Caetano Veloso – Sampa

Whilst doing some studying one day, I found this clip of Caetano Veloso on the Jô Soares show. The only song I knew of Caetano’s at the time was Leãozinho, which I had heard on the album – Brazil Classics: Beleza Tropical. When I heard Caetano sing the first few lines of his song Sampa, I instantly fell in love. In fact, it was from this interview that I first heard my two favourite Caetano Veloso songs (the other being Alegria, Alegria) and the journey began from there.

Whilst the original of Sampa can’t be beaten, I also think this live performance featuring Maria Gadú is brilliant.

Alguma coisa acontece no meu coração
Que só quando cruza a Ipiranga e a avenida São João
É que quando eu cheguei por aqui eu nada entendi
Da dura poesia concreta de tuas esquinas

Da deselegância discreta de tuas meninas

Ainda não havia para mim Rita Lee
A tua mais completa tradução
Alguma coisa acontece no meu coração
Que só quando cruza a Ipiranga e a avenida São João

Quando eu te encarei frente a frente não vi o meu rosto
Chamei de mau gosto o que vi, de mau gosto, mau gosto
É que Narciso acha feio o que não é espelho
E à mente apavora o que ainda não é mesmo velho
Nada do que não era antes quando não somos mutantes

E foste um difícil começo
Afasto o que não conheço
E quem vende outro sonho feliz de cidade
Aprende depressa a chamar-te de realidade
Porque és o avesso do avesso do avesso do avesso

Do povo oprimido nas filas, nas vilas, favelas
Da força da grana que ergue e destrói coisas belas
Da feia fumaça que sobe, apagando as estrelas
Eu vejo surgir teus poetas de campos e espaços
Tuas oficinas de florestas, teus deuses da chuva

Pan-Américas de Áfricas utópicas, túmulo do samba
Mais possível novo quilombo de Zumbi
E os novos baianos passeiam na tua garoa
E novos baianos te podem curtir numa boa

Something happens in my heart
Whenever I cross Ipiranga or the Avenida Sao Joao
When I arrived here, I didn’t understand anything
Of the hard concrete poetry on your street corners
Or the discreet inelegance of your girls

I still hadn’t heard of Rita Lee
Your most complete representaion
Something happens in my heart
Whenever I cross Ipiranga or the Avenida Sao Joao

When I looked at you face to face, I didn’t see myself
I called it bad taste, what I saw, bad taste bad taste
Narcissus said that everything is ugly that isn’t a mirror
And the mind is panicked by that which is not yet old
Nothing from before you were in Os MutantesAnd it was a difficult start with you
Getting away from that which I didn’t know
And those who sell dreams of a happy city
Soon learn to call you reality
Because you are the opposite of the opposite of the opposite

The oppressed people in the queues, the villages, the favellas
The power of money, that lifts and destroys beautiful things
The ugly smoke that rises, putting out the stars
I see emerging your poets of fields and spaces
Your forests of offices, your Gods of rain

Pan American from utopian Africa – tomb of samba
Possibly a new Zumbi quilombo
And the new Baianos pass through your drizzle
And the new Baianos can enjoy you in a good way


When I first heard this, I thought it was a love song and it was a few months before somebody told me that Sampa is a nickname for the city of São Paulo. In many ways, the song is still a love song, but it describes the love/hate relationship with the city. A lot of references are very particular to São Paulo – Ipiranga and the Avenida São João being a famous district and avenue, respectively. Rita Lee, who was a famous singer


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