The Loveliest Lullaby in the World: Straight Outta Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Not having heard all of the lullabies in the world, and certain of the immense love that has gone into lullabies for as long as mankind has been singing them, from hot and dusty African savannahs to frozen Arctic wastes, I cannot say with scientifically/asthetically determined accuracy that Dorival Caymmi’s Acalanto is — of all — the loveliest.

But I’m going to say it anyway. This is the loveliest lullaby you will ever hear! It’s Caymmi’s addition to and adaptation of an old lullaby traditional in Brazil’s fecund nordeste. He went into the studio to record it together with his wife Stella, a professional singer, but she was unsure of her voice at that point in her career and backed out at the last minute. Caymmi’s 19 year old daughter Nana was brought in, the first time she was ever recorded, and the result was as if heavenly hosts had gathered round first mother and child, and then — as mother herself needs to rest — father and child, on a sultry Brazilian night.

Dorival and Nana Caymmi of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Dorival with daughter Nana. As things go, however, family life is not always easy even in the closest of families. Dorival and daughter spent 19 years not speaking to each other, a rift which eventually healed allowing Dorival in time to become doting great-grandfather to Nana’s granddaughter (almost certainly singing Acalanto to her, or one would so sweetly imagine).

É tão tarde
It’s so late

A manhã já vem
Morning is arriving

Todos dormem
Everybody’s asleep

A noite também
Even the night

Só eu velo
Only I watch over

Por você meu bem
You my sweet

Dorme anjo
Sleep angel

O boi pega neném
The bull will carry the baby

Lá no céu
There in Heaven

Deixam de cantar
They’ve stopped singing

Os anjinhos foram se deitar
The little angels have gone to lie down

Mamãezinha precisa descansar
Little Mother needs to rest

Dorme anjo
Sleep angel

Papai vai lhe ninar
Father will rock you

The following is the folk song, wherein the good and strong bull will safely carry the little girl through dangers.

Boi boi boi
Bull bull bull

Boi da cara preta
Bull with the black face

Pega esta menina
Carry this girl

Que tem medo de careta
Who’s afraid of monsters