Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Funny Ha Ha or Funny La La?

Humor is one of the most difficult things to master in a foreign language. Barring physical humor (dad getting hit in the nuts with a nerf baseball bat) which is pretty universal, figuring out the nuances of a foreign sense of humor is the sign of true mastery of a language and its culture. I think we also have a bias for our native culture's humor as we learn it so early, so getting under the skin of another kind of humor can be extremely difficult. Everyone can remember telling (or parents reminding us) of our first attempts at humor. My first joke that I continuously repeated was:

Q: What's the difference between a piano and a fish?
A: You can tune a piano, but you can't tunafish!

Musical comedy is also a fairly universal medium from Bill Cosby to Weird Al Jankovic and Brazil, with its vast catalog of recorded music, is no exception. Sure, I was a Weird Al fan as an adolescent, but most musical comedy is not so durable, because frankly the music is just not that great and after awhile you get to know all of the jokes by heart and then what is there to enjoy? That's why Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos are so great, because 1) I barely understand any of the jokes, and 2) the music is great, so I can listen to these albums for the musical enjoyment alone.

What I've managed to glean from friends and websites is that Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos are a parody band based on several popular Brazilian acts. Clearly the Tropicalists (namely Caetano Veloso) and their second-generation offspring Os Novos Baianos are the primary targets. I also happen to think that the extremely popular duo of Toquinho & Vinicius are prime targets too as one of the characters silently strums a guitar, while the other pontificates with an assumed gravitas and baritone voice.

Evidently they were very funny in their day. As I try to make out the lyrics I can detect some jabs at Brazilian hippydom in the forms of parodies on bleeding heart ecological sermons and white Brazilians faking the Soul Brasiliero Funk.

The two comedians that came up with the musical skit (think about how the Blues Brothes emerged from Saturday Night Live skits based on the characters played by Dan Akroyd and John Belushi) are Arnaud Rodrigues and Chico Anisio and the skit originated from Chico's popular comedy program "Chico City". This skit was one of many skits (again like Blues Brothers on SNL), but as far as I know it was the only one to spin-off into a popular musical entity. Both actors/comedians/musicians have a long history and each of them have their own side projects on record and I presume television. From what I've heard these guys were pretty well known when their first album came out and they must have done pretty well as there are no fewer than five Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos albums. I've only really listened to these first two which both came out on Durval Ferreira's CID label in 1974 and 1975. As usual with CID releases, the musicians are top-tier including Jose Roberto Bertrami (Azymuth), Orlandivo (who co-wrote some songs) and of course Mr. Ferreira himself. Like I said earlier, what makes these records great are the songs. They're catchy and also really diverse in style. As you can hear from the selections these guys take on Funk, Forró and even Salsa between these four exemplary cuts.

Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos - Nega
This will one day be the start off track for a killer Brazilian mix that currently resides in my head.
Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos - Vo Bate Pa Tu
This is by far their biggest hit and if I get the slang right is translated as "I'm gonna beat you" . . . but please correct me if I'm wrong (I'm horrible with prepositions). UPDATE: a real, live Brazilian tuned in to comment and give a more accurate translation, which sure enough required some specific slang. Evidently, these lyrics refer to cocaine and the title basically says "I'm gonna cut a line (of cocaine) for you" - see Ulysses' comment for details.

Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos - Forró
A nice forro tune.

Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos - Yo No Quiero Saber
An interesting Salsa-inspired track. This sounds really familiar . . . does anyone out there know if this is a cover of something else?


Ulysses Dutra said...


I never could imagine that these guys could get attention outside Brazil. You did a good research.

My generation, who grew up in the 80's, knows Chico as a TV guy with a week humor show that was fantastic. The guy have a million caracters and can master a thousand kinds of voices. A genious.

Arnaud, who's a less famous than Chico, is a great artist in music and TV.

Their greatest hit Vô bate Pa Tu has, for me, another sense. To beat, in portuguese bater, means in this case to blow cocaine. In Brazil we say bater uma as a meaning for make a line. Literally beat one.

So, Vô Bate Pa Tu in english is I'm Gonna Make a Line For You.

Best regards and I like the blog a lot.

the ambassador said...

Oi Ulysses,

Thanks for the clarification. that makes a lot more sense than my translation.

Obrigado, Allen

J Thyme...kind said...

These happen to be great examples of live recording at its best.