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São Paulo not only inspired many famous Brazilian artists and musicians. In the city some musical styles were created, changed and developed through the years. Here are some of the most popular songs and singers inspired by the city:
Adoniran´s true name was João Rubinato, 7th son to a poor Italian immigrant family born in 1910 in Valinhos, a São Paulo State countryside town. A simple uneducated man, in 1932 he decided to move to São Paulo and live in the Bixiga area, a district where Italian immigrants used to settle down  the city. Though described as shy and insecure, determined to become an artist Adoniran began performing at amateur radio contests. Proudly assuming the ordinary but incorrect way the poor paulistanos used to speak Portuguese, he conquered audiences and became a popular radio comedian in the 1940´s.
Adoniran also revealed an unexpected talent for music. A self-taught composer, he enjoyed singing the paulista samba style called samba-canção (a melodic style of samba, with a more enfatic use of flute and string instruments than percussion – the expression also means “boxers underwear” in Portuguese). He gained enormous popularity writing funny songs describing aspects of São Paulo´s simple people daily life with a hint of poetry. In the 1970’s Brazilian military dictatorial government censored Adoniran’s musics considering his lyrics “unproper due writing mistakes” – words like “tauba” instead of tábua (wood board) and “revorve” instead of revólver (gun) on his records’ covers received marks and censorship stamps. Adoniran died in 1982. Despite fame he didn’t become rich and always kept a humble lifestyle.
The song “SAMBA DO ARNESTO” (Arnesto’s Samba), became a hit in 1955 and was written as a joke among friends. It describes a day when Adoniran and some pals went to their friend Arnesto’s with great expectations to have a pleasant day playing samba at his house in Brás district, but Arnesto wasn´t there and they came back home completely frustrated. Arnesto, whose true name is Ernesto Paulelli, despite the curious fame caused by Adoniran’s song, spent his entire life explaining that differently of what the music says he never invited his friends to play music at his house, but damage is now irreversible and “SAMBA DO ARNESTO” became part of popular mythology.
Hear Adoniran Barbosa´s “SAMBA DO ARNESTO” in
Brazil´s oldest samba group still in activity, DEMONIOS DA GAROA (“drizzle devils”, indicating the group’s irreverent spirit and paulista background, as São Paulo city is known in Brazil as “the drizzle land” for its typical unstable weather) began in 1943, playing on radio amateur shows and became specially famous for recording many of composer and comedian Adoniran Barbosa´s songs. Although the group’s 7 original members have already deceased, 5 new members – one of them DEMONIO’s founder’s grandson – continue their musical legacy. After 24 records and more than 10 million copies sold in a 6- decade career, DEMONIOS DA GAROA still make regular appearances at Bar Brahma, a traditional pub in old downtown São Paulo cherished by nightlife lovers.
In 1965 the group released their biggest hit: Adoniran´s “TREM DAS ONZE” (11 PM Train), a samba depicticing a fellow explaining to his girlfriend that he has to take the last night train home because he worries about his mother. In 2000 “TREM DAS ONZE” was chosen as São Paulo city’s theme song through a local TV news research.
Hear Demonios da Garoa’s “TREM DAS ONZE” in
In 1976 three buddies who studied at prestigious ECA-USP (University of São Paulo´s Communications School) plus a friend music student at the also prestigious Mozarteum Institute decided to create a band. Their goal was a simple one: writing and playing music just for fun. The group was named PREMEDITANDO O BREQUE (“premeditating the brake” – a pun joke with samba musical expressions and the idea of stopping a car). Mixing refined popular compositions and well-humored lyrics, the group got audiences and good reviews during the 1980 season at Lira Paulistana Theater – then a notorious place for independent shows criticizing Brazil’s military dictatorial government.
Released in 1983 the song “SÃO PAULO, SÃO PAULO” is a joke inspired on “New York, New York”, and became the group’s biggest hit because of a government’s little distraction. In times when censorship was severe and musics were prohibited even for the most irrelevant reasons, “SÃO PAULO, SÃO PAULO”’s lyrics got the censors’ approval although the expression ratos na rota – a pun that either means “mice in the route” or “rats in the police”.
Popularily considered São Paulo´s “unofficial anthem” for capturing the city´s mood and spirit better than any other song, “SÃO PAULO, SÃO PAULO” became a younger generation’s beloved tune. Although PREMÊ’s last album was released in 1994, the band is still in activity.
Premeditando o Breque’s “SÃO PAULO, SÃO PAULO” lyrics
É sempre lindo andar na cidade de São Paulo
It´s always beautiful to walk in the city of São Paulo
O clima engana, a vida é grana em São Paulo
The topsy-turvy weather, life is money in São Paulo
A japonesa loura, a nordestina moura de São Paulo
The blond-japanese gal, the mixed girls of São Paulo
Gatinhas punks, um jeito yankee de São Paulo
Punk chicks, the yankee mood of São Paulo
Na grande cidade me realizar
Self-achievement in the big city
Morando num BNH
Living in a model tenement unit
Na periferia a fábrica escurece o dia
In the suburbs the factory darkens the day
Não vá se incomodar com a fauna urbana de São Paulo
Don’t bother with the urban animal life in São Paulo
Pardais, baratas, ratos na rota de São Paulo
Sparrows, roaches, mice in the route of São Paulo
E pra você criança muita diversão e “pauluição”
And for you kid, a lot of fun and “paullution”
Tomar um banho no Tietê ou ver TV
Take a bath in the Tiete river or watch TV
Na grande cidade me realizar
Self-achievement in the big city
Morando num BNH
Living in a model tenement unit
Na periferia a fábrica escurece o dia
In the suburbs the factory darkens the day
Chora Menino, Freguesia do Ó, Carandiru, Mandaqui, aquí (here)
Vila Sônia, Vila Ema, Vila Alpina, Vila Carrão, Morumbi, Pari
Butantã, Utinga, Embu, Imirim, Brás, Brás, Belém
Bom Retiro, Barra Funda, Ermelino Matarazzo
Mooca, Penha, Lapa, Sé, Jabaquara, Pirituba, Tucuruvi, Tatuapé
(several São Paulo’s districts names)
Pra quebrar a rotina num fim de semana em São Paulo
To break the routine on a weekend in São Paulo
Lavar um carro comendo um churro é bom pra burro
Washing the car eating a churro (long-shaped doughnut) is dawn good
Um ponto de partida pra subir na vida em São Paulo
A starting point to ascend in life in São Paulo
Terraço Itália, Jaraguá, Viaduto do Chá
(touristic sites located in higher grounds)
Na grande cidade me realizar
Self-achievement in the big city
Morando num BNH
Living in a model tenement unit
Na periferia a fábrica escurece o dia
In the suburbs the factory darkens the day
Na periferia a fábrica escurece o dia
In the suburbs the factory darkens the day
Hear Premeditando o Breque´s “SÃO PAULO, SÃO PAULO” in - click icon
CAETANO VELOSO (born August 7, 1942) is a musician, writer, and political activist. He has been considered to be “Brazil’s Bob Dylan” and is most known for his participation in the Brazilian musical movement Tropicalismo which encompassed theatre, poetry and music in the 1960s.
Veloso was born in Bahia, a state in Brazil’s northeastern area, moved to Rio de Janeiro as a college student in the mid-1960s and became one of the founders of Tropicalismo with a group of several other musicians and artists. The Brazilian government at the time understood Veloso's music and political action as threatening, and he with fellow musician Gilberto Gil were arrested in 1969. After this incident both decided to live exiled in London. In 1972 Veloso came back to Brazil and began recording and performing again, becoming an internationally known artist in the 1990s. He won five Latin Grammy Awards and recorded his first all-English album, “A Foreign Sound”, in 2004.
Between 1965 and 1969 São Paulo-based TV networks promoted annual music contest shows named “Brazilian Popular Music Festivals”. Originally conceived as music contests like Italy’s San Remo Festival, these events also gained political relevance. In the mid-1960’s Brazil’s military dictatorial goverment (a period known as “the dark years”, from 1964 to 1985) was just beginning, and the Music Festivals became an opportunity for students to protest against the increasingly violent repression and cancellation of civil rights. For that reason São Paulo’s Music Festivals attracted many political engaged young artists, including Veloso.
Caetano’s experiences in São Paulo inspired him to write “SAMPA” in 1978 – a song describing his memories and amazement impressions on the city as a young composer from Bahia’s countryside. A tribute to the city, “SAMPA” is one of Veloso’s most famous musics, cherished by many Brazilians for whom São Paulo is the first metropolis they know, or adopt as hometown.
Hear Caetano Veloso’s “SAMPA” in

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