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NOEL ROSA, Poet of the Vila

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NOEL ROSA, Poet of the Vila

Noel Rosa, (1910-1937), born in Vila Isabel, a bairro (section of town) of Rio de Janeiro, was one of the most influential musicians in the history of Brazil. Noel was one of the first white musicians to incorporate black Brazilian music into his compositions, bringing samba, the music of the morro (the favela, the poorer, mostly hilly, areas), down to the asfalto (the non-slum part of town), and into the mainstream culture. Even today you will hear his songs played and sung at any gathering of samba musicians (sambistas), such as at the tiny Bip-Bip bar in Copacabana.

Roda de Samba at the Bip-Bip bar
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

In his humorous “Conversa de Botequim” (“Bar Talk”), Noel satirizes a colorful and irresponsible carioca (resident of Rio) who he considered typical of many of his friends—and himself! This caricature is still popular today, feeding off the myth of the shiftless carioca.

“Conversa de Botequim”
Por Noel Rosa

Seu garçom faça o favor de me trazer depressa
Uma boa média que não seja requentada,

[Mr.Waiter, please bring me quickly a good cup of coffee and milk
(café com leite) that hasn’t been re-heated]

Um pão bem quente com manteiga à beça,
Um guardanapo e um copo d’água bem gelada.

[A very hot roll with plenty of butter,
a napkin, and a glass of ice-cold water]

Feche a porta da direita com muito cuidado
Que eu não estou disposto a ficar exposto ao sol.

[Close the door on the right very carefully
because I’m not in the mood to be exposed to the sun]

Vá perguntar ao seu freguês do lado
Qual foi o resultado do futebol.
[Go ask that customer over there
what was the result of the football game]

Se você ficar limpando a mesa
Não me levanto nem pago a despesa.

[If you keep wiping the table
I won’t get up, and I won’t pay the bill either]

Vá pedir ao seu patrão uma caneta,
um tinteiro, um envelope e um cartão.
[Go ask your boss for a pen,
an inkwell, an envelope and a card to write on]

Não se esqueça de me dar palitos
E um cigarro pra espantar mosquitos
[Don’t forget to give me some toothpicks
and a cigarette to scare off the mosquitos]

Vá dizer ao charuteiro
Que me empreste umas revistas,
Um isqueiro e um cinzeiro.
[Go tell the cigar seller
to lend me some magazines,
a lighter, and an ashtray]

Telefone ao menos uma vez
Para três quatro quatro três três três
E ordene ao seu Osório
Que me mande um guarda-chuva
Aqui pro nosso escritório.
[Call at least once to 34-43-33 and tell Mr. Osorio
to send me an umbrella here to “our office”]

Seu garçom me empresta algum dinheiro
Que eu deixei o meu com o bicheiro.

[Mr. Waiter, lend me some money
because I left mine with the bookie]

Vá dizer ao seu gerente
Que pendure esta despesa
No cabide ali em frente.
[Go tell your boss that he must hang this bill
on the hook there in front]

Get it? After all his demands, he doesn’t even have enough to pay for a cup of coffee and a piece of bread! And he’s proud of it, to boot! What a character!

By the way, that phone number 34-43-33 became so famous because of this song, that O GLOBO, the largest newspaper in Rio de Janeiro “bought” 2534-4333 to use as the number customers call to place a classified ad. They figured no one could forget it!

One note: Just because this was written in the 1930′s, don’t think that the language is out of date. No way! (De jeito nenhum!) Aside from the mention of an inkwell, it’s as alive today as it was when Noel first sang it on the radio. And it’s still played daily on stations throughout Brazil.

PRACTICE—Open this link to see a drawing of Noel (by himself) and a recording of him singing “Conversa de Botequim”:

 noel rosa


Print out the words from this article, and read them along with the song a few times until you have them clear in your mind. Then play the song on your mp3 or iPod in your car and sing along while you drive—it’s much safer than texting! You’ll be learning good colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, along with some interesting, and valuable, cultural background. Just think of all the new words you will have burned into your memory.

Later at the appropriate moment you can quote a line or two and “knock the socks off” your Brazilian friends. Recently when ordering coffee I said to the waiter, “Quero uma boa média que não seja requentada”. The Brazilian I was with repeated the next line, laughed, and praised me as “one gringo in a million”. THIS REALLY WORKS WONDERS, BELIEVE ME!!!

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