Fernando Young, Bernardo Paglia, Getty Images / Illustration: Gabriela Oliveira
The song by Caetano Veloso marked São Paulo with an accurate description of the beauty and contradictions of the biggest metropolis in Latin America
No one can cross Avenida Ipiranga and Avenida São João, in the old city center of São Paulo, without feeling something different. Forty years ago, songwriter Caetano Veloso immortalized this intersection in the song “Sampa,” an unusual praise to the city where he moved in 1967, after a period in Rio.
One of these corners is home to Bar Brahma, which serves cold draft beer to the sound of good samba music. The lively sessions contest a portion of the song: poet Vinicius de Moraes teased that São Paulo would be the “grave of samba,” and this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Veloso lived some 540 yards [500 m] from there, in an apartment on the 20th floor. In his book Verdade Tropical, he says that “it was nice to live in the heart of a big city” and remembers the neighboring Edifício Itália, which he could see from his veranda. To this day, the restaurant on the top floor of the building, Terraço Itália, boasts one of the best views of the “hard concrete poetry” of the corners that Veloso sings about.
Bar Brahma — Avenida São João, 677
Terraço Itália — Avenida Ipiranga, 344
Since “Sampa” defines singer Rita Lee as “a complete translation” of São Paulo, it’s worth walking another block to explore the Galeria Metrópole, which the then-lead singer of the band Os Mutantes used to frequent. The modernist building, built in 1960 with “the power of the money that creates and destroys beautiful things,” was revitalized in recent years, with modern shops and bars, and is located across from Praça Dom José Gaspar, which is home to Paribar – the restaurant, which now serves lazy brunches on Sundays, was a witness to Veloso’s partying nights with Chico Buarque, with whom he learned to enjoy São Paulo more and more.
Veloso’s spirit is not just a source of nostalgia: since 2014, the bloco Tarado Ni Você (inspired by the song of the same name) has been participating in Carnaval celebrations and other events throughout the year. In a procession of horns, costumes, and plenty of colors, partygoers recover the spirit of tropical freedom of yore with mottos like “profane yourself” and “don’t be square.” The starting point for the parade couldn’t be anywhere else: the intersection of Avenida Ipiranga with Avenida São João, the corner that has become poetry.
Paribar — Praça Dom José Gaspar, 42
Galeria Metrópole — Avenida São Luís, 187
“Something happens in my heart
Whenever I cross Ipiranga and Avenida São João
It’s just that when I got here, I couldn’t understand