14 The Contribution from the Music Collection of Instituto Moreira Sales Site to Diversity. A Case Study: Brazilian Christmas Carols

(Original in Portuguese)

Nísio Teixeira[1]

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CDCE) of October 2005, ratified by Brazil in 2007, establishes in its Section III, Definitions, Article 4, the meaning of “Cultural Diversity”:

[it] refers to the manifold ways in which the cultures of groups and societies find expression. These expressions are passed on within and among groups and societies.
Cultural diversity is made manifest not only through the varied ways in which the cultural heritage of humanity is expressed, augmented and transmitted through the variety of cultural expressions, but also through diverse modes of artistic creation, production, dissemination, distribution and enjoyment, whatever the means and technologies used.

According to items 4 to 6, still in Section III of the CDCE cited above, cultural activities, goods and services refer to those that incorporate or transmit cultural expressions, independently of the commercial value they may have, with cultural industries producing and distributing such goods and services, which themselves need culture-related policies and measures on the local, regional, domestic or international level. Such policies must focus on culture as such, or intend to have a direct effect on the cultural expressions of individuals, groups, or societies, impacting the creation, production, diffusion and distribution of activities, goods and cultural services, as well as access to them.

It is with this perspective in mind that the present article understands the songs: as forms of a society’s expression of diversity, both from the point of view of the lyrics as from the point of view of the music. The songs help to understand different social conjunctures, and their incorporation as research material has been more and more common due to their recognition as “historical documents” as well (Valente 2003: Moraes 2010). Valente indeed suggests that the song can be understood as a “testimonial narrative”, not only when the cultural text found in the music carries a register that can have been prevented from taking place in literary, historiographical or even journalistic narratives, but, above all, as the representation of a society’s individual or collective aspect. In these evolving times of ICT (Information and Communication Technology), especially the Internet, we are aware that universal access to these collections has become easier, though it faces a dual challenge: to actually find the song in order to listen to it, and most importantly, in our case, a song that was produced decades before the advent of the vinyl LP (long play), and which only circulated on 76 or 78 RPM (rotations per minute) records.

Memory appears here as a research challenge and a key concept to comprehend the testimonial value of the song, since the remembrance and/or the recollection triggered off by the lyrics-music combination, beyond the song as a document, are found therein. The song brings what Valente calls a “memory capsule” – not only individual but collective as well (as we know, there are several examples of striking songs for each specific historical period or social group). On the other hand, a challenge exists in accessing and understanding the cultural industries and policies linked to the different media resources that provide these songs. Resources which, again, and even in the Internet age, become scarcer the further back in time these songs were recorded and phonographically produced.

Thus, before going further, we should highlight the contribution of the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) as an extremely important actor in facilitating access to this musical collection. The IMS digital collection not only enables the exercise of cultural diversity expression within an ethnocentric rupture line, by offering an ample collection of various expression forms in Brazil, but also an ethnochronic rupture, since it precisely allows an ample and free access to listening to these “memory capsules” produced in the Brazil of yesterday.

In the first place, it should be noted that its music collection is only one of IMS’ four heritage pillars. Besides music, its collection includes literature, iconography, and (the biggest of them all) photography. Its actions “are supported by an endowment initially set up by Unibanco and expanded later by the Moreira Salles family” (IMS 2015). The IMS is present in three cities: Poços de Caldas (municipality in the state of Minas Gerais, where the institute was founded in 1992), Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Besides exhibition catalogues, photograph albums, literature and music, the IMS “publishes two magazines on a regular basis: the biannual ZUM, about contemporary photography in Brazil and worldwide, and the quarterly Serrote, about essays and ideas” (IMS 2015). All collections go through conservation, organization and diffusion processes which can be detailed as follows:

The Photography collection comprises 800 thousand images, from the most important testimonials of the XIX century – Marc Ferrez’s splendid images particularly stand out here – to the relevant collections that nearly encompass the whole XX century. In these latter, it is important to mention the names of Marcel Gautherot, José Medeiros, Maureen Bisilliat, Thomaz Farkas, Hans Gunter Flieg and Otto Stupakoff, among others. And it is the IMS’ priority to incorporate images of the XXI century in its collection. This formidable set – 40 collections, 19 of them being the photographers’ complete works – accredits the IMS as the most important photography institution in the country. Music accounts for the early days of Brazilian songs recordings. The collection is replete with 78 rpm records, a repository of 80 thousand phonograms, underpinned by the invaluable collection of José Ramos Tinhorão and Humberto Franceschi. But there are also collections of three seminal composers that enrich Brazilian musical fortune – Chiquinha Gonzaga, Ernesto Nazareth, and Pixinguinha. Letters, papers, several documents, and books compose the Literature collection. Personal files of Otto Lara Rezende, Érico Veríssimo, Clarice Lispector, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Rachel de Queirós, Lygia Fagundes Telles and Paulo Mendes Campos, among others, are deserving of researchers’ attention and enhance knowledge about the country’s literary activity with valuable information. The Prehistory of Photography, the IMS’ Iconography, entirely expressed on paper (watercolours, prints, drawings) is a precious record mostly executed by travelling artists who came to Brazil on board of diplomatic or specifically cultural expeditions in the XIX century. In this collection we can point out the beautiful watercolours left by Charles Landseer, who arrived here in 1825, and the drawings of German artist Von Martius (Carl Friedrich Philipp), who explored Brazilian nature between 1817 and 1820 (IMS 2015, emphasis added).

Apart from regular exhibitions of its collection through programs that also include exhibiting and discussing visual art and cinema, one of the IMS’ central objectives is the wide dissemination of its whole heritage. This is the reason why it constantly invests in the universal and free propagation of its collections, as well as programming on the Internet through the site www.ims.com.br. In the case examined hereafter, the musical collection also receives the support of a radio station, Rádio Batuta, which explores the potentials of this collection “and produces documentaries about great composers and interpreters.”

Thus, we set our focus on what is available on the IMS website in terms of phonograms of its ample musical collection. The IMS’ Musical Technical Reserve was inaugurated in early 2000, and maintains 14 collections that are centred on two aspects: musical practice itself within its multiple functions (composer, arranger, conductor, etc.), and research and collecting activities. The great diversity of musical representation supports that exist can be roughly organized along two guidelines: one that exists through the music scores, and one that exists through the recordings.

We shall focus on the recordings. Available on the IMS web portal are digitized phonograms of records once launched in 76 and 78 rpm; these collections take on a special importance. “The main ones are Humberto Franceschi’s and José Ramos Tinhorão’s, with about six thousand pieces each. But there are smaller samples also in Pixinguinha’s and Antonio D’Aura’s collections, besides the donations received from several cities in Brazil, and the contributions of small collectors that lend us their records to be digitized here” (Leme 2015). All recordings come with a detailed technical datasheet of the phonogram.

Added to this material are recordings coming from other supports, such as roll and cassette magnetic tapes that contain non-commercial material (essays, presentations, interviews and radio programs), besides “purely musical supports”, such as, again, Tinhorão’s collection, “in which, apart from an over six-thousand-volume library, complete collections of magazines and various rare works, there are about 2,600 photographs, a collection of over 15 thousand newspaper and magazine clippings, and hundreds of important documents, the whole thing being focused on the researcher’s great passion for urban popular culture” (Leme 2015).

In this study, and from this ample collection of IMS’ recordings, we will highlight the testimonials of Brazilian Christmas carols so that we can understand, with and through them, how the song, as an important historical document and testimonial narrative, reveals some aspects of how part of the Brazilian society interpreted the period. Listening to this production that saw the day in Brazil between 1913 and 1956 was made possible precisely through accessing the IMS collection research site (http://acervo.ims.com.br), for which we only selected the “música” (music) item, and did a search using the expression Natal (Christmas) and similar ones (Papai Noel (Santa Claus), dezembro (December), festas (parties), etc). It should be noted that producing Christmas theme songs, which was once a common occurrence in the Brazilian phonographic industry (just like what it is done to this day in other countries, notably in the USA), has become increasingly scarce. Recent exceptions (not included in the IMS’ collection) can be pointed out, such as the singer Simone, who launched a record in 1995 (but with standards and adaptations of worldwide Christmas carols), and more than ten years later, in 2006, the album of new songs Um Natal de Samba (A Samba Christmas), with compositions of samba musicians Almir Guineto, Cláudio Jorge, Luiz Grande and others, part of which is included in the samples used for this work.

Thus, the article hereafter presents an analysis of 45 songs on the Christmas theme produced by the Brazilian phonographic industry. As we said before, the largest array of samples were selected between 1913 and 1956 – thanks to the collection accessed through the IMS website – but it also includes a 1976 song and the aforementioned album from 2006[2]. Without pretending to establish categories that are in fact interchangeable, we have divided our impressions of the Christmas carols testimonials analysed under nostalgia, description, relationship, and dispirit. It is our intention, with this small exercise, to demonstrate how the songs, and through them the role of a digital collection such as the IMS’, contribute to the dissemination and promotion of cultural diversity.

I – Nostalgia

In this first case, nostalgia can be perceived in the waltzes Sinos de Natal (Christmas Bells), by Erotildes de Campos, 1925, recorded by Pedro Celestino (Vicente’s brother):

Saudades de outrora

Que eu já esquecia

Que alegres crianças

Sonhando esperanças

Quanta alegria

No trono de Deus

Há tantas doçuras

Imensas ternuras

Que vêm lá do céu

Nostalgia of the old times

That I was already forgetting.

What joyful children!

Dreaming of hopes.

There’s plenty of joy

On God’s throne.

So much sweetness,

Immense tenderness

that come from the sky above.

And in Meu Natal (My Christmas), performed by Francisco Alves (composed by himself with Ary Barroso, 1934):

Nessa noite em criança

Sempre tinha a esperança

De um presente de valor

Colocava na janela

Meu sapato de fivela

Pensando em nosso Senhor

On this night when I was a child

I always hoped for

A present of value

I would put in the window

My buckled shoe

Thinking of Our Lord.

Or another one performed by Alves and Trio de Ouro: Natal (Christmas) (Herivelto Martins and Rogério Nascimento composers 1945):

Dorme, dorme filhinho,

Meu anjinho inocente,

Natal chegou, meu santinho,

A mamãezinha está contente.

Sleep, sleep my little son,

my innocent little angel,

Christmas has come, my little saint,

Mommy is happy.

Or also in the waltzes recorded in 1954 by Roberto Paiva, such as Boas festas (Happy Holidays, by Rui de Almeida and Guido Medina composers), and Dezembro (December) (Amil and Gaó composers, 1954). This latter one, for example, contains the following verses:

Dezembro, mês de sonhos e poesias

Tudo era belo e encantador na vida

Natal, presépios, noites de alegria

Da minha infância linda e tão querida

Ó tempo vem por hoje dizimar

Eu punha atrás da porta os sapatinhos

E Papai Noel me dava brinquedinhos

Nas noites estreladas de Natal

Dentre os presentes todos que ganhei

Ganhei também um lindo palhacinho

De roupas bonitinhas

Que comigo sempre conservei

Nunca está triste

Invejo-lhe a maneira

Traz nos seus lábios um mordaz sorriso.

December, month of dreams and poetry,

All was beautiful and lovely in life;

Christmas, nativity scenes, joyful nights

Of my beloved, wonderful childhood.

Oh Time who comes today to wipe it out;

I would put my little shoes behind the door;

And Santa would give me little toys;

On the starry nights of Christmas;

among all the presents I got

There was also a beautiful little clown

dressed in pretty little clothes

which I have always kept

He is never sad

I envy him the way

He puts on his lips a mordacious smile.

Among other examples, we also find Jerusalém, performed by Zilá Fonseca (Castro Perret and Jane composers 1953):

Noite feliz de Natal que nos põe alegria

Dentro da alma cansada na vida vazia

Noite de amor que nos traz

novamente a lembrança

Uma janela, um sapato,

um cismar de criança.

Happy Christmas night that brings us joy

To our tired souls and empty life

Night of love that brings us

back the memory

A window, a shoe,

a child’s daydream.

And Papai Noel (Santa Claus), performed by Carlos Galhardo (Ivo Santos e Raul Pompéia composers 1956):

Papai Noel

Que saudade que me vem

Já escuto lá longe o badalar

Dos sininhos de Belém

Papai Noel

O meu tempo já passou

Mas na noite tão alegre de Natal

Bem feliz eu sou

Eu também fui pequenino, pequenino

Mas depois eu fui crescendo, fui crescendo

E as minhas ilusões quando menino

Foram desaparecendo

E a vida foi seguindo para frente

Com saudades sou feliz hoje também

Porque já sou papai Noel

Santa Claus,

that nostalgia that comes

I can hear tolling in the distance

the little bells of Bethlehem.

Santa Claus,

my time has gone already

But on such a happy Christmas night

I am very happy

I, too, was little, little;

But then I started to grow

and my illusions as a child

went fading away

and life went on and on

with nostalgia I am also happy today

because now I am Santa Claus.

And Papai Noel esqueceu (Santa has forgotten), performed by João Dias and Ângela Maria (David Nasser and Herivelto Martins composers, undefined year):

Meu sapato no sereno

Ficava a noite inteirinha

Na janela do meu quarto

Quando eu era criancinha

E dormindo meio acordado

Eu esperava ela vir

Trazendo um brinquedo novo

Papai Noel era você, mamãezinha.

My shoe in the cool air

would lie all night long

at my bedroom window;

when I was a child

and sleeping half awake

I waited for her to come

bringing me a new toy:

Santa Claus was you, Mommy.

It is curious to note that this strong memory from childhood, associated to the mother figure on Christmas nights, came at a period when this kind of recording was starting to become rarer in Brazil, in the 1970s, in the rock-soul Hoje é Natal (Today is Christmas) by Cassiano (Cassiano and Paulo Zdanowski composers 1976). Apart from all the European references such as fireplace and swans, in the end it is all about a longing cry for the mother:

Hoje é Natal de estrelas no céu

Hoje é Natal, Papai Noel

Deixou pra você os sinos do amor

E em meio às flores na sala, no bar

Lareira e as crianças a brincar

E no jardim o nosso cão a rosnar

Nossos cisnes enfeitam o pomar… Mamãe…

Today is Christmas with stars in the sky!

Today is Christmas, Santa Claus!

He left the bells of love for you

Amidst the flowers in the room, in the bar

Fireplace, and the children at play.

In the garden our dog is growling

Our swans embellish the orchard… Mommy…

II – Description

Still in the form of waltzes and lullabies, but also with a greater occurrence of marchinhas (a popular style of dance music, characteristically joyful, with military march rhythm and binary or quaternary beat – NDT), some songs describe either a traditional Christian version of the history of Christ’s birth, or how this celebration occurs in diverse places, in the city or in the countryside, like in Natal no Sertão (Christmas in Sertão) by Capitão Furtado and Tia Chiquinha (Villa Lobos and O.F. Pessoa composers 1939):

Meia noite o galo canta

Todo mundo se alevanta

Alegremente dobra o sino

Toda gente vai para a igreja

E a terra toda festeja

O nascer do bom menino

Toda gente tá contente

No terreiro o violeiro cantarola

uma suave viola.

At midnight the rooster crows

gaily the bell tolls.

Everybody goes to church

and the whole land celebrates

the birth of the good Boy,

Everybody is happy

In the farmyard the viola player

fingers a gentle viola.

There is also Natal dos Caboclos (Christmas of the Caboclos – said of an individual born from a Caucasian and an indigenous, physically characterized by their brown or coppery skin and straight black hair – NDT), performed by Quarteto Tupã and Paraguassú (Paraguassú and Ariovaldo Pires composers 1938):

Noite de alegria, noite de amor

Nasce nesse dia Cristo Redentor

Como é divinal lá no meu sertão

Ao chegar Natal quanta tradição

Toca alegre o sino na igreja da Serra

É o senhor menino que desceu à Terra.

Noite de alegria, noite de amor

Nasce nesse dia Cristo Redentor

Como é divinal lá no meu sertão

Ao chegar Natal quanta tradição

Toca alegre o sino na igreja da Serra

É o senhor menino que desceu à Terra.

Night of joy, night of love,

On this day Christ the Redeemer is born;

How divine it is in my sertão,

when Christmas comes there’s plenty of tradition.

Gaily tolls the bell in the hill church,

It is the Lord Child that came to Earth.

Night of joy, night of love,

On this day Christ the Redeemer is born;

How divine it is in my sertão,

when Christmas comes there’s plenty of tradition.

Gaily tolls the bell in the hill church,

It is the Lord Child that came to Earth.

Cartão de Natal (Christmas Card) performed by Isis de Oliveira and Luiz Gonzaga (Gonzaga and Zé Dantas composers 1954):


Feliz Ano Novo

Ouvindo os sinos de Deus

Repicando na matriz

Para você e os seus

Peço um Natal bem feliz.

Happy Holidays!

Happy New Year!

Hearing God’s bells

Chiming in the Mother Church

To you and yours

I wish a very Happy Christmas.

Salve Papai Noel (Hail Santa Claus), a dobrado (said of music played in a military march rhythm style – NDT) performed by Bandinha do Altamiro Carrilho (Altamiro Carrilho’s band) and Carequinha (Carequinha and Mirabeau composers, undefined year):

Salve, salve Papai Noel!

Com alegria vamos todos festejar.

Salve, salve Papai Noel!

Meu sapatinho na janela vou botar

Hail, hail Santa Claus!

Let’s all celebrate with joy.

Hail, hail Santa Claus!

My little shoe in the window I will lay.

Nature itself (the rooster, the stars, the light), as well as the small urban centres, especially dotted with bell chimes, mark the Christian influence and transform themselves so as to announce the coming of Jesus, an aspect also reinforced in other songs of the past, with no less than three songs named Sinos de Natal (Christmas Bells). The first one, performed by Carlos Galhardo (Sanches de Andrade composer 1941):

Construí uma casinha

Lá no meio do caminho

Que foi feita de papel (que foi feita de papel)

Vou receber este ano

Com prazer uma visita do Papai Noel

I’ve built a little home

There down the way

Which was made of paper (which was made of paper)

This year I’m gladly going to receive

A visit from Santa

And another, performed by Francisco Alves (Victor Simon and Wilson Roberto composers 1950):

Numa simples manjedoura

Num presépio de luz

Veio ao mundo um menino

O menino Jesus

Vinte e cinco de dezembro

É o dia de Natal

Luz no céu, paz na Terra, Glória universal!

In a simple manger,

In the nativity crib,

A Boy came to the world,

Jesus Child.

Twenty-fifth of December

Is Christmas Day,

Light in Heavens, peace on Earth,

Universal Glory!

The third one, performed by Aurora Miranda (André Filho and Orestes Barbosa composers 1934):

Ô, ô, ô, ô, ô,

O galo já cantou

E o Natal anunciou.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,

The rooster has crowed,

And Christmas has been announced.

Besides these, there is also Natal Divino (Divine Christmas) (Milton Amaral composer 1935):

Natal, Natal!

A lua cor de ouro emite a luz

Vê que a humanidade está risonha

Festejando o divino aniversário de Jesus.

Christmas, Christmas!

The gold-colored moon sheds light,

and sees that mankind is smiling,

celebrating the divine birth of Jesus.

There are several other examples, such as Chegou Papai Noel (Santa has come), performed by João Petra de Barros (Kid Pepe and Roberto Martins composers 1934):

Chegou Papai Noel

Faz anos que Jesus nasceu

O galo cantou no terreiro

Uma estrela lá no céu apareceu.

Santa has come

It’s been years since Jesus was born

The rooster crowed in the farmyard

A star appeared in the sky.

Cantiga de Natal (Christmas Carol), performed by Elizeth Cardoso (Lina Pesce composer, circa 1950):

Uma noite no oriente

Uma estrela apareceu

Anunciando à toda gente

A mensagem lá do céu

Meu Jesus

Jesus menino

Para o nosso bem nasceu

Trouxe paz, trouxe alegria

Quanto amor ofereceu.

One night in the East,

a star came up

to bring us all

a message from heaven up there:

My Jesus,

Jesus Child,

for our own good was born

bringing Peace, bringing joy.

How much love He has offered!

Natal das crianças (Children’s Christmas), performed by Blecaute (Blecaute composer 1955):

Natal, Natal das crianças

Natal da noite de luz

Natal da estrela guia

Natal do menino Jesus

Christmas, Children’s Christmas!

Christmas of a night of light,

Christmas of the guiding light,

Christmas of Jesus Child.

Noite de Natal (Christmas Night), performed by Alvarenga and Ranchinho (Murilo Alvarenga and Newton Mendonça composers 1941):

É noite de Natal

A lua no céu anuncia

Reina paz na terra

Nessa noite de alegria

É noite de Natal.

It is Christmas night.

The moon in the sky announces

There is Peace on Earth

In this night of joy

It is Christmas night.

Prece de Natal (Christmas Prayer), performed by Leny Eversong, with Aloísio, Seu Conjunto e Coro (Aloísio, His Band and Chorus), (José Saccomani, Lino Tedesco, Walter Melo composers 1956):

Lindas estrelas nascem no céu

Anunciando que o Natal chegou

Cubra-se o mal com um véu

Façamos preces ao nosso senhor.

Beautiful stars are born in the sky

announcing that Christmas has come.

May evil be covered with a veil

Let’s say our prayer to our Lord

A Valsa de Natal (Christmas Waltz), performed by Orlando Silva (Hilton Gomes and Sivan composers 1953):

Preces falando de amor neste dia de paz

Sinos vibrando e rezando na mesma oração

Benção de nosso Senhor espalhando clarões

E todos cantam a mesma canção

Natal ao meu Senhor

Prayers speaking of love on this day of peace

Bells tolling and praying the same prayer

Our Lord’s blessings gleaming over

and all sing the same song,

Christmas of my Lord.

And Presente de Natal (Christmas Present), performed by Zelinha do Amaral (Alvarenga and Ranchinho composers 1936):

Reina paz na Terra

A lua no céu anuncia

Que vai chegar o Papai Noel

Trazendo pra nós alegria

Que belo bailinho no céu

As estrelinhas luzentes

Parece que estão dizendo

Eu também quero um presente.

There is peace on Earth

the moon up there announces

That Santa is coming

bringing us joy.

What a nice dance in the sky!

The little stars twinkle,

They seem to be saying:

“I want a present too”.

A present that Brazil itself gets, too: in Sonhos de Natal (Christmas Dreams), performed by painter-singer Gastão Formenti (Henrique Vogeler, J. Menra and Lamartine Babo composers 1929), a play upon words between the Christian festivity and the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte:

Nesta noite o bom velhinho

Ao Brasil dera afinal

Lá do fundo do saquinho

A cidade de Natal.

Tonight good old Santa

To Brazil has given at last

From the bottom of his bag

The city of Natal (Natal also means Christmas in Portuguese – NDT).

Still in this descriptive category, with the 1950s come the classical Portuguese versions of foreign Christmas standards such as Jingle Bells, performed by João Dias (James Pierpoint composer, in the famous version by Evaldo Rui 1951):

Hoje a noite é bela

Juntos eu e ela

Vamos à capela

Felizes a cantar

Ao soar o sino

Sino pequenino

Vai o Deus menino

Nos abençoar.

Today the night is beautiful,

Together she and I

Go to the chapel

Happily singing.

When the bell tolls,

Little tiny bell,

The Lord Child shall

Bless us all.

And a version also recorded as Sinos de Belém (Bells of Bethlehem) performed by Sônia Delfino and Club do Guri. Or the versions of O Silent Night (Franz Gruber) translated as Noite de Natal (Noite Feliz), performed by Dalva de Oliveira (version by Mário Rossi, undefined, c.1950):

Noite feliz, noite lustral

É Natal, é Natal

Em Belém uma estrela irradia

A mensagem que a todos conduz

Filho da Virgem Maria

Nasce o Menino Jesus

Happy night, blessed night!

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas!

In Bethlehem a star radiates

the message that leads us all!

Son of Virgin Mary,

Jesus Child is born.

Or another version, Noite de Luz, performed by Zilá Fonseca (Osvaldo Moles composer, undefined, c. 1950):

Noite de luz

Noite de paz

Nasce Jesus

Pra nos salvar

E as estrelas sentiram o amor.

Night of light,

Night of peace,

Jesus is born

to save us all,

And the stars felt love.

And also Noite Feliz, performed by Duo Moreno (by Arlindo Pinto and Mário Zan, undefined, c.1950):

Noite feliz

O céu também diz

Dobra o sino

Num som divino…

Happy night!

The heavens also say

The bell tolls

In a divine sound.

Still around that period, the traumas of World War II and the imminent Cold War can also be found in Christmas lyrics, such as in Paz no sapato do mundo (Peace in the Shoe of the World), performed and composed by Castro Barbosa (1949):

Meu bom Papai Noel

Que coração tão profundo

Pede a Deus a paz do céu

Para o sapato do mundo

My good Santa Claus

What a deep heart!

Ask God for heavenly peace

To fill the shoe of the world

Or also in Canção de Natal do Brasil (Brazil’s Christmas Song) performed by Francisco Alves (by himself, David Nasser and Felisberto Martins 1951):

Varrei o ódio da guerra

Protegei o bem contra o mal

Abençoai nossa terra, Senhor

Nesta noite de Natal.

Wipe the hatred of war away,

Protect the good from the evil,

Bless our land, Lord,

On this Christmas night.

A recent counterpoint, in the 2006 album mentioned earlier, in Momentos de Paz (Moments of Peace), Luiz Grande (by himself, Barbeirinho and Marcos Diniz) describes a different type of Christmas party:

Boas-festas compadre

vou me mandar

Hoje é noite de Natal

Eu só vou tomar uma

De maneira alguma

Não posso ficar

Minha nega já está

Com a caxanga arrumada

Não falta mais nada

Vou chegar pra lá

Encontrar os parentes

Amigos da gente

Pra comemorar.

Happy Holidays, compadre!

I’m getting out of here

Today is Christmas night

I’ll just take a nightcap

No way

I can’t stay

My woman

has packed already.

there’s nothing missing,

I’ll get going

To meet my folks,

Friends of ours,

To celebrate.

Yes, the amorous interlude will also take a ride in the Christmas lyrics, such as it does in the following examples.

III – Relationship

The beloved person as received, desired, or lost Christmas present also punctuates part of the Christmas songbook, such as the funny marchinha Dia de Natal (Christmas Day), performed by Carmen Miranda (Hervê Cordovil composer 1935), in which the best present, besides the beloved person, was to get Carnival to arrive soon to party:

Hoje é dia de Papai Noel

Hoje é dia de Natal

Vou pedir ao meu Papai Noel pra fazer

Chegar depressa o Carnaval

Eu este ano vou pedir a ele

E quero ver se ele consente

Vou pedir pra nunca mais eu perder

Você que foi o meu melhor presente.

Today is Santa’s day!

Today is Christmas day!

I’m going to ask my Santa to make

Carnival come soon.

This year I’m going to ask him,

I wonder if he will consent,

I’m going to ask him not to let me lose

My best present that’s You.

In a similar way, the same Carmen Miranda sings Recadinho de Papai Noel (Santa’s Little Message), (Assis Valente composer 1934), in which love sounds like a toy, and the perfect Christmas present would be a honeymoon:

Papai Noel se quiser vai

me fazer um favor

Eu quero a lua p’rá mim,

para mim e meu amor

Aquela lua-de-mel,

em noite nupcial

Prá ver se assim sou feliz,

na linda noite de Natal.

Santa, if you please

you’ll do me a favor,

I want the moon for me,

for me and my love,

That honeymoon,

on a wedding night

To see if that way I am happy,

on the beautiful Christmas night.

The same can be observed in Noite de Natal (Christmas Night), performed by Orlando Silva (Maugeri Neto and Maugeri Sobrinho composers 1952):

Noite Feliz

Noite de Natal

Noite tão feliz

Fico a recordar meu lindo sonho de amor

Juntos na capela rezando perto dela

Eu pedi a graça do Senhor

Num prolongado beijo

As nossas vidas se encontraram.

Happy night!

Christmas night!

Such a happy night!

I keep remembering my beautiful

Together in the chapel praying by her side,

I asked for the Lord’s grace

In a prolonged kiss

Our lives met.

Or even in the recent Presente de Natal (Christmas Gift), performed by Fundo de Quintal (Roque Ferreira composer 2006):

Eu gosto de namorar

No pé da ladeira

Debaixo do pé de araçá

Ao pé da fogueira

Amor ardente é o desejo

Quando vem pra pegar

Toca na boca da gente

Um gosto bom de amar

É bom provar do seu mel

Seu beijo fatal

Abre a roda que sou eu

Sou eu o seu presente de Natal.

I like dating

At the foot of the hill

Under the araçá tree,

By the bonfire,

Passionate love is the desire,

When it comes to us,

It leaves in our mouths

A good taste of love.

How good it feels to taste your honey,

Your deadly kiss,

Open the circle for I am,

I am your Christmas gift.

But, we can also try to ask Santa to bring us the beloved one, as in Se Papai Noel quisesse (Only if Santa wanted), performed by Sílvio Caldas (Cristóvão Alencar and Hervê Cordovil composers 1936):

Se Papai Noel quisesse

Eu seria tão feliz

Pois eu lhe pedia que me desse

A mulher que não me quis.

If Santa wanted,

I would be so happy

For I asked him to give me

The woman that didn’t want me.

Or in Eu sou pobre, pobre (I’m poor, poor), performed by Aurora Miranda (André Filho and Orestes Barbosa composers 1934):

Papai Noel, tenha pena de mim

Meu sapatinho furou

Não posso mais viver assim

Não tenho amor

Não tenho nada

Sou pobrezinho

Papai Noel, seja meu camarada

Eu sou pobre, pobre pobre de marédeci

Vou te dar meu endereço

pra com mais facilidade você me encontrar

Moro na rua da Saudade,

longe da felicidade

Será fácil me achar.

Santa, have mercy on me!

My shoe has a hole in it,

I can no longer live like this,

I have no love,

I have nothing,

I am a poor thing.

Santa, be my pal!

I’m poor, poor, as poor as the tide!

I’m going to give you my address

so you can easily find me:

I live on Nostalgia Street,

far away from Happiness.

You can’t miss it.

In this respect, a malicious counterpoint can be heard in Listinha de Natal (Christmas List), (Indía and Jorge Henrique composers 1956), in which the star Virgínia Lane brings on lyrics full of bad intentions towards the good old man:

Papai Noel, eu quero um casaquinho de arminho

Sempre fui pra você, meu velhinho

O que de mais honesto se vê.

Papai Noel

Eu quero um Cadillac azulzinho

Diamantes também

E prometo que em troca lhe darei um beijinho

Quanto tempo eu perdi

Quantos brotos eu deixei de namorar

Ano que vem serei igual

Se atender minha listinha de Natal

Papai Noel

Eu quero apartamento e joias também

Talõezinhos de cheque

Prometo ser sua só e de mais ninguém.

Santa, I want an ermine coat;

I’ve always been to you, my dear old man,

The most honest person ever.


I want a blue Cadillac,

Diamonds, too.

I promise I’ll give you a kiss in exchange.

The time I’ve wasted,

The young men I didn’t date,

Next year I’ll do the same

If you fulfill my Christmas list,


I want an apartment and jewels, too;

Check books,

I promise to be only yours and nobody else’s.

IV – Dispirit

But not all is joy at Christmas, as Almir Guineto describes in Meu Natal (My Christmas) (Guinet, Gilson Souza, Mi Barros composers 2006):

Pra uns o Natal é feliz

Pra outros é sabor de fel

Vivi o Natal que não quis

Tão cruel…

Não ouse dizer pras crianças

Que Papai Noel não existe

Pra ter esperança

Não ser triste

É Natal

É Jesus

Divinal que conduz.

For some Christmas is happy,

For others it tastes bitter,

I had a Christmas I didn’t want

So cruel…

Don’t you dare tell the children

That Santa does not exist

To have hope

and not to be sad.

It’s Christmas!

It’s Divine Jesus

That leads us.

In other words, not everyone can have everything they want, as also expressed in Quando chega o Natal (When Christmas comes), performed by Neide Fraga (Sereno composer 1950):

Meu sapatinho é tão velho

Que eu tenho vergonha de pôr no fogão

Quando o Natal vem chegando

Eu fico pensando no Papai Noel

Quantos brinquedos bonitos

Soldados de chumbo, trenzinhos de apito

Mas nada disso eu queria

Se Papai Noel me pudesse atender

Era trazer alegria e levar a tristeza

Do meu padecer.

My shoe is so old

That I’m ashamed to put it by the fireplace.

When Christmas is coming

I keep thinking of Santa.

So many beautiful toys!

Lead soldiers, whistling trains,

But I didn’t want any of them.

If Santa could only hear my prayers

Bring me joy and take away the sadness

Of my suffering.

Or even more critically out of Ângela Maria’s lips, in Outros Natais (Some other Christmases), (Cláudio Luiz composer 1956):

Vocês que moram em palácios

E dormem em colchão de mola

Que perdem na mesa de jogo

Bem mais do que dão de esmola

No dia em que os sinos cantarem

Trazendo um Natal a mais

Procurem lembrar-se que existem outros natais

Natal das crianças doentes

Das nossas favelas

Anjinhos da fome que a idade se conta

nos dedos

Que pedem a Papai Noel

Que passe também perto delas

Trazendo ao menos remédios

Em vez de brinquedos

Natal das crianças que dormem

na dura calçada

Debaixo do teto opulento de nossas marquises

Natal sem castanha, sem bolo, sem cobre

Sem nada

Natal das crianças que morrem

pra serem felizes.

You, people, who live in palaces,

And sleep on spring mattresses,

Who lose money gambling

Far more than the alms you give,

On the day when the bells toll,

Bringing another Christmas,

Try to remember that there are other Christmases.

The Christmas of sick children,

Of our slums,

Hungry little angels whose age you can count

on your fingers,

Who ask Santa

To pass by their homes too

Bringing at least medicines

Instead of toys;

The Christmas of children that sleep

on hard streets,

Under the opulent ceiling of our marquees.

Christmas with no chestnuts, no cake, no coins,

Not a thing!

The Christmas of children that die

to be happy.

Happiness disguised by consumerism – combined to a frustrated marriage – is also expressed in the critical Sapato na janela (The Shoe in the Window), performed by Emílio Santiago (Claúdio Jorge composer 2006):

Acho que esse amor não tem mais jeito

O vazio em nosso peito

Tá difícil de aturar

Cenas desse nosso casamento

Desencontro, sofrimento

Veja só, os nossos filhos vão chorar

É melhor partir pra decisão

Libertar essa paixão

E tentar em outro porto ser feliz

Já está chegando o fim do ano

Novos ares, novos planos

De plantar nova raiz

Procurar a paz pela cidade

Enfrentar a realidade

É o que o coração nos diz

Mas na rua vejo a propaganda

É papai Noel chegando

Com presentes pr’eu comprar

Na TV nos jogam nessa trilha

Um Natal sempre em família

Fora disso não é fácil suportar.

I think this love is hopeless,

The emptiness in our chests

Is hard to bear;

Scenes from our marriage,

Disagreement, suffering…

Look, our children are about to cry!

We’d better take a decision,

Set this passion free,

And try to be happy somewhere else,

Since the end of the year is coming

Fresh air, new plans

Of planting new roots,

Searching for peace around the city,

Facing reality.

This is what the heart tells us,

But in the streets I see announcements,

Santa is coming

With presents for me to buy

On TV we are thrown on this trail

Christmas in family as always

Otherwise, it is not easy to bear.

A synthetic song in this respect might be one of the biggest hits of the Brazilian Christmas songbook: Boas festas (Happy Holidays), (Assis Valente composer 1933), made famous by Carlos Galhardo. Suicidal and solitary, composer Assis Valente summarizes in scathing lyrics the death of Santa and of happiness itself, typical of the period, camouflaged by a marchinha that, in counterpoint, gives it a happy and rhythmic melody:

Anoiteceu, o sino gemeu

e a gente ficou feliz a rezar

Papai Noel, vê se você tem

A felicidade pra você me dar

Eu pensei que todo mundo

Fosse filho de Papai Noel

E assim felicidade

Eu pensei que fosse uma

Brincadeira de papel

Já faz tempo que eu pedi

Mas o meu Papai Noel não vem

Com certeza já morreu

Ou então felicidade

É brinquedo que não tem.

The night has come, the bell has wailed

and we were happy praying.

Santa, see if you have got

Some happiness to give me.

I thought everybody

was Santa’s children,

And so happiness

I thought it was

a paper toy

It’s been a long time since I asked,

But my Santa won’t come.

Certainly, he is already dead,

Or else happiness

Is a toy he hasn’t got.


This analysis does not include the phonographic recording which might have been the first of the period: Natal das crianças pobres (Poor children’s Christmas): a dobrado recorded in 1913 by the 10th Infantry Regiment Band, composed by Eduardo F. Martins, also available in the IMS collection. Though it is not a song, this piece which is probably the first one dedicated to the period, contains the childhood theme associated with Christmas, which seems to strengthen the nostalgia aspect mentioned, the time of no return, a past forever gone. Such aspects, as we saw, were reinforced by the discourse of the lyrics, and reiterated by the musical tone of various songs – normally, and not by chance, associated with rhythms such as acalanto (lullaby), samba-rancho (a samba variation – NDT), or waltz. In another set of songs, we discovered a more descriptive character, depicting aspects of the celebration, and finally, other songs that use Christmas to speak of discouragements or other type of affections, such as love. To a lesser extent, some even joke about the season and instead of waltzes, acalantos or samba-ranchos, what we have is a slightly greater occurrence of marchinhas.

If the rarefaction of the Christmas songbook can be interpreted as a sign of crisis faced by the Brazilian (and worldwide) phonographic industry due to the new technology and information reconfigurations, on the other hand, they can also be interpreted as a curious gap in the social testimony of the last few decades. A similar phenomenon, by the way, can be speculated upon regarding the period dedicated to the festas juninas. (June parties celebrating St. Anthony, St. John, and St. Peter – NDT), which perhaps deserves a similar approach, for in both cases there was a production process for the repertoire specific to these times – and also nostalgia: “the oldies”, songs which, back in the day, already dealt with reminiscing. Listening to them today, as we intended to present here with the Christmas songbook, is precisely an example of the song as “memory capsules” (Valente 2003), as well as social narrative testimonies of their time.

In its preamble, the CDEC recognizes “the need to take measures to protect the diversity of cultural expressions, including their contents, especially in situations where cultural expressions may be threatened by the possibility of extinction or serious impairment”. The analysis presented here is only one of many that can happen today thanks to the combination of researchers’ historical efforts, the use of new technologies and, in the present case, the institutional mission of the Instituto Moreira Sales (IMS) to provide wide and free access to listening to this vast Brazilian cultural production, thereby contributing to the exercise of cultural diversity of ethnocentric as well as ethnochronic rupture provided by research, access and listening to these songs of the past – and, now, of forever.


Instituto Moreira Salles – IMS (2015) História. Site oficial. <http://www.ims.com.br/ims/instituto/historia> (accessed 06 October 2016).

Leme, B.P. (2015) Pesquisa no acervo de música. <http://www.ims.com.br/ims/explore/acervo/musica> (accessed 06 October 2016).

Moraes, J.G.V. (2010) ‘Entre a memória e a história da música popular’, in Saliba, E.T. & Moraes, J.G.V. (orgs.) História e Música no Brasil, São Paulo: Alameda.

Valente, H. de A.D. (2003) ‘A canção na mídia – ouvidos e olvidos’, in Valente, H. de A.D., As vozes da canção na mídia, São Paulo: Via Lettera.


Alencar, C. de, Cordovil, H. & Caldas, S. (1936) Se papai noel quisesse, Odeon.

Alvarenga, Ranchinho & Amaral, Z. do. (12/11/1936) Presente de natal, Acompanhado por Regional RCA Victor, Victor.

Alvarenga, M., Teixeira, N., Alvarenga & Ranchinho. (1941) Noite de natal, Odeon.

Amaral, M. & Miranda, A. (1935) Natal divino, Odeon.

Amil, Gaó & Paiva, R. (1954) Dezembro, Odeon.

Andrade, S. de & Galhardo, C. (1941) Sonho de natal, Victor.

André Filho, Barbosa, O. & Miranda, A. (1934) Eu sou pobre… pobre… pobre, Odeon.

André Filho & Miranda, A. (1934) Sinos de natal, Odeon.

Barbosa, C. & Barbosa, C. (indefinido) Paz no sapato do mundo, Acompanhado por Abel, Conjunto Star, Star.

Barroso, A. & Alves, F. (1934) Meu natal, Victor.

Blecaute. (indefinido) Natal das crianças, Acompanhado por Coro, Orquestra, Copacabana.

Campos, E. de & Celestino, P. (Dezembro/1925-Julho/1928) Sinos de natal, Acompanhado por Grupo dos Ases, Odeon.

Carequinha, Mirabeau & Carequinha (indefinido) Salve papai noel, Acompanhado por Altamiro Carrilho, Bandinha, Coro Infantil, Copacabana.

Cassiano, Zdanowski, P. & Cassiano (1976) Hoje é Natal, Polygram.

Cláudio L. & Ângela Maria. (1956) Outros natais. Acompanhado por Coro, Orquestra, Copacabana.

Cordovil, H. & Miranda, C. (1935) Dia de natal, Odeon.

Diniz, M., Barbeirinho, Grande, L & Grande, L. (2006) Momentos de paz, Caravelas.

Ferreira, R. & Fundo de Quintal (2006) Presente de Natal, Caravelas.

Gomes, H., Sivan & Silva, O. (1953) A valsa do natal, Copacabana.

Gonzaga, L., Dantas, Z., Oliveira, I. de & Gonzaga, L. (1954) Cartão de natal, Rca Victor.

Gruber, F., Moles, O. & Fonseca, Z. (indefinido) Noite de luz, Acompanhado por Coro, Orgão, Columbia.

Gruber, F., Pinto, A., Zan, M. & Duo Brasil Moreno (indefinido) Noite feliz, Acompanhado por Coro, Orquestra, Copacabana.

Gruber, F., Rossi, M., Oliveira, D. de & Inglez, R. (indefinido) Noite de natal, Acompanhado por Orquestra, Odeon.

Guineto, A., Souza, G., Barros, M. & Guineto, A. (2006) Meu Natal, Caravelas.

Índia, Henrique, J. & Lane, V. (1956) Listinha de natal, Todamérica.

Jorge, C. & Santiago, E. (2006) Sapato na Janela, Caravelas.

Martins, E. F. & Banda do 10° Regimento de Infantaria do Exército (1913) Natal das crianças pobres, Odeon.

Martins, H., Nascimento, R., Alves, F. & Trio de Ouro. (1945) Natal, Acompanhado por Orquestra Fon-Fon, Odeon.

Maugeri Neto, Maugeri Sobrinho & Silva, O. (1952) Noite de natal, Acompanhado por Coro, Orquestra, Copacabana.

Medina, G., Almeida, R. de & Paiva, R. (1954) Boas festas, Odeon.

Nasser, D., Martins, H., Ângela Maria & Dias, J. (indefinido) Papai noel esqueceu. Acompanhado por Orquestra, Copacabana.

Nasser, D., Martins, F. & Alves, F. (1950) Canção de natal do Brasil, Odeon.

Perret, C., Jane & Fonseca, Z. (indefinida) Jerusalém, Acompanhado por Coro, Orgão, Columbia.

Pepe, K., Martins, R. & Barros, J.P. de (1934) Chegou papai noel, Odeon.

Pesce, L. & Cardoso, E. (indefinido) Cantiga de natal, Acompanhado por Coro, Orquestra, Severino Filho, Copacabana.

Pires, A., Paraguassú & Quarteto Tupan (26/09/1938) Natal dos caboclos, Acompanhado por Regional RCA Victor, Victor.

Rui, E., Pierpont & Dias, J. (04/10/1951) Jingle bells, Acompanhado por Coro, Solo-Vox, Odeon.

Saccomani, J., Tedesco, L., Melo, W. & Eversong, L. (indefinido) Prece de natal. Acompanhado por Aloísio, Conjunto, Coro, Copacabana.

Santos, I., Sampaio, R. & Galhardo, C. (1956) Papai noel, Rca victor.

Sereno & Fraga, N. (indefinido) Quando chega o natal, Acompanhado por Orquestra, Elite especial.

Simon, V., Roberto, W. & Alves, F. (1950) Sinos de natal, Odeon.

Valente, A. & Galhardo, C. (1933) Boas festas, Acompanhado por Diabos do Céu, Victor.

Valente, A. & Miranda, C. (1934) Recadinho de papai noel, Victor.

Villa-Lobos, L.G., Pessoa, O.F., Capitão Furtado & Tia Chiquinha (11/11/1936) Natal do sertão. Acompanhado por Coro do Apiacás, Victor.

Vogeler, H., Menra, J., Babo, L. & Formenti, G. (1929) Sonhos de natal, Odeon.

  1. College professor of Journalism since 1997, Nísio Teixeira has worked since 2010 in the course of Social Communication of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), where he keeps, at the university radio station (www.ufmg.br/radio), two projects focused on Brazilian songs: the program Conte uma Canção (approx. translation, Tell me a song), (Monday-Friday, at 3.15pm – www.conteumacancao.com.br), and the block Batuque de Outrora (approx. translation, Beat of Old Times), in the samba program Batuque na Cozinha (approx. translation, Beat in the Kitchen),(from 1.05pm to 4pm). As a journalist, he acted at radio Geraes FM and in newspapers and magazines, such as Hoje em Dia and General, especially in the cultural journalism area. He is a member of the U-40 Forum (http://u40net.org/).
  2. The 1976 and 2006 songs can be found on Internet platforms such as You Tube.

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