De tão triste esta tristeza
Enche de trevas a natureza
Tudo por que?
Só por causa do moreno
Que era grande, hoje é pequeno
Para uma casa de sapê
Se Deus soubesse
Da tristeza lá serra
Mandaria lá pra cima
Todo o amor que há na terra
Porque o moreno
Vive louco de saudade
Só por causa do veneno
Das mulheres da cidade
Ele que era
O cantor da primavera
Que até fez do rancho fundo
O céu maior que tem no mundo
O sol queimando
Se uma flor lá desabrocha
A montanha vai gelando
Lembrando o aroma da cabrocha

In 1930, Ary Barroso, fresh from his first Carnaval success with the marcha “Dá Nela,” was composing a great deal for the teatro de revista.

One of the musical revues to which he contributed was the two-acter í‰ do Outro Mundo by J. Carlos and Margarida Max, which premiered at the Teatro Recreio in Rio de Janeiro on 13 June of that year.

J. Carlos (José Carlos de Brito Cunha) was none other than the legendary caricaturist and illustrator whose work sometimes graces these pages.

Among the songs Ary composed for the show was the samba-canção “Esse Mulato Vai Sê Meu,” with the following lyrics by J. Carlos:

Na grota funda
Na virada da montanha
Só se conta uma façanha
Do mulato da Raimunda
Matou a nega
Cum pedaço de canela
E depois, sem mais aquela
Foi juntá com uma galega
Ela morreu
Na virada da montanha
Vai havê outra façanha
Esse mulato vai sê meu
Esse mulato
Vai fazendo o que ele qué
Já matou duas muié
Porque bamba ele é de fato
Se não morreu
Vai mangá esse cachorro
Na virada ali do morro
Esse mulato vai sê meu

The song was performed as a curtain number by the première dame of Brazilian musical theatre, Araci Cortes.

Although the critics praised í‰ do Outro Mundo, commenting that the sketches and scenes were as good as those in American and French revues, the public didn’t take well to the show, which closed at the end of the same month.

One of the few spectators to see the show was the young songwriter Lamartine Babo, then 26 years old.

He fell in love with the melody of “Esse Mulato Vai Sê Meu” (better remembered by its alternate title “Na Grota Funda”) but detested J. Carlos’ lyrics, finding the first stanza ridiculous.

Whether or not Lamartine consulted the song’s authors is debatable. His biographer Suetônio Soares Valença claims in the book Tra-La-Lá that Ary’s authorization was sought and obtained.

On the other hand, Ary’s biographer Sérgio Cabral insists in No Tempo de Ari Barroso that neither of the authors was consulted.

Be that as it may, Lalá wrote his own lyrics to Ary’s melody and presented the song under a new title in a Rádio Educadora program with Bando de Tangarás (Almirante, João de Barro, Noel Rosa, Henrique Brito, and ílvaro Miranda).

The result was twofold. “No Rancho Fundo” became one of the great standards of Brazilian popular music. It was first recorded in 1931 by Elisinha Coelho, accompanied by Ary Barroso on piano and by two guitarists (possibly Rogério Guimarães and João Batista Nogueira). Many recordings followed.

On the other hand, the birth of “No Rancho Fundo” created a never-to-be-repaired rift between J. Carlos and Ary Barroso.

The former was convinced until the end of his days that Ary had conspired behind his back to change the song and rob him of author’s credit.

Ary and Lamartine (whose songwriting partnership began in 1927 with the foxtrot “Oh!… Nina!…” and continued in 1928 with the marcha-charge “Cachorro-Quente”””both songs first recorded in the CD era), went on to create other standards during the 1930s.

One of those, “Na Virada da Montanha” (recorded by Francisco Alves in 1935), again pokes gentle fun at the lyrics of “Na Grota Funda.” That couldn’t have pleased J. Carlos.

Lamartine Babo would have reached the century January 2004 ””nine weeks and a day after his partner Ary Barroso. He was one of the three kings of the carnaval marchinha, along with João de Barro and Haroldo Lobo.

In this commemorative website you can read Lamartine’s biography (in Portuguese), download lyrics and unusual audio files of his songs, and watch various videos.

Lalá composed all the anthems of the major carioca football clubs, and the lyrics to these hinos can be found here as well.

You can read more about Brazilian music and culture at
Daniella Thompson on Brazil here:


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