25 June, 2021

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Maria Da Vila Matilde: Elza Soares and the Musical Recognition of Domestic Abuse In Brazil

Built on patriarchal ideals that constantly disparage and make women invisible victims of domestic violence, Brazilian society is familiar with the issues of abuse and rampant sexism. Such an atrocity does not come from today, as the life of singer Elza Soares shows, who suffered aggression since she was a child, when she was married at the age of 12 by obligation imposed by her father. However, in 2015, she raised her voice in an empowering attitude. Critically acclaimed album and Latin Grammy winner, “A Mulher do Fim do Mundo” (“The Woman From the End Of the World”, in literal translation) deals with the singer’s pains and experiences through unforgettable experiences of abuse. Through this lens, “Maria da Vila Matilde” has evolved into an uplifting song which expresses the non-conformity of a victim of domestic violence. For further reference, the lyrics of the song are at the bottom of this page. 

Released in 2015, “Maria da Vila Matilde” is loaded with historical significance and brings with it a call to action against the violence suffered by so many Brazilian women– something that, recently, (now that it is finally being discussed) has become a controversial topic. However, the narratives of women who suffered any type of aggression perpetrated by their husbands is not just a current topic, and Elza’s own life displays this. According to an analysis article by Alana Lucila Dantas Bezerra de Medeiros from Editora Realize, Elza married at age 12 due to her father’s obligation, and became a teenage mother. Forbidden to work outside her house and living with an often violent partner, the singer experienced sexism and aggression from an early age. In fact, her musical career took off in a solitary search for her own livelihood, being a widow and mother of 5 children at the age of 21. 

Subsequently, Elza Soares would become involved with the soccer player Mané Garrincha when, once again, she would be a victim of attacks, this time by the player’s fans– largely because he left his then wife to marry a marginalized black woman. Even in this new relationship, Elza was constantly abused. The singer said, in an interview for the website Terra, that “like everyone who suffers from this terrible disease (alcoholism), he changed when he drank. He was the doctor and the monster”. Set in the 1960s-80s, the wedding of Elza and Garrincha illustrates the many sustained violent and troubled marriages that exist in Brazilian society. 

In addition, we see the story behind the song: Maria, Douglas Germano’s (the composer) mother, was constantly abused by her husband. Although Germano knew that his mother was assaulted by his father, this fact was kept as a “family secret”. That being said, the composer chose Elza Soares to sing the experience of his mother, Maria, a resident of Vila Matilde, a victim of domestic violence. Similarly, Elza and Maria– from the “favelas” and victims of abusive relationships– find themselves in a song that symbolizes female empowerment and the fight against this atrocious violence. Thus, Elza gives voice to all Marias, Brazilian women who are victims of this oppression.

Although this type of aggression affects many women, according to the Survey of Domestic and Family Violence Against Women, carried out by the DataSenado Research Institute in 2017, 74% of the women who reported having suffered some type of violence were black. In addition, 58% of those who, regardless of race, have gone through some hostile situation say they have an income of up to two minimum wages. That is, domestic violence mostly affects black and low-income women. 

Moreover, many women refuse to file a report against their abusers due to fear of retaliation or impunity: 22.1% of them turn to the police, while 20.8% do not file a complaint, according to a survey by IPEA. According to this research, women’s economic empowerment is not enough to overcome gender inequality that generates violence in the country. It is necessary to create other public policies, such as improving the Maria da Penha Law and interventions in the educational field to raise awareness of gender differences. Furthermore, there was a high rate of crimes in different parts of the country, but with the pandemic, it became an obstacle to formalize the complaint to the authorities due to the quarantine measures, according to author Letycia Bond in Agência Brasil.

The IPEA study also sheds light on the fact that this sort of violence has implications for the country’s financial development, as it “involves losses of productivity for victims, costs in the health system and less participation by women in the labor market”. In addition, “children who live in households where domestic violence prevails are most likely to develop behavioral problems and engage in criminal activities”.

In contrast to its launching year, Maria da Vila Matilde shows how important it is to create protective policies for women who could be killed due to domestic aggression: according to the 2015’s Violence Map, carried out by ONU Mulheres (or “Women’s UN” in the literal translation), the Femicide Law was enacted in March 2015. This law classifies domestic abuse as a heinous and aggravating crime when in situations of vulnerability.

It is not news to anyone that the interpretation of a song goes far beyond its lyrics or instruments: a deep analysis regarding the profile of the voice of the lyrical self is necessary to understand how the message the song wants to convey is passed on to the listener. In this sense, we see Elza Soares’ voice as a powerful one, which imposes itself and guarantees its space in the situation. With determination, the singer embodies a fed up woman with these aggressions committed against her, irate lyrical self. And it does this through a commanding tone and pronunciation, especially in the verses that say “cê vai se arrepender de levantar a mão pra mim” (“you will regret raising your hand against me”, in literal translation).

Throughout the song’s lyrics, various societal groups’ representations appear. In this sense, the use of expressions such as “samango”, “baralho”, “pule” and “dado chumbado” (in literal translation: “police”, “deck of cards”, “betting tickets” and “sinker”, respectively)  refers to the vocabulary of a marginalized social class. “Samango”, for example, is a Brazilian slang used to refer to a policeman. The verse “e quando o samango chegar / eu mostro o roxo no meu braço” (“and when the policemen arrive / I’ll show the bruises on my arm” in English) alludes to the idea that the lyrical self will call the police and report her abusive husband. Subsequently, “entrego teu baralho, teu bloco de pule, teu dado chumbado” (“I’ll hand over your deck, your betting cards, your sinker dice”) is a verse in which several terms refer to gambling: “deck”, like cards; “bloco de pule”, betting tickets and “sinker dice” as a dice that has been tampered with lead to always fall into a desired number.

As one takes a closer look at the song’s lyrics, the figures of speech used in it become noticeable. Take for example the verses “mão, cheia de dedo / dedo, cheio de unha suja” (“a hand, filled with fingers / fingers, filled with dirty nails”). In this bit, an image is created via the choice of words and sentence structure as a continuous line (evident through the repetition of the word “finger” as a resource to present an additional idea in the second verse), one of a poorly maintained hand. Since, previously, Elza had sung “e quando tua mãe ligar / eu capricho no esculacho / digo que é mimado, que é cheio de dengo, mal acostumado” (“and when your mother calls / I’ll take care of the “roast” / I’ll say that you’re spoiled”), one can perceive the lyrical self’s aversion to her abusive husbands sloppy behavior. As a conclusion, the singer illustrates this behavior using the hand as a symbol, a metaphor for it. Additionally, it repels that hand in the following verse.

Overall, “Maria da Vila Matilde” sings for and about all the women who one day dream of “soltar os cachorros” (“releasing the dog”, meaning they’ll counteract) in protest regarding the violence from which they suffer. That being said, it is also interesting to think about the repercussions of these empowered lyrics in the minds of these women, influencing them to actually take action against these aggressions. 

Lyrics – Maria da Vila Matilde

  • Song: Maria da Vila Matilde – Elza Soares 
  • Year: 2015
  • Composer: Douglas Germano

(Verse 1) Cadê meu celular? Eu vou ligar prum oito zero

Vou entregar teu nome e explicar meu endereço

Aqui você não entra mais

Eu digo que não te conheço

E jogo água fervendo se você se aventurar

(Verse 2) Eu solto o cachorro

E, apontando pra você

Eu grito péguix guix guix guix

Eu quero ver você pular, você correr

Na frente dos vizinhos

‘Cê vai se arrepender de levantar a mão pra mim

(Verse 1, then verse 2)

E quando o samango chegar

Eu mostro o roxo no meu braço

Entrego teu baralho teu bloco de pule teu dado chumbado

Ponho água no bule

Passo e ainda ofereço um cafezin’

‘Cê vai se arrepender de levantar a mão pra mim

(Verse 1, then verse 2)

E quando tua mãe ligar

Eu capricho no esculacho

Digo que é mimado que é cheio de dengo mal acostumado

Tem nada no quengo

Deita, vira e dorme rapidin’

‘cê vai se arrepender de levantar a mão pra mim

‘Cê vai se arrepender de levantar a mão pra mim (x4)

Mão, cheia de dedo

Dedo, cheio de unha suja

E pra cima de mim? Pra cima de muá? Jamé, mané

‘Cê vai se arrepender de levantar a mão pra mim (x9)

SOURCES CITED WITHIN THE ARTICLE 

1- A Mulher do Fim do Mundo – Wikipedia

2- MARIA CENTRÍFUGA: A SUBVERSÃO DO PAPEL SOCIAL DA MULHER EM MARIA DA VILA MATILDE DE ELZA SOARES. – Editora Realize

3- Violência doméstica e familiar contra a mulher – Senado

4- Elza Soares: ‘Garrincha era o médico e o monstro’ – Terra

5- Índice de violência doméstica é maior para mulheres economicamente ativas – IPEA

6- MAPA DA VIOLÊNCIA 2015 – ONU Mulheres

7- SP: violência contra mulher aumenta 44,9% durante pandemia – Agência Brasil

OTHER SOURCES

Maria da Vila Matilde: análise da música de Elza SoaresLetras.Mus

“A música serve para denunciar, para gritar” – Revista Cult

Elza Soares – Maria da Vila Matilde – (CD A mulher do fim do mundo) – Maria da Vila Matilde 

Violência Doméstica Durante Pandemia de Covid-19 – Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública

Panorama da violência contra as mulheres no Brasil – Senado

30 coisas sobre a vida de Elza Soares que talvez você não saiba – Buzzfeed

Elza Soares e o lado obscuro do paraíso – RedBull

Eu lírico: o que é, como identificar, exemplos – Brasil Escola – Brasil Escola

Elza Soares e a violência contra a mulher no caos do país. – A Canção e Seus Sentidos 

Violência doméstica e familiar contra a mulher – 2019 — Portal Institucional do Senado Federal – Senado 

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