Noel Rosa: Making Samba History

This exhibition is about the life and work of Brazilian songwriter and singer Noel Rosa (1910-1937)

Noel Rosa at eight years old (1918) by National Library (Brazil)Musica Brasilis

A genius of Brazilian music is born

Son of Manuel de Medeiros Rosa and Martha de Azevedo, Noel de Medeiros Rosa was born on December 11, 1910 in the neighborhood of Vila Isabel, Rio de Janeiro. The childbirth was difficult, time consuming, and the baby had to be removed by forceps, leaving a mark on Rosa that at the time of school earned him the nickname "Little Chin".

Com que Roupa? - Noel Rosa (1930) by Musica BrasilisMusica Brasilis

Com que Roupa? (With what clothes?)
Noel Rosa's first big hit, composed at 19 years old. Rosa's own recording.

Noel Rosa - Sao Bento School times (1927) by National Library (Brazil)Musica Brasilis

"No one learns samba in high school"

As he sang in the verse above, from "Feitio de Oração" ("Prayer Format"), since his student days at São Bento High School, in Rio de Janeiro, Noel Rosa was already doing samba. He was a colleague of Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga (Braguinha), with whom he would later form (together with Henrique Brito, Alvinho and Almirante), the "Flor do Tempo" ensemble, renamed in 1929 as "Bando de Tangarás" (something like a "Bunch of tangarás" - a kind of brazilian bird).

Eu vou pra Vila - Noel Rosa (1930) by Musica BrasilisMusica Brasilis

Eu vou pra Vila (I'm going to Vila)
One of Noel's many sambas that speak of his birth neighborhood: Vila Isabel.
Interpretation: Bando de Tangarás.

Noel Rosa Portrait (1921) by National Library (Brazil)Musica Brasilis

Samba in the veins

In 1931, Noel Rosa entered the Faculty of Medicine. But Rosa didn't attend classes and stayed only a few months in college. His family was very disappointed, but luckily for Brazilian music, Rosa knew very well what he wanted.

Noel Rosa and Lindaura - Wedding (1934) by National Library (Brazil)Musica Brasilis

Rosa and his loves

Noel Rosa was a bohemian, in love with the night, music, women, and life. In an affair with the young lady Lindaura, the girl becomes pregnant and, obeying the dictates of the time, they get married in the police station. The marriage lasted Rosa's entire life. The child, unfortunately, could not resist an incident (a ball kicked by another child hit Lindaura's belly and caused her to lose the baby). Noel Rosa left no children.

Noel Rosa - Cidade Mulher (1936) by Musica BrasilisMusica Brasilis

Cidade Mulher (Woman City)
March recorded by Orlando Silva for the eponymous film directed by Humberto Mauro.
In this song, Rosa honors two of his loves: women and the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Noel Rosa - Artist Registration card (1935) by National Library (Brazil)Musica Brasilis

Rosa, the chronicler

A prolific composer, Noel Rosa continued writing and recording dozens of songs each year. A kind person, he accumulated partners (Bide, Braguinha, Vadico, Cartola, Ismael Silva, Orestes Barbosa, Lamartine Babo etc.). Eclectic, Rosa composed rumbas, waltzes, marches and sambas, addressing a wide variety of themes, among which one deserves attention: the daily life. Rosa is acclaimed as the greatest chronicler of Brazilian music. (In the picture, Rosa's Professional registration document as a singer).

Conversa de Botequim - Noel Rosa (1935) by Musica BrasilisMusica Brasilis

Conversa de Botequim (Bar talk)
Partnership of Rosa and Vadico (Osvaldo Gogliano).
One of Rosa's biggest hits, since its release to the present day.
Original recording in Rosa's own voice.

Noel Rosa Playing Guitar (192?) by National Library (Brazil)Musica Brasilis

"Knowing how to suffer is an art / And putting modesty aside / I can say that I know how to suffer"

Noel Rosa gets tuberculosis, doctors advise him to abandon his bohemian life and take better care of his health. In response to the appeals of his mother and wife, Rosa even tries, but cannot leave the bohemia. Sneak away from home at night to meet friends and make music. In his last year of life, he composes sad and powerful sambas, such as "Eu sei sofrer" ("I know how to suffer") whose verses are above, and "Último Desejo" ("Last Wish").

Último Desejo - Noel Rosa (1937) by Musica BrasilisMusica Brasilis

Último Desejo ("Last wish")
Samba recorded by his friend and greatest performer: Aracy de Almeida. After Rosa's death, Aracy devoted herself to rerecording his songs and not letting them be forgotten.

Noel Rosa smoking (1936) by National Library (Brazil)Musica Brasilis

A samba born in the heart

Noel Rosa died in Rio de Janeiro on May 4, 1937 at the age of 26. He left more than 250 songs admittedly of his own, and surely a few dozen whose authorship he sold (as was usual at the time). Author of classics of the Brazilian music, it was in "Feitio de Oração" ("Prayer Format") that Noel Rosa eternalized the definition of samba genesis: "The samba in reality does not come from the hill / Not even from the city / And who bear a passion / Will feel that the samba then / Is born in the heart".

Credits: Story

Curator: Instituto Musica Brasilis
Research and script: Adrianna Setemy

Acknowledgment: João Máximo

- CHEDIAK, Almir. Noel Rosa. Songbook. Ed. Irmãos Vitale, 1991.
- MÁXIMO, João; DIDIER, Carlos. Noel Rosa: uma biografia. Editora UnB, 1990.

- ROSA, Noel. Noel pela primeira vez: discografia completa. Funarte/Velas, 2000.

Cover Image - Caricature of Noel Rosa.
Author: Luciano Magno. (

Other images, archive of the National Library (Brazil). (

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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