Adoniran Barbosa

adoniran barbosa

Adoniran Barbosa (1910  – 1982) was a famous Brazilian traditional samba singer and composer. 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 hit ‘Joga a Chave’ (‘Throw me the Doorkey,’ 1952) was inspired by 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), 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. 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.’

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