Brazil’s Praça Onze: Samba and Maxixe Were Born Here

    Has there ever been a public space in Brazil more emblematic than Praça Onze de
    Junho? This defunct square at the heart of the Cidade Nova in Rio de Janeiro is
    celebrated as the birthplace of the maxixe and the samba and one of the
    cradles of choro.

    It was here that “Pelo Telefone” was composed.


    It was here that the escolas de samba first began parading at carnaval.


    It is here that the Passarela do Samba (aka Sambódromo) and the Terreirão do Samba are located, in a vast wasteland of urban decay.



    “Boêmios” by Heitor dos Prazeres

    No other square is lauded or mourned in so many popular songs.
    Yet the entire history of this cherished spot comprises no more than ninety years.

    The physical square is gone, but its spirit remains. This is the first vignette in a series that may become a concise history of a place that lives on in the imagination.

    Aside from Sinhô’s “A Favela Vai Abaixo” (1928), which mentions the Cidade Nova (“Vou morar na Cidade Nova pra voltar meu coração para o morro da Favela”), the earliest songs I was able to find about Praça Onze date from the 1930s, when the square was in its heyday.


    The first samba is a typically carefree malandro manifesto with a strong maxixe flavor, swearing off any tenderness toward the opposite sex. In contrast, the characters in the second and third sambas yearn for love, but things haven’t turned their way.

    Na Praça Onze
    (Gonçalves de Oliveira; 1931)

    Sou enfezado
    Eu sou mesmo da coroa
    E essa gente da Gamboa
    Só me olha com respeito

    Não tenho amor
    Minha amante é a navalha
    Eu sou filho da canalha
    Para amar, não tenho jeito

    Na Praça Onze de Junho
    Entrei na roda de um samba
    Com o meu pandeiro em punho
    Eu tirei carta de bamba
    [bis]

    A minha sina
    í‰ viver assim sozinho
    E ter raiva do carinho
    De qualquer bicho de saia

    Por isso mesmo
    Eu procuro a minha morte
    Eu sou filho da gandaia
    No amor não tenho sorte

    Na Praça Onze de Junho
    Entrei na roda de um samba
    Com o meu pandeiro em punho
    Eu tirei carta de bamba
    [bis]

    Samba recorded by Teobaldo Marques da Gama
    and released on Parlophon 13.260-A in January1931.


    Carmen Miranda

    Here is the oft-heard tale of the abandoned woman, whose former lover is now the one who suffers while she gloats in revenge.

    Ao Voltar do Samba
    (Synval Silva; 1934)

    Oh Deus
    Eu me acho tão cansada
    Ao voltar da batucada
    Que tomei parte lá na Praça Onze
    Ganhei no samba um arlequim de bronze
    Minha sandália quebrou o salto
    E eu perdi o meu mulato
    Lá no asfalto

    Eu não me interessei em saber
    Alguém veio me dizer
    Que encontrou você se lastimando
    Com lágrimas nos olhos, chorando

    Chora mulato, meu prazer é de te ver sofrer
    Para saber quanto eu te amei
    E quanto eu sofri para te esquecer

    Agora chora mulato, meu prazer é de te ver sofrer
    Para saber quanto eu te amei
    E quanto eu sofri para te esquecer

    Oh Deus
    Eu me acho tão cansada…

    Eu tive amizade a você
    Eu mesmo não sei porquê
    Eu conheci você na roda, sambando
    Com tamborim na mão, marcando

    Agora mulato por você não passo desacato
    Eu vou í  forra e comigo tem
    Ora se tem
    Ou esse ano ou pro ano que vem


    Samba recorded by Carmen Miranda & Grupo do Canhôto
    on 26 March 1934 and released on Victor 33808-A in August 1934.


    The hero of this sentimental torch song bears no bitterness or malice toward the popular morena who ignores him:

    Foi na Praça Onze
    (Max Bulhões/Milton de Oliveira; 1937)

    Foi na Praça Onze
    Que eu te conheci sambando
    A gargalhar…
    Vou lembrando aquele dia
    Em que cheio de alegria
    Quis amor te declarar
    Rindo e cantando,
    Mandaste esperar…

    Sei que nasceste em Mangueira
    E sendo morena faceira
    í‰s a mais querida mulher do lugar
    Se eu sofro do coração
    Porque não me dás atenção
    Deixa um minuto sequer te amar


    Samba recorded by Fausto Paranhos on 22 March 1937
    and released on Victor 34166-B in May 1937.

    Praça Onze in popular song, part 1.

    I’m indebted to the collector Dijalma M. Candido for the recordings.


    You can read more about Brazilian music and culture at
    Daniella Thompson on Brazil here:
    http://daniv.blogspot.com/

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