Wednesday, November 06, 2013
I first learned the story of the song "Calice" from the liner notes of Luaka Bop's Beleza Tropical album, the first installment in David Byrne's legendary Brazil Classics series.
The story of this song is remarkable -- bordering on incredible -- but numerous Brazilian friends have confirmed it for me. While many outspoken artists had to leave Brazil during a series of military dictatorships from 1964 to 1985, Chico Buarque de Holanda was able to stay and still publicly protest government oppression. He did so most famously with this song, which was a rallying call for millions in Brazil. On one level, it is a religious song, in which Christ prays for his Father to "take away this cup from me" in the Garden of Gethsemane. But on another level, the word "chalice" is the same as the phrase "shut up," and this song ends by mocking the military's insistence on a silenced citizenry.
Many versions of the song continue to be posted on YouTube, including a version created for a geography class that features provocative imagery from the military period and a more recent version that features imagery from recent protests triggered by bus-fare increases.