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  • Writer's pictureLucas Lima

Music that Represents São Paulo

From Adoniran Barbosa to Rita Lee: music sings, celebrates, and shows the diverse sides of Brazil's largest city.

O sambista Adoniran Barbosa
Adoniran Barbosa | Photo: Divulgação

São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil and, not surprisingly, the metropolis known to have everything. And, of course, music (or songs) reflects the various aspects well: lively, bustling, happy, chaotic, unequal. There are many songs in the Brazilian songbook that talk about this city that has been around for 470 years.

Check out some songs where São Paulo is the main setting for its composers and listeners:

Criolo - "Não Existe Amor Em SP" ("There Is No Love in SP")

This is already a classic and is remembered, recalled, and reinterpreted in different ways every year and every period we go through. But the fact is that Criolo didn't hesitate; he brought a critical atmosphere about a city whose inhabitants often forget a genuine feeling due to facing daily pressure and chaos. Among the graffiti and works of art, love is lacking in the city of São Paulo, as Criolo reports.

As impactful as the original version of the track is the reinterpretation by the late singer Célia, featured in the show "O Que Não Pode Mais Se Calar" (Joia Moderna/Tratore).

Caetano Veloso - Sampa

Who has never found themselves humming the verse "alguma coisa acontece no meu coração..."? Released in 1978, "Sampa" brings the view of a Bahian composer on the references and experiences of São Paulo. The corner between Ipiranga and São João avenues is one of the most charming meeting points in the city, and much is owed to this song.

Humberto Gessinger - Sampa No Walkman

If Caetano Veloso used urban and artistic references to compose "Sampa," the Gaúcho composer Humberto Gessinger used Caetano himself as a reference. The inevitably more rock-oriented song brings other points of the city and points out the various contradictions of this great city—gold and junkyard, FIESP and favelas—along with poetic references, like Caetano's own verses and references to Demônios da Garoa.

Rita Lee - As Minas de Sampa ("The Girls From Sampa")

Rita Lee is a pride for São Paulo, and just mentioning the singer's name brings the image of the artist to mind. A song that brings São Paulo directly into the lyrics is "As Minas de Sampa," released in 2003 on the album "Balacobaco." The composer brings, in a humorous way, some habits and quirks of São Paulo's female inhabitants: "As mina de Sampa dizem mortandeila, berinjeila/ Apartameintu!/ Sotaque do Bexiga, reina, cem por cento."

Tom Zé - Augusta, Angélica e Consolação

The main track from the album "Todos Os Olhos" (1973), "Augusta, Angélica e Consolação" brings the hypothetical relationship of the composer with these three women of different personalities. Of course, references to the trio of avenues that surround Avenida Paulista in the city center. The song, a traditional samba, is also a tribute to Adoniran Barbosa.

Adoniran Barbosa - Trem das Onze

How to talk about music and São Paulo without mentioning Adoniran Barbosa? The author of the track is one of the most emblematic figures of the city, and, of course, "Trem das Onze" is a true anthem that every São Paulo resident knows. Within a huge metropolis, Adoniran references the Jaçanã neighborhood in the poetry, located in the North Zone of São Paulo.

Edgard Scandurra - Envelheço Na Cidade ("I Age In The City")

Released by the band Ira! on the album "Vivendo e Não Aprendendo" (1986), "Envelheço Na Cidade" is a composition by guitarist Edgard Scandurra and depicts a personal feeling. However, an important detail: the inspiration for the lyricist came when he was sitting in front of the Ana Rosa subway station, one of the most traditional in the city. Not by chance, the music brings such an urban atmosphere.

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