São Paulo, with the Banespa building in the middle

BRAZIL – Lee Press-On and the Nails

(I enjoy this take on the song Brazil, but what I really love is the name of the artists:  Lee Press-On and the Nails… hilarious!)


The Banespa building.

Today let’s take a panoramic visual and musical view of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city (and the Earth’s 11th or 12th most populous, depending on how you’re counting).   We’ll anchor our visual tour with panoramic shots from atop the Banespa building, a bank building inspired by New York City’s Empire State Building, which has a 360 degree viewing tower on top, and we’ll include visual asides from street level pics.

Our musical tour of São Paulo comes courtesy of Caetano Veloso’s famous song “Sampa”, a personal, lyrical ode to São Paulo (“Sampa” is a nickname for the city).  I’ll include Veloso’s lyrics in the original Portuguese and an English translation, lightly annotated.


Looking almost due north around noon from the Banespa viewing platform

A fun bonus will be where song and photos intersect, literally and figuratively:  “Sampa” famously includes a reference to a specific street corner: Ipiranga and São João Avenue.  When Ed and I walked all over São Paulo in 2012 (or as much as anyone can walk “all over” such a massive city in two days) we made sure to find and take pictures of the intersection of Ipiranga and São João Avenue, much as visitors to San Francisco might seek out the intersection of Haight and Ashbury.

Sampa – Caetano Veloso


(Somewhere in this western view stands the Edificio Italia,

at 46 stories one of the tallest in São Paulo:)



Alguma coisa acontece no meu coração
Que só quando cruza a Ipiranga e Av. 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 avenida São João

sp-1bQuando eu te encarei frente a frente e 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 vem de 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, espaços
Tuas oficinas de florestas, teus deuses da chuva
Pan-Américas de Áfricas utópicas, túmulo do samba
Mas possível novo quilombo de Zumbi
E os Novos Baianos passeiam na tua garoa
E novos baianos te podem curtir numa boa



Above the Catedral da Se, as seen from above, and below, the Catedral da Se as seen from, well, below:




Now that we’ve heard the song, let’s dive into the English translation of “Sampa”:


Sampa (nickname for São Paulo)

Something happens in my heart

Only when it crosses Ipiranga and São João Avenue (two streets in the city)

When I got here I didn’t understand anything

Not the concrete poetry of your street corners

Not the discreet inelegance of your girls


The intersection of Ipiranga and São João Avenues

I didn’t know Rita Lee (a singer from São Paulo)

Your most thorough interpretation

Something happens in my heart

Only when it crosses Ipiranga and São João Avenue

When we were face to face I didn’t recognized myself

I called what I saw bad taste, I called bad taste, bad taste

Because Narcissus thinks that what is not a mirror is ugly

And what is not yet old scares the mind

Nothing from before when you are not a mutant (Mutantes was the name of Rita Lee’s band)


And you were a difficult beginning

I get away of what I don’t know

And those who sell a different dream of a happy city

Soon learn to call you reality

Because you are the other side of the other side of the other side of the side

From the people oppressed in the waiting lines, in the small streets, in shanty towns

From the power of the money rising and destroying beauty

From the ugly smoke that rises and erases the stars

I can see your poets of fields and space

Your forest factories, your rain gods rise


Pan-Americas from utopian Africas, tomb of samba

The newest of Zumbi’s quilombo (a village created by escaped slaves – Zumbi was the last King of the Slaves)

And the new baianos “promenade” thru your garoa (a kind of rain typical from São Paulo, that doesn’t really fall, almost like a very wet and windy mist)

And the new baianos can enjoy you leisurely (Baianos – Immigrants from the Northeastern Brazilian State of Bahia)

(translation and most of the annotation submitted by “marqmic” on


The Monastary São Bento from above, and below and view from within.  Photography inside was actually forbidden, but I managed to sneak this one usable shot:



A pedestrian walkway towards the west, and a ground level views from that area:



Back atop the Banespa, as the view arcs south:




These three pictures, one from atop the Banespa looking southwest , and two more from the bridge, are views of the Parque Anhangabau – “Demon’s Valley”, so called because the indigenous people of the area believed bad spirits dwell there.



Before we conclude our tour with one last shot from atop the Banespa, let’s zig and zag to a few more Sã0 Paulo sites,like the Teatro Municipal:


Music!                                                                                            Drama!




The Theater’s statues don’t look too pleased, forever damned to smell their apparently offensive pits.

Across the street from the theater stands this ugly monstrosity below.  The graffiti top left refers to wanting to get rid of Brazil’s president of 29 years ago. So that’s how old that graffiti must be.




Above and below, the municipal tourist office.  Rather impressive, until one realizes the only open desk is the one at the little one in far right corner in the picture below.  The rest of the hall was not really in use anymore.



To the right the Black Church: NS do Rosario dos Homens Pretos.  Black Saints are particularly popular in Brazil’s Black Churches, but so are the female martyr saints, because the slaves related to their suffering and status.  Next to the church is this statue (below) commemorating a famous poem about the black woman nursing a white baby while her own child must wait, hungry.



This controversial statue depicts a Frenchman kissing a native woman.

sp-foundingplazaThe Founding Plaza:


Sã0 Paulo has an impressive, modern subway system, boasting lively art in many stations, including these stretched out murals, whose visages can be clearly discerned in the reflection they throw on the surface of the metal column:




Above and below, in the Praça da República (see the Edificio Italia?).



One final view from atop the Banespa building:


About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
This entry was posted in Melodies Linger On, Two-fisted Touristing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s