Noel Rosa (1910-1937). Brazilian composer and lyricist

 Noel Rosa (1910-1937). Brazilian composer and lyricist

 

Noel Rosa (1910-1937) was an important Brazilian composer and lyricist. He also sang, but although he always accompanied himself well, his voice was weak, especially when compared with other Brazilian singers of his time such as Francisco Alves (1898-1952), nicknamed ‘King of the Voice’, and Vicente Celestino (1894-1968), an Italian-Brazilian who sang the songs that Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) used to sing. Although Rosa died age 26, of tuberculosis –  during his short life he composed over 300 songs, mostly ‘sambas’ and ‘marchinhas’ (short lively ballads).

He was born Noel Medeiros Rosa, Noel Rosa (NR) in the neighbourhood of Vila Isabel, Rio de Janeiro, on December 11, 1910. His parents were Manuel Garcia de Medeiros Rosa, owner of a gents outfitters, and Marta de Medeiros Rosa, a teacher. NR had a partial paralysis on the right side of his face and a sunk lower jaw, a result of the use of a forceps at his birth. This was not the only tragedy on his life. After the start of the First World War, his father had to leave Rio to find work on coffee farms in the state of São Paulo, after his business went bankrupt. His mother, Dona Marta, stayed in Rio with their two sons, Noel and Hélio, and in order to support them, she opened a school (‘Externato Santa Rita de Cássia’).

In spite of his family’s financial hardships, they held musical soirees during his father’s visit, when NR soon revealed his aptitude for music, first with the mandolin and then with the classic guitar. Sadly, NR’s facial disfiguration became more accentuated as he grew older. He underent two plastic surgeries to improve his appearance, at ages six and twelve, but the results of both were unsatisfactory. At age 13 NR managed to secure a place at Colégio São Bento, one of the best schools in Rio de Janeiro. At school he got a lot of grief when the other students referred to him as ‘little chin’ (queixinho), but he turned his fate around when he took to play the mandolin during the school breaks. At age fifteen NR and his brother Heleno began to play together publicly, and soon became known as ‘the musicians of Vila Isabel’.

In 1929, NR formed the ‘Band of Tangarás’ together with five other musicians: Almirante, Braguinha, Alvinho, Henrique Brito and Henrique Domingos. The ensemble recorded an album in that same year and soon caught the public attention as it performed in radios, cinemas and theatres. NR left the band in the following year to try a solo career.

In 1931, NR began to study medicine at the National School of Medicine, in Rio, which he attended for two years before dropping out to become a full-time musician. Even as a medical student, NR recorded more than twenty songs, among those the song  ‘Com que roupa?’, literally translated as ‘with what clothes’, which became a great hit during the carnival of 1931.

During the 1930’s it was common for singers to make appearances in radio. In 1935 he started working at Rádio Clube do Brasil, where he presented the humorous program ‘Conversa de Esquina’ (Street Corner Conversation). He also presented radio variety shows, where he poke fun at popular songs including his own.

One of the composers NR poked fun was Wilson Batista (1913-1968). NR and Batista became rivals in radio appearances and in their carnival songs. They wrote songs attacking each other, like NR’s ‘Palpite infeliz’, shown below.

In 1934, NR got married to a girl named Lindaura, but eventually he strayed off to the cabarets of Lapa, in Rio de Janeiro, where he drank beer, sang and took lovers. Having been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1935, he spent some time in a health clinic Belo Horizonte, returning to Rio de Janeiro after a few months. Finding himself healed, he resumed his work composing songs and other things. In 1936, NR had two songs (‘Não resta a menor dúvida’ (there is no doubt) and ‘Palpite infeliz’ (unfortunate remark) of his used in a Brazilian musical ‘Alô, Alô, Carnaval’, produced by the American W. Downey.

Believing himself cured from his tuberculosis, NR went back to the effervescent light life, and sook had a relapse. He travelled to Nova Friburgo, a mountainous region in the state of Rio, seeking to improve his health, but realizing that he was actually getting worse, he returned to Rio. His wife Lindaura was at his side when he died in their home in Vila Isabel, on May 4, 1937.

The life of NR is depicted in a 2007 film called ‘Noel, Poeta da Vila’ (Noel, the poet of Vila), directed by Ricardo Van Steen.

Jo Pires-O’Brien, editor.

Sources consulted:

https://www.ebiografia.com/noel_rosa/

https://www.infoescola.com/biografias/noel-rosa/

https://www.portalsaofrancisco.com.br/biografias/noel-rosa

https://www.letras.com.br/noel-rosa/biografia

https://www.last.fm/pt/music/Noel+Rosa/+wiki

 

3 selected songs by Noel Rosa with their English translations

The songs that Noel Rosa composed combined the samba beat with witty lyrics. According to the experts, the syle of samba that Rosa developed also incorporated influences from the polka, the habanera and the tango, which were present in the ‘maxixe’music that was popular at the start of the 20th century in Rio de Janeiro.

The three songs presented below are accompanied by their English translation. The first song is ‘Com que roupa?’ (With what clothes?), composed in 1930. The second is ‘O orvalho vem caindo’ (The dew keeps on falling), composed in 1933. The last song is ‘Palpite infeliz’ (Unfortunate remark), composed in 1935. The latter appeared in a 1936 Brazilian comedy called ‘Alô, Alô, Carnaval’, directed by Adhemar Gonzaga and produced by W. Downey.

 

Com que roupa? – Noel Rosa, 1930

Agora vou mudar minha conduta

Eu vou pra luta pois eu quero me aprumar

Vou tratar você com a força bruta

Pra poder me reabilitar

Pois esta vida não está sopa

E eu pergunto: com que roupa?

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

 

Agora eu não ando mais fagueiro

Pois o dinheiro não é fácil de ganhar

Mesmo eu sendo um cabra trapaceiro

Não consigo ter nem pra gastar

Eu já corri de vento em popa

Mas agora com que roupa?

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

 

Eu hoje estou pulando como sapo

Pra ver se escapo desta praga de urubu

Já estou coberto de farrapo

Eu vou acabar ficando nu

Meu terno já virou estopa

E eu nem sei mais com que roupa

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

 

Seu português agora deu o fora

Já foi-se embora e levou meu capital

Esqueceu quem tanto amou outrora

Foi no Adamastor pra Portugal

Pra se casar com uma cachopa

Mas agora com que roupa?

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

Com que roupa que eu vou

Pro samba que você me convidou?

 

With what clothes? (Com que roupa?, 1930) – Noel Rosa

From now on I’ll change my attitude

I’ll apply myself for I want to shape up

I’ll have to be tough with you

So that I can rehabilitate myself

Because this life is not easy

And I ask: with what clothes?

With what clothes

To the samba you invited me?

With what clothes

To the samba you invited me?

Now, I’m no longer carefree

For money is not easy to earn

Even though I’m a con artist

I can’t even earn enough for my keep

I once had the wind on my sails

But now, with what clothes?

With what clothes

to the samba you invited me?

With what clothes

to the samba you invited me?

Today I’m jumping like a frog

Trying to escape this vulture’s curse

I’m already dressed in rags

I’ll end up in my birthday suit

My suit is already threadbare

And I don’t even know what to wear

With what clothes

To the samba you invited me?

With what clothes

To the samba you invited me?

Mister Portuguese is already gone

He left and took with him my capital

He forgot the one he once loved

He left in the Adamastor to Portugal

To marry a Portuguese girl

But now, with what clothes?

With what clothes

To the samba you invited me?

With what clothes

To the samba you invited me?

 

O orvalho vem caindo – Noel Rosa & Kid Pepe, 1933

|: O orvalho vem caindo, vai molhar o meu chapéu

e também vão sumindo, as estrelas lá do céu

Tenho passado tão mal

A minha cama é uma folha de jornal 😐

 

Meu cortinado é o vasto céu de anil

E o meu despertador é o guarda civil

(Que o salário ainda não viu!)

 

Refrão

O orvalho vem caindo, vai molhar o meu chapéu

e também vão sumindo, as estrelas lá do céu

Tenho passado tão mal

A minha cama é uma folha de jornal

 

A minha terra dá banana e aipim

Meu trabalho é achar quem descasque por mim

(Vivo triste mesmo assim!)

 

O meu chapéu vai de mal a pior

E o meu terno pertenceu a um defunto maior

Dez tostões no Belchior

 

(instrumental)

 

A minha sopa não tem osso e nem tem sal

Se um dia passo bem, dois e três passo mal

(Isso é muito natural!)

 

The dew keeps on falling (O orvalho vem caindo, 1933) – Noel Rosa & Kid Pepe

|: The dew keeps on falling, it will wet my hat

and the stars in the sky are fading away,

I’ve been so unwell

My bed is a sheet of newspaper:|

My curtain is the vast blue sky

And my alarm clock is a patrolman

(Whose salary he’s yet to see!)

Refrain

The dew keeps on falling, it will wet my hat

and the stars in the sky are fading away,

I’ve been so unwell

My bed is a sheet of newspaper

 (Instrumental)

Where I live there are bananas and cassavas

My job is finding someone to peel them for me

(But even so, I live with sadness!)

My hat is going from bad to worse

And my suit came from a larger defunct

Ten cents at Belchior’s

My soup has no bones and no salt

If I’m well one day, in two or three I’m poorly

(This is so very common!)

 

Palpite infeliz – Noel Rosa, 1935.

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?

 

Unfortunate remark – (Palpite infeliz, 1935) – Noel Rosa

Who are you who don’t know what you are saying?

For goodness’s sake, what an unfortunate remark!

Hail ‘Estácio’, ‘Salgueiro’, ‘Mangueira’,

‘Oswaldo Cruz’ and ‘Matriz’

Which have always known quite well

That Vila doesn’t want to outdo anyone,

It just wants to show that it too can make samba

Writing poetry in the Vila is a piece of cake

At the sound of the samba even the trees will dance

I’ve already invited you to see

And you didn’t see because you didn’t want to

Who are you who don’t know what you are saying?

Vila is an independent town

It makes samba but doesn’t want to patent them

Why should one care for those who don’t even know

Where their nose is?

Who are you who don’t know what you are saying?

 

Notes: (1) Estácio, Salgueiro, Mangueira, Oswaldo Cruz and Matriz are names of the main  Schools of Samba in Rio de Janeiro at the time of Noel Rosa.  (2) ‘Vila’ refers to Vila Isabel, a suburb of Rio named in honour of Princesa Isabel (1850-1921), Princess Imperial of Brazil and occasional Regent, where Noel Rosa lived. During Rosa’s time, Vila Isabel did not have a School of Samba, although one was eventually created there in 1946.