Adoniran Barbosa

Adoniran Barbosa

Adoniran Barbosa, artistic name of João Rubinato (6 July, 1912, Valinhos - 23 November, 1982, São Paulo), was a famous Brazilian traditional samba singer and composer.


Early years

João Rubinato was the seventh child of Emma and Ferdinando Rubinato, Italian immigrants from Cavarzere (province of Venice). His parents had settled in Valinhos, a rural town in the state of São Paulo, about 100 km from the city of São Paulo.

He is said to have been a rather reluctant student, and started working at an early age (which required falsifying his birth date). His first job was a sweeper boy and general helper at a railway company in the nearby town of Jundiaí. In 1924 he moved to Santo André, a town in the Greater São Paulo area, where he went through many jobs — loom operator, painter, plumber, iron worker, peddler and waiter. At a local technical school (the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios) he learned the office of mechanical assistant.

Debut as composer and singer

In 1933 João Rubinato moved to the city of São Paulo, where he started composing songs and tried his luck as a singer in Cruzeiro do Sul radio station, in a talent-scouting show directed by Jorge Amaral. After many failures, he finally succeeded with the Noel Rosa's samba "Filosofia", and got a contract for a weekly 15 minute show.

Fearful that a samba artist with an Italian surname would not be taken seriously by the public, João Rubinato then decided to adopt a more Brazilian-sounding name. So he borrowed the unusual "Adoniran" from one of his friends, and "Barbosa" from samba composer Luiz Barbosa, his idol.

In 1935 he won a Carnaval song contest sponsored by the city of São Paulo, with the samba "Dona Boa", composed together with J. Aimberê. Spirited by that success, he married his longtime girlfriend Olga. The couple has a daughter, Maria Helena, but the marriage breaks up in less than one year.

At the Rádio Record

In 1941 he starts performing in humour and radio theater programs at the Rádio Record — which would later become one of the top radio and TV station of Brazil. He remained with Record until his retirement in 1972, giving his voice to various popular characters created together with writer Osvaldo Moles, like Pernafina, Zé Cunversa, and Jean Rubinet (a French movie star). He also played parts in the movies "Pif-Paf" (1945) and "Caídos do Céu" ("Fallen from Heaven") (1946), both directed by Ademar Gonzaga. In 1949 he marries Matilde de Lutiis, who will be his companion and co-author for the next 30 years.

In 1953 he makes a fine performance in the movie "O Cangaceiro", by director Lima Barreto. In the early 1950s he writes many songs on typical São Paulo themes, most of them recorded by the band Demônios da Garoa, and wins two other São Paulo Carnaval contests. In 1955 he introduced the enormously popular character Charutinho ("Short Cigar") in the radio humor show Histórias das Malocas" ("Shantytown Stories").

Adoniran also acted in some of the earliest Brazilian soap operas (telenovelas), such as "A Pensão de D. Isaura" ("Ms. Isaura's Boarding Home"), and comic programs like "Ceará contra 007" ("Ceará against 007") and "Papai Sabe Nada" ("Daddy Knows Nothing").

Later years

In spite of the success of his songs and radio characters, Adoniran only became a star of sorts after 1973 when he recorded his first own album. That made him respected as a major composer, and gave him some media exposure. Nevertheless, through his career he continued living a simple and happy life. He had earned a private table at the Bar Brahma, one of the city's most traditional bars.

While he never lost his love of São Paulo, towards the end of his life he became increasinly sad about the disappearance of its traditional character. "Until the 1960s," he once said, "São Paulo still existed, but since then I have been looking for it, and could not find it. Brás, where is Brás now? And Bexiga, where is it? I was told to look for the Sé. Could not find it. all I see is cars and concrete."

While his music continued to be played, Adoniran himself was gradually forgotten by the public; so that when he died in 1982, in relative poverty, he had at his side only his wife and a brother in law.


Besides the Museu Adoniran Barbosa (at Rua XV de Novembro, 347), there are many mementos of the composer scattered through São Paulo. He gave his name to a school in Itaquera, to a street in the borough of Bexiga, to a Bar Adoniran Barbosa, and to a square. In the Don Orione Square there is a bust of the artist, and in Jaçanã there is a street called "Rua Trem das Onze (11 PM Train Street)".

Musical production


Adoniran Barbosa made good on the hardships of his youth by becoming the composer of the lower classes of São Paulo, particularly the poor Italian immigrants living in the quarters of Bexiga(Bela Vista) and Brás, and the poor who lived in the city's many "malocas" (the shanties of "favelas") and "cortiços" (degraded multifamily row houses).

The themes of his songs are drawn from the life of low-wage urban workers, the unemployed and the vagabonds. His first big hit was "Saudosa Maloca" ("Shanty of Fond Memories", 1951), where three homeless friends recall with nostalgia their improvised shanty, which was torn down by the landowner to make room for a building. His next success "Joga a Chave" ("Throw me the Doorkey", 1952) was inspired on his own frequent experiences of arriving late at home and finding the door locked by his wife, Matilde. In his "Trem das Onze" ("The 11 PM Train", 1964), which has been ranked one of the five best samba songs ever, the protagonist explains to his lover that he cannot stay any longer because he has to catch the last train to the Jaçanã suburb, and besides his mother will not sleep before he arrives.

Adoniran's language

Unlike the samba songs of the previous decades, which generally used the formal Portuguese of the educated class, Adoniran's lyrics are a realistic record of the informal speech of São Paulo's lower classes. He once said "I only write samba for the common people. That is why I write lyrics in 'wrong' Portuguese, because that is how the common people speak. Besides, I feel that samba is more beautiful when sung that way". The homeless narrator of his "Saudosa Maloca", for example, tells of the day when his shanty was torn down by the landowner:

The "peguemo" instead of "pegamos", "fumo" instead of "fomos", "nós sentia" instead of "nós sentíamos", and "tauba" instead of "tábua" were all standard features of the speech of many "paulistas". Yet, because of the strong social prejudice attached to such "bad" Portuguese, few if any authors before Adoniran had dared to put those "errors" in writing. Even lyrics ostensibly sung by poor "favela" dwellers, such as the classic samba "Chão de Estrelas" ("Starry Floor"), were paragons of correct grammar and pronunciation.

Thus Adoniran's use of "real" Brazilian Portuguese was a revolution that may be comparable to Gershwin's use of Gullah in "Porgy and Bess". Indeed, he was often strongly criticized for it, even by poet and composer Vinícius de Moraes (of "The Girl from Ipanema" fame). But Adoniran did not mind his critics, and his mastery allowed him to break impunely with convention: as he used to say, art was required to sing in "wrong" language. And the success of his most popular songs, such as "Tiro ao Álvaro" (1960), was undoubtedly due in good part to the warmth and naturalness of its language.

Barbosa was known as the composer to the lower classes of São Paulo, particularly the poor Italian immigrants living in the quarters of Bexiga (Bela Vista) and Brás, as well as the poor who lived in the city's many shanties and cortiços (degraded multifamily row houses). He knew well the Italian-Portuguese pidgin spoken in the streets of São Paulo, mostly in the sections of Mooca, Brás and Bexiga. In 1965, Barbosa wrote Samba Italiano (Italian Samba), a song that emphasized the influence of the Italian in São Paulo's spoken language. Samba Italiano has Brazilian rhythm and theme, but (mostly) Italian lyrics.

Original in São Paulo's pidgin

Gioconda, piccina mia,
Vai brincar ali no mare í no fundo,
Mas atencione co os tubarone, ouviste
Capito, meu San Benedito?

Piove, piove,
Fa tempo que piove qua, Gigi,
E io, sempre io,
Sotto la tua finestra
E vuoi senza mi sentire
Ridere, ridere, ridere
Di questo infelice qui

Ti ricordi, Gioconda,
Di quella sera in Guarujá
Quando il mare ti portava via
E mi chiamasti
Aiuto, Marcello!
La tua Gioconda ha paura di quest'onda

Free translation to English

Gioconda, my little
Go frolicking there, deep into the sea
But pay attention to the sharks, do you hear
Understood, my Saint Benedict?

It rains, it rains
It has rained for a long time here, Gigi
And I, always I
Under your window
And you, without hearing me
Laughs, laughs and laughs
Of this unhappy one here

Do you remember, Gioconda
That afternoon in Guarujá
When the sea took you away
And you called for me:
Help, Marcello!
Your Gioconda is afraid of this wave

Musical style

His favorite musical style is the "samba paulista", the samba of São Paulo, generally despised by the "sambistas" of Rio de Janeiro. A feature of this style is the "samba de breque" ("brake samba"), where the music is suddenly interrupted to make space for a few spoken words, or a sudden reversal in the melodic line. For example, one of his great successes, the "Samba do Arnesto" ("Arnest's Samba", 1953) begins:

:"O Arnesto nus convidou prum samba, ele mora no Brás.":"Arnest invited us for a samba, he lives in Brás."

The melodic line is suspended briefly for the phrase "ele mora no Brás", which marks it as a parenthetical remark — not only in the lyrics, but in the music as well.


:"Malvina", 1951:"Saudosa maloca", 1951:"Joga a chave", with Osvaldo Moles 1952:"Samba do Arnesto", 1953:"Pra que chorar", with Matilde de Lutiis:"A garoa vem descendo", with Matilde de Lutiis:"As mariposas", 1955:"Iracema", 1956:"Apaga o fogo Mané", 1956:"Bom-dia tristeza", 1958:"Abrigo de vagabundo", 1959:"No morro da Casa Verde", 1959:"Prova de carinho", 1960:"Tiro ao Álvaro", with Osvaldo Moles 1960:"Luz da light", 1964:"Trem das Onze", 1964:"Agüenta a mão", 1965:"Samba Italiano", 1965:"Tocar na banda", 1965:"Pafunça", with Osvaldo Moles 1965:"O casamento do Moacir", 1967:"Mulher, patrão e cachaça", 1968:"Vila Esperança", 1968:"Despejo na favela", 1969:"Fica mais um pouco, amor", 1975:"Acende o candieiro", 1972:"Uma Simples Margarida" ("Samba do Metrô"):"Já Fui uma Brasa":"Rua dos Gusmões"

Adoniran also left some 90 unpublished lyrics, which are being posthumously set to music by various composers.


*"Deus dá o frio conforme o cubertô." ("God gives us the cold according to the blanket"). In: "Saudosa Maloca" (1951)
*"Mai daí, o homem reza todo dia uma oração. Se quiser tirá de mim arguma coisa de bão, que me tire o trabáio. a muié não!" ("Thence man prays every day so: if You wish to take something good away from me, please take away my job, not my woman!"). In: "Conselho de Mulher".
*"Não seja bobo, não se escracha. Mulher, patrão e cachaça, em qualquer canto se acha". ("Don't be a fool, don't get too upset. Woman, boss and brandy can be found on any corner"). In: "Mulher, Patrão e Cachaça" (1968).
* "Nóis viemos aqui prá beber ou prá conversá?" ("Did we come here to drink or to talk?"). In: "Nóis Viemos Aqui Prá Quê?"
* "Falar errado é uma arte, senão vira deboche." ("To speak wrongly is an art, otherwise it becomes scoffing")

ee also

* Paulo Vanzolini

External links

* [ Official site]
* [ Adoniran Barbosa] . Biography (in Portuguese).
* [ Another one]
* [ And another]
* [ Lyrics of Adoniram Barbosa Songs] . In Portuguese.
* [ MP3 Recordings of Adoniram Barbosa songs] . Terra Music (30 sec. samples, sung by himself)

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